• FootballPros TopX Series- The "Dream" Team- Offense

    Back in the summer, the wonderful people of FP afforded me the opportunity to start up a new series of articles entitled “TopX”. The goal of TopX was to create lists based on a variety of football-related topics. So far, we have tackled such topics as the greatest “what ifs”, the top game-breakers, and Rich did a fantastic list on the best rookie seasons of all time. With that as the backdrop, I thought it would be fun to jump back into the fray by creating the perfect lineup. This is not meant to be a pro bowl roster, or merely a list of a midseason all-pro roster. Instead, it’s a group of players that are meant to best compliment each other, forming the most formidable lineup possible. I’ve enlisted the services of mikesteelnation1 to help me craft this list. We alternated selections, basing our picks on talent relative to scheme. Our conversation follows, but considering the participants, it is{shockingly} lengthy. If you’d prefer to just read our final list (including 2 bonus situational selections), I’ve included that at the bottom of the article.

    (Trumpetbdw)- All right, Mike, here's the goal. We are about to attempt to create the perfect team using only players currently in the NFL, at their current level of production. This is not necessarily a team comprised of the best players, but rather the players who would best compliment the other players around them. We will not take 2012 cap figures into account, and will build this team according to our chosen scheme. We'll start by selecting 11 players for our “dream” offense, building a team the way all teams should be built- from the inside out.

    With that in mind, I'd like to make our first selection. Starting with the interior of the line I want an anchor at Center who is smart, athletic, versatile, driven, and nasty. My choice exhibits all of those qualities, and is a great leader despite his relative lack of experience. Helping out his drive is the fact that he'll be battling his brother for the next 10 years for the right to be called the best Center in the NFL. However, it's not Maurkice that I'll be picking, rather, his brother. My first selection for our perfect team is Mike Pouncey.

    (mikesteelnation1)- Eventhough I disagree with the center selection. Maurkice is the better pick, with all the same attributes, but he's got the hardware, experience, and all their coaches have agreed. Maurkice is the better center. Mike is still a great selection. What a gene pool to pick from

    Now that I finished my rant, I'll select a guard that has those same traits. Mean, nasty, drives folks off the line. Keeps the qb clean and opens huge holes. I select Mike Iupati.

    He's the best o lineman on a line that has consistently done what the game plan has required. Run the ball, or pass the ball. Play it safe and protect the rock. He's made holes for the backs, and he's kept smith clean to have such ridiculous comp % days.
    With these two young guys in the middle, this team is destined for big things..

    Next up, right guard with your selection....

    (BDW)- I can't argue too much with the Iupati pick. I'm a little surprised you didn't go with Carl Nicks, who may be the best OL in the league at any position. However, with Nicks' recent injury, I agree that Iupati was the way to go. I also feel that Evan Mathis deserves an honorable mention here, playing consistently great football on a line in Philly that's otherwise been marked by injuries and poor play.

    Ultimately, injuries were also the deciding factor in taking Mike Pouncey over his brother. Maurkice has had some injury issues, and has mostly played through them, but in his 2nd year, it's arguable that no one is playing better right now than Mike, who going into last weekend has only allowed 1 hurry/hit all year, and has been dominant in the running game.

    For my next pick, it came down to 2 players. I love what Jahri Evans has brought to the Saints. His performance has been top notch, leading to 3 straight 1st team all-pro selections. And he is a dominant mauler in the running game. However, I have some concerns about Evans in pass-protection, and it's enough to push him off my list. Instead, I'm going to take Marshall Yanda. Yanda is nearly Evans' equal in the running game, while being a much better pass blocker. I also like that Yanda plays his position like a Tackle, due to his experience on the outside. His versatility, athleticism, and technique set him apart from the rest, and will be a perfect compliment to his younger teammates on the inside.

    So the middle is set with Pouncey, Iupati, and Yanda. The Tackles are next. I'll give you the choice of solidifying either side of the line first.

