We can all agree that having the NBA back alone has brought a joy back to our lives that has felt more like a saving grace. Watching our favorite teams and stars play the sport we love has helped in distracting us of the ugliness of the world today. Our joy and attention will only be magnified as we near the next stage of the season: the playoffs. Now that it has finally arrived, here are some of the most interesting storylines to pay close attention to as the postseason commences.
TJ Warren and Jimmy Butler Feud
Butler is a no nonsense player that takes pride in his intensity on and off the court. His goal is clearly not to make friends and will protect what’s his no matter what. Earlier in the season, Warren and Butler got into it and then proceeded the discord on social media after the game. These kind of rivalries are great for the game and make you want to watch the games in which they face each other. Little did the basketball world know that Warren would go from role player to what seems like the next big thing in a matter of 8 games. Now the rivalry doesn’t seem as lopsided and will be really fun to watch in this first round playoff matchup.
Sixers Last Stand?
The Sixers have been the potential breakout team season after season, but have continuously come up short. This season is no different as a team with two mega super-stars have found a way to drop all the way to the sixth seed. It is safe to say with the recent injury to Simmons’ the Sixers will not make it out of the first round. If this is the case the Philadelphia front office will most likely have to make a choice between the two stars. It is time for the Sixers to shake things up and see what they can come up with it.
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James’ Last Dance
These two superstars were both phenoms young and were both were high draft picks in the 2004 draft. They fought valiantly for the Rookie of the Year honors and James controversially was awarded the hardware. Throughout their careers they shined brightly and were some of the fiercest competitors to play. Some tend to forget the domination and pure talent that Anthony embodied game after game. In the recent years he has bounced around the league and even was out of the Association for a little while. Like his new team, he has bounced back and his old self. His Blazers snuck into the playoffs and will face James’ Lakers in the first round. There are many that predict the Blazer’s upsetting the Lakers in the first round and the 8th seen beating the 1st. No matter what happens it will exciting to watch these two legends play head to head yet again, and perhaps for the last time.
Chris Paul’s Cinderella Story
Speaking of storylines, perhaps there is none better than that of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2020. Before the season they were not even thought of as a playoff team and the narrative surrounding them was that of a rebuild. There were rumors swirling that Paul wouldn’t even be on the squad by the end of the season. But now, the Thunder have secured the 4th seed and play his former team the Houston Rockets. Paul has proven himself to still be one of the best leaders in the league and looking back it might be the most impressive performance we have witnessed from the future Hall of Famer. With Westbrook missing the first couple games of the season due to injury, the Thunder have a real shot of continuing their run and shocking the world.
Battle of the Bigs
The Utah Jazz were one of the most exciting teams going into the season and played their way into the number four seed in the West. Crisis struck when their phenom Center acquired the feared Coronavirus, which led to the complete shutdown of the league and sports in general. Since, they lost one of their leading scorers and Bojan Bogdanovic and Mike Conley has temporarily left the bubble for the birth of his son. So at least early the Jazz will be depleted offensively. But their defense continues to thrive because of Gobert. The Nuggets obtain an offensive unicorn that stands taller than most talents that can handle the ball like Nikola Jokic. The two have had some intense battles and it will fascinating to watch the two face each other in a playoff series.
Pressure is On For Harden
James Harden has certainly convinced the world of his unworldly offensive abilities. He has done things on the offensive side of the ball that are truly unprecedented. After yet another scoring title there is nothing left to be said about his talent. All that is left to secure a spot among the greats is to finally achieve some kind of success in the post season. The narrative surrounding Harden is that of choking in playoff situations, and he has yet to accomplish anything to negate that theory. This season may be his time to finally take the next step and make some noise in the playoffs.
Superstar or Next Face of the League?
Giannis is most certainly deserving of yet another MVP award, and has clawed his way to the top seed of the East. His Bucks were an absolute problem in the regular season, but they have to finish the job and cruise their way through to the Finals. Although Giannis is a freak and a monster on the court some may seem his as bland and might forget him, because he plays in small market in the middle of country. To secure his place as the next face of the league he must do more than simply collect awards, he needs to win. He needs to start winning championships. The pressure is starting to mount and this is the year where he needs to at least take the Bucks to the championship.
May 18th, 2020. This was the day that Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted out the news that Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic would be undergoing season-ending wrist surgery, and the Utah Jazz title chances would go from slim to none. At least that is what most top national sports analysts would lead you to believe.
The Utah Jazz are currently in fourth place in the Western Conference. Sitting three games behind the L.A. Clippers, 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets, one game ahead of both the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and 2.5 games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. The Jazz have a Mount Everest type climb to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2007.
Things could not have gone worse this season for the Utah Jazz. Mike Conley has looked like the Monstars zapped his basketball playing abilities in the offseason, averaging his lowest points per game in 8 seasons. The Jazz stumbled to end the season going 9-10 in their final 19 games. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the two best players on the team, have been rumored to have a very strained relationship before their COVID-19 diagnosis and it has since been reported by Shams Charania, Sam Amick, and Tony Jones that their relationship might be “unsalvageable”. The cherry on top of the train wreck season was the year-ending injury diagnosis to the Utah Jazz’s starter and key contributor Bojan Bogdanovic.
There is no way that the Jazz will win a single round in the Western Conference playoffs, let alone win two rounds to make it to the Western Conference Finals, right?
The Utah Jazz were 13-1 favorites to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy back in October. They are currently 66-1 (meaning, if you were to bet $100 on the Jazz to win the NBA title, and they did, you would profit $6,600). Even though bettors have cooled off on the Utah Jazz, I have not and here is why:
Most people (me included) loved the recent summer acquisitions of Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, and Emmanuel Mudiay among others even though it meant saying goodbye to Ricky Rubio, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and Derrick Favors. However, most people could spot a potential problem with the multiple offensive talents that all demanded the ball. Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and Jordan Clarkson all need the ball in their hands a certain amount of times to be their most effective offensively. I am not sure that when the Jazz went on their 19-2 run back in December and January that it was purely a coincidence that they did it without Mike Conley in the lineup for 16 of those 21 games. When a key player goes down for the Jazz, it opens up the offense and allows players to play more freely. I could see the same thing happening with the subtraction of Bojan Bogdanovic in the 2020 playoffs.
First, let’s look at their current seeding and remaining schedule compared to other Western Conference teams to determine their most likely final seeding and playoff route. When the Jazz return to play on July 30th they will face the New Orleans Pelicans, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs will wrap up the regular season for the Utah Jazz. Those 8 opponents have an average winning percentage of .556, with exactly half of them being under .500.
The Denver Nuggets, who are currently 1.5 games ahead of the Utah Jazz, have an average opponent winning percentage of .619, with only 2 opponents under .500.
The Houston Rockets, who are currently 1 game back of the Utah Jazz, have an average opponent winning percentage of .587, with 3 opponents under .500.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, are currently 1 game back of the Utah Jazz, have an average opponent winning percentage of .583, with 3 opponents under .500.
Right off the bat, the Utah Jazz have the easiest remaining schedule compared to the 3 teams within 2 games of them in seeding. This is good news for the Jazz who hope to maintain a top 4 seed in the playoffs. Let’s keep going.
A top 4 seed after the “train wreck” of a season? Too good to be true, right? Since it is impossible to perfectly predict how the remaining 8 regular season games will go for the Utah Jazz, let’s start assuming a few things. With the Jazz playing 6 regular season games against teams with lesser records, and only 2 teams with better records it is probably fair, although slightly optimistic, to assume that the Jazz will go 6-2 to close out the season. The Denver Nuggets, on the other hand, only play 5 games against teams with lesser records, one of those being the Utah Jazz. Let’s assume that the Nuggets lose against the teams with the superior records (Lakers, Clippers, Raptors), and then also lose to the Utah Jazz finishing the season 4-4: all very possible. This would give the Utah Jazz the 3 seed in the Western Conference.
With the 3 seed locked up, the most likely first round opponent would be the Oklahoma City Thunder (currently in a tie for 5/6 with Houston but have a much more difficult remaining schedule). The Jazz know their conference rival well, playing them already twice this season with one more remaining. The Jazz matchup well with Oklahoma City because their big man Steven Adams allows Rudy Gobert to stick around the rim and do what he does best: block shots. When the Jazz can allow Gobert to do what he does better than anyone else in the world they are practically unstoppable. The Utah Jazz have had the best offensive rating in the NBA since the Jordan Clarkson trade occurred. The trouble for the Jazz has been on the defensive side of things, so getting the defense perfect could pay huge dividends in the playoffs. While Chris Paul does give the Jazz some problems, I think this would be a very winnable series and the Jazz should be favored, even without Bojan Bogdanovic.
