Punch Drunk Wonderland

NFL Players to Build a Franchise Around

franchise-playerEvery offseason starts up the speculation of what will come to pass for the various NFL teams in the coming year. What changes will be in store? What key additions? Will your favorite team find that foundation player to build a franchise around? It seems to be the common thread with successful teams that have longevity. A nucleus of talent that will propel your team through the seasons to come. We’ve seen it with players like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, etc. A team has to find their foundation star player that gives them identity and a necessary starting point.

I’ve asked a number of football and fantasy football enthusiasts, gurus, and writers to address this very idea. If you could start from scratch, all current NFL players on the table, which single player would you choose to build your franchise around and why? The perspectives are both from actual franchise and fantasy franchise building perspectives. Thanks to all who contributed.

The Kommishtwitter

Punch Drunk Wonderland

“You have to find talent and longevity. Today’s NFL isn’t owned by running backs as it once was. It’s a quarterback’s league. My opinion is you should build around either a star quarterback or a game changer defensive player if you can come up with one of those once in a lifetime players. That said, with the selection right now I have to aim at winning and longevity. I’m going with Andrew Luck. He’s a young, talented QB that can do it all. He can make the passes, he can run, he has the mind for the game, he’s a leader, and he has the intangibles that make franchise players. He has the size and durability that some of the other young star QBs such as RGIII and Russell Wilson lack. He’s a complete package, and a perfect starting point to build a monster.

From a fantasy perspective the choice holds up as the fantasy football landscape is largely dominated by quarterbacks. 9 of the top 10 fantasy scorers of 2012 were quarterbacks. That means a QB is a solid choice to build around, and Luck is my guy.

I know it’s not a sexy or risky choice, and I’m probably a Colts homer. Still a good pick though. Also, that neckbeard is daunting….”


Ross Milestwitter

Pro Football Focus

“As an IDP guy I always look to build any franchise I run around an elite scoring linebacker. They have long careers and are also some of the most predictable players from year-to-year, which makes them ideal candidates to be the basis of my roster. First and foremost they have to be able to hit 120+ total tackles as this gives them weekly consistency. Secondly they have to be able to pad those tackles numbers with big plays and turnovers, which means a few sacks, forced fumbles and also the ability to intercept a pass. Thirdly, and perhaps the hidden statistic when if your scoring system rewards them, are tackles for loss, where the elite run-stuffing inside-backers get eight or more in a season to really separate themselves. By being a versatile playmaker it means such a player is hard to totally scheme out of a game and they can always find a way to make plays and therefore score fantasy points.

The player I have been keen on for a couple of years now is Daryl Washington, who asserted himself as one of the premier IDP assets in 2012. Over the previous two seasons he has averaged 120 total tackles a year (racking up 108 solos last season), seven sacks and nine and a half tackles for loss. He has also added a total of three interceptions and two forced fumbles in that span. At 26 years of age he has 6+ seasons left in his prime and has shown improvement in each of his three seasons in the league. He has also only missed one game since entering the NFL, another requisite trait for being a fantasy must-own, as resorting to replacement level players can and will cost your franchise wins during the season. If unable to secure Washington for your line-up I’d make a play for 2012 rookie, Bobby Wagner, who has the profile to be another dominant scoring middle linebacker for his owners.”


Ken Griggstwitter

Dexter’s Library

“Only a guess here but I bet lots of folks writing this exercise will choose a running back. I’ve spent most of my adult life being wrong, so it would come as no surprise if I were wrong about that. With that said, however, if I were starting a real NFL team or a fantasy team, it would be tempting to settle on Adrian Peterson, paint myself purple and call it a day.

I think that would be a hasty and dangerous thing to do. Just as old people shouldn’t buy bananas, I don’t think NFL teams should spend loads of money on running backs. It’s somewhat different for fantasy, but, for the sake of being contrarian and for adding a little flair to this exercise, I’m going to choose A.J. Green as the guy I’d like to build my fantasy team around.

The hell, you say. The hell not, I say.

Here’s why: Chartreuse Lightning (that’s my nickname, so don’t go ganking it, bitches) is coming off a 97 catch, 1300 yard season that saw him hit pay dirt 11 times last season. This was with a bevy of his fellow receivers getting hurt and a quarterback who looks like Lucille Ball’s handicapped nephew.

The scary part about his numbers is I think he can improve upon them. As bad as Andy Dalton performed at times (in his last five games he only threw four TDs), he did complete 60+ percent of his passes and throw 27 TDs. And he was only in his second NFL campaign. Their rapport should only improve. He had 165 targets last season, or about 10 a game. That’s a lot. I hope to see that number at least remain the same and we could hope to see it increase if only slightly. Chartreuse led the team with 24 red-zone targets and I’d love to see him do so again. Throw it up over and over again like a schoolgirl after her first bourbon shot.

And with Mohamed Sanu returning fully healthy, the sparkplug that is Andrew Hawkins and a running game anchored by the plodding lawyer BenJarvus Green-Ellis, I honestly think Chartreuse steps out even further, eclipsing the century mark in receptions and getting double-digit TDs once again.

