This list includes 32 of the best players in the NFL as we predict the 2017 season for each team’s star player. In some cases, there was a competition for the best athlete, while other teams had a clear-cut first choice. Then there were even a few squads that fail to have overwhelming talent on their roster. Either way, these are the players that generally make the biggest impact for their franchise. These are the guys who are often rewarded big for the wins, but also are criticized heavily for the loses. But that’s what makes football so fun, we are so passionate that we need to direct some of those feelings toward the NFL’s superstar athletes.
With these predictions, you’ll find out which team’s best player will be the NFL MVP and which one will raise the championship trophy at the end of the season. Here, you’ll find out who can’t make it through the entire season, and who will be hanging his jersey up for good at the end of 2017. You’ll also learn who will be traded away and who will fade back to the bench. Each season sees this. There’s always injuries, retirements, trades, stories about failures and stories about successes.
Next season will be no different. Next season will have all of those ups and downs that we’ve grown to love and hate. So, here we go. Here is a look at each team’s best player, and predicting what their 2017 season has in store.
32 32. BUFFALO BILLS: LeSEAN McCOY
On some teams there’s a debate about who is the best player on the roster, but the Bills don’t have any dilemma here – LeSean McCoy is by far the most talented player on this team. Expect to see him continue on the success he saw last season. McCoy played 15 games last year and rushed for 1,267 yards (an average of 5.4 yards per carry), 14 total touchdowns, with 356 receiving yards.
That led McCoy to his fifth Pro Bowl appearance. Since 2011, he has missed the Pro Bowl in just one season (2012). McCoy is in his prime and seems to be maintaining a high level of play that has given him notoriety among the league. McCoy will be seeing his sixth Pro Bowl appearance at the end of this year, and he’ll have no trouble eclipsing 2,000 yards from scrimmage as long as the Bill stand behind their starting quarterback by Week 1.
31 31. MIAMI DOLPHINS: NDAMUKONG SUH
The only thing that could keep Ndamukong Suh from producing well next season would be an injury, and although injuries are one of the most unpredictable mishaps in football, don’t expect Suh to be sidelined at any point this season. Suh has been a superstar since he was drafted in 2010 and has been subject to a lot of subpar seasons in Detroit and will likely see some of those in Miami. But Suh is paid one of the NFL’s best salaries for a reason.
The addition of Suh’s skill immediately changes a defensive front. Largely due to Suh, the Dolphins will have one of the most dominant defensive attacks in the league next season. The five-time Pro Bowl selection has missed just two starts in his career and is great at pressuring the quarterback, stopping the run and even has a knack for defending passes. He’s got everything you want to see in a D-lineman and don’t expect that to change next season.
30 30. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: TOM BRADY
What’d you expect here? Of course, Tom Brady is the best player in the NFL and may possibly go down as the best quarterback in history. But what can we expect from a quarterback who will be 40 next season? If we look at the history of the league and what the aging human body has done to performance, it’d be easy to say Brady will be sidelined with injury, or that he’ll begin throwing more interceptions as he loses some of that power and accuracy on his throws.
But Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have a chemistry together that emits overwhelming success. Tom Brady will lead the team to a one-loss, 15-win season, but his body just can’t keep up with the postseason demands and he falls apart in the AFC championship game. Brady will be back in 2019 for one last run at another ring.
29 29. NEW YORK JETS: DARRELLE REVIS
This guy is one of the best cornerbacks to ever play in the NFL. Darrelle Revis seems like he’s been in the league forever because he’s one defensive player that you always hear about. But he’s still got a couple seasons left (he’ll only be 32 next season). For the first time in his career, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection was talked more about for his slacking gameplay following most games last season. Revis had a rough year, but he’ll rebound during the 2017 season.
After all of the negativity Revis faced following his play last season, he’s going to step back into that defender who is able to shut down any wide receiver in the league, and he’ll be matching up with those No. 1 receivers each week.
28 28. BALTIMORE RAVENS: TERRELL SUGGS
Terrell Suggs with be 35 next season and he’s played in the NFL since 2003. Suggs said last season that he wasn’t going to retire this year, so, he’ll be back for 2017. The fact that Suggs wants to be back for 2017 doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily be around for 2018. But it seems obvious that he wants to make another postseason run with the Ravens.
That’s why he won’t retire following this season. Suggs needs another playoff run and he’s not going to get it this year with the Ravens. Suggs has a storied career, with six Pro Bowl selections, 114.5 sacks and has a Super Bowl ring. He doesn’t have much left to prove, but it sure would feel good going out on a high note in a couple years.