    (MS)- I would have gone Nicks, but you said it was based on play RIGHT now. With Nicks on IR, Iuapati was the best of the rest.

    Well seeing as how left tackle is the more important position of the two, let's address that one first. It came down to 3 guys for me. Jake Long, Duane Brown, and Joe Thomas. All 3 would be excellent choices. Long would bring some familiarity with pouncey, knowing his line calls. Brown didn't allow a sack at all last year. However my selection is Joe Thomas. Great footwork, excellent in run and pass blocking, super long arms, plays with great balance, and he's got a little bit of a mean streak. Not a lot, which is good to balance out the nasty we have in the interior line.

    (BDW)- I would have been fine with Thomas or Brown, and may have even leaned Brown if given the choice. Dude hasn't allowed a sack since 2010. But Thomas is such a good pick, and the correct one. I really hope that this new leadership in Cleveland can build around him and make me love to hate the Browns again. That should be the best rivalry in football. I'd much rather hate the Browns and have the Ravens be irrelevant instead of vice-versa.

    {Seriously, thanks for sticking me with making this decision on a RT}. This is the position that prominently features the venerable Marc Colombo and Lance Louis. In a perfect world, I'd move someone like Ryan Clady over to the right side, but that would be cheating. For me, it comes down to 3 options, especially with Brian Bulaga now out for the season. Anthony Davis has arguably been playing the best this season, and Eric Winston has been the steadiest performer for a long time, but I think the best combination of talent and age is Sebastian Vollmer. I have serious concerns about his health, considering he had major back surgery in college, and missed a number of games last season with back trouble. But he did start his first 30 games, was the most dominant RT in 2010, and has performed at an elite level again this season.

    That gives us an O Line of Joe Thomas, Mike Iupati, Mike Pouncey, Marshall Yanda, and Sebastian Vollmer. That's a pretty nasty group. I'm looking forward to seeing how we build our skill-position players around that group. You're up next, with any position up for grabs. I'm curious to see if we focus more on power or speed. I think this is the most interesting pick of our entire draft.

    (MS)- {You're welcome for having to pick the right tackle}. Nice pick, and I might have gone Winston, but he doesn't fit the rest of the line. That said, this line is ridiculous.
    Seeing the state of our line, and having the first skill position pick, I can decide if we go with a 2 te base, or a 3 wr base. I'm going 2 te base, and for good reason. Most teams have 3 credible db's to defend receivers. No team has the personnel to defend 2 stud te's. Then that base gives more latitude to the sub packages that have 3 wrs. You can always bring the speed on those sub packages. But even then the unpredictability of the use of the employed te creates havoc, and thereby a mismatch. Line one up as an h back. Send them both on patterns. Line up heavy, and use play action. It's all about unpredictability and flexibility from your base offense. 2 tight ends gives you that, 3 wide receivers not as much.

    I'll pick the first one. The coverage mismatch who can line up anywhere. That's hands down Jimmy Graham. He's a dc's nightmare. You can't stop him. You can only hope to contain him. He imposes his will on EVERYONE who lines up against him. One on one he's going to destroy you, you have to bracket him. With the guys I suspect were going to choose on the outside, that won't even be an option...
    I'm suppositionally guessing from our talks we share similar views in this arena, and on the 2 te vs 3 wr offense. If I'm right, the 2 choices for the other tight end are crazy obvious. I'm interested to see what you think about offensive philosophy, and which te is the better 2nd selection.

    (BDW)- You're exactly right on Winston. He doesn't fit. He's a great stabilizing force in a zone scheme, but we're not going with a zone scheme here, so that was the final push to make me comfortable in choosing Vollmer.

    Absolutely 2 TEs are the way to go when constructing this team, and versatility is the main reason why. The game is too smart and too evolved nowadays to be able to consistently rely on 3 WR. TEs have gone from road-graters to hybrids. It really is amazing to look back at how innovative Don Coryell was in utilizing Kellen Winslow. I'd say he opened the door for guys like Jimmy Graham, but that wouldn't be fair, because even after the success of Winslow, most of the NFL still ignored this potential advantage in favor of maintaining status quo.

