This drowsy part of the NFL calendar is the perfect time to conjure up creative "what if" scenarios.
NFL.com did just that recently, compiling a roster of NFL players — the best team that money can buy — of stud players who all together fit under the $182,500,000 salary cap.
The Indianapolis Colts have a wealth of young talent on the roster and as such have two players on this hypothetical roster in second-year running back Jonathan Taylor and fourth-year linebacker Darius Leonard.
RB Jonathan Taylor
Taylor trailed just Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook in rushing yards during his NFL debut in 2020, averaging 123.5 ground yards per game and scoring eight touchdowns over his final six contests... Taylor, (Antonio) Gibson and (James) Robinson each had at least 35 receptions a year ago, so there is confidence that any of the three would fare just fine if pressed into duty due to injuries.
Taylor already appears to be one of the best running backs in the NFL after a standout introductory season, and this roster gets him on a rookie contract. The production machine out of Wisconsin churned up the third-most rushing yards in the league in 2020 in 15 games (13 starts) with 1,169 yards on 232 carries (5.0 avg.) as well as 11 touchdowns, 36 receptions for 299 yards (8.3 avg.) and 1 touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor was the NFL's sixth-best running back with a grade of 83.9, crediting him with 41 missed tackles forced and 685 yards after contact. His game excelled in the second half of the season as he averaged 117.0 rushing yards per game in between Week 11 and the Wild Card round of the postseason. That includes four games with at least 90 yards, two with at least 150, and a franchise-record 253 yards in Week 17.
LB Darius Leonard
Leonard's speed and length are a problem against the pass and the run. He's the only player in NFL history with 15-plus sacks and seven-plus interceptions in his first three NFL seasons. Two Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro nods in three seasons speak for themselves.
If Leonard hasn't been the best linebacker in the league since he was drafted in 2018 then he's at least been the most productive. Through his first three seasons, Leonard's numbers are nearly unrivaled, totaling 416 tackles (26 for loss), 15.0 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 4 fumbles recovered, 7 interceptions, 22 pass breakups, and 1 touchdown in 42 games. He has been named Defensive Rookie of the Year, a two-time First-Team All-Pro, a Second-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Pro Bowler. From being considered one of the worst picks of the 2018 NFL Draft to being arguably the best linebacker in the NFL... You'd consider that a home run, right? It's good that they're getting Leonard onto this roster now because once his contract extension hits (any time now), he'll probably be the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL.
Should any other Colts have made the team? Drop your thoughts below in the comment section!