10 players from the NFC that you should watch for one reason or another.
10. Nate Burleson. Once upon a time this guy was giving NFC North defenses headaches catching passes from Daunte Culpepper and then running circles around defenders. Now he’s in Detroit opposite of Megatron. With plenty of attention having to be devoted to ‘tron, Best, and Pettigrew, Burleson might find himself open quite a bit. He scored a touchdown in all of the first three preseason games this year.
9. Eli Manning. What? I should watch some guy who has already been in the league for almost a decade? What’s to watch? Manning drew a lot attention after his comments about being an “elite” quarterback. I think he’s kind of reached a crossroads in his career. Obviously he’s a fine quarterback, but that Super Bowl win seems so long ago, and he threw 25 interceptions last year. I think this year he defines himself as a quarterback. Either he will continue his trend of mediocrity and slowly decline until retirement day, or he will take a step forward this year and prove he’s among the NFL’s best.
8. Roddy White/Julio Jones. I sort of have to combine them because they really aren’t complete without the other. White is no secret any longer; everyone knows that he is a top wide out. With the steady decline of Gonzo, all the attention will be drawn to him. Unless of course he has a 6 foot 3 guy who runs a 4.39, and was tops in the broad jump (whatever that is. Point being he is very athletic) at the combine. Julio Jones is an athletic beast who could have a good rookie season right away. Look to see if White can join the ranks of Fitzgerald and Johnson and if Jones can be an impact player as a rookie.
7. Felix Jones. It’s been clear for a while now that Felix Jones is the best running back the Cowboys have on their roster. He just never got the touches that he was really supposed to. He is an explosive back who could have a big year.
6. Patrick Peterson. With 4.34 speed, he can cover top receivers right away. Rodgers-Cromartie is in Philly now, so Peterson will have a big role this year. He won’t disappoint.
5. Josh Freeman. Usually the problem with young quarterbacks is interceptions. Well, not a problem with Freeman. Take in to consideration that his number one receiver was ‘the other’ Mike Williams and you realize how good of a season Freeman had last year. The only problem is that we NFL fans are so quick to crown someone as the next big thing. It doesn’t always work out. This season should tell a lot.
4. LeGarrette Blount. Anyone who is 247 pounds and can hurdle defenders has to be watched. He had a terrific last 11 weeks of the season, and he should be able to continue that in 2011.
3. Ndamukong Suh. He’s a beast. That word has lost it’s meaning because we use it for everything from Tupac to Cheerios, but he really is. Once fellow beast Nick Fairley returns from injury, this could be the best front four in football. Speaking of guys from Auburn….
2. Cam Newton. Sorry Mr. Merill Hoge, I don’t buy your assessment of Newton. Or Tebow. Or any quarterback. Stick to players you actually know something about. I know that receivers that are open by yards in college are open by inches in the NFL, but the numbers that this guy put up at Auburn are ridonculous. Yes, ridonculous. I know the Panthers made a huge mistake with Clausen, but they wouldn’t have picked ANOTHER quarterback this time with the first overall pick, while players like Von Miller and Patrick Peterson were still available unless they thought this guy could really be something. I know his accuracy numbers haven’t been great in the PREseason, but he can run, he has a cannon, and he WINS. And that’s really all that matters when you’re a quarterback. I expect a good rookie season (my pick for Offensive ROY) and a good career.
1. Michael Vick. If Vick stays healthy, he might show himself to be the best player in the NFL. Michael Vick was the ultimate offensive weapon before going to prison. Now he has a new perspective on football and a new perspective on life. People used to say If only Vick could be a pocket passer too, he’d be unstoppable. Just ask LaRon Landry if he’s a pocket passer now. He’s Vick 2.0, which is a lot better than any version of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees. He might have the best season that any quarterback has ever had.