Dec 16, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
5. J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
A human being the size of Watt rarely, if ever, possesses the athletic ability he does. His passion, strength and talent makes gameday a nightmare for quarterbacks. Although 2013 was a year to forget for Watt, 2014 will be back on track and possibly his best yet in the league. With Watt back to form, expect Houston to improve quite a bit.
4. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
It wasn’t long ago that Rodgers couldn’t do enough for the media to show him respect. That is no longer the case. Just look at what happened to Green Bay after Rodgers injured his shoulder. His importance to that franchise surpasses even that of Brett Favre during his run. Rodgers is accurate and his arm strength can be seen in the welts and bruises all over his receivers. He can also surprise a defense with what I’ll call deceptive speed. Look, he’s not Russell Wilson but he can move when needed. He’s even shown himself to be pretty solid in his commercials. Green Bay will be back to the postseason in 2014 as Rodgers stays healthy.
3. Marshawn Lynch, BMRB, Seahawks
I know, I know, this will be a controversial #3. Just let me explain why I feel 2014 will be his best as a Seahawk. I originally had Lynch outside the Top-5. His holdout convinced me to move him up. I believe all the praise Christine Michael has received so far during camp lit a fire under Lynch making his demands less important. He feels disrespected and angry. He’s going to take his anger out on defenders. Don’t be surprised if his league leading 12 red zone scores in 2013 increases as well as his overall yards. Lynch will lead the Seahawk offense thus eliminating any questions as to whether he deserves a new deal. I just hope it happens as a Hawk.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
Every defense in the NFL had struggles with the Peyton-lead offense of Denver. Well, during the regular season. Manning’s Hall of Fame bust is already made, just waiting for him. Someday we may know what happens to him in the postseason. This list, however, is for the 2014 season only so his #2 ranking is deserved. He will dominate again while adding to his jaw dropping career stats. Seattle won’t be facing the same Manning in September that they saw in February. In fact, if the game had been scheduled as a Denver home game, Seattle would suffer an early loss. As it is, Seattle will benefit from a crazy, loud stadium and Denver will have to wait until February for a shot at redemption.
1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
No player in the NFL will benefit from a free agent pick-up like Megatron. Golden Tate will demand attention like no other receiver who has lined up across the field from 81. Teams will need to prepare for two receivers that can cause problems instead of just one. Johnson will have more single coverage opportunities which will translate into lots of yards and a career high in touchdown receptions. Matthew Stafford has run out of excuses. He must perform this year. Anything less than the playoffs could end the Stafford era in Detroit. Calvin Johnson has the talent to lead this team into the postseason and save Stafford. Johnson will have a great year and in the process he will win Offensive Player of the Year. This will be a year Detroit fans really enjoy. It’s about time.