As you rigorously prepare and research leading up to each fantasy football season, sometimes it’s fun to take a step back and look towards the future of the NFL. This feature is going to do just that, and while its focus won’t be fantasy related, maybe it sparks some thoughts for those of you pondering a keeper league strategy or something of that nature. The idea is simple: rank the top trade assets in the NFL (only including players at the skill positions on offense: QB/WR/RB/TE). Again, this has nothing to do with fantasy trades, this is in terms of how valuable these players are to their actual teams in the longterm. Yes, this means names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be left off since it’s my list. I’m sure there will be plenty of debate, as everyone’s picks are likely different. So sit back, and enjoy the ride!


No. 1: Aaron Rodgers — QB, Green Bay Packers

We’ve finally arrived at No. 1, and it’s the senior citizen of the group. Aaron Rodgers fits into that in-between stage — He doesn’t have 10+ years ahead of him like Andrew Luck, but he’s not on his way out the door like Peyton Manning either.

I struggled with the decision to not have Luck at No. 1 because of how much upside he has for so many years to come. In the end, I went with Rodgers for one main reason: Elite QBs last longer these days.

Just look at how amazing Tom Brady’s been. Although he’s not quite on this list because of his age, you can argue Brady is still a top-10 trade asset. Even if he plays one more season, he makes your team a contender that season, something you can say for a small handful of players. With Brady playing at an elite level, and looking like he has a few more years in the tank, there’s no reason Rodgers can’t be the same type of player later in his career.

(Damn it, maybe I should have put TB12 on this list …)

What it came down to was this — If I’m starting a team today, would I rather have 5-8 more seasons of Rodgers, or 12-15 more seasons of Luck? My answer is Rogers. I can’t argue with you if you prefer Luck, though.

At this point it’s not even about the numbers. Luck and Rodgers both figure to have monster seasons with plenty of games like Rodgers’ 333-yard, 5 TD, 0 INT performance on MNF this past week. A-Rod’s been the top ranked fantasy QB for years now, so if you do want to argue about stats, Rodgers still probably wins. But the 2014 MVP is just at that stage of his career where he “gets it.” Everything is clicking for him like it was for Brady and Manning in their primes. He sees the field on a different level, recognizes every kind of defense, and has all the tools to execute any type of throw he may need to.

I’m not going to say that Rodgers is better than Peyton or Tom at the heights of their powers (it makes for a good debate), but there certainly is an aspect of his game that differentiates him – mobility. Rodgers’ legs have helped him in two ways that many elite quarterbacks in the past can only dream of. He’s able to scramble and give himself more time to make throws, and he’s also able to give you a 50-yard game on the ground if the need is there. Place mobility on top of his once in a generation QB skills, and trying to defend Rodgers is like playing with fire.

When it’s all said and done, Aaron Rodgers will be one of the best ever to play the game. He still has a lot of football ahead of him, and that’s enough to make him the most valuable trade asset in the NFL.

Find me on Twitter @julianedlow

See below for more features from “NFL Trade Assets.”

Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston/Amari Cooper

10. Cam Newton

9. Odell Beckham Jr.

8. Demaryius Thomas

7. Antonio Brown

6. Dez Bryant

5. Russell Wilson

4. Julio Jones

3. Rob Gronkowski

2. Andrew Luck