My scheme differs from what John is expecting out of his team, but we have similar players on our list. There are some players that are just too good to be denied. My offense is predicated on simple balance, I included a third wide receiver because I wanted to mention my favorite slot receiver for the season, and I made a point to have a fullback because the running game is more important to me than the passing game. There isn't necessarily a better, or worse, scheme to use, particularly when you're dealing with the best players in the game, but based on what I prefer out of an offense, these are my top players this season.
Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos
I wanted to pick a different quarterback, mostly just to "throw off the balance" per se, but Manning was the flat-out best quarterback in the NFL this season. According to Pro Football Focus he had an average time of 2.36 seconds from the time he snapped the ball until he either was sacked, or threw a pass (they do not have him credited with any plays on which he scrambled), and he completed 68.3 percent of a league leading 659 pass attempts. Manning threw for 55 touchdowns, with only 10 interceptions, and 5,477 yards. The Broncos offense broke records for points scored in one season, touchdowns scored, and four players caught at least 10 touchdown passes. Manning would fit into any offensive system and succeed. He can to make his receivers better, he can even make his linemen look better because of his quick release. Being that this is a "best players" article, having a top-notch running back should serve to only make Manning's passing numbers more astounding. I've never seen a quarterback with such an ability to read a defense, it usually seems like he knows exactly what a defense is running on every play during a game. Manning is able to beat pressure, and his passes are rarely inaccurate. The Seahawks highlighted one flaw, which is pressure on the wide receivers, but when an offense is highly reliant on timing, even the best quarterbacks will have trouble when the receivers are successfully pressed at the line.
Running back is a difficult position to decide on. Is it better to have a fast, elusive back, or a bruiser? What about someone who can do both? There are advantages, and disadvantages, to all of them.
Adrian Peterson - Minnesota Vikings
Another moment where I maybe could have pulled a "fast one" and chosen a different back, I actually waffled between him and Jamaal Charles. Peterson is, without a doubt, the best running back in the NFL. He consistently gets carries against defenses that are stacked for stopping him in particular because the Vikings don't have much of a passing game, but he also consistently gets yards and makes big plays. He can do it all, run up the middle, run outside, run over defenders, make would-be tacklers miss, catch the ball. If he has a weakness it is in pass protection, but even there he is far from being necessarily bad at it. Peterson gained almost three yards per carry, after contact. He can get the tough yards, and he can break big runs. He was sixth in the NFL with 16 rushes of 15 yards or more, which may have been even more if he hadn't been injured at the end of the season. The Bears defense was shoddy, at best, against the run this season, but Peterson's 211 yards in Week 13 put him over the 10,000 yard mark for his career, and he dominated with his He is faster than many may expect, with a penchant for running away from defenders, after running them over. Watching Peterson run the football, is one of the most exciting things in every NFL season, since he came into the league.
Frank Gore - San Francisco 49ers
This is where people may be shocked, but as arguably the best pass blocking running back in the NFL, he's an incredible complement to Peterson. Gore is a bruising running back, who runs as hard, if not harder, than most running backs not named Marshawn Lynch or Adrian Peterson. Gore had a bit of a down year this season, but he was still a threat on every play, besting Peterson on runs of more than 15 yards, with 17. He is one of the most reliable short yardage running backs in the NFL, and he proved it on multiple occasions this season. In the 49ers win over Seattle during the regular season, Gore ripped off a 51 yard run (the longest allowed by the Seahawks all season), to get San Francisco in position to win the game. One of the biggest parts of his game, and the reason he is the second running back on this team, is still his pass blocking. According to Pro Football Focus Gore allowed zero sacks, although he blocked on 160 pass plays, and only allowed pressure on Colin Kaepernick, four times all season. Peterson has the speed and strength, Gore has the strength and ability to pass block, and with Peyton Manning at quarterback, pass blocking from the running back position is imperative
The true fullback is a dying position in the NFL, unfortunately, but with two big running backs that excel in short yardage situations, this team is not in need of a fullback that can run the ball. I want a blocker who will open lanes for Peterson, or Gore, and be able to block for Manning.
Anthony Sherman - Kansas City Chiefs
Sherman had a stellar season blocking for Jamaal Charles, and was a large part of Charles averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He is strong at the point of attack, and often picks the correct hole to block in. Sherman can clear out linebackers, and hold his own even against linemen. Sherman will be an asset on the short yardage situations, making it easier for Gore and Peterson to plow through for the couple of yards needed, and he has the ability to open holes for Peterson or Gore to rip off big runs.