Once they get passed the Oklahoma City Thunder, they would most likely have the Los Angeles Clippers awaiting them in the second round. The Jazz lead the season series 2-1, and matchup surprisingly well with a team that many picked in the preseason to win the title. Donovan Mitchell had one of his best games of the season during their December 28th matchup with them. Donovan put up 30 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds in a 120-107 win. Getting Donovan Mitchell going could be key to the Utah Jazz upsetting the L.A. Clippers and making a Western Conference Finals appearance. The Los Angeles Clippers, like the Thunder, also have a big man in Zubac who allows Rudy Gobert to stay close to the rim and when Rudy can do that, the Jazz are a very tough team to beat. While some might call me crazy, I think that the Jazz match up incredibly well with the Clippers and could see an upset happening in the 2nd round.
Next up, the Los Angeles Lakers. Avery Bradley has decided to opt out of the NBA restart due to family reasons and without the Lakers having their best defensive guard I could see Donovan Mitchell getting some very easy baskets. While they haven’t matched up as well with the Los Angeles Lakers this season, I do believe that they can extend the series to 6-7 games and once you get there all you need is a couple of bounces to go your way.
Well, that’s it. Easy enough, right? There is the road map that the Utah Jazz will need to follow to make their first trip to the NBA finals in 13 seasons, oh and remember, 5,294 people have climbed Earth’s highest mountain, known as Mount Everest. That is right. Something that seems like an impossible task has been done over 5,000 times.
It is easy to give all of the fame and praise to the popular players that are flashy and score touchdowns. But, there are plenty of players that are the best at their position and you don’t even know their name. They are players so valuable that their whole team would crumble without their efforts. Which player is the most underrated on your team? Take a look and see.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Matt Feiler (T)
There a many players that came out of the wood work for the Steelers last season because of the overwhelming number of injuries that they endured. One player that shined was tackle Matt Feiler. The Pittsburgh offensive line has been one of the best groups in the league for a number of years, and it seems as if this trend will continue in 2020 because of the blossoming productivity of Feiler and his teammates. The Steelers are certainly one of the biggest Wild Cards in 2020, if Big Ben can play like he has in the past, the Steelers are a force to be reckoned with.
Cleveland Browns: J.C. Tretter (C)
Tretter gets a negative reputation because of the overall performance of the Offensive line in Cleveland. Tretter should not be to blame, because he was actually a top tier center in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, Tretter was the third highest graded center in the league. The Brown’s drafted more talent on the O-Line, which should assist in the productivity of a star-studded Cleveland Brown offense.
Cincinnati Bengals: Trey Hopkins (C)
Hopkins has the unfortunate circumstance of being a part of one of the worst offensive lines in the league. So his name tends to be thrown around as not being elite because he is a member of the group. But, this is not the case, Hopkins has been a light in the darkness and has actually played quite well. He is a tad above average but brings hope to a crumbling franchise. In 2020, the Bengals have already made moves to bring Hopkins help to protect newly acquired Joe Burrow in a division with some scary pass rushers.
Baltimore Ravens: Ronnie Stanley (T)
Stanley was drafted 6th overall and has not disappointed in the slightest. Since he has been in the league he has been above average, and has done a great job keeping his quarterbacks safe, but in 2019, he took another step and is now one of the best tackles in the NFL. He scored the highest grade as a tackle through the 2019 season. Stanley played a large part in the team’s success last season, but because he is part of the offensive line he tends to get overlooked and receives next to no credit for the teams accomplishments.
Buffalo Bills: Jordan Poyer (S)
Poyer is a part of one of the greatest young defensive young cores in the NFL. The Bill’s front office deserves a lot of credit for putting together such a dynamic defensive full of young and emerging talent. Because the Buffalo secondary is full of so many big names like Tre White and Micah Hyde, Poyer sometimes can be forgotten. He makes sure you do not forget about him on the field, he plays loud and hard on every snap, and could be a big reason the Bill’s go farther in the postseason in 2020.
New England Patriots: Joe Thuney (G)
The Patriots were one of the best regular-season teams last year, they started the year with an insane 8-0 record, but their lackluster offensive was soon exposed. Their defense was generational but could only carry their stagnant offense for so long. But it wasn’t all bad for the New England offense. They found a bright spot with offensive guard Joe Thuney. Thuney actually was one of the best guards in the league according to PFF, and Belicheck clearly likes him because he stuck a franchise tag on him which he rarely does. It is clear that New England is going to look a lot differently in 2020, strategically. It will interesting to see how they use Thuney’s extreme talent.
Miami Dolphins: Nik Needham (CB)
After this last draft the Dolphins have provided themselves with a lot of depth in many positions on their team. Last season it seems as if Needham has secured a place as one of the best defensive backs on the team. Miami recently picked up former Cowboys star corner, Byron Jones. The combination of Needham and Jones will be one of the best in the league, and much like the Dolphins as a whole, Needham is very underrated.
New York Jets: Marcus Maye (S)
Maye is the counterpart to one of the best safeties in the league in Jamal Adams, so Maye spends a lot of time living in his shadow. But, what most casual fans do not realize is that Marcus Maye is also a sensational talent in the New York secondary. At the end of the 2019 season, he had tallied up 50 tackles and played a large role in the defense’s success. While the offense sputtered game after game, the Jets defense was actually a bright spot, and will most likely be even better in 2020, due to the fact that CJ Mosely and others would return from injuries.
Houston Texans: Justin Reid (S)
Justin Reid had the unfortunate opportunity to attempt to fill the shoes of Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary in Houston. This is no easy task, but he has been surprisingly successful. Not to say he has reached Mathieu’s level quite yet, but he has been more than serviceable. He ended the season in 2019 with a couple interceptions and 57 tackles as a safety. The future for the Texans is unknown and they seem to be shooting themselves in the foot in the front office, we shall see if the Houston roster can rise above their incompetent franchise executives. Reid will play an important part in the team’s potential success.
Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo (T)
Castonzo is a member of perhaps the best offensive line in the NFL, and for that reason, there are a lot of good players on the squad, including what might be the best guard in the game, Quenton Nelson. Nelson deserves the praise that he gets, but talents like Tackle Anthony Castonzo become a bit underrated. He finished one of the best seasons in his career and will help his Colt’s team turn some heads in 2020.
Tennessee Titans: DaQuan Jones (DT)
The Titans shocked the world last season and found themselves in the AFC Championship game. As a team, they were better than projected and did whatever necessary to win. Their run defense was great and one reason was because of DaQuan Jones. Jones is a rising star in this league, and should only improve as he gets older and wiser.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Brandon Linder (C)
Linder is a name that people should learn very quickly, the Jaguars offensive line is middle of the pack, but their center is not. Linder is a shining star on a crumbling and re-building franchise. He is going to look very bad in 2020, but hopefully he will be placed in a situation that will show his greatness in the future.
Denver Broncos: Justin Simmons (S)
Not only is Simmons an underrated part of the Denver Broncos defense, he is also an underrated safety in the NFL. Denver prides themselves in their defensive capabilities and hiring coach Vic Fangio was further prove of this. They have also been experts at drafting young defensive players and Simmons is just another feather in their cap. Simmons finished the year with 65 tackles and 4 interceptions, in 2020, hopefully he will take another leap and become one of the best safeties in the league.
Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Moore (QB)
Moore is the only quarterback on this list because he was greatly under appreciated in the 2019 season. When the beloved Pat Mahomes fell temporarily to injury, Moore took he place and played quite well. In just a few games he threw for 659 yards and threw for 4 touchdowns. His passer rating was over 100 and he didn’t throw one pick. The Chiefs went on to win the Super Bowl and Moore should get a little bit of the credit.
Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler (HB)
With the devaluation of the running back position, running backs have been extremely undervalued and Ekeler is no exception. Last season, his counterpart Melvin Gordon attempted to hold out for more money, his leverage all but disappeared when Ekeler exploded onto the scene proving that Gordon was extremely replaceable. Ekeler was the definition of a dual threat back and rushed for 557 yards and acquired 993 yards receiving. Altogether he accumulated 11 touchdowns and was a rare bright spot, on a disappointing team.