Calvin Johnson’s second year stat line: 78-1331-12. Remarkably similar and I think it only gets better for this guy moving forward. A.J.’s a freak and I would be proud to have him as the cornerstone of my fantasy squad.”


Evan Kendalltwitter

Co-Founder and Chief Publisher of The Football Juice

“Instead of choosing RGIII or Andrew Luck, I’m going with a guy who torments young (and old) quarterbacks. J.J. Watt had 20.5 sacks last year in just his second season in the NFL. Do you realize how big of a number 20.5 is? Let me put it this way: he had more sacks than Tony Romo and Mark Sanchez had interceptions. That’s A LOT. Add to that his 16 pass deflections, by far the most by any non-secondary player, and you have yourself one of the most talented defenders in the league. Plus, he has several fun nicknames, including J.J. SWatt and MEGAWATT, and he “proposed” to a 6-year old girl who made a video crying that she wasn’t older to be able to marry him. Case closed.”


Matt Levinetwitter

Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of The Football Juice

“If you could pick one position to start a team with it has to be quarterback, right? Maybe, but maybe not. There has always been the idea that you can’t win a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback, but quarterbacks like Joe Flacco, Trent Dilfer, Ben Roethlisberger in his first Super Bowl, and even Tom Brady in his first Super Bowl disproved that. You know what you need to win a Super Bowl? An elite pass rusher. Every Super Bowl Champion ever has had an elite pass rusher. So, who is the one player I am starting my team with? Von Miller. The guy is going to be the best defensive player in the league for many years to come. He notched 11.5 sacks in his rookie year and 18.5 last season. That’s 30 sacks in his first two seasons, people! Is that real life? He also is equally reliable defending the pass thanks to his rare speed for a pass rusher. He was a track star in high school, which is scary to think about with a linebacker. The best part is that he is only 23 years old and by my advanced mathematical calculations, assuming he continues his numerical sack progression from his rookie year to last year, he will amass 53.5 sacks in his seventh season. You can’t argue against that!”


Scrappy The Cowtwitter

Punch Drunk Wonderland

“Setting aside the fact that quarterback is the most important position in the league, I’d build a team like you would build a house- start with a strong foundation (Not actually sure how a house is built, but whatever). You want to start by pouring 325 pounds of Vince Wilfork into the hole you’ve dug in the ground (I assume some kind of hole is dug?). Having a big DT that can plug up the middle of the field and yet still be athletic enough to shed blockers and penetrate makes everything else work, even when we don’t notice it at first glance. You may not think about that foundation on a day to day basis, but without it your flatscreen and refrigerator would fall into the aforementioned hole. Then again, Wilfork is 31 years old, so that foundation will probably need to be replaced in the next few years.  At the first sign of cracking, make sure to sell your house to the Oakland Raiders for double the market value.”


T-Bone McJenkinstwitter

Punch Drunk Wonderland

Sebastian Janikowski:  Kicker.  Emergency lineman.  Intercontinental pharmaceutical representative.  The man cannot be stopped, or deported.  Rumour has it he once saved a cat that was stuck in a tree, and punted it into a 3rd-story gutter on a house across the street.  You know those weird-looking letters in the Polish alphabet?  They were normal before he kicked them.  He allegedly made an 82-yard kick in practice WHILE IN HIGH SCHOOL!  I know you might laugh at building around a kicker, but he might stab you for it.”


Luke Wettatwitter

Fantasy Football Aggregator

“Since I would be looking to make money in my endeavour, I would build around the almighty Tim Tebow as my starting QB. I would be sure to gain 78% total coverage on all ESPN related channels and also have the leading jersey sales in the country.  Good press or bad press it would be the 24/7 Tebow machine.  I also would only have to pay Tebow $2 million per year and save money on RBs & WRs since we would be running the “WildBow” as our base offense.  This would allow me to spend more on a solid line and great defense.  Finally I would talk to Shahid Khan about switching franchise cities so I could draw heavily from the Jacksonville market and sell out every game.  The team would be competitive, stay in the race for a playoff berth and Ed Werder and Mort would be permanently stationed at headquarters to provide continuous coverage of Tebow putting on his gym socks and what he had for breakfast.  After two years of record profits I would sell high and buy an island in the Caribbean.”


Jack Dohertytwitter

Football/Fantasy Football Enthusiast

“I’d build my franchise around Andrew Luck. The quarterback is the most important position on the field and premier QBs usually have longer careers than other premier players. Luck instantly turned around the worst team in the league, justifying all the calls to “Suck for Luck” and led the Colts back to the playoffs in his rookie season. To be sure there are other great young quarterbacks out there and any franchise built around Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick would be in a great position moving forward, but Luck has advantages over all of them. Griffin, Newton, and Kaepernick all incorporate a lot of running in their games which makes them bigger risks for injury than Luck. Andrew Luck is the best bet to be a superstar QB for a long time and that is why I would build my franchise around him.”


K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...