The NFL's 9 most indispensable players

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By SAM SPIEGELMAN
XN Sports

One of the biggest training camp stories for Wednesday was the beginning of Jamaal Charles' holdout. The Kansas City Chiefs dynamic running back won't report to camp until he gets paid accordingly.

In 2013, Charles was the focal point in the Chiefs offense, recording almost 1,300 yards rushing, nearly 700 yards receiving and 19 total touchdowns.

Without Charles, the Chiefs are probably a team picking in the top 10 for 2014. Charles headlines our list of the nine most indispensable players in the NFL today.

Here are players two through nine:

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NFL's 9 most indispensable players
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The NFL's 9 most indispensable players

1. Jamaal Charles

(Photo by Christopher Polk/WireImage)

2. Tom Brady

In 2008 Brady was injured in the first game of season and the Patriots, despite going 11-5, did not make the playoffs. With Matt Cassel behind center, the Patriots offense didn’t produce as it did the year prior with Brady, and a result the team missed the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Case and point: with Brady in 2007, Randy Moss had 93 yards per game and record-setting 23 touchdowns. With Cassel, 63 yards per game and 11 scores — a significant drop in one year. Is there any doubt Moss’ numbers in ’08 would have resembled his ’07 campaign with Brady there?

Brady makes the most of a very mediocre receiving corps, minus Rob Gronkowski, who hasn’t been healthy in two years. 

(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

3. Adrian Peterson

Peterson has single-handedly carried the Vikings offense for the past seven years, helping even the most average teams to the playoffs three times.

AP has five 1,000-plus-yard seasons, a 2,000-yard season, and in his worst season he was 30 yards short of eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark. That kind of production at the running back position is uncanny in today’s NFL.

(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

4. Dez Bryant

You could argue the Cowboys offense would be as horrid as their defense without Bryant continually rescuing Tony Romo.

Bryant is the only playmaker on the Cowboys these days. He hauled in 93 passes for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns, despite having no real weapons around him to draw opposing defense’s attention. They somehow competed for an NFC East title because of Bryant.

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

5. Julio Jones

There’s no more power running game in Atlanta, and Roddy White has been plagued by injuries to the point he’s no longer the dynamic wide receiver he once was. And once Jones was sidelined for the year, the Falcons’ season fell into a tailspin.

With Jones for the first five weeks, Matt Ryan had a 10-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio with a 100.9 passer rating. Without Jones the rest of the year, his ratio was 16:14 with a 83.9 rating. That’s a major difference.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

6. Vernon Davis

Since Colin Kaepernick replaced Alex Smith as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, Davis has been his go-to target.

Last season, Kaep’s first full year as a starter, 20 percent of his throws went in the direction of his Davis. And the tight end caught 62 percent of Kaepernick’s touchdowns.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

7. Andrew Luck

Remember the one year the Colts didn’t have a Peyton Manning or Luck under center? Yeah, they earned the top pick in the draft.

Luck is on the verge of becoming an elite NFL quarterback, and while he has a lot of weapons around him, he steers an offensively driven team. If he didn’t lead that offense, I don’t know if they’re that much better than the rest of their division.

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

8. Drew Brees

The Saints score a lot. Understatement. But Brees is the straw that stirs the drink, getting the ball into the tightest of windows and seemingly always making the right pass — whether it’s a simple check-down or taking a chance down the field.

It’s easy to say anybody could succeed with that amount of talent, but if the backup Luke McCown takes over, do you really think the offense would be equally as potent? 

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

9. Cam Newton

This quarterback trend continues with Cam, who this year alone will probably have to win half of the Panthers’ games.

Carolina has lost their top three receivers, their left tackle and key cogs on the defensive of the ball. In no way is the team as good as it was last year when it advanced to the playoffs. But without Newton, they could be poised for a top-10 pick.

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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Why they didn't make the cut

Aaron Rodgers: Arguably the best NFL quarterback, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace filled in and kept the Packers afloat en route to the playoffs.

Peyton Manning: If you plugged in even a mediocre quarterback under center, he could do well with overly talented offense. And the defense can certainly hold its own.

Richard Sherman: It's the Legion of Boom, and the title itself gives credit to the collection of talented defensive backs on the Seahawks, not just its best player.

Calvin Johnson: Now the team has Reggie Bush, Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. Matthew Stafford has a decent enough supporting case now that the Lions could still compete - not that they haven't underachieved the past five years.


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