VT Question of the Week: Start an NFL Team with any QB, RB and WR
We got our question this week off the good ol’ Twitter machine — It’s a little different than what we normally do, and we all had fun coming up with our answers!
If you started an NFL team today and could pick one quarterback, one running back and one wide receiver, who would you pick?
I had some fun thinking up these selections; although it was hard to pick a Packer over any Viking, I couldn’t help it. The reasoning for my picks is this: Luck is by far the best young QB on the planet right now, in my opinion, and he’s a once-in-a-generation type of QB who will go down as one of the all-time greats. I really believe that. Part of me still wanted to pick Bridgewater here, mostly because I do think he’ll be awesome in the long run, but I’m not sure he reaches Luck’s level—nor should we expect him to. Lacy, although I hate to say it, is a great running back to compliment a strong passing offense. Not only can he pound it between the tackles and pick up easy yardage when defenses favor the pass, but he’s also quite sufficient at pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. I could have gone with several wide receivers, because the league is ripe with that talent right now, but Evans is the big-bodied wide out who would help me stretch the field. I like his red zone potential and think he encompasses a lot of the things you want in your No. 1 wide receiver.
Andrew Luck is quite easily the most promising young quarterback in the NFL right now, and while there is still a gap between him and Aaron Rodgers, I give Luck the edge because of his youth and the fact that he is not Aaron Rodgers. Now, despite his Packerism, I love the way Eddie Lacy bruises his way to yardage and he is arguaby the best young running back in the NFL right now (current rookies aside). Again, putting a great deal of value into age considerations, OBJ will potentially be the NFL’s best wide out for the next five to seven years if his rookie season was any indication of things to come.
I really worked to avoid picking two players from the same team, but I just can’t do it. I do think that Andrew Luck has more long-term potential than Wilson, and it was a close tie between the two of them, but if I’m picking a current team, I have to go with Wilson. I know he will be the unpopular choice here (especially behind Luck) but when considering all factors, Wilson comes out on top for me. Yes, Luck threw for more yards. Wilson has a higher completion rate (63.1 percent) and is much more accurate on the pass–he finished 2014 with only seven interceptions, compared to Luck’s 16. I also would argue that Wilson does a lot more with a lot less; Seattle’s offensive line is less than impressive, and Wilson does a lot of running. Last season, the QB was sacked 42 times and still performed consistently enough to bring his squad to the Superbowl.
Marshawn Lynch is one of the best running backs in the league, and although one might say he’s “over the hill” in football terms, Beastmode continues to rumble away for yards. He’s strong, more tenacious than any other RB in the league, and can basically be run on any down. Lastly, I have to take Brown at receiver. He’s extremely versatile downfield and can catch most anything thrown to him. He’s a talent route runner and proves consistent. Odell Beckham, Jr. has a ton of upside, but at the end of the day I’d rather take the proven player.
As much as I like Teddy Bridgewater, Luck’s ability to see the whole field, his arm strength and accuracy to all levels and his escapability when the pocket crumbles put him at the top of my list. Luck is the biggest reason the Colts will continue to excel in points per game, yards per game and time of possession. Since he has entered the league, Luck has been the NFL’s most effective quarterback in come-from-behind, two-minute, and close game situations.
Like a fine wine, Lynch somehow continues to get better with age. Over 280 carries each of the last four years validated his “beastly” production. He is a good blocker showcasing the entire skill set of an every down back. He makes my starting lineup because nobody comes close to his 88 missed tackles last season. Lynch has the power and speed combination to create additional yardage.
Odell Beckham, Jr.
After missing the first four games of the 2014 season with a hamstring injury, the sure-handed receiver from LSU took the NFL by storm, hauling in 91 receptions for 1305 yards to capture the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Beckham is a hard-working receiver that will certainly be near the top of the leader board for many years to come. Sure, his one handed “catch-of-the-year” against the Cowboys on a Sunday Night Football game was unbelievable, but he consistently proved to be a very dependable target with only two drops, and a solid route runner boasting a 70.2 per target completion percentage. He owns 24 Giants franchise rookie records, and I see no reason why I can’t select a 5”11 WR as my starter.
I think the popular answers are either Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers and both answers make a lot of sense, but aside from the fact that Russell Wilson’s personality is getting more boring (and therefore grating) by the week, I do think he’s the better option to start a franchise at quarterback. I think a lot of people assume that people only like Russell Wilson because he wins and then think it makes sense to say he only wins because of his defense and running game. I think if that is the only way to evaluate quarterbacks (if they win and how much they contribute to that win) then that line of argument makes sense. But that’s not why I like Wilson more than Luck. He is simply more accurate and makes better decisions. He distributes the ball better across the field. He performs better under pressure, both in terms of his pocket management and ability to get rid of the ball safely (and for yardage)—which is Andrew Luck’s greatest trait. None of this is to say I’d be disappointed if I was told I was assigned Andrew Luck when starting a new franchise, just to say Wilson is better. He’s more efficient and less likely to turn the ball over and much less likely to put the team in a hole that he has to climb out of. Though Luck has had a poor supporting cast, Wilson’s has been worse at receiver, tight end and on the offensive line. He happens to have more fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives than Luck, even though Luck has put his team into those situations more often. I don’t like Russell Wilson because he wins. I like Russell Wilson because the way he plays the game is more likely to help you win, regardless of your team.