    The TE is becoming a glamour position in many ways, because of its remaining throwback quality, combined with the fantastic mismatches the right players can create. I was fully expecting my choice here to be between Graham and Gronk. I love Graham's ability to get downfield, and the innate basketball ability he possesses to post up a defender if need be. Gronk is not quite the athlete of Graham, but possesses that ability to block, probably has better hands, and is the better red zone target.

    But we're building the best team, and not necessarily an all-pro list of the best players. In the "team" vernacular, Graham is a perfect fit, even if I wouldn't place him among the best all-around TEs in the league. There are a few that have that all-around ability, but I agree, it comes down to two players. We both know what direction I'm going here, and I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to do it. Gronk is a close runner-up, but for our 2nd TE spot, I select Heath Miller.

    Miller doesn't have the downfield ability of Gronk, that much is clear. But we don't need his downfield ability with Graham in the fold. Miller brings the versatility, and most importantly, the willingness to line up in the backfield if need be, or to act as a 3rd Tackle. Plus, there's arguably no better 3rd down or Red Zone threat in the league right now than Miller, based on his combination of size and hands. He's the definition of the word 'reliable', and is the consumate professional. He's content with performing whatever role is best for his team. It's just nice to see him finally being utilized to his full abilities this year. There is no TE in the league with better hands, and I don't believe any have a better feel for the position than he does. I think Miller is the best all-around TE in the game, and will ultimately provide the final piece of consistency to go along with the dominance this team already possesses.

    To speed things up, I'll also jump in and grab the 1st WR, then you can respond with 2 picks. For our #1 WR, I'll make a bit of a controversial call. Based on our team, as great as Megatron is, I'm not certain he's the best fit for what we want to do. We already have the dominating mismatch-creating force in Jimmy Graham, so selecting Megatron would feel redundant, and redundancy doesn't usually lead to versatility. I have 2 guys in mind as to whom would be the best fit for this team. I want a playmaker with elite speed to keep defenses honest, and either open things up underneath for our TEs, or take the top off the defense at will. I'm really tempted to take Julio Jones, who is so dynamic, but he's also been inconsistent this year. So I'll do the right thing and select the first WR taken in the 2010 draft A.J. Green.

    (MS)- It seems our philosophies are in lock step. Miller is 100% the right guy for our 2nd TE slot. He looks like he loves blocking as much as going out on a route, sometimes it looks like he likes it more. No TE has the blend of skills Heath does. There are a few TEs that are coverage mismatches that can block. Miller is hands down the best blocker among them. Add to that his ability to get open in clutch situations, his red zone ability, and by far the best hands of any TE in the league. He's only got one drop this year. He's the perfect compliment to Graham and this line.

    It's going to be every defensive coordinators nightmare as to how to defend this line and those te's inside the 10. Are they running? Or does Graham run a nasty fade, with heath chipping and swimming through the inside wash to be open on the back goal line?

    Now we add our deep threat #1 WR. Love the pick. Green has been a terror in his short NFL career, and is a threat on any play to take it to the house. Plus he costs so much less than Megatron. I would have made the same selection.

    Now it's up to me to pick the best complimenting WR to anchor the other side. Just like your selection of Miller was what was best for the team, my selection will do the same. I could take Megatron or Julio, but that's not what we need. We need a great route runner, someone whose speed needs to be respected so the opposing team can't just roll coverage to Green, but can also be productive underneath.
    3 names come to mind, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, and Roddy White. Wayne is having a bit of a career renaissance this year, but his advanced age puts him out of the running. That means it's between Fitz and Roddy. I know Fitz's production is affected by his QB situation, but it's also bolstered by being the unquestioned #1. Roddy White has continued being productive, perhaps even moreso, settling into being the #2 with a huge deep threat on the other side in Jones.