Las Vegas Raiders: Maxx Crosby (EDGE)
It is safe to say that Gruden and the Raider’s front office know what they are doing. The franchise may not be winning Super Bowls anytime soon, but they have a spark of life that they haven’t had since the early 2000s. Their 2019 draft was extremely successful, proof of that was Maxx Crosby out of Eastern Michigan. Crosby might be one of the most underrated players in the entire NFL. He finished the season with 4 forced fumbles, 36 tackles, and 10 sacks. That is one more sack than rookie sensation Nick Bosa. Watch out for the Raiders down the road, they could be a dynasty in the making.
Detroit Lions: Marvin Jones Jr.
For more than casual football fans, it is clear that Detroit might have one of the most underrated receiving cores in the league. The combination of Golladay and Jones are a quarterback’s dream. Recently, Golladay has finally received some of the credit that has been past due, but Jones still lives in an extremely underrated bushel. Jones racked up nearly 800 receiving yards and pulled in 9 touchdowns as well. Perhaps if Matt Stafford can stay healthy in 2020, the Detroit air raid can meet its full potential.
Green Bay Packers: Kenny Clark (DT)
Clark has been around for a while and has honestly been underrated for multiple seasons now, and deserves more attention than he is getting. He now has some pieces on his defense that have helped him turn the Green Bay defense into one of the best in the NFC. Not only are they good, but for the most part they are young. It is a wonder what direction the Packers are going offensively, but their defense will be ready to tear it up if the season actually happens.
Minnesota Vikings: Eric Kendricks (LB)
Kendricks has slowly and completely under the radar become one of the best linebackers in football. The Minnesota defense has been an absolute problem for a number of years and it is because of players like Eric Kendricks. He ended the year with 70 tackles and 2 forced fumbles and has shown up time after time with the game on the line. The Vikings have a very high chance of digressing in 2020, perhaps Kendricks will have an even better season and lead his team to an improbable playoff birth.
Chicago Bears: Allen Robinson II (WR)
Robinson is a rare talent that has had the unfortunate circumstances of beginning is career with Blake Bortles and now has Mitch Trubisky throwing him the ball. Despite having these poor talents throwing him the ball, he has still managed to shine and help his offenses have somewhat of a passing game. In 2019, Robinson had 1,147 yards receiving and 7 touchdown catches. It is safe to say that he has the potential to be one of the best wide outs in the NFL if he ever gets a decent quarterback.
Dallas Cowboys: Xavier Woods (S)
The Cowboys front office has to give themselves a pat on the back for their recent ability to draft young talent. They selected Woods in the sixth round and he has played quite well for America’s team. Early last season Woods ranked 9th in his position but was continuously overshadowed by cornerback Byron Jones. Now that Jones has left town, Woods will be able to show the world what he can do, and help Dallas get past Philly to secure the NFC East crown.
New York Giants: Dexter Lawrence (DT)
Lawrence is a part of one of the best collegiate defensive lines in recent history, and out of his teammates you can make the argument, his game has translated best to the pro game. He has found his home at nose tackle and is a walking tank at a whopping 340 pounds. Lawrence could be a big reason why the Giants could find themselves back in the winner’s column in the next couple of seasons.
Philadelphia Eagles: Dallas Goedert (TE)
Much like a lot of the players on this list, Goedert is a terrific player that happens to be a counterpart to one of the best at their positon. Goedert can sometimes be overshadowed by the talents of Zach Ertz. Though Ertz is deserves all of the attention he gets, Goedert needs some credit for some of the offensive success the Eagles found, despite the tsunami of injuries that fell upon them. If the Eagles can finally have a healthy season, perhaps that could make another run at a second Super Bowl.
Washington TBA: Matt Ioannidis (EDGE)
Ioanndis has improved his game every season that he has been in the league, in 2019 he transformed into one of the best edge rushers in the league. He doubled his number of tackles and brought down the opposing quarterback 8.5 times. The combination of Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan were beginning to be a nightmare for offenses, now that Washington has added rookie Chase Young, it will be fun to see their defensive line begin to look a lot like San Francisco’s last season.
New Orleans Saints: Marcus Williams (S)
One of the highest graded safeties in the game isn’t one of the household names you would expect. Williams was a core piece on a championship caliber team, he had four picks and 40 tackles, which is among the top tier at his position. The Saints are a team that are always favorites, but cannot seem to finish the job, perhaps 2020 will finally be there year to take it to the next level and win New Orleans another ring.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Carlton Davis (CB)
The Buccaneers are obviously going to be one of the most-watched teams in 2020 due to the acquisition of the best quarterback to strap them on. What a lot of people do not realize is that if it were not for the insane amount of turnovers committed by their former quarterback they would most likely be a playoff team. Their defense came alive in the second half of the season as well, one player that assisted in that turnaround greatly was cornerback Carlton Davis. He had a whopping 54 tackles and ended the season as the leader of the Tampa secondary.
Atlanta Falcons: Grady Jarrett (DT)
Many of the players on this list are young and rising stars, Jarrett has been in the NFL for years now but improved tremendously in 2019. He tallied 7.5 sacks and was a problem stopping the run. Atlanta is not known for having amazing talents on their defense in recent years, but Jarrett might be an exception. In a division that is full of offense powerhouses, the Falcons will needs Jarrett and the rest of the defense to step it up in 2020.
Carolina Panthers: Curtis Samuel (WR)
Samuel is not only an underrated star on his own team, but he is an underrated wide receiver in the NFL. His quarterback, Cam Newton, fell to injury early in the year in 2019, and Samuel had to rely on the arm of some ill equipt quarterbacks. He still managed to shine and might even break out next season with some fresh blood at the quarterback position. As a smart fantasy football owner, it may be a good idea to keep an eye put for Curtis Samuel in 2020.
Los Angeles Rams: Troy Hill (CB)
Recently, the Rams added what potentially could be the best cornerback in the NFL in Jalen Ramsey. But, what people do not realize is that statistically, Ramsey is not even the best corner on his new team. After week 6, Hill became the highest-graded corner in the league by PFF. Now, with a combination of Hill and Ramsey for a full season, the Rams pass defense is going to be scary. Then you add in the best pass rusher in the NFL Aaron Donald, it makes for terror for offensive coordinators.
San Francisco 49ers: K’waun Williams (CB)
In 2020, the Niners are coming off of a terrific year and a Super Bowl appearance. Their defense was ferocious and was one of the best in the league. They are a team of few weaknesses, but some might argue a weakness could be their secondary. Though it is not their strength they still have some under the radar players that play above average. An example of this player is K’waun Williams. Williams was an essential part of Robert Saleh’s defense and will continue to increase his role as he continues to get better.
Seattle Seahawks: Shaquill Griffin (CB)
Seattle’s defense played better than a lot of people could have predicted in 2019, they did their part to capture a whopping 11 wins with a roster that is sub-par. In 2020, if they do improve their pass rush it will be extremely difficult for the Seahawk secondary to cover for long periods of time. The secondary for Seattle as a unit is underrated, but Shaq Griffin is a corner that deserves more respect. He had 45 tackles and became the leader of the Seattle secondary. It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks fare with limited talent on their defensive line.
Arizona Cardinals: Jalen Thompson (S)
The Cardinals are one of the most intriguing teams this next season, their offense had the uncertainties at first but seemed to adjust and solve their issues midseason. Their defense however did not, and even with the addition of Isaiah Simmons, the defense looks to be the team’s leadership. With Patrick Peterson coming off of a bad year, they needed others to step up, and Jalen Thompson answered the call at safety. He may not be a star in this league yet, but he is certainly on his way.
One of the greatest honors in the sports world is gracing the cover of one of the most popular sports video games in the world. NBA 2k. It is every athlete’s dream to have their face shown to the world as one of the best basketball players that season. Here is a list of some of the greatest NBA players to never have such an opportunity, despite being extremely productive on the basketball court. There are some that were rewarded a place on other basketball games, but not the one that has monopolized the basketball game market. Here are some honorable mentions.
10. Ray Allen. Because Allen was such a big part of the Celtics Finals teams, and hit one of the biggest shots in Finals history with the Miami Heat, he is seen as just a clutch pure shooter. While this is true, NBA fans tend to forget that Allen was an all-around superstar for the Seattle Super Sonics. There is no question he is one of the greatest shooters to ever live and had ice in his veins. Allen ended his career as a 10x all-star a 2x champion.
