In what was easily the most difficult decision of this exercise, I had to choose between two quarterbacks who had career years in 2014. Quarterback A was asked to do more within his offense and has a track record with several key wins. Quarterback B was asked to do less, but put together one of the most effecient seasons of anyone at his position. Both players were lights out in spring practices. So who will be better in 2015? I went with Quarterback A, Eli Manning, over option B, Tony Romo. Manning enters year two in an offensive system different from the one he played in his first 10 seasons, but clearly better suited for his skill set. He is moving the offense faster in spring practices, showing an even better grasp of its concepts, and he even worked on and has shown improved arm strength. Watch out for Manning in 2015.
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Running Back: DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles
Some look to discredit DeMarco Murray and claim that the Cowboys' line was responsible for his success in 2014. Well I've got news for you; Murray will be joining an Eagles blocking unit that was the only one to grade out stronger in the run game than the Cowboys. On route to racking up 4.7 yards per carry, despite seeing a league-high 392 carries, Murray displayed trademark burst, vision and power that make him a perfect fit for the primarily zone-based blocking scheme Chip Kelly runs in Philadelphia. Murray may not be utilized as often in 2015, but he can be just as, if not more effective, on a per touch basis.
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Wide Receiver: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Many want to already annoint Odell Beckham Jr. the cream of the crop in the NFC East, but let's take a step back and realize what Dez Bryant was able to accomplish in 2014. Under first year offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Bryant's ability to win in contested situations down the field was featured within the offensive scheme. Bryant caught 88 balls for 1,320 yards receiving and a league-best 16 touchdown receptions. Bryant is the complete package with size, leaping ability and the burst to breakaway from defenders in the open field. He won't lead the league in the 40 yard dash, but he might just be the best wide receiver in the NFL entering 2015.
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Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
On a per game basis, Odell Beckham Jr. might have been the best wide receiver in the NFL last season. Beckham finished as one of only four players with more than 125 targets to reel in 70 percent for catches. After missing four games with a hamstring injury, Beckham racked up 91 receptions, 1,305 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in the final 12 games. Of course, a hamstring injury, although now to the other one, has resurfaced for Beckham. He missed most of the Giants' spring practices with it. These injuries date back to his early college career, and some believe they will nag him every so often throughout his NFL career. If he can remain healthy, he could end up No. 1 on this list in 2016.
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Wide Receiver: DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins
The first Redskin to grace this list is a former Eagle, Desean Jackson. Despite playing with three different starting quarterbacks, all almost equally as ineffective, Jackson was once again a dynamic force on the outside as the team's "X" receiver. Jackson racked up 1,169 yards receiving and six touchdowns on just 56 receptions. His 20.9 yards per catch was third-best to only Martavis Bryant and Bradon Lloyd, who combined for just 40 receptions. Jackson will move over to the "Z" receiver position in 2015, and although his volume may tick down just a tad, there is an opportunity for more effeiciency. Jackson will benefit from improved offensive line play and from the possibility of Robert Griffin III taking a step forward in his second season in Jay Gruden's offensive scheme.
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Tight End: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Zach Ertz might be close on his tail, but Jason Witten is still the class of the NFC East at tight end. Though often forgotten, Witten is the prototypical two-way tight end who excels as both a blocker and receiver. In the Cowboys' dialed back 2014 passing game, Witten finished with 64 receptions for 703 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Witten's biggest impact came as a blocker in 2014, because that is of course what the Cowboys needed him to do most. He finished as the third-best pass blocking tight end and the 10th-best run blocking tight end, according to Pro Football Focus. With DeMarco Murray gone, Witten could reclaim a larger role in the passing game in 2015.
Left Tackle: Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
Jason Peters made headlines when he claimed that the Eagles' offensive line was better than the Cowboys' back in June, but he had a point. The Eagles finished as Pro Football Focus' top-rated run blocking line, and Peters was a big reason for their success. Since Chip Kelly became his head coach, Peters has evolved into arguably the best left tackle in the NFL. Why? Kelly's predominantly zone-based blocking scheme is perfect for Peters--a former college tight end with exceptional athleticism. According to Pro Football Focus, Peters finished as the second-best pass blocking tackle and best run-blocking tackle, overall, in 2014.
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Left Guard: Justin Pugh, New York Giants
This selection takes a bit more projection. After the Eagles released Evan Mathis, the class left guard of the NFC East and arguably the NFL, the division is left a bit weak at the position. I choose Pugh over the obvious competition like Shawn Lauvao (Redskins) and Allen Barbre (Eagles), but the decision to choose him over the Cowboys' eventual left guard was a lot more difficult. In the end, I believe rookie La'el Collins will win the Cowboys' starting left guard spot, and although he was dominant at LSU, he may struggle at first in the NFL. Pugh, on the other hand, is tailor-made to be a guard at the NFL level. The Giants have foreseen his position switch for a while now, and they believe that he can finally evovle into a dominant lineman at his new position. The early signs from spring practices are positive.
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Center: Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys
The NFC East is home to two of the best centers in the NFL. Travis Frederick slightly edges Eagles center Jason Kelce, although both centers were mirror images in 2014. Both players were among the best run blockers at their position, but also struggled a bit in pass protection. The difference between the two came down to penalties. In 2015, the difference could be even greater now that the Eagles have replaced their two starting guards from 2014. Losing Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans will put added pressure on Kelce, and he will be required to do a lot more.
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Right Guard: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys
It would be difficult to have a better rookie season than Martin did. The rookie came right in and emerged as the single best pass-blocking offensive guard in the NFL. Martin allowed zero sacks, two quarerback hits and just eight additional hurries through a 16-game regular season. Martin wasn't a mauling run blocker, but he held his own in that department as well.
Right Tackle: Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles
Driven by his goal to join the NFL's elite tackle group, Lane Johnson worked his tail off this offseason. In 2014, Johnson missed four games due to a PED suspension, but he returned as a dominant player. He finished as Pro Football Focus' second-best right tackle overall. He was equally as strong in pass protection as he was in run blocking. Entering his third season in the NFL, Johnson has the upside to emerge as an even more dominant force. His personal goal is certainly within reach.