With the preseason underway and opening kickoff right around the corner, I thought I would have a little fun and put together my dream team lineup for the 2016-2017 NFL season.
Quarterback: Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
You may think that choosing the reigning MVP was an easy decision, but this was actually a pretty difficult choice. I gave Cam the nod though because he will be very hungry after coming up short in Super Bowl 50, and with a healthy Kelvin Benjamin there should be no reason to believe Cam can’t have another season just like last year.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers), Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
Running Back: Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
I was heavily considering placing Todd Gurley here but he needs to prove he’s the real deal with another stellar season before I can place him at the top of the list. AP is still number one here after putting up yet another MVP-caliber season last year and proving to everyone that he is still the king. At 31 years old he is showing no signs of slowing down, and I expect AP to flourish once again this year and lead the Vikings deep into the playoffs at the very least.
Honorable Mentions: Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams), Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Wide Receiver (2): Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants), Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers)
When it comes to the two best receivers, Odell and Antonio are your guys. Julio Jones comes in a close third, but ultimately nobody can match the production that Odell and Antonio have put up. Both of these guys have amazing hands, spot-on route running skills, and great yards-after-catch ability. Odell is very young still and Antonio is in the prime of his career so expect another superb season from both of these guys followed by many more.
Honorable Mentions: Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons), Deandre Hopkins (Houston Texans)
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)
When deciding who the best tight end in the NFL is, it’s Gronk and then everybody else. Gronk is on a completely different level than any other tight end in the league. Despite facing some major injuries throughout his career, this guy has still managed time and time again to come back and be the same player he always has been. Don’t expect any different this season because as long as Gronk is healthy he and Tom Brady will be lighting it up every Sunday like they always have.
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins), Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers)
Tackles (2): Joe Thomas (Cleveland Browns), Tyron Smith (Dallas Cowboys)
There haven’t been many positives in Cleveland for a while now, but Joe Thomas is an exception. He has been pancaking edge rushers better than anyone else in the league for the past decade, and nothing should be different this season as he will provide lots of time for Robert Griffin III to move the ball downfield. A cornerstone for that dominant Cowboys offensive line, Tyron Smith is still very young at 25, and he’s already a top two tackle in the league. This guy is a straight up monster with his best years ahead of him. He has the potential to be one of the most dominant tackles the game has ever seen.
Honorable Mentions: Trent Williams (Washington Redskins), Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati Bengals)
Guards (2): Zack Martin (Dallas Cowboys), Marshall Yanda (Baltimore Ravens)
Like Thomas, Yanda has been one of the best at his position for a long time now, and he has also shown no signs of decline. He will continue his domination on the inside and continue to be a leader for the Ravens, who really could use some. Martin is another staple in that Cowboys o-line, and he is also only 25 years old. He was named an All-Pro as a rookie, and put together another strong campaign last season. Martin will continue to be one of the best guards in football for a very long time.
Honorable Mentions: Kelichi Osmele (Oakland Raiders), Kyle Long (Chicago Bears)
Center: Weston Richburg (New York Giants)
Now the fact that I didn’t choose Travis Frederick may surprise a lot of people here, but I had to go with the youngster Weston Richburg. After having to play guard his rookie season, Richburg switched to center full time for the Giants last season and proved why he was another home run selection behind Odell Beckham in the 2014 NFL Draft. Richburg was the only center in the league to not give up a single sack on 1,016 snaps last season, and he is only 25 with his best ahead of him. He can no doubt put up some serious competition with Frederick as the best center in the league as soon as next season.
Honorable Mentions: Travis Frederick (Dallas Cowboys), Mike Pouncey (Miami Dolphins)
Defensive Ends (2): JJ Watt (Houston Texans), Robert Quinn (Los Angeles Rams)
JJ Watt is the most obvious choice for any position. He has been flat-out dominating offensive lines for a little while now and still has plenty of All-Pro worthy years left. Still only 27 years old, Watt has basically already punched his ticket to Canton. Now comes Robert Quinn who’s had an up and down career. Ever since taking the league by fire in 2013 when he posted 19 sacks, he only managed to produce 10.5 sacks in 2014 and was on his way to another good season last year, but his season ended after 8 games. Nevertheless, when healthy Quinn is a top defensive end in the league who is right in the prime of his career at only 26 years old. He is arguably the best pass-rusher in the entire NFL and I fully expect him to be healthy and bounce back with another double-digit sack season.