Brandon Marshall - Chicago Bears
Marshall is not only a huge threat as a receiver, he is also, according to Pro Football Focus the best blocking wide receiver in the NFL, scoring a grade of 17, which is almost 11 points higher than the second highest rated receiver. The biggest negative for Marshall this year was a high number of drops, he led the league with 15 drops on 158 targets. He also received a lot of help from the huge year by Alshon Jeffrey, but in spite of his drops, he scored 12 touchdowns and caught 63 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. Marshall easily helps in every facet of the offense because he can make the key block that may spring Peterson for a big gain on the outside, and he can also stretch the field, or catch short passes, and make big plays of his own.
Calvin Johnson - Detroit Lions
Johnson didn't have his typical, every corner on the planet is scared to cover him, year, but he was stellar considering the issues the Lions had at holding on to the football. Detroit was second to only the Giants in turnovers lost this season, and tied with the hapless Redskins, with over half of their turnovers coming as a result of interceptions thrown by Stafford. Johnson gained at least 100 yards in seven games this season, including a staggering 329 yards against the Dallas Cowboys. He also scored 12 touchdowns. Johnson's positives more than make up for the nine interceptions that were thrown when he was targeted, even if you assume that a couple of them may have been his fault. He is a gigantic receiver with a lot of speed, and with Peyton Manning at quarterback, and Brandon Marshall on the other side of the offense, he would make for a ridiculous threat on this All-Pro team.
Eric Decker - Denver Broncos
This is designed as a very balanced team, and for my third receiver I want the most reliable slot receiver in the NFL this season. In the Broncos system, Decker may not necessarily be considered a slot receiver, but when he was lined up in the slot, only eight of the 40 targets that went his way, ended up incomplete. He dropped just one pass, and on the inside of a receiving corps that includes Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall, he'd be a huge addition in the middle of the offense. Decker isn't the fastest receiver, but he is a big receiver with reliable hands, and he will be able to run the seams consistently. He also helped himself immensely with a four touchdown game against Kansas City late in the year. Decker is the forgotten receiver in Denver, but I love his reliability and his willingness to go over the middle.
Jimmy Graham - New Orleans Saints
Graham's inability to run block made me waver for a minute about whether I should put him here, but he is a ridiculous threat in the passing game. He is almost more receiver than he is tight end, and he can run routes on the line, as well as outside as a flanker. He is a tall player, with great ability to go up and get the ball, with the speed to stretch defenses downfield, whether in the seam or on the outside. His 16 receiving touchdowns were the most of any player in the league this year.
Joe Thomas - Cleveland Browns
As a Bengals fan it always pains me to concede to Browns players being the best at a certain position, but Thomas is probably the best Left Tackle in the NFL. He allowed just two sacks on the season, and with the revolving door the Browns had at quarterback, that's a pretty big feat. Thomas can block on screens, and even if he may not be the best run blocker, he is more than solid as a run blocker. Most importantly for this team, is his ability to keep Manning on his feet.
Evan Mathis - Philadelphia Eagles
Mathis was graded by Pro Football Focus as the best run blocking guard this season, and it wasn't even close. He also allowed just two sacks on Eagles quarterbacks. As quick and shifty as LeSean McCoy is, he wouldn't have had as much room without Mathis at left guard, and the possibilities that arise when he is blocking for a running back like Adrian Peterson are astounding.
Alex Mack - Cleveland Browns
I almost went with Dominic Raiola here because he allowed zero sacks this past season, but Mack is the complete package. He is one of the best run blocking centers in the NFL, as well as one of the best pass blocking centers. Mack is good at calling line adjustments and making the right pre-snap reads. He was consistent all season, even though he was snapping it to average at best quarterbacks, and trying to block for mediocre running backs. He is tough at the point of attack, and doesn't get beat often.
Louis Vasquez - Denver Broncos
The Super Bowl notwithstanding, Vasquez was one of the best linemen in the NFL this season. He didn't allow Manning to be sacked once, and he was vital in opening holes for Knowshon Moreno to have a break out season. The Chargers must have been a bit crazy for letting him go, especially since he was picked up by a division rival, and the best offense in the NFL.
Jason Peters - Philadelphia Eagles
I was really hoping to have a different offensive line than John put together, but these are just the best linemen in the NFL right now. Peters was a solid run blocker, has the ability and quickness to get out on screens, and only allowed four sacks this season. The former left tackle seems to have found a good thing in Philadelphia as the right tackle.
What do you think of my team? Let me know in the comments section what you disagree with and what you would do differently.