    Therefore, the pick is Roddy White.

    Now I get to pick either a qb or a rb. Easy choice, I'm picking our qb!

    Not many qbs are worthy, or capable of leading this team. Only the elite few are even in my consideration. That means it comes down to PM, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, and Rodgers. Ryan is having a great year, but it's his first great year, not nearly enough to make me consider him amongst this pantheon of passers.

    I don't think PM, Brady, and Brees have the arm to utilize this offense to its fullest potential. I also don't trust Brees and PM outside in weather, or in the playoffs. They can't throw the deep outs and 7's the coverage mismatches will dictate to truly utilize our personnel. All are smart and calculated field generals, with a proven track record. Also none of the 3 are spring chickens..

    That means it’s a decision between Ben and Rodgers. Both can make all the throws, both can win outside, both can elude rushers to make a big play (not that they will have to behind that line), and both have won the big game. Both are great choices.

    48 hrs ago I would have pondered this selection more. Ben is injured, and I fear it’s worse than what's being reported right now with the limited info everyone has. The pick is Aaron Rodgers.

    You're up on the RB to complete our starting "dream team"...

    (BDW)- I would say this is getting long, but I'd probably be understating that by a long shot, so I'll wrap things up here, and we can continue the discussion in the comments if you like. First of all, White is exactly who I was hoping you'd take opposite Green. He’s the absolute perfect compliment to Green's abilities, in my view. As for QB, Rodgers is the right answer. Ben may have been my preference had we done this last week. He's played at an MVP level this year, proving for the first time that he has the accuracy and decision-making ability to play in more of a west coast-style offense, while still being able to extend the play and hit the home run down field. But with his injury, Aaron Rodgers became the clear choice.

    At RB, this choice is pretty easy. There's only 1 inner-circle HOF guy in the league right now, and even coming off an ACL injury, he's never looked better. Adrian Peterson is the clear pick. With that line, along with the presence of Heath Miller, he'll constantly be getting to the 2nd level, and really, is there a better combination of power, elusiveness, and speed in the open field than AP?

    Here's our team, FP Nation. Let's have some fun with this. Please let us know what you think in the comments below.

    The Dream Team- Offense

    *BONUS*- 3rd Down RB- CJ Spiller, Buffalo Bills (Trumpetbdw)
    *BONUS*- Slot WR- Victor Cruz, New York Giants (mikesteelnation1)
    11. C- Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins (TR)
    10. LG- Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers (MS)
    9. RG- Marshall Yanda, Baltimore (TR)
    8. LT- Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns (MS)
    7. RT- Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots (TR)
    6. TE- Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (MS)
    5. TE- Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers (TR)
    4. WR- A. J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (TR)
    3. WR- Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons (MS)
    2. QB- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (MS)
    1. RB- Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (TR)

    Comments 18 Comments
    1. Ragar's Avatar
      I like the list, however I probably would have gone a slightly different route in this way: the 3 WR 1 RB set is a much bigger compliment to Rodgers quick decision making, therefore I would have dropped Miller and added in the 3rd WR : and then- I would have selected Foster as teh more complimentary RB to that style offense, as I prefer to keep Peterson in a deep set, rather then a shotgun setting (Grantland had an interesting piece in regards to Kelly's Oregon offense and the type of plays called based upon defensive Safety look - to me this type team would benefit more form shotgun as primary set)

      If you are running teh 2 TE set, then yes Peterson is the better choice, however since we get to set the scheme with no regards to salary, I would go 3WR-Foster combo over 2TE-Peterson.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Great job, but no mention of Mangold at center?
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      love the 2 TE set. If Rodgers and Mcarthy had a reliable TE I would shoot myself. They could create even more mismatches.

