There are 53 players on the active roster for each NFL team when the season starts, so it obviously takes a lot more than one or two stud players to make a team competitive. Some of the league's best players are putting on a show playing for the worst teams in the league. Whether they were top stars coming out of college and were drafted by a bottom feeder of the league or choosing to sign with a bad team for a rich contract, these players don't seem close to sniffing a playoff game, much less the Super Bowl.
A lot of times, star players on bad teams don't get the recognition they deserve. When a player is constantly on the losing end of the scoreboard, people tend to associate that player as a loser, even if it's no fault of his own. Football takes a well rounded roster and one player out of 53 simply cannot carry his team to victory.
Teams in the NFL can move from last to first quicker than any of the other major sports and a lot of the players on this list are hoping their team can make that leap. It must be really frustrating for these players to look around their locker room and realize their playing with a bunch of scrubs, but I'm sure the paycheck makes up for that. The players on this list all play for teams that had less than five wins last season and hope to help their teams climb up the rankings this year.
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15 Sen'Derrick Marks - Jacksonville Jaguars
I don't blame you if you don't know who he is, that would require you to actually watch Jacksonville Jaguar games, something I don't wish on anyone. Shockingly, the Jags built a decent defense last season, one that managed to put a lot of pressure on opposing QBs. Marks was the most important piece of that defense, putting up 8.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position and stuffing the run. The other players in the NFL noticed him though, voting him the 76th best player in the league in 2015.
14 Jurrell Casey - Tennessee Titans
Another lesser-known stud defensive tackle, Jurrell Casey has been playing at a Pro Bowl level for two seasons on a team that otherwise might be the most boring team in the league. Casey has put up 15.5 sacks over the last two seasons and was named 2013 all-NFL second team. Casey does all this work without much help on the d-line and the opposing offensive line focusing on getting him blocked. With the Titans drafting Marcus Mariota as their QB of the future, things are looking up for the Titans who have been wasting away in mediocrity.
13 Antonio Cromartie - New York Jets
The man who famously struggled to name all of his children on an episode of "Hard Knocks" (understandable since he has 12 kids from eight different women). Cromartie is coming back to the Jets after spending some very productive time with the Cardinals, where he teamed with Patrick Peterson as one of the better corner combos in the league. Cromartie is a long cornerback that has the size and speed to keep up with the bigger wide receivers in the NFL. He will joining a re-tooled Jets secondary that should become one of the best in the league.
12 DeSean Jackson - Washington Redskins
He may be a bit of a one trick pony at his size, but what he does, he does better than anyone else. DeSean Jackson is expert at taking the top off a defense with his blazing speed. Jackson was shipped out of Philadelphia after some off-field concerns but he seems to have put those behind him and continued to excel. His tiny 180-pound frame doesn't do well going across the middle of the field so as a receiver his limitations are well-known and yet he still manages to blow by the corner and the safety time and time again. If the Redskins can get RGIII back to where he was his rookie season, DeSean will continue to post some huge numbers.
11 Jason McCourty - Tennessee Titans
He might not be as good as his brother Devin in New England, but he's pretty close. Toiling away on the Titans for years may have made him overlooked but Jason McCourty is one of the best corners in the league. McCourty plays a physical style that most corners in the league shy away from as he is the best tackling corner in the league. Pro football outsiders had him ranked as the 9th best corner in the league last season, and he's shown he can play even better than that in previous seasons. It would be fun to see him team up with his brother in New England, maybe then he would the credit he's due.
10 Matt Forte - Chicago Bears
Matt Forte has consistently been one of the top running backs in the league, putting up 1,000 yards rushing five of his seven seasons and over 1,400 yards from scrimmage in every one of his years in the league. Forte is a patient runner with breakaway speed but it's his receiving ability out of the backfield that makes him so valuable to the Bears offense. Very few players in the league account for as much of their team's offense as Forte does in Chicago. Unfortunately for him he plays on a team with a laughable run defense and Jay Cutler throwing interceptions every other throw. Things went badly for the Bears last season but a new regime has been brought in and Forte looks to taste the playoffs again.
9 Muhammad Wilkerson - New York Jets
Despite their abysmal record last season and the fact Geno Smith is their QB the Jets do have something to hang their hat on; they've compiled a stacked defensive line. A huge part of that lines success was Wilkerson who has put up 16.5 sacks over the last two season, including 10.5 in 2013. The former 13th overall pick was a first-team All Pro in 2013 who worked well in Rex Ryan's scheme but should be even more dominant under new head coach Todd Bowles. The one problem is he is not happy with his contract situation and has been missing much of the Jets offseason. Even though the Jets drafted possible replacement Leonard Williams 6th overall in 2015 they would be foolish to not offer Wilkerson an extension.
