Player rankings are almost always subjective. The very thought is rooted in opinion. In that light, debate can stem from any general list. Since there is no consensus on these analyses, it isn't easy to figure out who would consider the best current Chicago Bears.
Just take a gander at the present options of player rankings.
Sure, to decide on the best Bears of the past and future, you could look to the Hall of Fame, but that voting can be convoluted and drawn out over time. There's the NFL Top-100 list, but to some, this annual ranking should have no merit and isn't taken seriously by active players. Then there are grades from outlets such as Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus, who admittedly have tremendous amounts of research placed into evaluating NFL rosters. Still, one can interpret their systems in various ways since they aren't universal.
For this conversation, while taking inspiration from a recent idea at the Daily Norseman, it's time to gauge the best current players on the Bears roster using a familiar model.
EA Sports' NFL Street video game which ran from 2004-2006, was essentially the NBA Jam of football gaming, adding a new, stylish flair to America's favorite sport at a virtual level. Of course, with proper licensing, it prominently featured real NFL teams and players, all while playing on unconventional terrains with unconventional means.
Instead of playing on a regulatory football field in front of thousands, NFL teams played against each other in seven-on-seven match-ups on beaches, rooftops, and parks. This setup allowed for quite the creative use of environments from skill position players.
Instead of wearing helmets and standard uniforms, players wore street clothing such as sweatpants and tank tops to add authenticity to the game's brand.
Instead of an overcomplicated rulebook, NFL Street maintained basic football rules while being extremely low on penalties, allowing for a very aggressive game to unfold every time a player loaded up. Taunts and celebrations with "style points" rewarded players — quite the contrast from the actual NFL. Style points were used to gather up a "game-breaker," which would let offensive players plow through defenders, while defensive players would essentially become unblockable.
NFL Street was football based primarily on intensity with over-the-top action as the selling point. It was backyard, neighborhood football played by freakish, gifted adults.
The rules were simple, too. Every starting lineup for each team had four skill position players to go with three linemen, who all played on both sides of the ball. You had an option to select from a pool of 11-13 players (depending on the roster), allowing for strategic value in game plans.
In an idea that could likely be experimented with by the NFL in the future as they move the distance of extra points farther, there were also no extra points in this video game. You either ran it in for one point or passed for two, often living and dying by your decision at the close of a tight game.
Now, in a completely new manner of evaluating the current best of the best Bears, let's decide who would be on Chicago's modern NFL Street roster. (Note: Players must feature on both sides of the ball.)
Player options (13 players)
Jordan Howard - Cody Whitehair - Mitchell Trubisky - Cameron Meredith - Kevin White - Kyle Long - Adam Shaheen - Leonard Floyd - Akiem Hicks - Eddie Goldman - Quintin Demps - Eddie Jackson - Jerrell Freeman
Marcus Cooper: The newcomer Cooper had an underrated season with the Arizona Cardinals last year. But is his skill set worth more than the other Bears' skills guys? I say no.
Zach Miller: While talented, Miller hasn't proven healthy enough, and it isn't easy to project tight ends in a game like this. Is he split out wide on offense? Where does he fit in on defense? Too much of a head-scratcher.
Josh Sitton: The Bears have a very talented trio of interior offensive linemen, that's for certain. Sitton is barely snubbed here based on the virtue of his age at 31-years-old.
Mike Glennon: Of the two primary Bears quarterbacks, even while inexperienced, Trubisky is undoubtedly more athletic, which is a better fit for street football.
Pernell McPhee: Much like Miller, McPhee is a good player - when on the field. His injury track record leaves a lot to be desired and leaves him off of this roster.
Quarterback/Safety - Mitchell Trubisky
Forget that he only started 13 college games for a second. Trubisky's natural athleticism, as well as accurate, quality decision-making (a 30-6 touchdown to interception ratio in his lone starting year at North Carolina), makes him a seamless fit at the helm of this Bears' ship. He'd be able to make plays on his feet on offense and work effectively enough as the last line of defense, even if he's not fully used to that physicality.
Running back/Linebacker - Jordan Howard
Howard is easily the best fit for the Bears on their NFL Street team. His bruising style of running the ball combined with vision would translate well to a grown-up version of neighborhood football. Given the lack of rules, it'd be difficult to see a defender ever bring Howard down. As a "game-breaker" he'd be an impenetrable bowling ball of force. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, he has the size to play linebacker, but Howard would probably struggle at times to diagnose plays. Eventually, he could adjust in place as his offensive positions' defensive counterpart, though.
Wide receiver/Cornerback - Cameron Meredith
Chicago's No. 1 wideout, with his precision route running and ability to make plays after the catch, lets the imagination run at what he could do in a physical street game. Meredith is built for pick-up football, and his ascension into a complete wideout makes him an easy draft pick. Not to mention that the former college quarterback could help out with trick plays from time to time. On defense, he'd be far from a shutdown corner but could hold his own with natural instincts. Tackling might not even be that much of an issue for him.
Wide receiver/Cornerback - Quintin Demps
The 10-year veteran enjoyed a career season with the Houston Texans last year, intercepting six passes. His veteran presence and ball-hawking ability would be a welcome sight in a pick-up game where every possession is paramount. Given his on-ball skills, his performance as a wideout would work well with natural hands, especially since he already understands their positioning and route trees.
Offensive tackle/Defensive End - Leonard Floyd
Someone like Floyd, who will arguably be the Bears' best pass rusher moving forward, and is built like a basketball player length-wise at 6-foot-6, could not be left off this pick-up team. Floyd would wreak havoc on the defensive end, as he would match up against slower opposition. His inclusion would allow him to create turnovers on sacks as well as stopping plays altogether when blocking passes at the line of scrimmage. There is a question of how well he'd block offensively, but in pick-up football, it's not as if he'd have to sustain his block forever with perfect technique. A minor concern.
Offensive tackle/Defensive End - Akiem Hicks
Currently, Chicago's best interior pass rushing force, Hicks, led the Bears with 7.5 sacks last year, consistently collapsing pockets on opposing quarterbacks. The 6-foot-5, 336-pound behemoth is deceptively quick and would be put to good use on defense against any blocking wall. Offensively, when considering his tremendous girth and athleticism for his size, it's difficult to imagine him not excelling as a blocker.
Center/Defensive Tackle - Cody Whitehair
Whitehair was the most contentious designation of Bears NFL Street starters. Yes, Long is more proven as a four-year veteran and has been a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro. However, he's coming off ankle surgery that he has not yet recovered from and elected not to have surgery on a torn labrum this off-season.
Meanwhile, Whitehair possesses the same kind of versatility as Long in playing every position in college at Kansas State and even started at guard in last year's preseason before injuries pressed him into the middle. After a terrific rookie season, Whitehair's long-term ceiling screams that of a regular Pro Bowler. For that reason along with health, he handles the middle in this pick-up game. Defensively, he likely wouldn't be a terrifying pass rushing force, but he could push the pocket and not be lost on an island.
Pick-up football — especially one that monstrous athletes play with unparalleled quick-twitch muscles — is at its core: unorthodox. But in the end, it's merely a fun exercise in evaluating the Bears roster in more of an outside-the-box manner. Tinkering around with the starters and the player pool is another way of viewing the Bears with a different perspective.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.