Most valuable non-QB for each team

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New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87). Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

If you have someone who can quality as a franchise quarterback, chances are that this player is clearly the most valuable player on your team. This goes for elite teams like the Seattle Seahawks and for mediocre teams like the Dallas Cowboys, with rare exceptions such as the Detroit Lions causing some form of argument (Matthew Stafford vs. Calvin Johnson). This piece has been on my back-burner for quite some time, because it’s sometimes difficult to try and differentiate value from best. Sometimes the best player on the team doesn’t seem like the most valuable player, perhaps because they play at a position rich in talent or play a position that inherently doesn’t hold as much value. In cases where I was on the border, such as with the Jacksonville Jaguars, I simply decided to go with the player whom I believe to be superior.

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski

As with every top-notch team, there are several worth candidates to choose from, and both defensive backs Devin McCourty and Darrelle Revis hold plenty of value to the Patriots. While Revis is a new addition, he’s going to be absolutely enormous for a team that tries as hard as possible to suffocate the opposition’s best passing option. Now with Revis in the fold, Bill Belichick can simply take a great receiver out of the game with just one player. Despite the value D-Mac and Revis bring to the table for the Pats, I just couldn’t pick anyone other than Rob Gronkowski, especially after what happened to the Patriots after he went down. To me, it’s not a coincidence that the Patriots were able to defeat the Denver Broncos with him on the roster but could not muster anything offensively after he tore his ACL and MCL against the Cleveland Browns. Gronk helped keep this offense afloat, and he frees up everyone due to the mis-matches he creates as a receiver. And then there’s his blocking. Oh boy, we could wax poetic about that for days.

Miami Dolphins CB Brent Grimes

Brent Grimes received some incredibly stiff competition from Cameron Wake, who is the better player than the shutdown corner. That said, the Dolphins defensive line is stocked with talent, as Olivier Vernon is a great bookend for Wake, Jared Odrick broke out last year, and Randy Starks has always been a star at DT. While I like second-year Boise State corner Jamar Taylor, it’s clear that Grimes is the glue guy at corner and is easily a top ten CB. He was a crucial signing for the Dolphins last offseason, and they reaped big-time rewards for believing in him. Even though he’s small and came off of an injury, it was clear that Grimes has been and will continue to be a great player in this league.

New York Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson

The three best players on the New York Jets are their three starting defensive linemen, and top backup Kendrick Ellis is also an exceptional talent at nose tackle. Eric Decker, Damon Harrison, and Sheldon Richardson are all legitimate options for the Jets, and Nick Mangold is still in the mix despite a down year by his standards in 2013. However, I just couldn’t ignore Muhammad Wilkerson, who had another great season last year with a whopping 10.5 sacks. Due for a lucrative extension, Wilkerson was even better in 2012 despite having less sacks, and he’s right there with Calais Campbell for the second-best 3-4 DE in the league behind the unstoppable J.J. Watt.

Buffalo Bills DE Kyle Williams

Kyle Williams stood out among a great group of defensive players on the Buffalo Bills. Kiko Alonso grabbed the spotlight last year for good reason, and I’d be perfectly fine with him being somebody’s choice here. But I decided to go with Williams, who is the absolute model of consistency, even when he’s playing through a rough injury (check out what he did in 2012). Last season, he kept things ticking up front with Marcell Dareus, but Williams’s steady play makes him more valuable than his explosive counterpart. Like Wilkerson, the 31-year-old also tallied up an impressive 10.5 sacks in a new defensive scheme, and there is so much you could praise this guy for (run defense, pass rushing, versatility, leadership, consistency, power, motor); he has the full package for an interior DL.

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  • trinity

    Nice list! I would have put Jimmy Graham before jarius byrd. And one could easily argue that Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson are even more important than their quarterbacks, so good picks there.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Thanks for the kind words, trinity, and it’s good having you around as a regular. Graham over Byrd is a great pick, and I gave Cameron Jordan an awful lot of thought as well. I ultimately decided to go with Byrd due to the value he would present the team as a free safety, as well as all of the other big weapons in the Saints offense. But Graham is undoubtedly a great pick. Peterson and Charles are the most valuable players on their team indeed, well said.

      • trinity

        You’re welcome :). Keep up the good articles :)

        • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

          Thanks, man. I try :)

  • Derek J

    I really enjoyed reading this. Excellent work, Joe. FWIW, I bleed the orange and blue, and I couldn’t agree more with the Von Miller pick. With the exception of PFM, Von is easily the most talented and valuable player to that team. The best OLB in the league, viewed through these biased eyes.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Thanks, Derek, and I agree that he’s the best OLB in the league. That’s not a statement to be taken lightly either, since there are plenty of other great OLBs like Lavonte David. Miller has been so dominant in every game of his career, and it’s crazy looking back at his rookie year and realizing that it’s even better than the rookie seasons guys like Alonso and Kuechly have put together. It was funny listening to some people criticizing his play last season, because I thought he was still fantastic. Sacks weren’t there, but he, as usual, put pressure on the QB with ruthless consistency.

      • Derek J

        Great point, I too have religiously echoed that sentiment. In just 9 games played last season, he still had the highest grade of ALL linebackers in the league (per PFF). That includes 3-4 and 4-3 OLBs and MLBs. When Von is on the field, he makes a difference.

  • Derek J

    Good point, I have also religiously echoed that sentiment. In only 9 games played last year, he still had the highest grade for ALL linebackers in the league last year (per PFF). When he is on the field, Von makes a differenc

  • Gunnar Martin

    Eric Weddle is simply a beast.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Darn right he is. Dude flies all over the field.

  • Andrew Long

    Really cool article, Joe! Can’t say that I disagree with any of your assessments.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Thanks, Andrew. I’m surprised you don’t have any disagreements, though, because there are some where I was really borderline on, such as the Seahawks and Bengals. Those two were incredibly tough.

  • Amar S.

    Another great piece. This is way better than NFL.com’s face of the franchise article.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Thanks, Amar. I actually enjoy that series quite a bit, but I did disagree with their choice for DeAngelo Hall as the “runner-up” face of the franchise for the Redskins. But then again, “face of the franchise” carries a different connotation than “valuable”.