9. Paul Pierce. Pierce was a competitor. He is a very underrated player that never really seemed to get the respect that he deserved. “The Truth” was a Boston Celtic for most of his career and will forever be known as such. In 2007, the Celtics created one of the original super teams as superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Pierce in Boston. They went to the Finals back to back years splitting them with Kobe’s Lakers. Pierce was the Finals MVP and was certainly a star in the league.
8. Jason Kidd. Kidd is the definition of a floor general. In the history of the league, he joins just a few as one of the greatest passers to play. He helped a plagued Nets team attend the NBA Finals. During his time in the NBA he led the league in assists five times. He was also known for being a triple-double machine long before it was common in today’s game. When he hung up his sneakers he ended up averaging 8.7 assists a game which is a crazy number. Kidd should have at least been considered as a finalist to have the honor of being on the cover of 2k.
7. Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is one of the few active players on this list. Russ is one of the most polarizing players in the league and plays every night like it is the NBA Finals. His athleticism is mesmerizing as well as his determination on the court. Russ is a player that doesn’t care what you think about him, and that is part of his brand. He has had some criticism as to how he plays in the postseason, but perhaps that may change in the futrue. He is a part of a star-studded Rockets team that has the potential to make some noise in the postseason.
6. Carmelo Anthony. Melo was drafted in 2003 with some pretty big names. He did not waste anytime before making a splash in the league. As a member of the Denver Nuggets he put the league on notice and quickly became a superstar. Anthony is a 10x All-Star that was almost impossible to stop when he had the ball in his hands. Though he hasn’t won an NBA title he will go down as one of the best scoring small forwards to play the game. He always upped his game in the Olympics and destroyed the opposition and was a big reason why we won 3 gold medals. It is truly a wonder he was never was on a game cover.
5. Tracy McGrady. TMAC was one of the best scorers the league had ever seen for a good while before falling to a cascade of injuries that halted his career. Who knows what McGrady could have accomplished if he was to never be plagued with these unfortunate circumstances. He won the scoring title twice and was a 7x all-star. He was one of the most electric players in the NBA for a while, so it is surprising he was not chosen for a game cover.
4. Steve Nash. Nash was a part of a star-studded 1996 draft with legends such as Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, and Ray Allen. He was one of the best point guards of the era, and helped the Phoenix Suns stay in contention year after year. He controversially won back to back MVP awards and was one of the purest shooters in league history. Nash was one of the faces of the league during the 2000’s and it is surprising that he never had the opportunity to be on 2k’s cover.
3. Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is a player that is still active and productive in the NBA today. He is still in the middle of his prime and has the potential to move up on this list if he continues to turn heads. Leonard as won two titles with two different teams and was the Finals MVP in both victories. He has a strange and quiet personality that does not find joy in the spotlight. This may be a reason as to why he has not been selected to grace a 2k cover. His Clippers have a very good chance of making it to the Finals if the season continues this season. Time will tell where Leonard will land on the list of all-time greats.
2. Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki may have one of the most impressive title wins in the history of the NBA. In 2011, his Mavericks took down Kobe’s Lakers, Durant’s Thunder, and then beat Lebron’s Heat in the Finals. Though the Mavericks had some highly skilled role players they won the championship with only one major star. Nowitzki revolutionized the game and was anomaly, it was extremely rare for a tall player like himself to have a great shot. There are few signature shots as unblockable as the Nowitzki fadeaway. He was a league MVP and was an NBA All-Star a whopping 14 times. He paved the wat for many other European stars that play in the league today, and certainly should have been on the face of 2k in America.
Tim Duncan. Duncan should be an obvious choice as the number one player to have never graced the face of NBA 2k. He was the face of the San Antonio Spurs’ dynasty for the duration of the 2000’s and was the main reason the Spurs won 5 championships. He was the MVP for three of those championship victories. He was also awarded the MVP of the league honors twice in his career and could be the best Power Forward to ever play the game. Duncan was always known as being a low-key that didn’t seem to enjoy the spotlight. Maybe this was the reason he was never chosen to be on the cover of this particular video game.
This past week something happened that finally made the world feel a little bit of normal. For one evening, it felt like there was hope. It felt like the gift of sports had returned. Cam Newton finally was off the open market and signed with the New England Patriots. Out of all of the possible teams he could have signed with, the Patriots might have been the most intriguing. So let us take a minute to see where Newton ranks among his fellow AFC quarterbacks. Rookies have not had a chance to prove themselves so will not be considered on this list.
15. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has been around the league for a while and has skipped around to 8 different teams. He started on some teams and was a backup on others. We have seen a lot of snaps from him and know who he is, and who he isn’t. Fitzpatrick is a player that can throw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns in one game, and then turn around and throw 4 interceptions the next. It is clear that if he is a starter he might win you five games maximum, but is one of the greatest backups in league history. Overall a solid, but inconsistent player that is not a starting quarterback. Hopefully he will use his years and experience to be a positive mentor for rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
14. Tyrod Taylor. Much like Fitzpatrick, Taylor has seemed to play the part of a transitional piece that is not good enough to be a successful starter but is good enough to mentor the young up and comer. In his years in Buffalo, he was above average and took the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1995. He then ventured west to Cleveland where he started for a few games, but lost the job to former Heisman Winner, Baker Mayfield. In Los Angeles, he may have another opportunity to show that he an once again can be a productive starter in the NFL. The Chargers are not lacking talent, but rookie Justin Herbert, is waiting to take his spot after any mistake.
13. Gardner Minshew. Minshew is a perfect example of a great talent in a terrible situation. Minshew was drafted to a team that had found recent and brief success before he got there, but then began a rebuilding process with plans that most likely do not include him. Last season in 14 games he threw for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with minimal talent. This next year he is not going to look good, with no fault to his own. It is sad to see such a talent’s career be in shambles so early. Hopefully, at some point down the line, he will get another chance to prove his worth.
12. Drew Lock. It seems that Denver has finally found a capable quarterback that will be able to keep up with an excellent defense. There is a chance that Denver could give the Chiefs a run for their money for the AFC West Division crown. Lock hasn’t had too many opportunities to prove himself, perhaps he will be higher on this list at the end of next season. He will not have many excuses, because he has been gifted some of the best offensive weapons in the league. He has the potential to be the next player to come out of nowhere and compete for the MVP trophy.
11. Derek Carr. Carr may be one of the best quarterbacks in Raider’s history but has been skimming the surface of mediocrity ever since his near MVP year in 2016. It seems that 2020 might be his last chance to prove his worth to Coach Gruden and Raider Nation. The Raiders have acquired a lot of young talent, they just need a franchise quarterback to lead them to the promised land. Perhaps Carr could make the most of this year and prove us all wrong.
10. Ryan Tannehill. If you are going off of recency bias, Tannehill should be higher up on this list. If you are to look at Tannehill’s career as a whole, he is a .500 quarterback. Granted he has spent the majority of his career in the toxic culture of Miami and may have a bright future with the Tennessee Titans. If he can perform like he did last season, year after year, there is no question he is a solid franchise quarterback. The Titans have brought back all of their key offensive skill players and should make some noise in the AFC in 2020.
9. Baker Mayfield. Baker Mayfield has proven to be a tough shell to crack. It is been hard to see what he truly is based on his first two seasons in the NFL. As a rookie, he broke the touchdown record and brought the cursed Cleveland Brown franchise a ray of hope. In his second season, he threw for 22 touchdowns, as well as 21 picks and a passer rating of 78.8. His first two seasons were night and day, which makes the 2020 season extremely important for his future. He should be optimistic though because his terrible offensive line has improved dramatically, and his joke of a head coach has been replaced by an offensive mastermind.
8. Sam Darnold. Darnold has honestly been surprisingly productive despite his toxic franchise and horrible offensive line play. He has managed to keep a team above water without talented offensive skill players. If it weren’t for injuries and his unfortunate dance with mono, the Jets may have messed around and found their way into the playoffs. This next season the Jets still don’t have many offensive weapons, but they have made a lot of improvements to the offensive line. If Darnold and the Jets can stay healthy, it will be interesting to see where they end up.
