Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Dream Team: Lessons in NFC West, beyond
By Mike Sando
To the weary, our Dream Team project smells like an attempt to mask the NFL lockout's foul odor with cologne we wouldn't consider wearing during less malodorous times.
Arizona led the NFC West in selections to the NFL Dream Team, including receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Go ahead and inhale. I've opened a window and sniffed out greater meaning from the ballots showing players deemed most likely to succeed well down the road, beginning in 2014.
The ballots aren't perfect. I'm sure we could justify subbing in a few players into the eight spots set aside for each position. But in looking at the bigger picture, these ballots offer insight into which teams arguably have the most appealing young core players.
Safety Earl Thomas and tackle Russell Okung were the only Seattle players listed. Mebane also has star potential in the right scheme, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has suggested. But Thomas and Okung possess more frontline talent. Seattle selected them among the first 14 choices of the 2010 draft. Aaron Curry, chosen fourth overall in 2009, was not listed.
Some of the candidates at safety seemed weak. The San Francisco 49ers' Taylor Mays appeared on the defensive ballot despite an underwhelming rookie season. The 49ers' Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis joined the Cardinals' Fitzgerald and Rodgers-Cromartie as the only NFC West candidates with Pro Bowls already on their resumes.
The 49ers' seven candidates were: Mays, Aldon Smith, guard Mike Iupati, Willis, tackle Anthony Davis, Vernon Davis and receiver Michael Crabtree. Free safety Dashon Goldson needed a stronger 2010 season to appear on the defensive ballot. He'll turn 30 early in the 2014 season.
Davis was the only NFC West tight end to earn a place on the offensive ballot. The division invested heavily in the position during the 2011 draft, however. We could see Arizona's Rob Housler and/or St. Louis' Lance Kendricks emerge as strong candidates.
Eleven of the 180 total candidates remain in college. Green Bay and Buffalo each placed nine players on ballots, most in the league. Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Arizona were represented eight times (twice by Peterson in Arizona's case). San Francisco and the New York Giants were next with seven apiece. St. Louis was part of a group with six.
Chicago and Indianapolis had only one candidate apiece, fewest in the league. Seattle and Minnesota had two apiece. Jacksonville had three. Five teams had four. Eight had five. The Packers appear far better positioned than the Bears to remain among the NFC North's best, according to these ballots.