Its inclusion in the Olympics would be wholly superfluous. The reconstituted basketball ‘Dream Team’ may seem destined for an easy gold in London, but there is still enough competition and talent from other nations to make the event worthwhile. The same could not be said for football. But, we’re still in the offseason, so why not have some fun and debate?
In order to make the conversation more interesting, I propose adding an age restriction for Team USA. We’ll forgo the comparisons between Brady, Brees and Rodgers and save them for mock fantasy drafts where they belong. In soccer, national teams are limited to selecting players that are 23 years of age and younger, (with three slots available for players older than 23). 23 is perhaps too young for the purposes of our discussion, given that football players must be out of high school for at least three years before they are even eligible to play in the NFL. However, if we make the cut-off point 25, we reveal a plethora of young talent that would be eager to represent their country.
Starting: Cam Newton (23 years of age)
The quarterback pool is laden with prospects, but Cam Newton takes the starting job just ahead of Matthew Stafford (24). Newton was the 2011 Rookie of the Year, and he broke rookie records for passing yards (4,051), rushing yards for a quarterback (706) and total touchdowns (35). Newton also broke the overall record for rushing touchdowns for a quarterback (14). He’s proven he can throw the ball, even with limited weapons at his disposal, but it is the added threat of his running game that gives him the edge. He was the first player in NFL history to combine over 4,000 passing yards with over 10 rushing touchdowns in a single season.
Backup: Matthew Stafford (24)
Honorary mentions: Josh Freeman (24), Andy Dalton (24), Sam Bradford (24)
Rookie for the depth chart: Andrew Luck (22)
Team USA often brings along a draft pick or two to the Olympics for basketball, so why not the same for football? Andrew Luck gets the nod ahead of RGIII (22) for this spot, but for reasons of fairness more than anything else. As RGIII was born in Japan, it would make for much more of an interesting story if he represented the land of the rising sun.
The Running Back
Starting: LeSean McCoy (24)
Running back is the most loaded position for young superstars. There is little to choose from between McCoy, Foster (25), Rice (25) and Charles (25). All of these players have received big contract extensions. Charles and Foster also carry injury concerns with them into this new season. Shady McCoy averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season which was slightly better than Rice and Foster, but it was on the goal line that he was at his most effective; leading the league with 17 rushing touchdowns. McCoy also led the league with 84 first downs, (with Rice and Foster back in the 50s). McCoy has only completed 3 seasons with the Eagles but he is 11th all-time in franchise history in career rushing yards.
Backup: Ray Rice (25)
Honorary mentions: Arian Foster (25), Jamaal Charles (25), Ryan Mathews (24), Darren McFadden (24), DeMarco Murray (24), Beanie Wells (23)
Rookie for the depth chart: Trent Richardson (21)
The Wide Receivers
Starting: A.J. Green (24) and Julio Jones (23)
Both of these wide receivers had sensational rookie seasons last year. They combined for 15 touchdowns, 119 receptions and 77 first downs. Green has the edge in receiving yards, 1,057 to 959. However, Julio Jones averaged 17.8 yards per catch compared to Green’s 16.3. In short, there is little to separate them. Dez Bryant (23) is set for a career season, and there is no doubt that he possesses the skillset of a soon-to-be elite wide receiver. However, with his off the field problems this summer, maybe it’s best that he sits this one out.
Backup: Jeremy Maclin (24)
Honorary mentions: Dez Bryant (23), Antonio Brown (24), Demaryius Thomas (24), Michael Crabtree (24)
Rookie for the depth chart: Justin Blackmon (22)
The Tight End
Starting: Rob Gronkowski (23)
Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez used to be the outliers, but nowadays they should be viewed as the prototype. In the modern NFL tight ends are as important as wide receivers in the passing game, and linebackers simply cannot cover the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham (25). They have the height, (6’6” and 6’7” respectively), and both weigh in at 265 lbs. Gronkowski secures a starting place thanks to his unparalleled accomplishments last season; his 1,327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns set all-time records for his position.
Backup: Jimmy Graham (25)
Honorary mentions: Aaron Hernandez (22), Jermichael Finley (25), Jermaine Gresham (24)
Rookie for the depth chart: Coby Fleener (23)
Who would they play against?
Australia would put out quite the team of punters. It would be a real battle between Chris Bryan, Ben Graham, Mat McBriar and Sav Rocca for the starting place, but at least there would be plenty of backups for the chosen one. Look for them to play a very strategic positioning game.
Germany also boast several NFL players, including: T Sebastian Vollmer, FB Jerome Felton, C Doug Legursky, WR Domenik Hixon and TE Tony Stewart. Hines Ward could come out of retirement and represent his birth country of South Korea. Meanwhile, Team GB would include Scottish kickers Lawrence Tynes, Graham Gano and Englishman Rhys Lloyd, as well as the English-born duo of TE Visanthe Shiancoe and DE Osi Umenyiora.
Games not involving USA would likely turn into some form of rugby union, with the score increasing slowly by increments of three. By default, someone would reach the gold medal match but they would be comprehensively decimated by Team USA. Cam Newton would add the gold medal to his Heisman Trophy and BCS National Championship. That’s the daydream over. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.