7. Josh Allen. Since Jim Kelly’s Bills in the ’90s, Buffalo has done a lot of nothing. In 2019, the Bills have a team that could put all of that to rest. They seem to have a competent coach and a surplus of young talent on both sides of the ball. Their quarterback, Josh Allen, has been decent but has had issues with accuracy. Through the past season, he showed glimpses of extreme diligence and athleticism. In 2020, the Bills picked up one of the best deep threats in the league Stefon Diggs. With Allen’s rocket for an arm and Digg’s speed they could be a match made in heaven. It is fair to say that Allen has a high ceiling, but still has a lot to prove.
6. Cam Newton. Finally, we have found a place for the former MVP, Cam Newton. He was released by the Panthers at a terrible time. Questions surrounding his health were complex and could not be answered due to COVID 19, while all of the other free agent quarterbacks were signing deals. This past week Newton finally agreed to a deal with the New England Patriots. This season will answer an abundance of questions, such as was Newton’s lack of success due to the alleged injuries or has he really digressed that dramatically. It might also answer the question if Belicheck can win with another quarterback. The narrative of the Patriots still not yielding a large arsenal of offensive weapons still exists, although Newton has accomplished feats with minimal talent in the past. Some aspects of Newton’s contract show that even the Pats are skeptical on Cam, and do not have full trust in him. But, IF Newton is fully healthy and back to his former self, he is sixth on this list.
5. Phillip Rivers. Rivers is another name that has been in the league for a very long time. He has always had tremendous stats and led his Chargers to a winning record season after season. He has disappointed in the league’s biggest stages and is coming off his career-worst year. This may turn a lot of people off and may raise questions about the placement of Rivers. But he has equity in the position and went from one of the worst lines in the league to one of the best. His non-mobile style of play may be outdated, but it will not matter standing behind the Indy O-line.
4. Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has a lot to prove in 2020, after being listed out for the season early last year, it is clear that he might have some rust on him. He is 38 and could be approaching a cliff where he dramatically drops in productivity. I do not think that season is here yet though. He has underrated weapons and has Super Bowl capabilities. His last full season healthy he led the league in yards with over 5,000. Unfortunately, they share the division with the powerhouse Ravens who they will have to match up with twice. The Steelers franchise seems to make the right decisions frequently, so I trust their judgment in putting their trust in Roethlisberger.
3. Deshaun Watson. Watson has brought a mediocre franchise into the playoff picture season after season. He is a player that just seems to find a way to win no matter what the circumstances may be. In 2020, he will have to play without the talents of one of the best receivers to strap on cleats, DeAndre Hopkins. His weapons are going to be extremely limited. If he can still find a way to the playoffs next year, it will be clear that he is one of the best of the best. A generational talent.
2. Lamar Jackson. Jackson has claimed the second spot on this list, but has an army of talented players licking their chops to take his place. It was clear that in 2019 Lamar Jackson was a human highlight reel. Every week he was making jaw-dropping miraculous plays. He is led by one of the best coaching staffs in the league, and is accompanied by what might be the best roster in the league. It is said that quarterbacks that are mobile are like dogs that chase cars… they never last. Perhaps, if Jackson can learn to slide he can prove this wrong. It will be fun to see how far Jackson takes the Ravens in 2020.
Patrick Mahomes. It seems as if Mr. Mahomes tops the majority of lists on this website. He is one of the most exciting up and coming players the league has ever seen. In his first season as a starter he took home the MVP trophy and threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns. He certainly added to his resume in 2019, winning the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl MVP. With the Kansas City Chiefs bringing back the majority of the roster, there is no reason to doubt that Mahomes will be fun and electric yet again.
5. Atlanta Braves. The addition of Cole Hamels to a young but strong rotation will make the Braves better than they were last year (if he can stay healthy) and sliding Marcel Ozuna into a lineup alongside Ronald Acuña, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman makes Atlanta the clear front-runner in the NL east. Could this be the year that Dansby Swanson lives up to the hype? Projected record 38-22
4. Houston Astros. No team is happier than the Houston Astros to be playing games without fans this season. After being caught in the biggest scandal since the steroid era (maybe since the Black Sox), it will be interesting to see how Houston fares in their new role as league villain. Their division will be tougher as they’ll have to face Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout, and a healthy Shohei Ohtani on a regular basis, but their lineup of stars and a rotation of Verlander, Greinke, and McCullers Jr will be tough to push out of the top spot in the AL West. Projected record: 39-21
3. Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have built one of the best starting rotations in baseball with Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton and they have a bullpen to match it. Their bats leave something to be desired, especially after losing Tommy Pham, but look for the Rays to push the Yankees hard in the AL East, especially in a 60-game season. Projected record: 39-21
2. Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have been the cream of the NL crop for the last three seasons. This winter all they did was add an experienced veteran arm in David Price and one of the game’s absolute best 5-tool players in Mookie Betts. I’d bet on some regression from Bellinger, but even so, if LA is going to finally break through and win a title, this is the year to do it. Projected record: 42-16
New York Yankees. In 2019, 30 different Yankees landed on the IL and they still won 103 games and a division title. This year, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton look poised to be the destructive duo that we missed out on last summer and GM Brian Cashman addressed the team’s one real weakness by adding arguably the best starting pitcher in the game to an already solid rotation. If there’s a chink in New York’s armor, I don’t see it. Projected record: 43-17
10. Zion Williamson. Although it is clear this could be a tad premature, the hype surrounding the Duke phenom is electric. The expectations and pressure on Williamson is extreme and rare. He hasn’t accomplished anything quite yet, but give him time and he will rise all the way to number one on this list.
9. Muggsy Bogues. Bogues is known for being one of the shortest players to ever play in the NBA. Not only did he play, but he excelled. Standing 5’3 he managed to get buckets amongst the trees, and was a serviceable player for 14 seasons. Bogues also made an appearance on the movie Space Jam with Michael Jordan and other NBA stars.
8. Devin Booker. Much like Williamson, Booker is still a young player and has the potential to be higher on this list be the time his NBA career is finished. As of now, he is one of the best young scorers in the league, and can drain a shot from anywhere on the court. One night against the Boston Celtics he put up 70 points, making him one of six players in NBA history to score that many points in a game. Booker has a bright future, and if on another team, could have a lot more publicity.
7. Chris Bosh. Bosh was a third wheel on one of the best teams in the history of the NBA. After being an All-Star with the Toronto Raptors, he joined LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat to make one of the first classic “super teams.” He was drafted in the star-studded 2003 NBA draft and ended his career early due to health problems. When it was all said and done he was a member of 5 All-Star teams and won two NBA titles.
6. Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire was one of the great bigs of the mid 2000’s and was the perfect ‘ying’ to Steve Nash’s ‘yang.’ Together they were dynamic and a force to be reckoned with. Stoudemire finished his NBA career with 6 All-Star appearances and the 2003 Rookie of the Year award. There is no question he is one of the best players to ever have number one on his chest.
5. Chauncey Billups. Billups has to go down as one of the most underrated players in the history of the National Basketball Association. He led the Detroit Pistons to one of the greatest underdog victories in sports history. The 2004 NBA Finals victory over the Los Angeles Lakers was nothing short of a miracle. He was dominate from long range and directed the offense to perfection. He was also defensive minded much like the rest of the Pistons at the time. He was a true two way player.
4. Derrick Rose. Rose is one of the most inspiring stories in sports. He went from being the youngest player to win the MVP, to completely out of the league due to a tsunami of injuries. Who knows where Rose would have ended up if it wasn’t for these unfortunate circumstances. Perhaps, one of the greats. He was like a ballerina with a basketball, he leaped with such grace, and made ‘Houdini’ like finishes at the rim.
3. Penny Hardaway. Anfernee Hardaway was a star player and was a part of a team that was one of the few to defeat Jordan’s Bulls in their prime. The combination of Penny and Shaquille O’Neal were lethal, and dominated in the late 90’s. He was an All-Star and his ceiling was extremely high before falling continuously to injuries.
2. Tracy McGrady. There must be something with the number one that carries career ending injuries, much like Hardaway and Rose, McGrady fought injuries the duration of his NBA tenure. With these issues he still managed to be a 7x NBA All-Star and was a scoring champion TWICE. He was a prolific scorer and would have been an all-time great if it weren’t for an unfortunate series of injuries.
Oscar Robertson. “Big O” is one of the greatest point guards to play that game, and brought the one and only championship to Milwaukee with the help of one Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Robertson was king of the triple-double long before Russell Westbrook came along. By the end of his career, he made the All-Star team 12 times and was awarded the MVP trophy in 1962. Although, there are some star players on this list, none can make the case for the greatest player to wear the number 1, except “Big O.”
