Excluding QB's, The One Player NFC Teams Can't Afford To Lose
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Excluding QB's, The One Player NFC Teams Can't Afford To Lose

Aside from QB's, here's a look at the guy on each NFC team that can't afford to be lost.

Excluding QB's, The One Player NFC Teams Can't Afford To Lose

Every NFL team has a couple players pivotal to their success. The quarterback on every team is the most important player on the field, so we'll leave them out of this experiment. We'll dive into each NFC team's most valuable player and in the process, reveal where that teams' strengths and weaknesses lie.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings: S Harrison Smith

Smith is one of the baddest dudes in the NFL. The safety is entering his seventh season in the league and has been a top-notch player since he entered. He can play in the box, centerfield, get after the passer, and he's a vicious hitter too. He may be the most important player on that vaunted Vikes unit.

Detroit Lions: CB Darius Slay

'Big Play Slay' doesn't get nearly the attention he deserves. He lines up against #1 wide receivers on a week to week basis. He played against Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Green and Michael Thomas last year. Not to mention he faced Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams, as well as Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs twice a year. No corner played a tougher schedule, and Slay managed to snag eight interceptions in the process. He's a top 5 CB.

Green Bay Packers: DT Mike Daniels

Daniels has a reputation around the league as a nasty guy. He's mean, physical, and very tough. He's also kind of a short and squatty guy, but he's strong as an ox. Although there may be a few more big name guys on that squad (Adams, Clay Matthews, Haha Clinton-Dix), Daniels is the tone setter for that defense. He's also a huge trash talker and he gets some bonus points for that.

Chicago Bears: RB Jordan Howard

Howard has rushed for over 1100 yards in both of his NFL seasons and averages 4.6 yards per carry for his career. He also has 12 career 100-yard games, tied with Ezekiel Elliot for the most in the past two seasons. More than that, he's a powerful, punishing runner who excels at picking up tough yards. With an innovative coach, that actually knows how to use him in Matt Nagy, Howard could have a career year.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints: DE Cameron Jordan

This one is almost a toss-up. I know some may be clamoring for electric running back Alvin Kamara. But Mark Ingram is more than capable of toting the rock. Unless rookie Marcus Davenport is an impact player immediately, Jordan is the only pass rusher that's truly effective on the roster. Jordan is consistently one of the more disruptive pass rushers in the league.

Carolina Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly

Easy choice. Kuechly has been the most dominant inside 'backer since he entered the NFL. He diagnoses plays faster than anyone, he hits like a Mack Truck, and he racks up picks. There's not much more I need to say.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones

Jones is a freak of nature. Aside from Antonio Brown, there's no other wide receiver I'd rather have than Jones. The Falcons are loaded with weapons. Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley are already an imposing group. Add the most talented wide receiver in the NFL, and you get a truly scary unit. All due respect to the other players just mentioned, but Jones takes the cake every time.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans

The jury is out on Jameis Winston, but Mike Evans has been a constant security blanket for the Buc's QB. He's gone for over 1,000 yards every season of his four-year career, a stat you have to respect. At 6'5, Evans is fantastic at using his body to outmuscle DBs on 50/50 jump balls. Tampa Bay knows how crucial he is to their success, as they inked him to an $82.5 million deal this offseason.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles: DT Fletcher Cox

This a team that is loaded with talent, especially on the defense. But Cox is the straw that stirs the drink for the Eagles. He's an absolute monster up front, a force against the run and the pass. He plays on a talented D-line, that he surely benefits from, but they benefit much more from playing with him than the other way around. At 6'4 and 310 lbs., Cox is an athletic freak who uses his strength and quickness to bully interior offensive lineman.

Dallas Cowboys: RB Ezekiel Elliot

Another easy choice. We saw the proof of this last year when he missed six games for the Cowboys. They're just not the same team when he's not around. Dak Prescott isn't nearly as good without his running mate. Elliot possesses a rare combo of power, quickness, and vision that makes him arguably the best running back in the league today. The team's identity runs through him, and with Elliot back in the fold in 2018, the Cowboys will be much stronger contenders.

Washington Redskins: OLB Ryan Kerrigan

This is a team that is a bit harder to make a selection for. Kerrigan fits the bill as he's been their most consistent player on defense for years. Jordan Reed would be my first choice, but he's hurt too often. And Trent Williams is a top 3 left tackle, but the team actually handled his injury last year fairly well. Kerrigan racked up 13 sacks last season, and is always around the QB.

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams: DT Aaron Donald

All due respect to Todd Gurley, who would win this title on just about any other team, but Donald gets the nod here. He's the most disruptive defensive player in football. Quick, powerful, and athletic beyond belief, Donald is an absolute nightmare and makes his living in the opposing backfield. Los Angeles should smarten up and pay him.

Seattle Seahawks: S Earl Thomas

Now that the historically great Legion of Boom is no more, one member is left to shoulder the load. That man is Earl Thomas, the best safety in football and a future Hall of Famer. No safety is rangier, and Thomas is also a nasty hitter with terrific ball skills. This team will look radically different in the coming years than the teams of Seattle's past, but unless Thomas gets traded before the season begins, he'll still be roaming the defensive backfield in Seattle.

Arizona Cardinals: CB Patrick Peterson

David Johnson is a tough choice to argue against, and I certainly wouldn't have a problem with it. But Peterson is my choice because he's been one of, if not the best corner in football since 2011. PP21 is a rare shutdown corner. His interception numbers have decreased because teams no longer look his way to throw. He matches up with #1 receivers and essentially eliminates them. That's a huge boom for a defense.

San Francisco 49ers: LB Reuben Foster

Foster has already had some off the field issues, but on the field there are very little concerns. He flashes speed and playmaking ability. And while this may be a bit of a projection, if Foster stays healthy, he could be the next great Niners linebacker following in the footsteps of Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. If he can come close to that, Foster will absolutely be the most important 49er not named Jimmy Garoppolo.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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