      I would have taken Fitz. That is just about the only knock on the list. But he's done it against elite defenses in clutch situations, and is also the kind of leader and example you'd want AJ Green to learn from.
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      Pretty solid. No major issue with any of the picks here. Glad you didn't go with Jake Long at tackle. I haven't watched Miami this year, but my sources tell me he hasn't been very good.
    1. Pruitt's Avatar
      Great article. Want to call Gailey in Buffalo and tell him that Spiller should be the focus of his offense?
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Thanks, and good points. However, this team could still utilize the shot gun whenever needed. Graham can be the 3rd wide, and Miller can line up as the H back. Plus, we've accounted for the 3 WR look with Cruz as our slot guy, and Spiller as our 3rd down back.

      If we were a 3 WR base, Spiller would be the starting back. He's perfect for that type of system, being much more explosive than Foster. We'd have the ability to go traditional 3 wide, make Graham the 4th WR, and even move Spiller out of the backfield in a 5 wide set.

      In the end, that's why we wanted to include a slot guy and a 3rd down back. Both are vital to today's game, and we felt Cruz and Spiller deserved their proper due.

      But for a base package, 2 TE gives us everything we need, with the versatility to run literally any set we choose, since Heath is the most versatile TE in the league, lining up in every imaginable way. Next on my list, in that regard, would probably be Asron Hernandez, if not for the health issues.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by vancemeek View Post
      Pretty solid. No major issue with any of the picks here. Glad you didn't go with Jake Long at tackle. I haven't watched Miami this year, but my sources tell me he hasn't been very good.
      Long hurt his knee in camp. He hasn't looked well since. I would still take Joe Thomas, but I'm not a very good OL evaluator. Thomas does seem more durable and reliable.

      I love AP as the RB, specially because it's not like this teams needs a 2011 Matt Forte Type taking dumpoffs. Plus it's always a good idea to have a super-human on your team.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      @Rich- Mike Pouncey has been the best C in the league this year, including his brother and Mangold. Current play and future growth gave Pouncey the nod.

      @vance- if Mike had selected Long, I'd have relieved him of his duties

      @pruitt- I'd have had no problem with Fitz, but after sending in my pick of Green, I was hoping he'd take White. His top 3 for that spot were exactly the same as mine, in exactly the same order. In the end, while Fitz is a more prototypical WR, White is the better compliment to Green.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      I don't disagree. Just surprised he wasn't mentioned, that's all.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gapinski View Post
      I don't disagree. Just surprised he wasn't mentioned, that's all.
      Yeah, he probably should have been mentioned, but I try to avoid bringing up Ohio State guys at all costs.

      Honestly, he's still probably the 3rd or 4th best C in my view, but I never really considered taking him over either of the Pounceys.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      The interesting schematic change would have been if we had decided to go with a zone blocking scheme. In that case, guys like Duane Brown and Eric Winston would have likely become a few of the choices on the OL. I thought Brown and Thomas were neck and neck, but as we mention above, the reason Winston was left off the team was entirely scheme related.
    1. BobbyJ's Avatar
      "I really hope that this new leadership in Cleveland can build around him and make me love to hate the Browns again. That should be the best rivalry in football. I'd much rather hate the Browns and have the Ravens be irrelevant instead of vice-versa."

      Reading that...just brought a tear to my eye lol. Not only do I totally agree with you, I also am glad to see a non browns fan shed some positive comments on our situation. But man that just sent a jolt of hope down my spine!
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gapinski View Post
      Great job, but no mention of Mangold at center?
      {Isn't she training for the next Olympics?}

      Sorry, if you meant Nick he's the 3rd best center in the league, even if trumpet and I disagree about our selection.
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Ragar View Post
      I like the list, however I probably would have gone a slightly different route in this way: the 3 WR 1 RB set is a much bigger compliment to Rodgers quick decision making, therefore I would have dropped Miller and added in the 3rd WR : and then- I would have selected Foster as teh more complimentary RB to that style offense, as I prefer to keep Peterson in a deep set, rather then a shotgun setting (Grantland had an interesting piece in regards to Kelly's Oregon offense and the type of plays called based upon defensive Safety look - to me this type team would benefit more form shotgun as primary set)