25. Juju Smith-Schuster. After a down year, it can be easy to push Juju off of this list, especially with all of the raw talents that didn’t make the cut. But, his decrease in number last year was justified due to a large number of reasons. One, Antonio Brown got the boot out of Pittsburgh and was one of the best receivers in the league. Because of his overwhelming talent, he drew the attention of double teams on a weekly basis, resulting in a wide-open Juju. It also didn’t help that his future Hall of Fame quarterback was out for the season. In 2018, he racked up 1,418 yards and 7 touchdowns. It is clear that in 2020, we will learn a lot about Juju, and where he fits in with the rest of the league.
24. Fred Warner. (23) Warner was an absolute animal in 2019, he absolutely put on a show for the ‘Niners. He finished the season with 89 tackles and helped them get to a Super Bowl. With additions like Javon Kinlaw, the Niners defense will only be more versatile. If he keeps developing who knows where he will land.
23. Jaire Alexander. (23) Alexander was just one of the phenominal defresnive acquisitions that the Packers picked up recently. He has proven to be an extremely valuable asset in the secondary. Quarterbacks have made it a habit to throw to the opposite side of the field of ALexander. Last year alone the younf phenom had 50 tackles and a two interceptions and assisted in taking his team one game short of hte Super Bowl.
22. AJ Brown. (22) Much like the Tennessee Titans team as a whole, Brown came out of nowhere in the second half of 2019 and was the most popular target for Ryan Tannehill. He ended the season with 1,051 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns. He was a lethal, explosive weapon for the Titans. His efforts combined with running back Derrick Henry led the underdog Titans all the way to the AFC Championship.
21. Alvin Kamara. (24) Kamara is a player that was far higher on this list just a year prior, and still is a serious problem in the league. He has suffered some injuries that have slowed him down, but are far from stopping him. The Saints have a powerhouse of an offense and Kamara is a big reason why. When he finds the open field he can make anyone miss, he is a great receiving back with the ultimate combination of speed and agility.
20. Kyler Murray. (22) Murray is in one word, a winner. Since high school, he has done nothing but win. The former Heisman Trophy winner is pure entertainment on a football field and his future is as bright as any quarterback in the league. After a better than average rookie season, and taking home the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, Murray has some new toys to play with on offense and a new and improved offense. It will be exciting to see what he accomplishes in 2020.
19. Joey Bosa. (24) Bosa is one of two brothers that have proven to be terrors to offenses and quarterbacks in particular. The combination of athleticism and power makes Joey Bosa nearly impossible to contain. He is just one of many young defensive talents on the Chargers that should cause the rest of the league to be uneasy. He has had problems staying healthy, but if he can put a full season together he could lead the league in sacks.
18. Minkah Fitzpatrick. (23) It is not common for a player to be traded to a team and make an immediate and dramatic impact. Once Minkah was shipped to Pittsburgh he became a turnover generator. It seemed every game he was returning a pick for a touchdown or forcing a fumble. Fitzpatrick is still so young and is oozing with legendary potential. The Pittsburgh defense is loaded with young talent, and Fitzpatrick will fit in just fine. I wouldn’t want to through it near the middle of the field while Minkah is playing. He finished 2019 with 5 picks and 44 tackles.
17. Marshon Lattimore. (24) Lattimore is considered to be one of the most talented young defensive backs in the league and rightfully so. He has been one of the key players on a team that is continually a Super Bowl contender. He finished last season with 46 tackles and has earned his stripes as a player that will shut down your best receiver.
16. Nick Chubb. (24) Chubb is part of a dynasty of running backs hailing from University of Georgia. Chubb ran for just under 1,500 yards last season, and potentially could have had a lot more. He ran for about 5 yards a pop, and most would argue that he was underutilized last season. His new head coach Kevin Stefanski has a great offensive reputation, and with the improvement of the offensive line, Chubb is set up to have a career year.
15. Mark Andrews. (24) Andrews was quietly one of the best tight ends in the league just a season ago and was just one weapon of many for MVP Lamar Jackson. Every Sunday it seemed like he was pulling in another touchdown catch. In 2020, the Ravens roster added even more talent, and are looking like the best team in the league. It will be fun to see what the Ravens do offensively next season. In 15 games Andrews accumulated 10 touchdown catches.
14. Chris Godwin. (24) Godwin was a part of an electric high scoring offense in Tampa. Jameis Winston put on a show week after week but had some help from some very talented wideouts. Godwin scored 9 touchdowns and ended the year with 1,333 receiving. This next year he has been gifted the greatest quarterback to ever play in Tom Brady, the Buccs have a lot of pressure on them this season, but should put on an absolute show. Tom Brady plus the duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin should be a complete aerial attack.
13. Darius Leonard. (24) Talk about complete domination by the Indy front office in the recent drafts. They have put together a potentially lethal team with a lot of young talent. One of those young studs is linebacker Darius Leonard. He all the necessary attributes to be an all-great linebacker when it’s all said and done. In 2019, he punished offenses and acquired 71 tackles and sacked the quarterback five times. The Colts should be a scary team next season led by their defensive signal-caller Darius Leonard.
12. Marlon Humphrey. (23) Yet another Raven to make this list. Baltimore has an arsenal of young talent that should terrify the rest of the league. Marlon Humphrey is no exception. Last season he managed to get 53 tackles and 3 interceptions. He was a human highlight real and had one of the best seasons as a corner. Next season the Ravens defense will be explosive and certainly one of best in the NFL.
11. Myles Garrett. (24) Garrett is truly a man among boys, he is built like a truck and plays as aggressively as anyone in the NFL. In just 37 games he has managed to sack the quarterback 30.5 times and forced 6 fumbles. If he merely maintains these numbers he will go down as an all-time great. When you think of Myles Garrett, you automatically think of the incident with Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph. If he can keep a good head on his shoulders and leave it on the field he can erase that memory and lead the Browns to the playoffs in 2020.
10. Derwin James. (23) Derwin James would have thrived in the NFL if he were to have played ten years ago. James is like a predator stalking his prey and when he strikes you will be feeling it for weeks. Derwin James is still so young and is already one of the best safeties in the league. Last year he suffered some injuries that slowed him down, but after plenty of rest and recovery time, it should be exciting to see how good he is in 2020.
9. Nick Bosa. (22) For some people Joey Bosa’s little brother Nick may seem a little bit high on this list with only one year of play to draw opinions from. But, in his rookie season, Bosa was like a hot knife through butter and turned offensive linemen into turnstiles. When he wasn’t sacking the quarterback he was pressuring him, leading to mistakes. The San Francisco pass rush was a force to be reckoned with and carried their team all the way to the Super Bowl.
8. Ezekial Elliot. (24) Elliot has been one of the most consistently productive half backs in the NFL. Year after year he feasts and chips away and defenses. He runs with a power that takes the souls of the defenders. Last season, Elliot scampered for 1,357 yards and punched in 12 touchdown runs. He has been the most valuable skill position player for the Dallas Cowboys, and could break some records if he can stay healthy. Zeke is truly one of the best backs in the league.
7. Deshaun Watson. (24) Watson is capable of miracles and has drug a dull offensive roster to multiple playoff appearances. In 2019, he threw for 3,852 and 28 touchdowns, including a lackluster performance in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. This next season he will be without DeAndre Hopkins who has been one of the best receivers in the NFL for the last couple seasons. Now, he will have to depend on the talents of Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks, who both have the narrative of being unreliable. We will see if he can drag yet another hopeless team to the postseason.
6. Saquon Barkley. (23) There is no question that once Barkley has a functional offensive line his ceiling is limitless. He looks like a running back made in a lab. He is the perfect example of speed and power. Some would say that the Giants reached when selecting him as the second overall pick. He has proven some doubters wrong, and when it is all said and done they will all admit to being wrong. In 2018, is rookies season, he rushed for over 1,300 yards and shocked the world. There was not a lot of improvement to his stats in 2019, in fact, his rushing yards were a couple hundred yards fewer, but this was mostly due to an incompetent offensive line. With some fresh talent on the New York roster, Barkley can thrive and show the world his potential.
