ESPN.com has continued to fill the void during the NFL lockout by ranking the best of the best in certain skills. Aaron Rodgers was ranked as the best quarterback arm, beating out the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. No other member of the Packers was mentioned on the list, so I took the liberty of making a Packers’ edition. Here goes nothing.
1. Best QB Arm: Aaron Rodgers: OK, so this one was a no-brainer. Rodgers has the best arm in the NFL, so it goes without saying that he has the best arm in Wisconsin. It’s true that Rodgers doesn’t have the strongest arm in the league and isn’t the most accurate, but he is certainly in the upper echelon in each category and is also one of the best decision makers. Matt Flynn is an above-average signal caller with excellent accuracy, but Rodgers is above everyone.
2. Best Tackler: Charles Woodson: A year ago, Woodson ranked third on the team in tackles (92) behind A.J. Hawk (111) and Desmond Bishop (103), but there’s no denying that he is the surest tackler on the team. Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme has moved Woodson around on the field so that he can make plays, and make plays he does. He can attack the line of scrimmage on run plays, blitz off the edge and make open-field tackles on wide receivers. He can do it all.
3. Best Hands: Jordy Nelson: Greg Jennings and Donald Driver might be above Nelson on the depth chart for now, but when the Packers need a reception in the clutch the former Kansas State walk-on is the man. Jennings dropped eight passes in 2010, Driver dropped six and James Jones, well, you know. But Nelson was there in the clutch and came up with big catch after big catch, something that should continue in 2011.
4. Best Tough Guy: B.J. Raji: Don’t let the baby face fool you. B.J. Raji has become one of the toughest nose tackles in the NFL. At 6-feet, 2-inches and 337 pounds, it’s easy to see why he constantly garners double teams and still finds himself in the backfield. Clay Matthews, Josh Sitton and Aaron Rodgers are tough as well, but no one can stop Raji when he’s on his game.
5. Best QB in the Clutch: Aaron Rodgers: Of course he is the most clutch quarterback on the Packers, but check the 12:40 mark in this video to see why he is one of the most clutch passers in the league.
6. Best Leader: Nick Barnett: He may wind up in a different uniform in 2011, but Barnett has been one of the most emotional leaders in Green Bay since he arrived in 2003. There are plenty of other leaders (Charles Woodson, Aaron Rodgers, Chad Clifton to name a few) but none more vocal and outgoing than Barnett. The Packers can live without Barnett on the field, but his leadership will be missed if he doesn’t return.
7. Best Potential to Excel in Another Sport: Jermichael Finley: The tight end-to-basketball combination has been seen lately, including Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, and Finley would be just as good. At 6-feet, 5-inches and 247 pounds, Finley would excel as a small forward who would be able to drive to the basket and also post up in the paint. Safety Nick Collins would also make one heck of a track star.
8. Best Teammate: Donald Driver: If it weren’t for the quarterback-only categories, this would be the big no-brainer on the list. Driver has made it his personal project to coach up his fellow wide receivers, and Greg Jennings gives much of his success to Driver helping him in his early years. Green Bay’s wide receiver corps is the closest-knit group on the team, and Driver is a huge reason why.
9. Best Interview: Aaron Rodgers: This one was a tough call, but Rodgers takes this one as well after his interview with The D-List on ESPNMilwaukee last month. Rodgers discussed events from the Super Bowl, including two cameramen fighting for position during the coin toss, realizing Christina Aguilera messed up the words to the Star Spangled Banner and admitting he practiced the phrase, “I’m going to Disney World” numerous times. Rodgers is a humorous guy and is able to tell it all during interviews.
10. Best Celebrator: Aaron Rodgers: What first seemed like a mini-celebration on clutch plays late in games has become one of the best celebrations in all of football: the belt. He wasn’t the first to come up with the celebration but Rodgers sure is making it famous, as SportsCenter ran a special on it during the playoffs and Clay Matthews gave him a wrestling belt on the Super Bowl podium. The belt will live on forever.