27 27. CINCINNATI BENGALS: A. J. GREEN
Although A. J. Green is the best player on the Bengals roster, Geno Atkins should get more credit for what he brings to Cincinnati’s defensive line. Atkins often gets overshadowed from the explosive offense that is led by Green. Sure, a lot of people will say that Andy Dalton is the one running the offense, which for the most part, he does.
But it’s Green’s immense talent that is elevating Dalton’s gameplay. They’ve both been in the league since 2011 playing together, and since that time, Green has been selected to the Pro Bowl for each season while Dalton has been selected three times. Dalton does have more time on the field, though Green hasn’t missed much time (he did only play in 10 games last season though). But Green will rebound and show up for every game and finish in another Pro Bowl-worthy season as the Bengals slightly miss the playoffs.
26 26. CLEVELAND BROWNS: JOE THOMAS
The Browns lack of success has seemingly stumped a lot of Joe Thomas’ dreams to this point, but the 10-time Pro Bowl selection will seemingly stick with Cleveland until the end and fight for a winning season. Thomas is just one of five people to make the Pro Bowl during each of his first 10 seasons in the NFL. If he were on a championship winning team, he’d be known by fans across the NFL. But instead, he’s playing on a team that has barely won.
Thomas has a very crucial role, but you won’t notice him influencing the game unless he screws up. That’s the story for every offensive lineman. It’s a thankless job. But don’t expect to see this superstar lineman screw anything up next season. He hasn’t before, and he’s not going to start now.
25 25. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: BEN ROETHLISBERGER
Were you wondering who will take down the Patriots next season. That will be Big Ben and crew as the Steelers win their third Super Bowl under Ben Roethlisberger. It will also be his last season in the NFL as the often-injured quarterback just can’t take any more beatings in the NFL. To Roethlisberger’s credit, he doesn’t miss much time for how often he is banged up. But it’s tough for him to play every game in the regular season.
After winning his third Super Bowl, Roethlisberger will have had enough on-field abuse and decide to hang his jersey up for good. It may come as a shock to some, but deep down, we’ve all been noticing the everyday grind wearing on Roethlisberger’s gameplay and it’ll be best for him to get out before he begins to hurt his reputation with poor play.
24 24. HOUSTON TEXANS: J. J. WATT
It sucked watching J. J. Watt on the sidelines last season. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time sacks leader has the ability to change the outcomes of games. But now we’ll always be wondering which hit will be the one that takes him out of the game forever. It may never happen, but after undergoing two back surgeries last season, Watt will be on an injury watch list for the remainder of his career.
Watt is cleared to play next season, but it won’t be for the Houston Texans. The Texans just have too many holes that need to be filled, and Watt is too risky of a player at this point. Don’t be surprised when Watt ends up in a place like Dallas, who will likely need to unload Tony Romo before the start of the season.
23 23. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: ANDREW LUCK
This was a tricky one. To be fair, the Colts player with the most success in the NFL is Frank Gore. Gore is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and has more than 13,000 career rushing yards with a total of 90 touchdowns. But the true leader that will take this team to a winning next season is Andrew Luck. Luck may not have as many Pro Bowl selections (he’s got three) or as powerful of a stat sheet, but he’s the true talent behind this offense. Luck will be the reason the Colts succeed, or fail.
And next season they will benefit from the quarterback’s solid play and be fighting for a playoff spot by the end of the season. Luck, the 2014 passing touchdowns leader, is going to show a strengthened connection with T.Y. Hilton and the duo will post some league-leading numbers.
22 22. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: ALLEN ROBINSON
The main factor in whether Jacksonville wins or loses won’t be Allen Robinson, but he is currently the best athlete on the roster. Robinson has been one of the better receivers in the league despite very inconsistent play from Blake Bortles and the Jaguars. But as Robinson continues to progress in the NFL, we’ll begin to see longer stretches of greatness from both him and Bortles.
Robinson is one of those receivers who can elevate a quarterback’s gameplay, and we’ll continue to see that progression next season. Robinson probably won’t match his 2015 season when he was the receiving touchdowns co-leader, but he’ll be selected to his second career Pro Bowl. He’ll also see a season with 1,000-plus receiving yards and a touchdown total that eclipses double digits.
21 21. TENNESSEE TITANS: DeMARCO MURRAY
Soon, Marcus Mariota will undoubtedly take over as Tennessee’s top talent. But for now, DeMarco Murray has a stronghold on that title. Although Murray had a down year with the Eagles in 2015, he rebounded like a star with Tennessee last season.
That upward trend will keep climbing throughout the 2017 season as the Titans easily slide into the playoffs with Murray’s talent matched with Mariota’s signal calling. Murray is going to play again like he did in 2014, when he named the Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. That type of performance in 2017 will make Tennessee one of the scarier teams in the postseason. But Mariota’s inexperience will keep the Titans from making it to the big game.
20 20. DENVER BRONCOS: VON MILLER
Here, we meet the soon-to-be 2017 Defensive Player of the Year. Next season, Von Miller will take down that title with ease. To this point in his career (he was drafted second overall in 2011), Miller has been a Super Bowl MVP, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and he was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But to many fans surprise, Miller has never been named the league’s best defensive player following a season.
That will change next year. Miller is in his prime and he will once again be the focal point of a defense that wins games for Denver. Sure, the Broncos offense has a couple explosive wide receivers, but their quarterback isn’t the guy bringing home the wins. It’s the defense. And Miller will ensure that stays the same next season.
19 19. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: JAMAAL CHARLES
In the last two seasons, Jamaal Charles has played in just eight games, but he has the skill to be one of the league’s best rushers – that’s why he’s considered the Chiefs best player heading into next season. But no should hope or expect that Charles will play in all 16 regular season games. In 2015, he tore his ACL and in 2016, he suffered a setback with his knee that required a second surgery.
No doubt, we’ll still see some of that talent that led him to be a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2013 rushing touchdowns leader. But he may hurt his NFL record of averaging 5.5 yards per carry. His injuries no doubt must have slowed him down just a bit.
18 18. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: PHILIP RIVERS
Even though Philip Rivers had a good individual season last year and was selected to the Pro Bowl, he’s had to be fed up with the Chargers five-win record. Making matters worse, the Chargers recorded just four wins the year before. Those are the two worst records Rivers has seen since he began starting for the team back in 2006 (that year they had their best record, 14-2).
Rivers will be 36 next season and he knows there’s not going to be many more seasons left. It will be important for him to return with a winning record next season. But he won’t be able to make that happen. Rivers has led the NFL in interceptions for two of the last three seasons, and he’ll nearly top the league again next year.
17 17. OAKLAND RAIDERS: DEREK CARR
It was obvious what Derek Carr means to this team after he couldn’t play in the playoffs last season because of an injury. Carr led the Raiders to a 12-3 record and proved they were a contender late in the season. But then Carr was sidelined and the Raiders fell apart in their final regular season game and then barely competed in their postseason performance. Luckily, Carr’s young and he’ll have many more chances to make a postseason run.
With no surprise to many fans, Carr will lead his team to the postseason again. The only difference next season is that Carr will be healthy. He’ll even manage a victory in the first round of the playoffs, but inexperience around the roster in Oakland will keep them from going any further next season.
16 16. DALLAS COWBOYS: DEZ BRYANT
There may not be many more seasons where Dez Bryant will be labeled the best player in Dallas. With upcoming stars in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, Bryant’s time at the top is quickly running out. Bryant, however, will be a leading force in taking this team on a very successful season as the Cowboys will lose just a couple of games. They will benefit immensely off of Bryant, who will continue making Prescott look like a seasoned veteran.
And that passing game will just open up more opportunities for the run, which will create another balanced attack that many teams will not have an answer for. Although this might be Bryant’s last year at the top of the Dallas roster, he’ll be happy making a Super Bowl appearance with his young co-stars.
15 15. NEW YORK GIANTS: ODELL BECKHAM JR.
When you’re talking about one of the best receivers in the NFL, it’s really tough to dismiss their quarterback. Especially when that quarterback has a track record like Eli Manning. Here is another one of the struggles between who is the best player on the Giants roster. Well, Odell Beckham Jr. gets the edge because he’s younger and is playing better now. Plus, at this rate, he has a chance to go down as one of the best wide receivers in history.
Without a doubt, Beckham will coast to his fourth Pro Bowl appearance after four seasons in the NFL and he will see more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns despite getting double-covered every time he runs a route. This will all be as New York quietly solidifies one of the best records in the NFL, though the Giants won’t go far in the postseason again.
14 14. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: FLETCHER COX
Fletcher Cox definitely is a lower tiered athlete compared to most of the guys on this list. This list is full of superstars, but the Eagles don’t boast that type of talent on their roster. The Eagles have good players across the board, but Cox is the closes thing that Philadelphia can call great. Cox is a good defensive lineman in the league, but he sure as heck isn’t the best or even considered as one of the best. That’s not going to change next season.
