I have been doing this list now for a few years, yet I am never ready for the beatdown that comes in the comments section. Luckily for me, Kevin and Parks do a good job of drawing the ire of many of you on any given day, so maybe this will land a little softer this year.
Let's review the ground rules for this list:
- These players are the most irreplaceable for 2012. I am only taking the 2012 season into account.
- I always forget to reiterate rule #1...I am trying to identify players that we simply can not afford to lose if we expect or hope to win in 2012.
- It is possible we don't have ten truly irreplaceable players, but we will get to ten regardless.
- These are numbered one to ten, but the order is not necessarily in terms of importance...meaning that you can by all means quibble with a player's inclusion, but don't waste your time arguing where he is on the list.
- This list is extremely debatable and subjective. If you take issue with any selection, you have to suggest an alternative to include in that player's place.
- I reserve the right to base my picks on loose and questionable judgement...the very same judgement I depended on from the ladies back when I was single.
1. London Fletcher -- It strikes me as just a little bit crazy that a 37-year old middle linebacker from John Carroll University would find himself at the top of the list of irreplaceable players for any team. Fletcher has never missed a game and is second among active players for consecutive starts (Ronde Barber is in the lead). For the Redskins, he is the leader on and off the field. He is the rock upon which our entire defense revolves around. Oh yeah, and he lead the NFL in tackles for the 2011 regular season. His presence on the field and on the sideline makes our team better. Losing London Fletcher would be as big of a hit on the field as it would be in the locker room.
2. Trent Williams -- I had not initially considered him as irreplaceable as I do today. I think he makes the list no matter what, but given the injuries to Jammal Brown and Kory Lichtensteiger, as well as the overall shakiness of our offensive line to begin with...you get the idea. Trent needs to be the anchor. Left tackles don't grow on trees. The waiver wire is not loaded with guys who can step into one of the most important positions on your team. Whether you enjoy pinning your hopes to a guy who has made a few bad decisions or not, Trent Williams is one of the guys on our roster who is capable of titling the scales towards winning on a weekly basis.
3. Fred Davis -- In this case, the order came a bit naturally. Two guys that got sat down by the league last year are two guys we absolutely have no way of replacing in the short term. I think Fred Davis will be our leading receiver in 2012, and I am starting to think it could be a sizable gap between him and our second guy. He is going to be impossible for Robert Griffin III to miss. In addition to the "security blanket" everyone agrees he will be to the rookie quarterback, Davis stands to be the primary target on a LOT of passing plays. The dude is big, strong, quick, and he has proven he can get open and catch the ball. He is a superior athlete at a position that NFL defenses are finding it harder and harder to defend.
4. Ryan Kerrigan -- I can already hear some of you wondering how I got to Kerrigan before I got to Brian Orakpo. I love me some Orakpo, but it says here that Ryan Kerrigan will lead the Redskins in sacks in 2012. He will benefit from being on the left side of the defensive line, and not having to face the premier left tackles that Orakpo will face for much of the season. I see Kerrigan as a truly transcendent player for our defense, and I think he will break out in 2012 in a major way. He never quits. He seems to get smarter by the second. He doesn't disappear in games, at least to this set of eyes. Going all the way back to his college days, the guy simply produces. You want me to say it, don't you? I have to say it? Fine...he's a "high-motor" guy. Are you happy?
5. Brian Orakpo -- I'll never forget the day my sister got married. I was holed up in a hotel room above the reception watching the NFL Draft unfold (obviously I was making runs back and forth to the open bar at the reception--I could get from my room to the bar and back in just under 3 minutes). After the Jets saved us from drafting Mark Sanchez, Brian Orakpo made the slow drop to our laps. Since coming to town, Orakpo has been impactful in our pass rush. (I am open to debating whether "impactful" is a real word, though it is in Merriam-Webster's dictionary.) In my humble opinion (shared by many), even out of his more natural 4-3 end spot, he is a force to be reckoned with off the edge and has been a success out of the first round.
6. Robert Griffin III -- Well, you didn't think I was going to forget about this guy, did you? It goes without saying that a starting quarterback is largely irreplaceable. Even though Griffin has yet to play a down in the league, we know that the combination of arm strength, accuracy and athleticism he possesses is extraordinarily rare. To be sure, RG3 is already irreplaceable.
7. Josh Wilson -- The 2012 Redskins might--just might--have a problem in the secondary this season. There is a good deal of anxiety and uncertainty at the safety spot that is already putting additional pressure on our corners. Josh Wilson is a heady cover man with the confidence of his coaches and teammates. You might not put him in the same category as Revis or Asomugha (probably not) but on this roster, Wilson is an integral part of what Jim Haslett is trying to accomplish on the defensive side of the ball. DeAngelo Hall might flash more, but there is something just slightly more dependable about the former Maryland Terrapin.
8. DeAngelo Hall -- Well, those issues at safety are disconcerting indeed. Our corners are going to be pushed all season. Hall might not be on everyone's list out there, but I would be hard-pressed to suggest we could lose Hall and still be able to cobble together a playmaking secondary. The ball finds him, and when it does, he knows what to do with it. We have seen the results of not having that.
9. Barry Cofield -- I can't say enough great things about this defensive lineman who transitioned to nose tackle for this team last year. He was a rock for us on that line and if we are going to be able to get anything done defensively in 2012, it will start up front. He gets to the quarterback, he bats down balls in the air, and he dominates space at the line of scrimmage. Maybe you could find another hard-working guy to pick up his place, but for my money, I am rolling with Cofield.
10. Pierre Garcon/Josh Morgan -- This is totally cheating...wait, I just changed the rules so I could do this. We invested HEAVILY in these two wide receivers. They are still relatively young and could prove to be players that grow and improve with RG3. They are fast, have above average hands and have played in the league. We simply HAVE to have big performances from these two in 2012. If we fail to get the kind of production we need from these two, it is going to be a long season. There are no upgrades to these two wandering the streets. Our bench does not have anyone better--although one could argue for Santana Moss draining what's left in his tank this season to make up the difference.
(No Rex? No Cooley? No Cousins? What was I thinking?)