Most important player on every NFL team
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Most important player on every NFL team

Football is the ultimate team game, but one player can still make a huge difference. Here's a look at the most important player on all 32 NFL teams.

 
1 of 32

Arizona Cardinals: David Johnson, RB

Arizona Cardinals: David Johnson, RB
Matt Kartozian / USA Today Sports Images

Johnson's importance to the Cardinals offense became evident last season after he was lost for the year in Week 1. Granted, the team also missed Carson Palmer for part of the year, but the Cardinals finished with only 18.4 points per game, eighth worst in the league and down from 26.1 points per game in Johnson's breakout 2016 season. Larry Fitzgerald is also an important piece, but Johnson takes the offense to the next level.

 
2 of 32

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, QB

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, QB
Noah K. Murray / USA Today Sports Images

The Falcons had a historic offensive year in 2016 when Ryan played at an MVP level. That changed last year when Ryan struggled, going from 9.3 yards per attempt to only 7.7, and the offense finished in the middle of the pack. Atlanta has plenty of immensely talented offensive weapons like Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper, but Ryan makes them go.

 
3 of 32

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, QB

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, QB
Tommy Gilligan / USA Today Sports Images

The Ravens have struggled over the last three seasons, and it's no coincidence that Flacco has also stagnated during that time at just 20-22 with 52/40 TD/INT as the starter. Baltimore drafted a long-term replacement in Lamar Jackson, but they need Flacco to play better this year to make the playoffs again.

 
4 of 32

Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy, RB

Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy, RB
Timothy T. Ludwig / USA Today Sports Images

The Bills have a wide-open quarterback battle, but it's clear who their bell cow back will be once again. With Tyrod Taylor gone, there's even more pressure on McCoy this season. He's had more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage in consecutive seasons.

 
5 of 32

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB
Rich Barnes / USA Today Sports Images

The offensive weapons have come and gone in Carolina since the team's Super Bowl 50 appearance, but Newton remains in town. His play has been up and down over the last two seasons, but when he's right, Newton puts the offense on his back with his arm and his legs.

 
6 of 32

Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky, QB

Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky, QB
David Kohl / USA Today Sports Images

Chicago weathered the struggles of its rookie quarterback last season, and the team expects dividends this year. They've added Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton to help, but the offense's success is ultimately on Trubisky's shoulders.

 
7 of 32

Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton, QB

Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton, QB
David Kohl / USA Today Sports Images

Dalton has struggled over the last two seasons, though he deserves the benefit of the doubt thanks to poor offensive line play in Cincinnati. The Bengals tried to fix their line issues in the offseason and expect better play from Dalton as a result. He's certainly shown flashes and helped produce a winning record in his first six seasons as the starter.

 
8 of 32

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB
Vincent Carchietta / USA Today Sports Images

Mayfield might not even play a down in a regular-season game, but he's still the most important player on Cleveland's roster. The organization's futility directly correlates with its inability to find a starting quarterback, and fans are hoping their No. 1 overall pick is able to change that trend for many years to come.

 
9 of 32

Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, RB

Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports Images

If Elliott's value to the Cowboys wasn't already clear, it was put into focus last year when the team struggled during his six-game suspension. Over the last two seasons, the Cowboys are 19-6 when Elliott plays, and he's averaged more than 100 yards rushing per game. He could get the ball even more this year after the Cowboys lost Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

 
10 of 32

Denver Broncos: Von Miller, OLB

Denver Broncos: Von Miller, OLB
Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today Sports Images

Even when the Broncos struggled last season, the defense remained elite. The center of their success continued to be Miller, who made his sixth Pro Bowl with 10 sacks and 57 tackles. The team has plenty of questions on offense again this season, but the defense looks strong, with Miller leading the charge.

 
11 of 32

Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB

Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

Stafford has blossomed into one of the league's best quarterbacks over the last three seasons. During that time, he's thrown for more than 13,000 yards with 85/33 TD/INT, while the Lions running game has been nearly non-existent. Detroit has consecutive winning seasons due mostly to Stafford.

 
12 of 32

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, QB

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, QB
Jim Matthews / USA Today Sports Images

Rodgers' value to the Packers was on full display last year, when the team went 3-6 in nine games while he was nursing a collarbone injury. Green Bay is 94-48 in Rodgers' 10 seasons as a starter, with only one losing season.

 
13 of 32

Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB

Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB
Shanna Lockwood / USA Today Sports Images

The Texans looked like an elite offense when Watson was in the lineup last year, as he threw for 1,699 yards and 19 scores in seven games, adding 269 rushing yards and two rushing scores. While J.J. Watt has been injured for much of the last two seasons, the offense has needed to pick up the slack. Watson is the first Texans quarterback fully capable of doing so since Matt Schaub.

 
14 of 32

Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB

Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

The Colts lack of talent showed last year when they went 4-12 without Luck. The quarterback missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury, but the team has hope now that he's healthy once again.

 
15 of 32

Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB

Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB
Reinhold Matay / USA Today Sports Images

Jacksonville is loaded with defensive talent, and that along with the running game made it a breakout team in 2017. The Jaguars led the league with 527 rush attempts, of which Fournette had 268. The team is counting on him to be more productive in his sophomore season and keep the pressure off Blake Bortles.

 
16 of 32

Kansas City Chiefs: Travis Kelce, TE

Kansas City Chiefs: Travis Kelce, TE
Denny Medley / USA Today Sports Images

The Chiefs offense could be a juggernaut this season after signing Sammy Watkins, adding to Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. Patrick Mahomes will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, but Kelce has been the go-to guy on the offense for first downs. He has consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons and forces defenses to mind the short passing game as well as the deep speed of KC's wideouts.