Honorable Mentions: Ziggy Ansah (Detroit Lions), Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks)
Defensive Tackles (2): Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams), Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
When it comes to the best on the inside, 25-year-old Aaron Donald holds the crown. Entering only his third season, Donald has already managed to make the Pro Bowl each of his first two seasons, and has dominated the inside with his combination of pass rush and run stuffing abilities. Donald can be the most dominant tackle in the league for the next decade and it is going to be a very fun show to watch for Rams fans, but a nightmare for offensive coordinator around the NFL. When it comes to who will gear up next to Donald, I was in a tough position. With a number of promising options like Ndamokung Suh, Atkins, Marcell Dareus, and Gerald McCoy, I had a difficult choice to make. Ultimately I chose McCoy despite an injury-plagued career. I chose him because when healthy, he is one of the most dominant tackles in the game. With plenty of good football left at 28 years old, McCoy has cemented himself as a top tackle in the game. Entering his 7th season, McCoy has earned 4 Pro Bowl nods and 3 First Team All-Pro nods. He should produce another great season in Tampa barring any injuries.
Honorable Mentions: Ndamokung Suh (Miami Dolphins), Geno Atkins (Cincinnati Bengals)
Linebackers (3): Von Miller (Denver Broncos), Luke Kuechly (Carolina Panthers), Khalil Mack (Oakland Raiders)
The three linebackers that I have here are easily the most dominant linebackers in the game. Miller and Kuechly can each make a strong argument for being the best defensive player in the game, and Mack is an insane young talent who is on his way to a very successful career. With all three being young and smack in the middle of their primes, Miller being 27 and both Kuechly and Mack being 25, they will be single handedly tearing apart offenses and giving offensive coordinators nightmare for the better part of the next decade.
Honorable Mentions: Anthony Barr (Minnesota Vikings), Lavonte David (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Clay Matthews (Green Bay Packers)
Cornerbacks (2): Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks), Patrick Peterson (Arizona Cardinals)
There are many talented corners to choose from, making it very tough to pick only two that stand above the others, but I managed to do it. Looking off of last season alone most people would probably put Josh Norman at the top of the list. Come on let’s be real people. Yes he had a very good year last sesson, but he needs to prove that he can put up those same numbers this season before I can put him amongst the best. Even though he didn’t have his best season last year, Richard Sherman should still be considered the top corner in the NFL. Sherman may have a bit of an ego, but nobody can match his leadership on and off the field. Still in his prime at 28 years old, Sherman has already proven that he consistently can be elite. Same with Patrick Peterson, who is only 26 and has placed himself amongst the NFL’s elite. Peterson is insanely skilled on all aspects of the position and can return the ball pretty damn well too. These two have already combined for 8 Pro Bowls and 6 First Team All-Pros, and there are still plenty of great years ahead of them.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Harris Jr. (Denver Broncos), Darelle Revis (New York Jets)
Free Safety: Earl Thomas III (Seattle Seahawks)
I had a really tough time deciding whether to choose Thomas or Tyrann Mathieu, but ultimately I had to go with Thomas. Despite having a “down year” last season, Thomas still put up good numbers by racking up 64 tackles and 5 interceptions. Thomas is still the most feared free safety in the league because he excels in every aspect. From his ferocious tackling to his elite ball skills, Thomas has it all. More than that he is the heart and soul of that Seattle defense, and a very valuable leader. Nobody should be worried about Thomas and he definitely should be back at it this season and proving to everyone he still holds the crown.
Honorable Mentions: Tyrann Mathieu (Arizona Cardinals), Harrison Smith (Minnesota Vikings)
Strong Safety: Kam Chancellor (Seattle Seahawks)
I had to finish up the big three of the Legion of Boom here, but Chancellor is still clearly the best strong safety in the NFL. Him and Earl Thomas paired together have been nightmares for offenses, and it will continue to be this season. Chancellor has a good amount of experience, but also a good amount of football left in him since he’s only 28 years old. Nobody can pancake a guy to the ground as well as Chancellor at the safety position, as he serves as an extra linebacker at times on the field. Chancellor shall continue to wreak havoc and serve as the clear-cut number one strong safety in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: TJ Ward (Denver Broncos), Reshad Jones (Miami Dolphins)
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski (New England Patriots)
Honorable Mentions: Justin Tucker (Baltimore Ravens), Steven Hauschka (Seattle Seahawks)
Punter: Pat McAfee (Indianapolis Colts)
Honorable Mentions: Sam Koch (Baltimore Ravens), Johnny Hekker (Los Angeles Rams)
Returner: Tyler Lockett (Seattle Seahawks)
Honorable Mentions: Dwayne Harris (New York Giants), Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins)