Throughout any professional sport in the world, there are some talents that just mean more to an organization than others. Because of this, there are distinct categories for such players. On a roster, you have athletes that can be listed as back-ups, role players, starters and team leaders.
And more than each and every one if those roles, you have the one that stands out more than others: the franchise’s most untouchable player.
Although a team can have a variety of great players, there is something to be said if you are deemed untouchable. With this distinction, it means that no matter what circumstance has come about, that player will still be donning their respective team’s uniform, while also being the poster boy for anything that is describe or shown about the organization.
When you think of a lot of teams – most notably the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, amongst others – there could be more than one player that is a part of the team that deserves the distinction of being untouchable. However, for the sake of the list, there was only one talent chosen for each respective franchise.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not to undermine the multiple great players that could be a focal point of each team; however, in the end, there could only be one player that truly embodies what the word is: untouchable.
Some teams were tougher than others to narrow it down to just one player. As you can imagine, in a quarterback driven league, the quarterback position will feature prominently on this list. There are some teams though where their most important player could be at another skill position or even on the defensive side of the ball. With that being said, here is my list of one untouchable player for each NFL team.
Arizona Cardinals – Tyrann Mathieu
When it comes to the Arizona Cardinals, they aren’t too many options when it comes to someone being untouchable. The decision boils down to two choices: cornerback Patrick Peterson and free safety Tyrann Mathieu. While Peterson is generally regarded as one of the best defensive backs throughout the NFL, I believe if the Cardinals organization had a decision, they would go with Mathieu. While Mathieu emerged as a surefire top five pick after his standout 2011 season at Louisiana State University, legal troubles mixed with substance abuse put a hold on his football career. After being dismissed from his college team in 2012, Mathieu was drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Cardinals.
Playing both safety and corner for since turning professional, Mathieu has emerged as both an electric and productive presence on the field, while also becoming a vocal leader off of it.
Atlanta Falcons – Julio Jones
When the Atlanta Falcons gave the Cleveland Browns five draft selections to move up in the 2011 draft, many saw it as odd; while it was clear they were targeting wide receiver Julio Jones, they had both Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez as primary pass catchers on the roster. However, the decision has paid off immensely for the franchise, as Jones has not only become the Falcons’ best player, but is also among the best receivers in the entire league.
After dominating at the University of Alabama, where he won a BCS National Championship and was both SEC Freshmen of the Year and All-SEC, he appears to have gotten even better since become a professional. In four seasons, Jones has become both a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro, and at only 26 years old, he is primed to win many more awards. This may be his best season yet; Jones has already broken records for most catches and receiving yards in a three-game span.
Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
While the Baltimore Ravens have strong players on both sides of the football, the untouchable player on their roster is also their franchise quarterback, Joe Flacco. When the Ravens brass decided to take Flacco with the 18th overall pick in 2008, the decision was questioned; while the quarterback impressed during his time in college, the fact that he played for 1-AA Delaware seemed to hurt his chances as a true prospect. Fortunately for the organization, the gamble paid off. While Flacco has gone on to becoming one of the better players at his position, he is the all-time team leader in career wins, touchdowns, pass attempts, pass completions and passing yards, while leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl XLVII victory.
Buffalo Bills – Marcell Dareus
Although he has dealt with some off-field issues, Marcel Dareus’ talent while having his pads on is apparent, thus making him the most untouchable layer on the Buffalo Bills roster. Before being taken with the third pick in the 2011 draft, Dareus, like Julio Jones, was one of the cornerstones of the University of Alabama’s football team. While he was one of the top defensive linemen in the country at the time, his natural ability to dominate the line of scrimmage carried over even more once he began with the Bills.
In four seasons, Dareus has been a multiple Pro Bowl teams, earned an All-Pro selection, all the while being regarded as one of the best defensive linemen today. The Bills recognize him as an untouchable player as well, as Dareus signed a six-year contract with $60 million in guaranteed money in early September.
Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton
Following in the footsteps of the Baltimore Ravens, the Carolina Panthers’ most untouchable player belongs to quarterback Cam Newton. While playing at Auburn, Newton was and is still regarded as one of the greatest college football players ever, as he led the Tigers to a BCS National Championship win, while becoming a Heisman Trophy winner and AP Player of the Year. As the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Newton burst on to the scene, breaking and setting multiple rookie passing and running records.
Since that season, Newton has become the ultimate dual-threat quarterback, as he excels at both aspects of the position. While linebacker Luke Kuechly deserves a look in this category, the fact that franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees gives Newton the edge.
Chicago Bears – Alshon Jefferey
Although his career started off slow, Alshon Jeffrey is a part of a group of bright young receivers in the NFL, which makes him the Chicago Bears most untouchable player. In his three-year career with the South Carolina Gamecocks, Jeffrey became one of the most sought-after receivers, as his elite size helped him become the best pass-catcher in a star-studded SEC. The Bears realized his talent, and selected him with the 12th overall pick in 2012. While his rookie year wasn’t too impressive, Jeffrey really came into his own in 2013, as he won the Most Improved Player of the Year, while setting the record franchise record for most receiving yards in a game.
While he has dealt with injury issues this season, it’s only a matter of time before Jeffrey continues to dominate.
Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green
Just like the Bears, the Cincinnati Bengals most untouchable players is a wide receiver as well, A.J. Green. While playing at Georgia, Green received rave reviews as a top receiving threat. He lived up to those expectations, as he was All-SEC in 2008 and 2009, and garnered the fourth overall selection from the Bengals in the 2011 draft. Ever since joining the NFL, Green continued to grow as a great pass catcher. Green is constantly being ranked in the top half of NFL Network’s Top 100 Players each season.
Cleveland Browns – Joe Haden
While there have been many wide receivers on the list, we finally have a player who competes against the best at the position each Sunday, Joe Haden. After having a standout career at the University of Florida, which saw him win the Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year Award, Haden joined the Browns as the seventh overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. After Week 11 of his rookie season, Haden became a full-time starter and hasn’t looked back since.
Garnering multiple Pro Bowl appearances and an All-Pro accolade as well, Haden in five seasons has made his named mentioned in the category of elite cornerbacks.
Dallas Cowboys – Dez Bryant
While the Dallas Cowboys have had a multitude of star position players, wide receiver Dez Bryant will be ranked amongst the top before his playing career is all said and done. After becoming one of the best receivers in the country while playing for Oklahoma State University, Bryant was primed to be amongst the top players chosen in the 2010 draft. However, concerns about his character scared organizations off, as he slipped all the way to number 24.
While the concerns were warranted, the Cowboys didn’t care; and in the process gained probably the best receiver in the game today. In his five seasons, Bryant has been to two Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro in 2014, Most Improved Player in 2012, while also holding the franchise record for most touchdowns in a single season with 16. While there are many credible options for the Cowboys most untouchable player, Bryant is above all else.
Denver Broncos – Von Miller
On a team filled with so many offensive stars, it’s weird seeing a defensive player chosen as the Denver Broncos most untouchable player. However, Von Miller’s impact since joining the NFL is all that needs to be seen to warrant such an honor. After showcasing himself as a man among boys at the collegiate level at Texas A&M, Miller was compared to NFL great Derrick Thomas. And while those were very lofty expectations, Miller has continued to prove that he has what it takes to follow in Thomas’s footsteps.
Ever since entering the league in 2011, Miller has become a three-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and Defensive Rookie of the Year, while becoming the third youngest player to have 50 sacks in his career. With Peyton Manning on the same team, it’s hard to see anyone more untouchable than him. However, with Manning nearing the end of his career, Miller gets the nod here.
Detroit Lions – Calvin Johnson
Like many teams on the list, Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson is yet another wide receiver who is an untouchable. If you don’t know about the impact that Johnson had on both the Lions franchise and the game of football, then you haven’t been paying much attention. Johnson, the second overall pick in 2007, became the best wide receiver of this generation, as he is a multiple time Pro Bowler and All-Pro, both an NFL and Lions record breaker, a member of the 10,000 receiving yards club, while also having the second most receiving yards in a game of all-time with 329.
Although the man deemed “Megatron” has had both age and injuries catch up to him, he is still the most valuable to his team.
Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
Not only is Aaron Rodgers the most untouchable player on the Green Bay Packers roster, but he also might be the most untouchable player in the entire NFL. After being taken with the 24th pick in the 2005 draft, Rodgers played second fiddle to the great Brett Favre, as he served as his understudy. However, when the powers that be gave the keys to Rodgers to start the 2008 season, they haven’t looked back since.