8 Sheldon Richardson - New York Jets
The other main cog of the Jets vaunted defensive line. The Jets will miss Richardson big time this season as he was suspended four games for substance abuse, and now possibly more after recently being charged with resisting arrest. Richardson was the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year and made the Pro Bowl the following season, leading the Jets as one the leading run defending teams in the NFL. Richardson teams with Wilkerson as a defensive line that makes it almost impossible to run against. Now if only the Jets could fix their offense and find a quarterback, they might start making some noise.
7 Mike Evans - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 2014 draft class may go down as one of the best drafts ever for wide receivers and Mike Evans is a big reason for that. In his rookie season last year Evans put up over 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. What Evans may lack in breakaway speed he makes up for by simply being bigger and stronger than anyone trying to cover him. His size and ball-skills make him a huge target in the redzone. Evans can now look to team with first overall pick Jameis Winston to become one of the better young QB-WR tandems in the league.
6 Julius Thomas - Jacksonville Jaguars
Julius Thomas is in for a rude awakening when he starts catching passes from Blake Bortles instead of Peyton Manning. The Jaguars had piles of money to spend this offseason and used a good chunk to bring in the talented tight end from Denver. The former basketball payer in college uses his athleticism to run away from linebackers but his numbers are sure to see a huge drop-off this season leaving the Denver offense. Last season Thomas put up 12 touchdowns despite missing a handful of games. Thomas will look to provide Bortles some easy throws, because it doesn't look like he can make the hard ones.
5 Lavonte David - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of the most well-rounded and impactful defenders in the league happens to play on one of the league's most underachieving defenses. Lavonte David does it all, from rushing the passer, dropping into coverage and filling the running gaps. He broke through in 2013, making first team All Pro and continued his stellar play in 2014 registering 101 solo tackles and four forced fumbles. David is small for linebacker standards but makes up for it with his speed and instincts. The Bucs have been a hot pick to make the playoffs a few years in a row as their team has talent throughout the lineup but can never put it all together.
4 Khalil Mack - Oakland Raiders
It's hard to think this guy spent his college career at Buffalo because he took the league by storm, looking like a star from day one. Mack was taken 5th overall in 2014 by the Oakland Raiders who have struggled to put any talent on the field, especially on defense. Mack has drawn comparisons to hall of famer Derrick Thomas, because of his versatility and raw skills. Some naysayers would point to his four sacks and say he isn't much of pass rusher but looking closer there were few players who pressures opposing quarterbacks more, with his 40 QB hurries. The Raiders are still a terrible team and will likely compete for the no.1 draft pick this year again, but at least they know they have one star.
3 Trent Williams - Washington Redskins
Franchise left tackles do not come around very often, and are almost always high draft picks. The Redskins Pro Bowl tackle has struggled with a multitude of injuries which part of the reason why the Redskins (and RGIII) have struggled so much recently. When he is on the field, Williams in crucial to the Redskins' running game, opening holes for Alfred Morris. The Redskins are hoping that Robert Griffin can re-find his mojo but most importantly he needs to stay healthy and having Williams on the left side will go along way.
2 Gerald McCoy - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The forgotten man taken one spot after Ndamukong Suh in 2010 might not get the press like his fellow defensive tackle but he is just as much of a force in the middle of the defensive line. Gerald McCoy has struggled at times throughout his career with his health but when he is on the field, he dominates. In five seasons, McCoy has 27 sacks and 118 solo tackles, monster numbers for an inside pass-rusher who also excels against the run. The Bucs defense struggled last season but with McCoy and David up the middle, they certainly have the building blocks to work from.
1 Darrelle Revis
Like others on this list, Revis left a team with a good chance to win the Super Bowl for more money on a bottom of the league team. Going from the best team in the division to maybe the worst, the man known as "Revis Island" is the best shutdown corner in the league (sorry Sherman). Revis is coming off his lone season with the Pats where he resurrected their struggling defense and made them into a formidable unit. After getting his ring Revis wanted to get paid and he did with the Jets who gave him a massive contract only a few years after they traded him to the Bucs. Revis started his career in New York and he looks to help bring respectability back to their secondary that was one of the worst in the league last season.
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