1 of 32Norm Hall/Getty Images | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Arizona Cardinals | Patrick Peterson
The Cardinals made a terrific move in 2011, drafting cornerback Patrick Peterson with the fifth-overall pick in the NFL Draft. Peterson has been nothing short of spectacular, making the Pro Bowl all four seasons of his career while landing two All-Pro spots. Peterson has five touchdowns and 15 interceptions, showcasing his talents both on defense and special teams. Honorable mention: Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati.
2 of 32Carlos M. Saavedra for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Atlanta Falcons | Julio Jones
Julio Jones had another huge year in 2014, catching 104 passes for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Jones is a nightmare to cover with a rare blend of ideal size and elite speed. Provided the 26-year-old can stay healthy, he is a mortal lock to be in the Pro Bowl again. Honorable mention: Matt Ryan, Roddy White.
3 of 32John Rivera/Icon SMI | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Baltimore Ravens | Marshall Yanda
Another one of those teams with plenty of solid candidates, but the choice has to be Marshal Yanda. He might be the best guard in the game today, showcasing his incredible skills throughout the last eight years. Honorable mention: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil.
4 of 32Kellen MIcah/Icon Sportswire | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Buffalo Bills | Marcell Dareus
Marcell Dareus is changing from a defensive tackle to an end this season in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme, but the Bills’ behemoth is still going to be devastating. Honorable mention: Mario Williams, LeSean McCoy.
5 of 32Jim Dedmon/Icon Sportswire | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Carolina Panthers | Luke Kuechly
So many fans immediately think of Cam Newton when the Panthers are brought up in conversation, but the team’s best player is actually on defense. Inside linebacker Luke Kuechly has led the NFL in tackles each of the last two years, becoming one of the best players in the game. Honorable mention: Thomas Davis, Cam Newton.
6 of 32David E. Klutho for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Chicago Bears | Matt Forte
Chicago has been down in the dumps over the last few seasons, suffering through the horrific Marc Trestman Experience. However, one of the players able to thrive in that chaos was running back Matt Forte, one of the most complete running backs the NFL has to offer. The Bears have plenty of weapons on offense, but none match Forte. Honorable mention: Alshon Jeffery.
7 of 32Winslow Townson for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Cincinnati Bengals | A.J. Green
A few years ago, this could have been defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Currently, it is not a contest. While the Bengals have some terrific running backs in Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard, neither strike fear into opponents like A.J. Green. Honorable mention: Andrew Whitworth.
8 of 32Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Cleveland Browns | Joe Thomas
The Browns have not been good since coming back into the league in 1999, but that does not mean they are without talent. Thomas was selected with the third-overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, and he has starred from the first snap. Honorable mention: Joe Haden.
9 of 32Rod Mar for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Dallas Cowboys | Dez Bryant
This was clearly going to come down to someone on offense, and Dez Bryant stands alone. While Tony Romo merits consideration, Bryant could make an argument as the best receiver in the NFL today. Last year, Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. Honorable mention: Tony Romo, Tyron Smith.
10 of 32Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Denver Broncos | Von Miller
Denver has plenty of players to pick from, but the mention must go to outside linebacker Von Miller. While Miller has dealt with some off-field issues, he is nothing short of a machine on it. Honorable mention: Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas.
11 of 32 John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Detroit Lions | DeAndre Levy
Yep, it’s not Calvin Johnson. Last year, Johnson began to sustain the type of nagging injuries that can plague and slow down a player who is beginning to age into the latter stages of his career. So, while Megatron's track record is certainly undeniable, DeAndre Levy is getting the love after a tremendous 2014 season. He was second in the league with 151 tackles to go with an interception and 2.5 sacks from his outside linebacker spot. With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley gone, Levy will have even more tackles to make. Honorable mention: Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson.
