GREEN BAY, Wis. -- How’s this for the foundation of a successful NFL team?
A quarterback who can do things that “maybe outside of [Patrick] Mahomes nobody can do.”
A receiver whom you can “drop on any team and he’s successful.”
A left tackle who is “tough, nasty and can move.”
And a defensive tackle who has been “way better than I thought.”
Those were the descriptions of, respectively, Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, David Bakhtiari and Kenny Clark -- the four Green Bay Packers who ranked among the top 10 at their positions in a poll of more than 50 NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players conducted by Jeremy Fowler for ESPN+.
Not a bad foursome for any franchise.
But if the NFL is a star-based business -- one longtime NFL scout said his mantra always has been “whoever has more impact players, wins” -- do the Packers have enough to contend?
This measure would make it a long shot.
Nine teams placed more players in Fowler's position-by-position top 10. The Saints led the way with nine, coming up empty in just three spots -- defensive tackle, safety and offensive line (although both of their starting offensive tackles made it). The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs had six, tied for second with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Five teams -- the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers -- were next with five each. The Packers were among five teams that placed four players each on the various top-10 lists.
That suggests the Packers might be further away from the Super Bowl.
Or maybe not.
Upon closer inspection, there’s reason to think the Packers have enough elite-level talent given that four additional players -- running back Aaron Jones, guard Elgton Jenkins, edge rusher Za'Darius Smith and cornerback Jaire Alexander -- received honorable mention, meaning they’re considered just outside the top 10 at their positions.
Counting top-10s and honorable mentions, the Saints and Steelers led the way with 11 players named. The Vikings, with three top-10s and seven honorable mentions, ranked second with 10. The Cowboys were next with nine. The Packers, 49ers and Ravens tied for the fifth-most selections with eight.
“When he's humming, he's still Tier 1, without question," one NFL coordinator said of Rodgers. "The things he can do, maybe outside Mahomes, nobody can do. He's lost a little bit of athleticism. But when he can move around, and beat you inside out, holy s---, he's scary."
Adams came in seventh on the wide receivers list.
"You drop Adams on any team and he's successful," one veteran NFL quarterback said. "Big, fast, skill."
Said a veteran NFL cornerback: "I hate going up against him more than any other receiver.”
Bakhtiari (No. 7 among all tackles) and Clark (10th among the defensive linemen) both are entering the final seasons of their contracts and should be priority extensions for general manager Brian Gutekunst.
Of Bakhtiari, one veteran NFL pass-rusher called him a “big dancing beard," noting his quickness, while an AFC exec said he’s “tough, nasty and can move.”
Of Clark, an NFC exec said: "Liked him coming out, but he's been way better than I thought. More active than I thought he was in college, shows more athleticism."
Any of the four honorable mentions could vie for a spot on next year’s lists, but the Packers have other potential future candidates. If Preston Smith puts up another 12-sack season, he could receive mention. Both safeties, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, could be in the mix. And Corey Linsley, also scheduled to be a free agent, is arguably one of the most underappreciated centers in the league.
Also, it could be much worse, like in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars were the only team not to land a single player on any of the position top-10s (although they had four honorable mentions) ... or Cincinnati, Carolina and Washington -- where those teams had one player each.