Imagine for a moment that each division in the National Football League put together an All-Star team with players within their respective division. Now imagine there was a tournament between the eight divisions in the league. How does the all-NFC North team stack up against the rest of the NFL competition in 2013?
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
RB: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
The quarterback and running back positions are no-brainers. The best quarterback in the league and the best running back ever will make the offense unstoppable. Balancing those two attacks may be enough to win it all. However, who would these gentleman be without their offensive line and receivers?
FB Jerome Felton, Minnesota Vikings
Although Vikings fullback Jerome Felton had an emergency appendectomy and his preseaon looks to be over, Felton is the best fullback in the NFC. He will be healthy for the opener and ready to roll. It has become known around the NFL that the fullback position is hardly used in pro offenses like it used to be, however in Minnesota he deserves a great deal of credit for Adrian Peterson’s freakish 2012 season.
WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears & Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings
On this all-NFC North team, Rodgers will have a plethora of weapons to spread the ball around to. Calvin Johnson is hands down the best receiver in not just the NFC North, but the entire NFL. He has 54 touchdowns in 6 seasons with Detroit. He currently holds the NFL single-season record for receiving yards, a record he broke last season with 1,964 yards.
He is number one above Bears receiver Brandon Marshall and former Packer Greg Jennings. Jennings has been injury prone as of late, so it will be interesting to see what he will do this season in Minnesota with a quarterback nowhere near the likes of Rodgers. But healthy, and with Rodgers throwing to him, we’ve seen what Jennings can do, which prompts him to get the nod over Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
C: John Sullivan, Minnesota Vikings
At center, Vikings John Sullivan would be the best fit. After an All-Pro 2012 season it’s hard to pick against the guy. The center position is very important, after all who’s supposed to snap the ball
T: Jermon Bushrod, Chicago Bears & Matt Kalil, Minnesota Vikings
The tackle position is headed by Matt Kalil and Jermon Bushrod. Kalil has only one season to base this off of but he wasn’t drafted 4th overall for nothing. He may have some footwork to improve on, but anytime a guy comes in and immediately improves an offensive line like Kalil did, I believe they should be recognized for it.
Bushrod just signed a 5-year, $35 million deal with the Bears this March, making one of the biggest offseason splashes within the division. He’s been protecting Drew Brees magically for the past four years, and now will attempt to anchor a shoddy Chicago line.
G: Brandon Fusco, Minnesota Vikings & Kyle Long, Chicago Bears
The offensive guards I would choose for this team are Kyle Long and Brandon Fusco. Long was very talented at Oregon and was the first guard the Chicago Bears have selected in the first round since 1960. The 20th pick improves the Bears offensive line a great deal and would be a perfect guy to protect Aaron Rodgers and clear holes for AP. Brandon Fusco, on the other hand, is a small school guy who understands the tenacity it takes to be a professional football player.
TE : Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
The rising star of the bunch is Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph who was the MVP of the Pro Bowl last season. He proved to be Christian Ponder’s go-to target in the red zone all season. I think Rodgers would love having a safety valve at tight end who can block and get open when plays break down.
It’s hard to imagine moving the ball against this defense. Try running the ball and Chad Greenway or Clay Matthews gobble you up. Try throwing the ball and before you can look upfield Jared Allen and Julius Peppers are in your grill. If you get the pass off you better hope it’s on target, because this secondary doesn’t mess around.
DE: Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings & Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears
DT: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions & Henry Melton, Chicago Bears
The defensive line play in the NFC North is the best in all the land. Just the thought of Ndamukong Suh, Julius Peppers, and Jared Allen baring down on me in the pocket makes me need a new pair of underwear. These guys aren’t on the list just because they scare me, they deserve to be on it because they have the same effect on their opponents. I hope the other divisions packed extra shorts for this tournament; it’s going to get messy.
OLB: Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings, OLB Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers & ILB Stephen Tulloch, Detroit Lions
Chad Greenway and Stephen Tulloch average 130 total tackles between the two of them. Greenway adds three sacks and an interception to the stat sheet. With those two tackling machines in the box, the NFC North has a very strong inside built to bring anyone down with authority. At the other outside backer position, Clay Matthews is a monster. His 2012 season resume included: 43 tackles, 13 sacks, and a forced fumble. The only thing he’s missing is a haircut. But who am I kidding, the guy is fantastic.
CB: Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears & Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears
I really like Tim Jennings and his ability to cover. His 2012 season gave way to nine interceptions and one returned for a touchdown as well as 60 total tackles. Across the field is Jennings’ teammate, Charles Tillman. Tillman had a great 2012 season, recording 85 total tackles, 16 pass deflections and 10 forced fumbles.
S: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings & Major Wright, Chicago Bears
What do Tillman, Harrison Smith, and Major Wright all have in common? They each have scored touchdowns on interception returns in 2012. But this secondary can do more than just catch the ball, they’re a hard-hitting group as well, especially Smith. This ball-hawk will be anywhere the ball ends up, either catching it himself or laying the wood on the poor guy who did catch it.
K: Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
Walsh was great last year, connecting on 35 of 38 field goal attempts, including a 56-yard boot. He’s got the rare combo of power and accuracy, and Jason Hanson retired, making him the best in the division.
P: Adam Podlesh, Chicago Bears
The position is a weak one in the division, but Podlesh’s 42.0 yards per punt was tops in the NFC North. He’s never been a Pro Bowler, but he’s a solid punter nonetheless.
KR: Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
Randall Cobb wins return man in my opinion. The Devin Hester hype has slowed down the past couple of years and Cobb has been a solid return man for the Packers. I am warning you: watch out for Vikings rookie return man Cordarrelle Patterson; he may be the star of 2013 and shatter these guys chances of being on this preview list before next season.
Breakdown by team: