Ultimate Building Blocks: NFC North
So you want to be an NFL general manager -- or at least play one on the Internet? Then join me for this ESPN Blog Network exclusive.
The assignment is to draft 10 NFC North players who would make up the nucleus of a Super Bowl contender for the next three years. I'll open up the discussion with my choices. Your job is to bash me -- er, make your own suggestions -- in the comments section below.
On with it:
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. Every championship team needs a quarterback, and for me Rodgers is the most comfortable choice. His maturity and leadership are worth the sacrifice in arm strength relative to Chicago's Jay Cutler.
2. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota. The only position more valued than quarterback is a pass-rusher, and Allen is the division's best. He just turned 27 and has several prime years remaining.
3. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit. He put up huge numbers last season on a team without a quarterback. Imagine what he could do with a permanent fixture at that position. He'll be a living mismatch for the next decade.
4. Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago. He'll turn 32 in the final year of our projected time span, but he could always move inside if his speed begins to diminish. Briggs could provide a steady veteran hand and I'm sure he'll maintain all of his playmaking tricks.
5. Chad Greenway, LB, Minnesota. In three years, Greenway should be in his prime: A tackling machine, veteran experience and the speed of relatively young 29-year-old.
|Tom Dahlin/Getty Images|
|Aaron Rodgers beat out Jay Cutler as the quarterback for the NFC North's Super Bowl contender.|
6. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. This wasn't as easy as you might think. Running backs face short career spans and aren't good long-term investments. But even if Peterson slows down in Year Six of his career, he'll still be at a high level.
7. B.J. Raji, NT, Green Bay. He is going to be a disruptive force for years in this division.
9. Steve Hutchinson, OL, Minnesota. If I could choose one player to set a tone for my offensive line, it would be Hutchinson. He will be 34 in 2011, but he won't be any softer. His nastiness will rub off on the rest of my linemen.
10. Greg Olsen, TE, Chicago. He might be an average blocker, but Olsen is a gold mine for a smart offensive coordinator who knows how to create mismatches.
A few things I kept in mind while making my selections:
- For the most part, I looked for players who would have at least three more highly productive years left in their careers. That ruled out players like Orlando Pace (age 33), Pat Williams (36) and Jason Hanson (38).
- I tried to keep in mind the concept of a 24-position team, including kickers, rather than just assembling the 10 best players in the division. You obviously can't find 24 starters with 10 picks, but you can make a strong effort at solidifying most position groups. Glaring holes tend to derail Super Bowl dreams.
- I resisted the urge to take both Rodgers and Cutler. Obviously, any team would be deeper with two quarterbacks of that caliber. But I chose balance over depth in this area and wondered about the realistic consequences of either Rodgers or Cutler riding the bench. (Even though this entire exercise is rooted in fantasy.)
- I gave a lot of thought to putting a kicker on this team. A reliable place-kicker can win a couple of games on his own during the course of the season. But I couldn't squeeze in the Vikings' Ryan Longwell or the Bears' Robbie G
OK. I'm done. Now it's your turn.