Cox will continue his under-the-radar consistent production and will not make his third-straight Pro Bowl appearance. Though Cox has been selected for the last two seasons, he saw a steep decline in production from 2015 to 2016. That will continue next year and Cox will begin fading out of the Eagles lineup.
13 13. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: KIRK COUSINS
By the end of next season, Washington fans will be booing Kirk Cousins off the team. For this prediction, we’re assuming the Redskins will sign Cousins, but just to a one-year deal. He’ll get paid way more than he should for next season, but it’ll be better than dumping a long-term deal onto a quarterback who will likely fade to the bench over the next few seasons.
Sure, Cousins has shown flashes of greatness over the last two seasons. He even strung together enough solid play last season that he was selected to the Pro Bowl. But he’s nothing more than an average quarterback with a good surrounding cast. Next year, we’ll all watch as Cousins begins to fade away from relevance and his career moves to a bench role.
12 12. CHICAGO BEARS: KYLE LONG
Kyle Long is a stable offensive lineman who looks to be the Bears best player going into next season. The Bears are another team that is not filled with stars, and there definitely any superstars in this group. Jay Cutler at one point could have been considered a great player, but that illusion has quickly faded away. Most Bears fans hope for Cutler’s departure rather than cheering for his return. Sure, Alshon Jeffery is good, but he’s not consistent enough, which is partly due to the quarterback issues in Chicago.
But Long is a reliable starter, though he did miss about half of last season because of injuries. He signed a four-year contract extension then missed time because of injuries to his shoulder, triceps and right ankle. Next season, Long will return from his injuries, play every game and make his fourth Pro Bowl in five seasons in the NFL.
11 11. DETROIT LIONS: HALOTI NGATA
Although Matthew Stafford is the face of this franchise, Haloti Ngata currently is the best player residing on the roster. But that may not be for long as Ngata has just one year left remaining on his contract. Surely Ngata wants to win another ring, but it will become obvious that it won’t be with Detroit. Ngata will play through a very average season with the Lions before considering moving on to another team or moving on to retirement.
Ngata will be 33 next season and won’t play in every regular season game. The last time he did that was back in 2011. Ngata also won’t see any more Pro Bowls for the remainder of his career (he has been selected to five-straight Pro Bowls from 2009 to 2013).
10 10. GREEN BAY PACKERS: AARON RODGERS
Aaron Rodgers is going to lead Green Bay to one of the best records in the league as he is named the Most Valuable Player at the end of the season. Green Bay won’t be making a Super Bowl run, but Rodgers and the Packers will be the Super Bowl favorites heading into the next postseason. Rodgers is just primed up for a great year.
Rodgers, in 2016, tossed a league-leading 40 touchdown passes and had just seven interceptions. Yet, he still lost six games. That won’t happen this season as Rodgers runs away with the MVP award after his team records a 14-win season. And that will be after Rodgers approaches Peyton Manning’s regular season record of 55 passing touchdowns. There’d be no denying Rodgers the MVP after he puts up numbers like that.
9 9. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: ADRIAN PETERSON
Next season won’t be MVP-worthy, and won’t necessarily get him to the Pro Bowl, but Adrian Peterson will string together enough healthy games to put together a strong season before he retires at the end of the year. Peterson, who will be dealing with too many injuries to want to return to football at the end of the season, will play in 12 games before his season is ended by injury. Although it won’t be a career-ending injury, it will be enough for Peterson to call for his retirement.
Before going down, Peterson will record a respectable 1,000 rushing yards and lead the Vikings to a winning record with the help of Sam Bradford. But fans will see him rush for the last time before the season ends.
8 8. ATLANTA FALCONS: MATT RYAN
Unfortunately, Matt Ryan will fall victim to the Super Bowl slump and he will not see anything near the MVP season he recorded last season. In fact, Ryan won’t even be a Pro Bowl selection after he plays a mediocre season next year. Ryan has missed just two starts in his entire career, so we don’t expect injuries to plague his season. But that chemistry between Ryan and Julio Jones will begin to fade and the Falcons chances of winning will suffer.
Sure, Ryan will still barely get the Falcons to the postseason, but the team won’t last long in the playoffs. The Falcons will be pushed out by whatever lucky opponent gets them in the first round. Ryan may rebound to the Super Bowl in the future, but it definitely won’t be next year.