5. Jamal Adams. (24) Adams is a new and exciting breed of safety that has the capacity to take over a football game. His aggressive style of play is fun to watch and a nightmare for offensive coordinators. The blitzing style of defensive back is a problem. He clearly knows how great he is and is using it to find a way out of New York. Wherever he lands he will make a monumental difference for the perspective team. In just 46 games Jamal Adams has accumulated 210 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles.
4. Lamar Jackson. (23) This is a no brainer. Some would argue that Jackson is higher up on this list because of the recent MVP season that he conjured up. Like McCaffrey, Jackson finished the season with one of the greatest offensive performances of all time by a quarterback. He broke the all-time rushing record by a quarterback and led his team to the best record in the whole league. He galloped for 1,206 yards and punched in 7 scores on the ground. He also showed out through the air as well, he led the NFL in passing touchdowns with 36 and threw for 3,127 yards. If Jackson can come up clutch in the postseason he should give Mahomes a run for his money as the best quarterback in the league.
3. Christian McCaffrey. (24) McCaffrey recently finished one of the greatest seasons at running back that the league has ever seen. Whether it was on the ground on via the air, McCaffrey was always a threat to take it the distance. After Cam Newton fell subject to yet another injury it was clear what the PAtnehrs strategy was offensively… give the ball to Christian McCaffrey. Last season he combined for 2,392 total yards and 19 total touchdowns. His extraordinary performance also earned him a spot as the highest-paid tailback in the history of the game. Safe to say McCaffrey is a top 5 player under 25, to say the least.
2. Quenton Nelson. (24) Nelson has really been the Savior of the Indianapolis franchise. Sure he has had some help, but prior to the Colts drafting him out of Notre Dame, Andrew Luck was getting pummeled on what seemed like every snap. Now, going into 2020 the Colts might have the best offensive line in the league. After Brandon Brooks of the Philadelphia Eagles has gone down with an injury yet again, there isn’t much debate that Nelson might be the best guard in the NFL.
Patrick Mahomes. (24) I think it is clear that there will not be a lot of push back on the number player on this list. Mahomes in his first couple years has been nothing short of god-like. Besides maybe Lamar Jackson, he is the most fun player to watch on Sundays. It seems every week he is conducing miracles, and breaking records. One knock against him could be that on his side he has one of the greatest offensive minds to coach in Andy Reid, and he has an arsenal of weapons to throw to.
In the world of sports we have seen a large spectrum of various fashion statements. From Russell Westbrook’s unique outfits, to Troy Polamalu’s luscious locks. Some of the most intimating and fun statements are shown in the way of facial hair. See if your favorite bearded athlete makes the cut.
15. Joe Thornton. It may look like it has not been washed in a quarter century, but it provides a rugged look in a rugged sport; so it fits.
14. Andrew Luck. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Andrew Luck’s beard is all that appealing, or even that he pulls it off, but his ‘neard’ has been the origin of a lot of jokes and memes, and sure fits in perfectly with his hilarious yet humble personality. The Civil War General look is unique and fun, and perfect for socks and sandals wearing Andrew Luck.
13. LeBron James. James isn’t really known for his beard, but in his years back in Cleveland he has began to grow it out and it actually fits him really well. During quarantine he has really let it go, though it makes him look quite a bit older, his Kimbo Slice-esque beard makes him look more rugged and intimating then smooth hairless faced LeBron.
12. Ed Reed. Reed seems to really pull off the ‘touch of gray’ look and his beard is just long enough before it starts to get out of control. One of the best safeties to grace a football field, also has one of the best beard as well.
11. Brent Burns. The gnarly beard, paired with the absence of teeth makes Burns the perfect face of hockey. He looks grizzled and unique, ready to plow into anyone in his path. His beard is a thing of beauty, but not quite good enough to crack the top ten.
10. Justin Turner. The ginger beard had to make the top ten, though it is a little out of control and not as well kept as some in the top of the list, it is still one of the best beard in baseball and brings some swagger to the sport. It is clear that Turner’s beard is one of the greatest ginger beards in history.
9. Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel’s luscious beard seems to be the perfect ratio of bushy and well kept. Though, his beard is not one of the most famous around, he is truly a “dark horse” in this debate.
8. Kimbo Slice. One of the most feared beards in the sports universe, due to the mountain of a man that owned it and the severe pain that could follow by coming into contact with it, Slice’s facial hair will go down as one of the best ever.
7. Charles Blackmon. Another “dark horse” that might slip the minds of some people thinking of best beards in sports. Blackmon wears his beard with pride and drips with swag every time he approaches the plate. He does more than pull it off, he makes it cool.
6. Eric Weddle. One of two former Raven’s safeties to make the list. Weddle’s beard may have been short lived, but boy at it’s peak it was one of the best sports had ever seen. Not sure how a beard like that fits with a chinstrap, but he made it work.
5. Ryan Fitzpatrick. I mean come on, just look at the picture above. The combination of the chain, beard, and sunglasses boosts Fitz into the top five. Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be a top 15 quarterback (not even close), but he most certainly has a top 15 beard.
4. Jayson Werth. With Werth you cannot just look at the beard alone, it is the combination of majestic wavy locks and a crisp testosterone filled beard that makes it high on the list. There is something about that look and a baseball uniform, that makes the whole thing look like something out of a superhero comic.
3. James Harden. Duh. Harden has one of the most iconic beards in history, not just sports. It would be a fallacy to snub him off the list. After all, his nickname is “the Beard.” Harden is one of the best offensive basketball player to play the game and his beard only makes him more enjoyable to watch on the court.
2. Brett Keisel. The man. The myth. The legend. Keisel had an excellent career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the legend he left behind didn’t have much to do with football. He will forever be remembered for one of the best beards of all time. Although it may long and rugged, it fit him perfectly. It is also the most intimating on this list. I wouldn’t want to be an offensive lineman lining up across from this Viking of a man. If you look up the definition of man in the dictionary, it has a picture of Brett Keisel.
Brian Wilson. It is clear that baseball was well represented on this list but Wilson’s beard takes the cake. In fact it might be the best beard I have ever seen. When I imagine the perfect beard, I think of what has grown on this man’s face. It has the perfect ratio of bushy and clean, and is an intimating dark black that is almost poetic. It is hard to argue that Wilson’s is the GOAT of sports beards.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars. There is no question that the Jaguars are shipping out their most talented players and eyeing a rebuild. After playing their way to the AFC Championship game in 2018. They performed above expectation due to a terrorizing defense which graced the nickname of “Sacksonville.” Since then, the Jaguars have traded or released all of their star players including potentials Hall of Famers, Jalen Ramsey and Calais Campbell. With some quality quarterbacks in the upcoming draft it seems as if they are entering the “Tanking for Trevor (Lawrence)” sweepstakes. Quarterback Gardner Minshew seems to be a decent quarterback but is getting little to no help from the front office.
31. Washington Redskins. Unlike the Jacksonville Jaguars it seems as if the the Redskins are going into the 2020 season with some hope. With a proven and capable coach in Ron Rivera, and potential game changer on the defensive line with Chase Young, it seems as if the team could be better than last year. This being said, it is hard to believe that Dwayne Haskins is their franchise quarterback for the future. Without an excellent quarterback in a day and age of some of the best quarterback play we have ever seen, it’s difficult to see the Redskins offense keep up with the rest of the league. The foundation is being built for Washington in the future, but their time has not yet come.
30. New York Giants. The Giants seem to be in a similar situation as the inter division rival the Washington Redskins. Both NFL East squads have recently drafted quarterbacks that have a lot to learn. Although Daniel Jones hasn’t quite entered star status, he has shown glimpses of being a capable franchise quarterback for the Giants’ future. Jones’ biggest weakness last season was holding onto the ball. He fumbled 18 times which is not a stat that could possibly lead to a successful offense. Luckily, the Giants improved their offensive line in the draft by drafting a tackle out of Georgia, Andrew Thomas. This will relieve the pressure off of Jones and help create larger holes for running back Saquon Barkley. Much like Washington, their future is bright but they seem to be a year or two away still.
29. Cincinnati Bengals. The Cincinnati Bengals are going to be one of the most exciting teams in the league in 2020. After a dreadful season in 2019, they received the number one pick in the draft. They selected star quarterback Joe Burrow, who has just finalized one of the best college careers in the history of the game. The Bengals have historically been an extremely conservative team and rarely spent large money on players. This off season they finally spent big money and have built a formidable roster. They seem to be set up to win more games then last season, but still have to compete in a very strong AFC North, each team in their division have a strong pass rush. Burrow will most likely spend his first season getting a little beat up. Burrow is the future of the franchise, and already has some decent weapons with AJ Green, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon. Once they have a defense they will be a force in the league.