12 of 32Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Green Bay Packers | Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers. The two-time Most Valuable Player and Super Bowl champion might be the best player in the sport, so this was no contest. If you were to put a quarterback together from scratch, you would build Rodgers and stop. Honorable mention: Clay Matthews Jr., Jordy Nelson.
13 of 32John Rivera/Icon Sportswire | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Houston Texans | J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt is the best in the business on defense, making a strong argument each week that he is the best defensive specimen to play since Lawrence Taylor. Honorable mention: Arian Foster.
14 of 32Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Indianapolis Colts | Andrew Luck
Of all the teams, this had to be the easiest choice. Taken with the first-overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Stanford, Luck has become perhaps the best quarterback in the game with his rifle arm and uncanny ability to stay alive in the pocket. Honorable mention: Vontae Davis.
15 of 32Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Jacksonville Jaguars | Sen'Derrick Marks
One day, this might be Blake Bortles or Denard Robinson. For now, the honor goes to Sen’Derrick Marks, one of the most unheralded players in the NFL. Marks had 8.5 sacks in 2014 and is becoming one of the more disruptive 4-3 defensive tackles going. Honorable mention: Stefen Wisniewski, Allen Robinson.
16 of 32David E. Klutho for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Kansas City Chiefs | Jamaal Charles
While brutal to chose between Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston, the honor goes to Charles. Houston enjoyed a career season with 22 sacks, a franchise single-season mark for an organization used to great pass-rushers. However, Charles does it all for the Chiefs, allowing their offense to go despite limitations elsewhere. Honorable mention: Justin Houston, Jeremy Maclin.
17 of 32Joel Auerbach/Getty Images | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Miami Dolphins | Ndamukong Suh
The Dolphins swung from the heels in free agency and landed the biggest fish of them all with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He comes over after five glorious seasons with the Detroit Lions, capped by a 2014 where he made 53 tackles and notched 8.5 sacks. Honorable mention: Cameron Wake, Brent Grimes.
18 of 32 Jamie Squire/Getty Images | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Minnesota Vikings | Adrian Peterson
Although the Vikings have a better roster than many realize, this has to be Adrian Peterson. Despite missing 15 games last season for his legal problems involving his young son, Peterson is still one of, if not, the best running backs in the game. Peterson will make Teddy Bridgewater’s life much easier, with teams stacking the box to slow him down. Honorable mention: Evernson Griffen, Harrison Smith.
19 of 32Damian Strohmeyer for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
New England Patriots | Tom Brady
This is really a choice between Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and while Gronkowski is the best tight end in football by a mile, and Brady is no longer the best quarterback in the game, Tom still might go down as the greatest to ever play along with Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas. Honorable mention: Rob Gronkowski
20 of 32Fred Vuich for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
New Orleans Saints | Drew Brees
It’s not secret here, especially with Jimmy Graham now suiting up for the Seattle Seahawks. Drew Brees has been the heart and soul of the franchise since showing up right after Hurricane Katrina, winning a Super Bowl in 2009. Brees has been one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, surely earning himself a spot in the Hall of Fame. This one wasn’t even close. Honorable mention: Marques Colston.
21 of 32Al Bello/Getty Images | Text credit: Matt Verderame
New York Giants | Odell Beckham
Few players can come straight out of college and absolutely destroy the NFL. Apparently, Odell Beckham Jr. has that rare ability. The Giants’ 2014 first-round selection missed the first four games with hamstring issues, and then proceeded to amass 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. Honorable mention: Jason Pierre-Paul, Eli Manning.
22 of 32Seth Wenig/AP | Text credit: Matt Verderame
New York Jets | Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis might have a hard time figuring out which team he wants to play for, but he has no issues locking down the receiver across from him. Revis, who turns 30 in July, remains one of the top corners in the game and will likely end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Honorable mention: Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson.