7 7. CAROLINA PANTHERS: CAM NEWTON
Cam Newton had an uncharacteristically rough season last year. Newton went from his best season in the NFL straight into his worst. In 2015, Newton won the MVP award as he led the Panthers to a 15-1 record. Newton threw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Then, everything changed in 2016 as the Panthers finished with a miserable 6-8 record. That year, Newton tossed about 3,500 yards and just 19 touchdowns with a whopping 14 interceptions.
Without a doubt, Newton will perform better than last season. It’s more likely that he’ll repeat one of his three Pro Bowl worthy seasons. At the very least, he’ll find a way to lead Carolina back to a winning season. The Panthers might not make the playoffs, but they’ll be better than 8-8.
6 6. NEW ORLEANS: DREW BREES
Drew Brees is another one of the NFL stars who will be relentlessly questioned next season about his retirement. Brees will be 38 and there’s no telling how much longer he wants to stay in the league. He’s still performing better than most of the league. In fact, he’s led the league in completions two of the last three seasons and has led the league in passing yards for three-consecutive seasons (he’s done that six times in his career and has led the league in touchdowns four times).
Brees probably wants another Super Bowl ring to cap off his amazing career, but that won’t happen this season. It’s likely that he will continue with near league-leading numbers, but New Orleans defense just can’t match up with its high-octane offense, which will stump Brees late in the season.
5 5. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: GERALD McCOY
Although Mike Evans and Jameis Winston are really fun to watch and will one day lead this team, Gerald McCoy is currently the clear-cut top athlete in Tampa Bay. McCoy just crushes on the Buccaneers defensive line and has been a Pro Bowl selection for each of the last five seasons. Sure, Winston and Evans haven’t been in the league long so there’s no way they could match this stat, but the duo hasn’t proved any type of consistent yet. By the end of next year, that could change. But they’ll need to play really good because McCoy has shown no signs of slowing down. Sure, McCoy has his critics, but next seasons he’ll silent them all once again as he moves into his sixth-straight Pro Bowl.
4 4. ARIZONA CARDINALS: LARRY FITZGERALD
Larry Fitzgerald is still posting league-leading numbers even though he’s been in the NFL since 2004. Last season, Fitzgerald was selected to his 10th Pro Bowl after he led the NFL with 107 receptions (he finished with 1,023 yards and six touchdowns. The best part is that Fitzgerald, who was 33 last season, has started every game for the last two seasons.
Expect that trend to continue. Fitzgerald has missed just five games throughout his career and that’s not going to increase next season. But Fitzgerald’s production will continue to decline. Last year, he had a career-low of 9.6 yards per reception. It might not drop much lower, but it’s definitely not going to increase. Fitzgerald still has a couple years left, but he may not be posting those league-leading numbers anymore.
3 3. LOS ANGELES RAMS: AARON DONALD
This defensive tackle has been the one consistent bright spot on the Rams roster for the past three years. Since Aaron Donald was drafted 13th overall in 2014, he’s been a star. Don’t expect that to change next season. Donald is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and has been a first-team All-Pro selection in each of the last two seasons. He was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, and his stock has been consistently rising ever since.
Sure, the Rams will fail to achieve a winning record for another season. But Rams fans should feel lucky that they still have Donald on the roster. He’s a major factor in any of the Rams defensive successes and provides a great boost to the talent level of the roster. Maybe Todd Gurley will get back on track and maybe Jared Goff will be a franchise quarterback, but until then, Donald remains the key player for the Rams.
2 2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: NaVORRO BOWMAN
With all of the disarray associated with the 49ers offense, fans should be thankful that NaVorro Bowman continues to provide a strong defensive presence. The linebacker has been a first-team All-Pro selection four times and is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Unfortunately for San Francisco, the team was forced to play without Bowman most of last season as he tore his Achilles tendon in October. He missed the rest of the season following the injury. What makes matters worse is that this is a tough injury to recover from. No doubt, he’ll be back next season. But he won’t be posting the types of performances we’ve grown to expect from him. And Bowman will miss at least a few games because of injury at some point throughout the season.
1 1. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: RICHARD SHERMAN
You could interchange either Earl Thomas or Russell Wilson as Seattle’s best player and the team would still be in a better spot than most of the teams in the league. Seattle has three superstars, and it’s just because of play last year that gives Sherman the edge. Thomas got injured and Wilson just didn’t play as good as Sherman. This could all change next season, but Sherman will continue playing shutdown defense and will remain one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
As Sherman continues to lead Seattle’s defense, which will once again be the best in the league, he will continue his streak of four-straight Pro Bowl appearances. Sherman, who was the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, will be a candidate for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year following next season.
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