      If you are running teh 2 TE set, then yes Peterson is the better choice, however since we get to set the scheme with no regards to salary, I would go 3WR-Foster combo over 2TE-Peterson.
      All due respect, but hasn't Rodgers quick decision making been a predicate imperative thus far in his career ? He's had s not so good line his entire career. He's been FORCED to make those quick decisions. With..time behind this line, it totally changes things. It's all about the mismatch. That mismatch is using 2 te's. Using 3 wrs is exactly what he's done to compensate for the short comings of his line,.based on the personnel available to him. No need here..

      He can just utilize his natural skills with this team, not be forced to do so by injuries and a soft defense. It's why it would have been such a tough choice between Ben and Rodgers, had Ben been healthy. They've done so well with a garbage line, and not so good run games. Behind THIS line??? For either the sky would be the limit..
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      As a side note, trumpet and I embarked on this endeavor with the creedo that player cost is no matter. Just field the best team.

      Being the biz guy I am, I wanted to know how much we spent. Including the bonus picks, we spent $46 million. Of course that number looks good with lots of guys on rook contracts.

      As unlikely as it would be for a team to draft these guys as a whole, one could mortgage the future to acquire them.

      Just an interesting tidbit I figured I'd share..

      Of note, I figured we would have gotten lots of other "dream team" potential rosters in reply.

      No one else has a dream team roster in mind? With all these strong opinions here?
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Nice stuff, mike. I'll second your thought. I'm surprised there haven't been any responses regarding how anyone else would construct their team. Calvin Johnson is a name I expected to see mentioned as a glaring omission from our list.

      I will say that I really wanted to put C.J. Spiller as our #1 RB. I can't wait until his skill set is finally used properly. But in the end, Adrian Peterson, while reclaiming his status as the best RB in the league, also would have proven to be a perfect fit for this offense. So I had to take him. But that's how highly I think of Spiller. Fred Jackson seems like a good dude, and has been an excellent player, but if Buffalo wants to be taken seriously, Spiller is the guy who's going to be the lynchpin to get them there.

      Next step, what coaches would we put in charge of this group? Do we go with Todd Haley, who impresses me as someone who molds his offense around his teams' strengths as well as anyone? Do we go Josh McDaniels, based on how NE has complimented the running and passing games this season, and the NE knowledge of how to properly use the 2 TE set? Any others to consider?
    1. edave's Avatar
      Since you folks want some commentary I'll toss in a couple cents.

      I'd prefer more WR's too and because of that would have taken Gronk over Miller. We've seen Gronk block well and play out of the backfield this year but to me he's a better weapon downfield.

      I get why you went with AP but I'd hate to have him with Rodgers. There was a reason he wasn't on the field for a lot of third downs when Favre was playing for the Vikings. For all his talents in the running game he's not a great 3rd down back either in protection or as a downfield option.

      Which coach is an intriguing question. I'd go with Haley over McDaniels because McDaniels didn't seem that great without having Belichick as a sounding board.

      The biggest problem with this kind of all star group is who will be playing on special teams?
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Clearly Gronk was considered, but my thought was that Miller would be the better compliment to Jimmy Graham, and to that entire offense, helping both in the run, and in the red zone. We didn't need the downfield weapon from our 2nd TE, since Graham fits that bill. This wasn't necessarily meant to be an all-star team, just the team set up to best compliment the other players, and the scheme.

      Peterson wouldn't be needed for 3rd down. Spiller was selected as our 3rd down back.

      Special teams would be filled out in a hypothetical 46 man roster, but was not in consideration for simply an offensive dream team.

      The two players I think would have been interesting selections, either as the slot WR, or even as the #2 would have been Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb, who are probably the two most versatile WRs in the league right now. I really like how the Packers are utilizing Cobb, and Harvin has become very dangerous.