Emerging as the best overall quarterback in the game, Rodgers led the Packers to a victory in Super Bowl XLV, while winning NFC Offensive Player of the Year two times, NFL MVP two times, four Pro-Bowl appearances and two spots on the All-Pro list. If a fantasy draft started today, Rodgers would get great consideration for the first overall pick.
Houston Texans – J.J. Watt
If there were any player who could compete with Aaron Rodgers for most untouchable player in the entire league, it would be Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. After playing tight end for one year at Central Michigan, Watt believed that he couldn’t grow at neither the position nor the school, so he walked on at the University of Wisconsin as a defensive end. That call clearly paid off, as the Texans ended up taking him 11th overall in the 2011 draft. After having an impressive rookie campaign, Watt became one of the best defensive players in football in 2012, as he won AP Defensive Player of the Year. Repeating his success in 2013, Watt was rewarded with a six-year, $100 million contract to start the 2014 season. He made the Texans organization look smart in doing so, as he again won Defensive Player of the Year, while also being the runner up for MVP. While only time will tell, Wyatt has the potential to be the best defensive player in NFL history.
Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck
While Aaron Rodgers is currently the best quarterback in the NFL, Andrew Luck is in hot pursuit, as he is not only the Indianapolis Colts most untouchable player, but is also one of the top signal callers. After he broke tons of college records whole becoming one of the best players in college football at Stanford, Luck was taken first overall by the Colts in 2012. Ever since he has taken the helm as Peyton Manning’s replacement, Luck has shown the ability to be one of the most complete players at his position.
Last year was his true coming out party, as he was not only a Pro Bowl participant, but was also the NFL passing touchdowns leader. Sure, Luck has dealt with interception issues, however, as he continues to grow, he will get better and better – and that is a scary thought for the rest of the league.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Julius Thomas
Although he has yet to play a regular season down in a Jacksonville Jaguars uniform, tight end Julius Thomas is still the organization’s most untouchable player. After excelling at both basketball and football at the Portland State, he made the decision to play football. The choice was wise, as the Denver Broncos selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft. Although, due to injuries, Thomas played sparingly in his first two seasons, he burst onto the scene with Peyton Manning as his quarterback.
Becoming one of the future Hall of Famer’s main targets, Thomas caught the most touchdowns by a Broncos tight end in a season (12) in both 2013 and 2014, while earning two Pro Bowl appearances as well. Thomas was rewarded for his previous efforts this offseason, as he signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jaguars.
Kansas City Chiefs – Jamaal Charles
In a league full of explosive playmakers, none may be as good as Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, which is why he comes in as the team’s most untouchable player. Becoming both a track and football star at Texas, Charles ranks fourth on the school’s all-time rushing list, en route to being selected by the Chiefs in the third round of the 2008 draft. After having a subpar first season, Charles emerged as the team’s leading rusher once Larry Johnson was forced out of town.
Once becoming the starter for good, Charles became a credible threat both in the rushing and passing game, as he has become a two-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler, the 2013 AFC rushing leader while also becoming the leader in yards per carry in NFL history.
Miami Dolphins – Ndamukong Suh
Like Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas, the Miami Dolphins’ most untouchable player also came to the team via free agency this offseason: defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. At Nebraska, Suh established himself as one of the top defensive player in the collegiate ranks, as he was even runner up for the Heisman Trophy. Once declared for the NFL draft, the Detroit Lions selected him second overall. Although he has dealt with character issues in his career, Suh is nonetheless one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the game. With the Lions, Suh was dominant both as a pass rusher and a run stopper, and his 36 sacks were amongst the best by defensive tackles.
Due to his efforts, the Dolphins made Suh the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, as he signed a six-year deal, $114 million deal with $60 million guaranteed.
Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater
Many would see this section and think that Adrian Peterson would be a no brainer, but rather than a 30-year-old running back, I’m going with a second-year quarterback with high promise. After racking up awards like Big East Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013 Sugar Bowl MVP, Bridgewater was amongst a crop of quarterbacks that were regarded as weak in the 2014 NFL draft.
However, the Vikings saw enough in Bridgewater to select him with the final pick of the first round – and just a little over a season into his career, and that decision appears to be wise. After having an impressive rookie campaign that saw him throw 14 touchdowns in 12 starts, the young signal-caller gained the respect from his teammates to be named team captain.
New England Patriots – Tom Brady
Duh. Everyone knows his story by now; Brady was deemed simply not good enough coming out of the University of Michigan, and the Patriots were able to get him in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. Since becoming the full-time starter two games into the 2001 season, Brady has come on to be one of the best quarterbacks of this generation.
