A few weeks ago, Adam Nannini and I began a series on our NFL Basement podcast called “Battle of the Eras.” Catchy, right? The concept is simple. We are both constructing a 53-man roster, position by position. Adam is using only players from the “classic” era, meaning they were in their prime before 1980. Nate is creating his roster with “modern” era players who started their careers after 1980.
The Set Up
A breakdown of the roster numbers:
Each week on The NFL Basement, we select our players for a given position. We defend our choices and debate one another’s picks. The goal is not to necessarily pick the best and most talented players at each position but to construct the best team. For example, if you were creating the best band of all time, you’d want your lead singer, guitarists, and drummer to fit together.
This week, we had our most hotly contested position yet: Running Back. With only three running back positions available, narrowing the choices down to three was no easy task. We also chose one fullback for our team. Here were our choices:
Nate’s Modern Team
Larry Centers (Fullback)
Centers is a great fit for the modern team because of his pass catching ability. Centers has more receptions than any running back or fullback in NFL history. In fact, only Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten have more catches than Centers among non-WRs.
Barry Sanders (Starting Running Back)
Sanders is undoubtedly one of the all time great running backs. Had he not retired at the age of 30, he would have very likely been the NFL’s all time leading rusher. In 10 seasons, he averaged over 1,500 yards per season. The league has never seen a back with better vision, balance, and instincts.
Adrian Peterson (Backup Running Back)
If you could create the perfect running back, you’d end up with Adrian Peterson. He’s big, strong, and fast. He has elite acceleration and top end speed. He can run over you or around you. He might be the biggest freak of nature the NFL has seen. The guy ran for 2,097 yards after tearing his ACL and MCL 8 months earlier.
Roger Craig (All Purpose Back)
Craig was the first back to ever record 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. Marshall Faulk and Christian McCaffrey have done it as well. He’s often overlooked in terms of all time great running backs but Craig was the engine that drove those great 49ers offenses of the 80s.
Adam’s Classic Team
Marion Motley (Fullback)
Motley not only helped break the color barrier in the NFL, but he’s also the best rushing fullback in league history. His 5.7 yards per carry career average is better than any running back ever. Motley was a big, violent runner that no defender would want to tackle. He brings running back skills to the fullback position.
Jim Brown (Starting Running Back)
Many experts consider Jim Brown to be the best running back to ever play in the NFL. Brown was the total package: size, speed, balance, and physicality. To date, Brown is the only running back to average over 100 rushing yards per game. Like Barry Sanders, Brown walked away from the game early and while still in his prime.
Larry Csonka (Backup Running Back)
Another big, powerful back. Csonka brought the thunder to the great Dolphins teams of the 1970s. He rushed for 1,000 yards in three different seasons. Csonka also brings a nasty attitude and toughness to the classic team.
Lenny Moore (All Purpose Back)
Despite playing in the 50s and 60s, Moore is very much a modern all purpose back. He actually spent a little more time as a receiver than he did as a rusher. Moore had 6 seasons where he produced over 1,000 yards from scrimmage even though seasons were only 12 and 14 games long during his career. Moore was a big play waiting to happen, leading the league in yards per touch in each of his first six seasons.
The Rest of the Team
We’ve now chosen players at each position except Defensive End and Quarterback. Here are the teams as they currently stand.
Nate’s Modern Team
Running Back: Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson, Roger Craig
Fullback: Larry Centers
Wide Receiver: Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith
Tight End: Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witton
Offensive Tackle: Anthony Munoz, Jonathan Ogden, Joe Thomas, Willie Roaf
Guard: Bruce Matthews, Larry Allen, Randall McDaniel
Center: Dwight Stevenson, Dermonti Dawson
Defensive Tackle: Warren Sapp, John Randle, Aaron Donald, Cortez Kennedy
Linebacker: Mike Singletary, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Brooks, Ray Lewis, Junior Seau, Brian Urlacher
Safety: Ronnie Lott, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, John Lynch
Cornerback: Charles Woodson, Champ Bailey, Darrell Green, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson
Kicker: Justin Tucker
Punter: Shane Lechler
Special Teams: Steve Tasker
Adam’s Classic Team
Running Back: Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Lenny Moore
Fullback: Marion Motley
Wide Receiver: Paul Warfield, Raymond Berry, Bob Hayes, Lance Alworth, Don Hutson, John Stallworth
Tight End: Mike Ditka, Dave Casper, Jackie Smith, John Mackey
Offensive Tackle: Art Shell, Ron Mix, Forrest Gregg, Jim Parker
Guard: John Hannah, Gene Upshaw, Joe DeLamielleure
Center: Jim Otto, Mel Hein
Defensive Tackle: Merlin Olsen, Mean Joe Greene, Randy Whtie, Bob Lilly
Linebacker: Dick Butkus, Jack Ham, Bobby Bell, Jack Lambert, Willie Lanier, Ted Hendricks
Cornerback: Mel Blount, Dick Night Train Lane, Mike Haynes, Wille Brown, Herb Adderly
Safety: Emlen Tunnell, Jack Tatum, Paul Krause, Ken Riley
Kicker: Lou Groza
Punter: Sammy Baugh
Special Teams: Gale Sayers
There you have it! The teams are nearly complete. Don’t miss the next episode of the NFL Basement as we select our Defensive Ends!
Also, feel free to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @adamnannini and @asper_nate and give us your thoughts. Who is building the most dominant roster, Adam or Nate?