I remember the first NFL game I ever watched. It was the Rams and Titans Super Bowl. The first Madden game I ever had was 2001 for N64. Although, it wasn’t until Madden 2003 where the NFL became a staple part of my sports fandom.
Football is not my favorite sport, but the NFL is far and away my favorite league. As silly as it is, playing Madden as a child gave me the first real pulse on players around the league. Now, I am obsessed with the amount of deep analytics that we have access to thus making writing about it more fun.
I wanted to do something fun and I won’t say unique, but certainly not your every day sports column. I am essentially going to create my own franchise where I get to pick whoever I want with no financial implications and every player is available. I am essentially the head coach so I dictate the schemes and I will pick my coordinators and roster.
These are comprised of players I like and not necessarily players that I think are the best. If you read this and say “how do you choose player A over Player B!?!?!,” I will call you an idiot for not reading the fine print.
In the interest of how long I have been a fan, I will keep it to players and coaches I have watched. So here we go…
Offensive Scheme and Coordinator
My first step in running a well oiled machine offensively is to get Kyle Shanahan. I love the pre-snap motion he utilizes and that most of his offenses rely on QBs to be mobile. Even with today’s offenses shifting heavily to 11 personnel, I still prefer two running backs. He uses two more than anyone in the NFL. Based on my offensive talent, I would be lining up in 21 and 22 personnel most of the time, utilizing play-action. I would use my second tight end to motion to the slot or even the outside to flood the coverage, similar to what Shanahan does.
Defensive Scheme and Coordinator
I actually had a tough time choosing this. It came down to two guys. The first is the late Jim Johnson who’s Eagles defenses I loved watching growing up. I have always been a huge fan of heavy blitzing and disguising the zone on defense. However, Johnson was a 4-3. He was truly a pioneer for blitzing heavily out of zone in the 4-3. I have always fancied the 3-4 more. So I will take Gregg Williams who can give the best of both worlds without sacrificing the blitzing to generate pressure. In today’s game, Williams is a perfect candidate because he was using nickel and dime before it was cool (or effective). I think back to his defense with the Saints where Roman Harper was basically a safety playing linebacker. He is just a perfect fit for the modern game and the game of yesteryear. I would have him utilize 3-3 and 3-2 looks to generate pressure from the secondary.
It may come as a surprise that I didn’t pick the GOAT and my favorite QB ever, Tom Brady. Based on offensive need for the position, give me the guy who has made a career of extending plays with his feet. Mobility is the name of the game.
Running Back – Marshawn Lynch
Beast Mode. I will go ahead and select my favorite running back to play the game. He runs with tenacity and power. Wilson and Lynch are back and better than ever. I was a big fan of that Seattle offense.
Full Back – Mike Alstott
Who didn’t love Mike Alstott? When he touched the rock, you were ready for the boom. Technically listed as a full back, he was realistically a half back.
Wide Receiver – Chad Johnson
Easily my favorite receiver to ever touch the field. I loved him because he was flamboyant, but never lost sight of it being a team game. He wasn’t the constant distraction like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. Johnson ran his mouth to the opponents and left it all on the field each and every week. When he was at his peak, there was no one more fun to watch and arguably no one better. This is still the best commercial ever.
Wide Receiver – Hines Ward
Unlike the person playing on the other side of him, Ward was quiet. He was effective though. What I loved about Ward is that he was known for what he did off the ball. He was a fantastic blocker. He gave your run game added security on the outside.
Slot Receiver – Lance Moore
Moore was a stud with the Saints. He was reliable on 3rd downs and sure handed most of his career with the Saints. When they went down at receiver, it was Moore who stepped up. When Drew Brees threw for 5,000 yards for the first time, it was Lance Moore who led the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Tight End – Rob Gronkowski
The best tight end of all time, Gronk. For the last decade, there were two common denominators suiting up on Sunday for the Patriots. He was one of them along with Tom Brady. He was a chess piece for that passing game providing mismatches across the defense.