23 of 32Ben Margot/AP | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Oakland Raiders | Khalil Mack
This was really no contest. While quarterback Derek Carr threw for more than 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns as a rookie last season, it was the man picked a round before him who stole the show. Mack posted 13 stuffs to lead the team and came on in the pass-rushing situations as the year progressed, notching four sacks along with 75 tackles. Honorable mention: Derek Carr, Charles Woodson.
24 of 32Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Philadelphia Eagles | Jason Peters
With all of the moves that head coach Chip Kelly made this off-season, it is hard to keep track of who remains on the Eagles. However, the best player suiting up for Philadelphia last year and this remains the same guy; Jason Peters. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the top tackle in football. Honorable mention: DeMarco Murray.
25 of 32Tim Clayton for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Pittsburgh Steelers | Ben Roethlisberger
This was one of the tougher calls to make across the league. There was really nobody to talk about on defense, but the Steelers have an embarrassment of riches on offense. So why Big Ben? Last year, he threw for 4,952 yards, a career-high and tying Drew Brees for the league passing title. While Pittsburgh could survive for a month or two without Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, it would be absolutely sunk without Roethlisberger. Honorable mention: Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
26 of 32William Purnell/Icon Sportswire | Text credit: Matt Verderame
St. Louis Rams | Aaron Donald
The Rams don’t have anybody worthy of consideration on offense, but the defense is absolutely loaded. While Robert Quinn is the easy answer, the correct choice is Aaron Donald. He racked up nine sacks and a pair of forced fumbles as a 4-3 defensive tackle last season, and on the same line as Nick Fairley, Chris Long and Quinn, Donald will be a destroyer of worlds for years to come. Honorable mention: Robert Quinn, James Laurinaitis.
27 of 32John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
San Diego Chargers | Eric Weddle
Most probably expected to see Philip Rivers here, but the stunner prevails. Eric Weddle is the best player on the Chargers, and has been for a few seasons. Weddle has been overshadowed at his position with Eric Berry, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor drawing headlines, but nobody has been steadier than Weddle. Honorable mention: Philip Rivers, Corey Liuget.
28 of 32John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
San Francisco 49ers | Anquan Boldin
Last year, this would have been impossible because of the litany of candidates. This year? It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. At 34 years old, Boldin caught 83 passes for 1,062 yards and five touchdowns, even with Colin Kaepernick at the helm. He's a terrific run-after-the-catch receiver, not because of speed but heart and strength. He’s also one of the best clutch receivers in the game. Honorable mention: Eric Reid, Joe Staley.
29 of 32John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Seattle Seahawks | Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman might have a big mouth, but he backs it up with tremendous play. He's truly a rare breed of cornerback for a few reasons. First, he doesn’t follow the best receiver around the field all day long, he simply stays on his side of the field. Second, and more importantly, Sherman picks off a ton of passes despite quarterbacks trying to avoid him. Honrorable mention: Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch.
30 of 32Gary Bogdon for Sports Illustrated | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Mike Evans
Mike Evans is only entering his second NFL season after being a first-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2014, but there is plenty to like already. He took the league by storm despite having Mike Glennon and Josh McCown throwing his way, catching 68 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns. Honorable mention: Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David.
31 of 32MSA/Icon Sportswire | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Tennessee Titans | Jurrell Casey
Um, can we get a player to be named later here? The Titans don’t have much known talent on the club, although Jurrell Casey has proven to be one of the better defensive linemen in the league. Casey, 25, enjoyed two terrific seasons in 2013 and 2014 with little help around him, totaling 15.5 sacks in that span from a 3-4 end spot.
32 of 32Mark E. Tenally/AP | Text credit: Matt Verderame
Washington Redskins | Ryan Kerrigan
Although the Redskins are a lackluster franchise in every conceivable way at the moment, they still have some quality players. Ryan Kerrigan is at the top of the list, providing almost all the pass rush for a team that has issues hitting the quarterback. Last year he had a career-high 13.5 sacks while Washington had 36 as a team. Honorable mention: DeSean Jackson, Trent Williams.
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