The NFL is built around all-purpose backs and the one with the highest upside and the least wear-and-tear is Le’Veon Bell, easily. He’s already a top-five running back, along with Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray and Marshawn Lynch (sorry Eddie Lacy, but you’re close). Of the running backs last year who averaged over 4.5 yards a carry and had at least 200 carries, Bell and Lynch created more of their own yards than anyone else through excellent vision or balance. Bell and Forte were also the only running backs to draw over 100 targets from their team and the only running backs to grab over 75 receptions (Bell led all running backs with 854 yards in the air—which allowed him to place second in yards from scrimmage to DeMarco Murray, despite having 76 fewer touches than him. He did that all with a subpar offensive line, too. He’s everything he looked like he was at Michigan State, except he added speed and agility by shedding weight, without losing almost any of the power. He has excellent vision and great hands and of those top five running backs is by far the best pass protector. He is the only running back of those five to be useful in any down-and-distance situation and with any assignment. He can even lead block, if you ask him to. He has power, speed, balance, agility and vision and also has the least tread on his tires. I’d be happy to build a team around him.
Odell Beckham, Jr.
Odell Beckham might already be the best receiver in the NFL, surpassing Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon (if he ever makes it back). If he’s not, that’s fine, too… he’s four years younger than either A.J. Green or Antonio Brown and doesn’t seem to have the attitudinal problems of Dez Bryant. If I get to pick a receiver, I’m picking one who’s yet to peak but is still as talented as those at their peak. Beckham doesn’t just have extraordinary speed, vertical ability and quickness, but phenomenal route-running and great hands. Though some might prefer the physicality of Bryant or the precision of Brown, I’ll take Beckham and his catch radius to make up for the advantages the others have. Beckham can play any role, from a possession receiver, to split end, to slot receiver. He can catch 100 passes in the short range and be Wes Welker on steroids, or he can stretch the field and do an imitation of Randy Moss. Whatever the best offensive gameplan for a particular game will be, I’m picking Beckham because he can execute it.
Like Carl, and most Vikings fans, I’m a huge fan of Teddy Bridgewater. I think he’s going to succeed in Minnesota and bring the Vikings their first playoff victory since 2009. But if I had to start an NFL team with one quarterback today, that’d be Andrew Luck. Living in the Bay Area, I watched Luck in college and marveled at his all-around game — from arm strength to field vision to mobility, he had it all. He was a surefire No. 1 pick, and he’s exceeded the expectations that followed him from Palo Alto, California. Sure, he tends to make poor decisions with the football and puts his team in holes (which he crawls out of), but there’s no quarterback who does more for his team than Andrew Luck. Without him in 2012, they’d be a 4-win team, and with them, they made the playoffs. He’s intelligent at the line of scrimmage, has command of Pep Hamilton’s offense, and can succeed in any situation. If you ask him to throw it deep, he’ll hang a perfect ball for T.Y. Hilton. Ask him to play it safe, and he’ll take advantage of check-downs to running backs and tight ends. Luck is a pro’s pro, and the Colts are lucky to have him. Team Belisle would’ve taken him No. 1 overall, too.
While I’d love to put Adrian Peterson here, age is a major factor when evaluating running backs, and Peterson has it the not-so-magical number of 30. In today’s NFL, I need a running back who can grind out yards between the tackles, protect the passer, and catch balls out of the backfield. No player was better at that than Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell last season, as he finished the year with 2,215 yards from scrimmage. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley relied heavily on Bell in both the running and passing game, even during Ben Roethlisberger’s best season. Bell was targeted 105 times through the air, brining in 83 balls and gaining 854 yards receiving. He showed a knack for running option routes and beating slower linebackers in man coverage. And on the ground, he developed patience reserved to the league’s better running backs, slipping through the tiniest of holes en route to 1,361 yards rushing. Bell is the complete package, with the ability to run past you, through you, to beat you in jump ball situations, and to lay you out if you rush Roethlisberger. Give me Bell. If we were asking this question three years ago, I’d take Peterson in a heartbeat.
I never thought I’d have two Steelers on my list, but here we are. Brown is what Steelers fans were hoping Mike Wallace would become in Pittsburgh. He’s more than just a deep threat — he’s a complete wide receiver with the ability to line up outside, in the slot, or in the backfield. Last season, he caught 129 balls for 1,698 yards and took 13 of those to the end zone. He showed a knack for beating cornerbacks deep, but also running precise routes anywhere on the field. Against teams who tried to stop him with double coverage and bracketed coverage, Brown still succeeded, averaging over 8 catches and 100 yards per game in 2014. I love Odell Beckham, but give me a player who’s proven he can succeed year in and year out. I don’t think Beckham is a flash in the pan, but Brown is a proven commodity. Oh, and he’s working out with Randy Moss this offseason — that’s a major brownie point in my book.
Guest of the Week
This was a really fun question to think about. My purple blood was just begging me to choose Bridgewater as my quarterback, but Luck just has that elite all-around skill-set that only comes around once every 15 years or so. He also has the ability to improve everyone around him.
At runningback a few players came to mind, including Jeremy Hill, Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles and Le’Veon Bell. After some thought, I went with the latter due to his crafty and all-around game. He is already arguably both the best pass-catching running back and a top 5 runner…. and he’s still improving. At receiver I just have to go with Odell Beckham Jr. How can you not? He racked up 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games as a rookie. Yeah, Mike Evans was pretty good too…. But did you see Beckham’s catch?!?