 
17 of 32

Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers, QB

Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers, QB
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

Now entering his 13th year as the Chargers starter, Rivers continues to be as productive as ever at age 36. He threw for more than 4,500 yards last season, helping the Chargers to their first winning season since 2014.

 
18 of 32

Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley, RB

Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley, RB
Joe Nicholson / USA Today Sports Images

The reigning AP Offensive Player of the Year, Gurley made the Rams offense go last season. He led the league with 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns, averaging more than 6 yards per touch. The Rams were the top-scoring offense in football last season with his help.

 
19 of 32

Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB

Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB
Jasen Vinlove / USA Today Sports Images

Miami was without Tannehill last year due to injury, but the team is hoping he can add a spark this year. Miami has seen lots of changes on offense, including the loss of Jarvis Landry in favor of Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. The Dolphins scored the fifth fewest points in the NFL last season and will likely go as far as Tannehill can take them.

 
20 of 32

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, QB

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, QB
Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports Images

Minnesota was good enough to make the NFC Championship with Case Keenum at quarterback last season, and the Vikings hope Cousins pushes them over the top. They return an elite defense, a pair of excellent wide receivers and sophomore running back Dalvin Cook. Cousins could be the final piece in a championship season.

 
21 of 32

New England Patriots: Tom Brady, QB

New England Patriots: Tom Brady, QB
Bob DeChiara / USA Today Sports Images

Duh. Brady's resume makes him arguably the greatest player to ever put on a uniform in the NFL, going to eight Super Bowls, winning five of them, throwing for more than 66,000 yards and winning three MVP Awards. The task could be tougher than ever this season after the Patriots lost Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola.

 
22 of 32

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, QB

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, QB
Reinhold Matay / USA Today Sports Images

The Saints offense transitioned from pass-happy to more balanced last season, but Brees was still the key to making it all work. He led the NFL with a 72 percent completion rate and threw for 4,334 yards. Now 39, if Brees suffers any decline the Saints could be in trouble.

 
23 of 32

New York Giants: Landon Collins, S

New York Giants: Landon Collins, S
Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports Images

With the return of Odell Beckham Jr. and the addition of Saquon Barkley, the Giants have threats in all areas on offense to hopefully break Eli Manning out of his funk. However, the defense shed talent when Jason Pierre-Paul was traded, so there will be even more pressure on Collins after regressing last season. He was arguably one of the best defensive player in football the previous year, finishing with five sacks, four interceptions and 125 tackles.

 
24 of 32

New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB

New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB
Vincent Carchietta / USA Today Sports Images

Like the Browns, the Jets are counting on Darnold for the long haul. He's competing with Josh McCown for the starting job, and New York is hoping he can help turn the franchise around.

 
25 of 32

Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, QB

Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, QB
Sergio Estrada / USA Today Sports Images

Carr's importance was clear over the last two seasons. He led the Raiders to the playoffs in 2016, but they didn't go far after he fractured his leg. Last season Carr struggled, and Oakland went 6-9 in his starts. Jon Gruden was hired for many reasons, but the biggest was to fix Carr after a down year.

 
26 of 32

Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB

Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB
Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports Images

The Eagles were able to win the Super Bowl without Wentz, so how is he their most important player? The team went 11-2 with Wentz as a starter last season, and he was the favorite to win the MVP before hurting his knee in Week 14. Wentz had 3,296 passing yards and 33/7 TD/INT, helping Philadelphia get home-field advantage in the playoffs and make a Super Bowl run.

 
27 of 32

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, QB

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, QB
Philip G. Pavely / USA Today Sports Images

The Steelers have been able to play games in recent years and be successful without Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but they've had a massive void without Big Ben. Since 2012, the Steelers are 6-5 when Roethlisberger hasn't started and 66-34 when he is the starter.

 
28 of 32

San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB

San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB
Cary Edmondson / USA Today Sports Images

Garoppolo's value was on full display last season when San Francisco finished off the year 5-0 with him under center after starting the year 1-10. The 49ers fans have real hope that the team can return to the playoffs in 2018 due to the addition of their quarterback.

 
29 of 32

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson, QB

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson, QB
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

Seattle's personnel has undergone quite a facelift over the last few seasons, but Wilson remains the constant. He's started every game since 2012, making four Pro Bowls and putting together six straight winning seasons. Wilson also led the NFL with 34 touchdown passes in 2017.

 
30 of 32

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB
Kim Klement / USA Today Sports Images

Winston's play regressed last season and the Bucs followed, going 3-10 after a surprising winning season in 2016. The team is set to play the first three games of the year without its starting quarterback due to a violation of the league's personal conduct policy. But Winston is the best hope of getting the Bucs back into contention upon his return.

 
31 of 32

Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB

Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB
Benny Sieu / USA Today Sports Images

Tennessee was able to make the playoffs last season despite Mariota, who threw more interceptions than touchdown passes. The Titans' success was in large part due to an elite offensive line and excellent running game, but new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was hired to fix Mariota this year. That process will be key in the Titans taking the next step.

 
32 of 32

Washington Redskins: Alex Smith, QB

Washington Redskins: Alex Smith, QB
Geoff Burke / USA Today Sports Images

Washington moved on from Kirk Cousins and turned to Smith. The former 49ers and Chiefs quarterback has seven straight winning seasons as a starter, with a cumulative record of 69-31-1. His talented teams and coaching staffs were part of the reason for that success, but Smith also has 132/43 TD/INT in 101 games over that time period. Any improvement Washington has this season will be heavily impacted by Smith's play.

Seth Trachtman is a fantasy sports expert and diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan still hoping for a Super Bowl win during his lifetime. He doesn't often Tweet, but when he does, you can find him on Twitter @sethroto.

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