Although there has been controversy, Brady has become a four-time Super Bowl champion, three-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time All-Pro, three-time passing touchdowns leader and two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, among a multitude of other awards. Rob Gronkowski is a close second, but who knows how good he would have been if he had a different quarterback passing him the ball.
New Orleans Saints – Brandin Cooks
While quarterback Drew Brees definitely warrants consideration to being the New Orleans Saints most untouchable player, it appears that father time has finally caught up to him. With that being said, there is only one player on the roster who could step in his place: wide receiver Brandin Cooks. While playing college at Oregon State, he and Markus Wheaton combined to be arguably the most prolific wide receiver tandem in school history.
His success in college has translated to the NFL, if his first season was any indication. While his statistics weren’t eye-popping (53 catches, 550 yards, three touchdowns), Cooks proved to be a great speedster in not only the receiving game, but running game as well. Don’t be surprised if he becomes one of the better playmakers in the league in due time.
New York Giants – Odell Beckham Jr.
The New York Giants’ situation can be compared to the Saints. While Eli Manning led the organization to two Super Bowl victories in his career, Odell Beckham Jr. came out of nowhere to become not only the Giants’ most untouchable player, but to possibly being the biggest rising star in all of sports. After turning into a premier athlete in both football and track, the Giants selected Beckham with the 12th pick in last year’s draft. After missing the first four games of the season, Beckham came onto the scene with a bang, as he was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, while also setting over 50 franchise and NFL rookie records.
Not only that, but Beckman made what is now known as “The Catch,” while also becoming the cover athlete for Madden ’16. It appears that his first season wasn’t a fluke, as he has picked up right where he left off so far this season.
New York Jets – Darrelle Revis
While Sheldon Richardson may be regarded as the New York Jets most untouchable player, I truly believe he has serious problems with the multiple off-field incidents that have occurred. Because of that, Darrelle Revis is the next best pick – and he may be the most untouchable player even if Richardson was a model citizen. In his first stint with Gang Green, Revis was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and an All-Pro three times, while becoming the best cornerback in the entire NFL. However, after a contract dispute with management, Revis went to Tampa Bay to play for the Buccaneers, and then the New England Patriots.
After winning his first Super Bowl and having yet another All-Pro season in 2014, Revis rejoined the Jets on a five-year, $70 million deal. While he is older, he still has the talent to keep him close to the top of the food chain of cornerbacks.
Oakland Raiders – Khalil Mack
While the Oakland Raiders have had tumultuous seasons in recent memory, it appears that they finally have their surefire star in last year’s first round pick, linebacker Khalil Mack. Like many others, Mack was dominant in college, yet was held back by some because he played for the University of Buffalo. Although he played against lower levels of talent, there is no denying what he accomplished, which included MAC Player of the Year and First Team All-American in 2013. Because of this, only four players were chosen before him in the 2014 draft.
Last season, Mack totaled 76 tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble to boot. And even though he won ESPN’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award, his commitment to the team was apparent when he switched positions to defensive end – the sign of a consummate pro.
Philadelphia Eagles – Darren Sproles
The Philadelphia Eagles roster is filled with many players that have a lot of talent, but just can’t seem to put it all together. With Chip Kelly’s flurry of moves after a 10-win season, it’s hard to call any player on this team untouchable. However, one man who was able to harness all of his talent throughout his career is Darren Sproles.
While he had a successful college career, Sproles was deemed too small, thus taken in the fourth round of the 2005 draft by the San Diego Chargers. Although he played behind LaDanian Tomlinson and Michael Turner, his versatility to both run and catch brought him continued success on the gridiron.
That continued even further when he signed a four-year deal with the New Orleans Saints in 2011, where he set the team record for most all-purpose yards (2,696). The fans in Philadelphia now appreciate his talents, as he works out of the backfield and as a returner.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Antonio Brown
Finally, the last wide receiver on the list. While the Pittsburgh Steelers have various players on their roster that could be seen as untouchable, i.e. Ben Roethlisberger I believe the one who deserves that title the most is Antonio Brown. After playing at Central Michigan, Brown was unheralded, as he was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. After impressing as both a returner and as a secondary receiver, Brown was rewarded with a five-year contract worth up to $42.5 million.