Tight End – Jimmy Graham
I shat all over this pick when the Saints selected him. He quickly proved me wrong. Before injuries piled up, Graham was a stud in New Orleans. He provided Brees a great bailout until the contract situation spoiled the relationship between Graham and the Saints.
Left Tackle – Joe Thomas
The Browns longtime left tackle is one of the best tackles to ever grace the field. He was a true iron man of the game. He was as reliable as they came. Unfortunately, the Browns sucked. However, he was a bright spot.
Left Guard – Quenton Nelson
As I alluded to in my top 10 NFL players column, Nelson almost single handedly transformed a miserably bad Colts offensive line. Plus, he is the youngest of 39 cousins. That matters.
Center – Nick Mangold
When Mangold was the center for the Jets, they had one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. If my approach is to attack via the run, seems like a great fit here.
Right Guard – Jahri Evans
Evans is arguably the best offensive lineman to play under Sean Payton in a long list of them for the Saints.
Right Tackle – Ryan Ramczyk
The other lineman who I would argue is the best to ever play for the Saints under Sean Payton is this guy.
During the early 2010s when San Francisco was winning plenty of games with Jim Harbaugh, Smith was an anchor on the defensive line for them. What I love about Smith is versatility. He has played in multiple fronts and techniques.
Nose Tackle – Vince Wilfork
Dude, seriously. Who didn’t love Wilfork? What an anchor for any nose of the line. Large and in charge is the name of the game.
Defensive End – Cam Jordan
Ditto for everything I said about Smith.
Outside Linebacker – Shawne Merrimann
Shortly after getting busted for PEDs, he fell off a cliff. I always liked him though. In his first three years, he notched 39.5 sacks. He could certainly pin his ears back and go.
Middle Linebacker – London Fletcher
A very similar mold to Bobby Wagner, Fletcher was a guy who flew to the ball for many years. He never missed a beat with any of the three teams he played for. He never missed a single game from 1999-2013. He didn’t have any weak spots in his game. He could get after QBs, cover the pass and of course stop the run.
Outside Linebacker – Cato June
He had a promising start to his career before injuries began plaguing him. From 2004-2007, he was one of my favorite players in the legaue. He was undersized at linebacker for the time period he played in, relying heavily on his speed and ability to make up ground sideline to sideline.
Cornerback – Richard Sherman
Well, he is the best corner in the game. When you try him with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get. He is the best cornerback of the last 10 years by far. He would easily make my Mount Rushmore of corners.
Nickel – Charles Tillman
Peanut was a human turnover machine. Even if a receiver caught the ball, there was a chance he could jar the ball loose.
Strong Safety – Troy Polamalu
Who didn’t love Troy? He owes his great hair and shoulders. It’s for more than just dandruff.
Free Safety – Brian Dawkins
As I alluded to with Jim Johnson almost being my DC, Dawkins was the centerpiece for what made that defense great. He was great in pass coverage and run support. He was unbelievable.
Cornerback – Rashean Mathis
If you watched the Johnson promo, you’ll recognize him. Mathis was one of the best corners in the game in the mid 2000s. From 2003-2009, he intercepted 28 passes, a total playmaker.
Tucker is the greatest kicker of all time and it is not really close. So I will take him.
Punter – Pat McAfee
Not only was he a great punter, he is a massive personality. I will revolutionize the game by having him call the homes games while playing. Not like we’re punting anyway.
Kick Returner – Allen Rossum
He might one of the most forgotten special teams gems in modern history. Everyone talks about Dante Hall, Devin Hester or Michael Lewis (at least in NOLA). People forget about Rossum. He finished with more yards than all 3 of them. He had more KR TDs (5) than all of them minus Hall who finished with 6.
Punt Returner – Reggie Bush
This is the easy way to make sure he is on my roster. Love me some Reggie.
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