Best St. Louis Ram - 2001
Readers' Choice: Marshall Faulk
The most important Ram this year, in terms of indispensability, is likely Kurt Warner: Without Trent Green to sub if Warner crumples under a blindside blitz, the stunt-flying Rams aerial show could well find itself losing significant altitude as journeyman Jamie Martin or youthful Marc Bulger stares blankly at the controls. But even absent Warner, the Rams remain capable of scoring with scarifying regularity because of one-man offense Marshall Faulk, last year's NFL MVP. In the Rams' 1999 Super Bowl season, Faulk set a league record with 2,429 total yards; in 2000, slowed and occasionally stopped by his chronically balky knees, Faulk still managed 2,189 yards in only 14 games, setting another NFL record with 26 touchdowns. Absolutely no one is more adept at both running and receiving: When carrying the ball, Faulk averages more than 5.5 yards; when catching a pass, he nearly doubles that figure. Uncannily able to identify the hole and accelerate through it, Faulk also cuts and reverses beautifully, evading groping tacklers and powering deliberately forward even when dragging a linebacker like a plow behind him. In the open field, he's simply uncatchable, a Flash-like blur fully visible only on slo-mo replay. And unlike a dismaying number of his fellow Rams backs and receivers, Faulk seldom fumbles: Despite the frequency of his touches, Faulk never gave up the football in 2000 -- and even recovered a pair lost by less reliable teammates. With his unique combination of speed, agility, strength and smarts, Marshall Faulk isn't just the Best Ram -- Sports Illustrated says he's the best player in football. Who are we to argue?