Fortunately for the Steelers, Brown lived up to that contract and then some, including a 13-touchdown season in 2014. Brown’s value will be further appreciated in the coming weeks with Roethlisberger’s absence.
San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
Sure, Philip Rivers hasn’t brought the San Diego Chargers to the promise land, but that’s more of an organizational failure than on Rivers. While many of the players on the list were selected by their current teams, in the case of Rivers, that wasn’t so. Generally regarded as the second best prospect behind Eli Manning in the 2004 draft, Rivers was drafted by the New York Giants. However, Manning’s family wanted no part of the Chargers, so they made the switch, thus making Rivers a mainstay in San Diego.
In his 10-year career before 2015 started, Rivers has been amongst the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL, as he has won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2013, NFL Passing Leader in 2010 and is a five-time Pro Bowler.
San Francisco 49ers – Eric Reid
Although many could see this as a questionable decision, I don’t believe that there isn’t anyone who is more deserving of the honor of being the San Francisco 49ers most untouchable than Eric Reid. Reid, the third year safety from Louisiana State University, has established himself as a leader on a team in turmoil in 2015 – which is why he was named team captain at such a young age.
After earning All-American honors in 2012, Reid was selected by the organization with the 18th pick in the 2013 draft. His career started off with an impact, as he had two interceptions in his first two games, including his first against Aaron Rodgers. Reid capped off his tremendous rookie season with 77 tackles and four picks, along with a Pro-Bowl invitation.
Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson
There may be no player in the entire NFL that has made such a positive impact on his franchise since day one other than Russell Wilson. Although he was very impressive at Wisconsin, questions about his height made him a mid-round pick at best. In the 2012 draft, the Seahawks took Wilson in the third round – and even then, some claimed it was too high of a selection. However, all Wilson has done is win the starting job after entering as a third stringer, took the Seahawks to back to back Super Bowls in his second and third years, a two-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion. His efforts have been rewarded, as his on field prowess has earned him a four-year, $87.6 million extension.
St. Louis Rams – Robert Quinn
While the St. Louis Rams currently tout the most talented defensive line in the league, the best of the crop is Robert Quinn. Despite sitting out his entire junior year at the University of North Carolina, Quinn entered the 2011 NFL Draft as one of the top players to be had. The Rams realized this as well, as he was selected with the 14th overall pick. While quietly disrupting offensive linemen over his first two seasons, Quinn came on as an absolute force in 2013, as he led the NFL in sacks, while also winning Defensive Player of the Year. On top of that, the pass rusher has been both a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in both 2013 and 2014.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Lavonte David
Sure, many think that rookie quarterback Jameis Winston appears to be the most untouchable player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster. And while that may be the case in years to come, that isn’t the case right now – that distinction belongs to Lavonte David. After spending his collegiate years in Nebraska, David was picked in the second round of the 2012 draft.
While there wasn’t much hype surrounding him, David came onto the scene and turned into one of the most complete linebackers that there is. Noted for both his work ethic and hard nose play, David has racked up the stats since 2012; in 46 games that he’s started in his career, David has 430 combined tackles, 10 sacks, 19 passes defended and six interceptions. His untouchable status was furthered, as David was given a five-year, $50.25 million contract before this season started.
Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota
Unlike Jameis Winston, the man who was chosen directly after him – quarterback Marcus Mariota – is by far the most untouchable player that is on the Tennessee Titans roster. While his NFL career projections were (and still are) a mixed bag, his college statistics couldn’t be ignored; during his three-year stint at the helm at Oregon, Mariota won almost every offensive award that there was, while also earning the Heisman Trophy.
If his first three games in the NFL are any indication, his talent will translate just fine, as he’s thrown eight touchdowns to two interceptions for 833 yards. Although the jury is still out, Mariota has all the making of a franchise quarterbacks for the next decade.
Washington Redskins – Trent Williams
And for the last team on the list, we have a first, an offensive tackle in Trent Williams. Although the franchise is depleted from game-changing talent, Williams is the real deal and could be an untouchable player on many rosters. While becoming a mainstay on the Oklahoma offensive line, Williams was widely regarded as a true offensive line talent and could be a starter for years to come. Because of this, the Redskins took Williams with the fourth overall pick in 2010 – and have had their franchise left tackle ever since. Williams is a three-time Pro Bowler and team captain, and is considered as one of the gold standards at the left tackle position.
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