Dream Team of Tomorrow: Your call
Who will be the NFL's best in a few years? Help us decide
Forget about the past. And the present, too. At least for the purposes of this exercise, put yourself in the future -- three to five years down the road.
That's right. Shift your focus to the 2014, '15 and '16 NFL seasons.
Who will be the best quarterback in the game? Who will be its most dynamic runner? Which pass-rushers will strike fear in the hearts of overmatched offensive linemen everywhere?
Those questions are for you to answer.
Yes, we want your help in assembling a future Pro Bowl team of sorts -- or what we're calling the Dream Team of Tomorrow. Actually, we want you to make the toughest decisions.
We're asking you to pick the players who, if placed on the same roster, would dominate in that three-year window. Our experts got the process started, narrowing the vast pool of talent to eight players at singular positions -- QB, TE, C, FS, SS -- and 16 for the others (no easy task).
Now we're passing the baton to you. Take a close look at the ballot and make your selections.
Remember, think young. Some of the greats of today -- Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Packers defensive back Charles Woodson, to name a few -- will be well past their primes or perhaps out of the league in three years.
So don't look for your favorite thirty-somethings on the ballot -- you won't find them (at least at the skill positions, anyway). Even the great Tom Brady was left off, and it had nothing to do with his dancing. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Sure, we think the reigning MVP -- who will be 37 in the fall of 2014 -- has plenty left in the tank. But as former American Idol judge Paula Abdul would say, he's just not right for this competition. Neither is Adrian Peterson. Is there a better running back in the game today? Probably not, but the 26-year-old already has a ton of mileage, and the Vikings will likely lean on him even more in the coming years.
So who is right? Recent high draft picks. Players who have youth and stability. Those who will be hitting their prime around 2014. And the select few whom we believe will still be going strong well into their 30s.
We're also including the college ranks. Will budding talents such as Stanford QB Andrew Luck and Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon be thriving as pros three years from now? Do you know upside when you see it? You'd better for this job.
And of course, even an all-star team needs a coach. The Patriots' Bill Belichick is still at the top of his game. The Packers' Mike McCarthy is coming off a Super Bowl championship. The Jets' Rex Ryan has made big strides in only two seasons. All three figure to get a lot of votes, but they'll have plenty of competition.
We leaned on our recent coach Power Rankings to flesh out that part of the ballot.
For the positional decisions, we leaned mostly on our panel of experts (with an assist from yours truly), which consisted of ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton, NFC West blogger Mike Sando, AFC North blogger James Walker, AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson.
Some spots were easier to narrow down than others. Take tight end for instance. Whether it's natural evolution or something with Earth's gravitational pull, there's suddenly a surplus of talent at the position. With only eight slots available, though, some notable and promising talents didn't make the cut. (Warning to Patriots fans: Expect to feel slighted again.)
Here's more about how this all works. We're using a base 4-3 defense and a standard one-tight end, two-wide receiver formation on offense. We didn't distinguish between outside and inside linebackers, but both are represented on the ballot. Pick the three you believe would perform together the best.
The team will also have specialists -- you'll select two returners, one place-kicker and one punter.
And yes, we're ignoring fullback. With Pro Bowl O-linemen blocking for the best runners around, this team won't need one.
What it does need is you. So dive into the ballot and get started. The future's in your hands.
Scott Symmes is an NFL editor for ESPN.com.
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