28. Carolina Panthers. The Carolina Panthers are a peculiar team and have made some off season moves that seem questionable. After Cam Newton’s injury in 2019 the team took a nose dive and fired head coach Ron Rivera. The team recently hired Matt Rhule, who has seen success everywhere that he has been. I believe that he will one day be on the greatest coaches in the league, but they still have a couple more years of building a championship caliber roster. One of their off season acquisitions was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater that has also won on every team he has been on, including going 5-0 backing up superstar Drew Brees. With the retirement of Luke Keuchly, their defense will be desperate for leadership. Kuechly was one of the best to do it and the quarterback and anchor of their defense. Like the Bengals, the Panthers also find themselves in a division that will have high scoring offenses that I just don’t see them slowing down.
27. Chicago Bears. The Bears being as low as 27 might come as a surprise to some football fans, but we all know that when you have two quarterbacks you really don’t have any. Trubisky, while ending strong in 2019, is not the future of the Bears. Sure they signed Nick Foles, Foles has proven to be one of the best backups in NFL history, but when thrown into a starting role has been disappointing. Since the departure of Vic Fangio the scary Bears defensive seems to not look quite as scary. They still are an above average defensive team, but are not good enough to carry a dud of an offense. Luckily, Matt Nagy is a great coach and can find a way to energize their offense.
26. Miami Dolphins. Like the Cincinnati Bengals, the Dolphins will be an intriguing team in 2020. In 2019, it was starting to look like the Dolphins would remain winless by the end of the season. Brian Flores proved haters wrong and coached a team with very limited talent to an unexpected five wins, one being a victory over arch rival New England Patriots. Dolphins fans should be overflowing with hope and excitement at the trajectory of their franchise. After drafting star Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, they finally have a potential superstar quarterback. The Dolphins had double digit draft picks and dominated the draft setting them up for the future. Watch out for the Miami Dolphins in the future. They will win some ball games in 2020, but I do not see them making the playoffs quite yet.
25. Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers were one of the biggest disappointments in 2019, before the season started the narrative was that they could be a championship contender. After finishing the season last in their division and only winning five games, it was clear that some changes needed to be made. After 16 seasons, the Chargers parted ways with Phillip Rivers, and signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is a capable quarterback but does not seem like a quarterback that can lead the team to a playoff birth. The Chargers also drafted a young stud out of Oregon, Justin Herbert. Although the Chargers fixed their biggest weakness in their offensive line, and have one of the most talented rosters in the league, their coaching and city situation seem off and might be degrading their chances of success.
24. Los Angeles Rams. Oof. A team that recently was in the Super Bowl seems to be in a tailspin. The Rams have many big names on their roster, including all-time great Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. They may have stars, but seem to be in a pickle, tied up in horrible contracts and a lack of draft picks. One of these contracts was given to former number one pick Jared Goff. It is true that Goff may not have been a complete bust, but he has under performed and has proven to be unreliable in intense situations. The Rams signed him for four years and 134 million dollars. This might result in a lack of help for a quarterback that is not successful without a great defense and top notch offensive weapons. One bright spot is coach Sean McVay, that can hopefully make the most out of a tricky situation.
23. Minnesota Vikings. This is one team that may come as a shock to some people. The Minnesota Vikings have always seemed to find their way into the playoffs in the recent years, or at least be in contention. Unfortunately, the team seems to be lacking in some critical areas this upcoming season. They lost weapon Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills, who was one of the lethal deep threats in the league. They also lost their brilliant offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski. Their other star offensive player Dalvin Cook just came out and said that he would hold out until given a fair contract. Things are looking a little messy for Coach Zimmer and the Vikings. Minnesota has always prided themselves in their defense, now it seems it is their only hope.
22. Detroit Lions. The Lions over the Vikings and the Bears? This can’t be right! Well it very well might be. Matt Stafford has continually been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, but just hasn’t been able to escape the grasp of his horribly run franchise. In 2019, the Lions were looking to be a decent team until Stafford was ruled out for the season with a back injury. In the 2020 draft the Lions selected D’Andre Swift and cornerback Jeff Okudah. The Lions haven’t had a star running back since Barry Sanders, but if Swift can be productive, watch out for the Detroit offense in 2020. They may not make the playoffs, but they could be in the hunt.
21. Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders were a bit of a surprise in 2019, they were only a game or two from making the playoffs. Head Coach Jon Gruden and staff were easy to criticize at first, but have proven to be capable at producing a winning product. It is very possible that the Raiders won the 2019 draft as they chose star after star, including star running back Josh Jacobs and edge rusher Maxx Crosby. It may seem logical that the Raiders could take the leap and be even better next season, this may be true, but I see the Broncos being the team in the division to take the next step not the Raiders. But who knows, I have doubted Gruden before.
20. Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals were beneficiaries of a very lopsided trade acquiring one of the best wide receivers in the league, De’Andre Hopkins. With the addition of Hopkins the Cardinals already excellent offense will most likely be even better. After winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year, Kyler Murray has proven to get the job done and is the future franchise quarterback for Arizona. One of the biggest question marks for the Cardinals is, how legit is coach Kliff Kingsbury? Clearly, he is a talent as an offensive coordinator but can he create a winning culture in one of the most difficult divisions in the NFL? With San Francisco and Seattle both in the division it seems unlikely that Arizona will find themselves in the playoffs, but could be a bubble team for 2020.
19. New York Jets. The Jets at 19? Who would have thought? The New York Jets will be a respectable team in 2020. In 2019, they were plagued with injuries and lost their young star quarterback to mono for a couple games early in the season. After he returned the Jets improved dramatically. They finished the season 6-2 knocking off some of the better teams in the league. They made off season moves to sure up their offensive line and protect Darnold, and hopefully create space for Le’Veon Bell, which would help to create a balanced offense. The Jets’ weakness shifted from offensive line to lack of offensive weapons. Hopefully, this can be altered in the future creating a complete and scary roster. The Jets might mess around and find themselves in playoff contention.
18. New England Patriots. It is difficult to bet against the greatest coach of all time Bill Belichick. It would be his greatest accolade of all if he were to take a team with no offensive weapons to the playoffs. He has committed to young Auburn alumni Jarrett Stidham at quarterback, and claims he has what it takes to take the reigns after the departure of Tom Brady. There is no question it will fun to see what Bill has up his sleeves (or lack thereof). Could their stealthy defense carry them to the playoffs without the luxury of having one of the greatest quarterback of all time?
17. Houston Texans. Ouch. Bill O’Brian has made some questionable moves this off season, sending away their greatest offensive weapon Hopkins to the Cardinals for David Johnson who didn’t even start. Deshaun Watson has been punished year after year, because of a turnstile of an offensive line. Watson has literally carried his team every year, but this year he has less weapons then ever. If JJ Watt gets injured again this season the Texans will be all out of star power and most likely will not have enough firepower to beat the talented Colts and Titans squads. If Watson finds his way to the playoffs with this team, he deserves some awards.
16. Cleveland Browns. The Cleveland Browns are a good team. Boy does that sound strange. But it is true, the Browns roster is unreal and should have limited excuses if they do not have a winning record in 2020. Quarterback Baker Mayfield took a major step back from his mesmerizing rookie season. His frustration was clear and real as he failed to connect with his star receivers time after time. He was given no help from his incompetent head coach Freddie Kitchens who continuously opted out of handing the ball off to a terrific backfield of Nick Chubb and company. In 2020, the Browns hired a new head coach Kevin Stefanski, who seems like a perfect fit that should guide the Browns to a dominant 2020 season. The Browns are in a difficult division, but have the roster to match the Steelers and even the Ravens punch for punch.
15. Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons seem to be unpredictable year after year. But one thing is certain, the Falcons will have a high-flying air raid offense. Matt Ryan consistently lets it fly and torches defenses. It helps that he has an inhuman receiver in Julio Jones. If newly signed running back Todd Gurley can be the running back before his injury in Los Angeles, the Falcons have the potential to be the best offense in the NFC. They still have some question marks including coach Dan Quinn and a defense that can’t seem to be consistent. The Falcons could win the division and I wouldn’t be surprised, or they could be last in their division and I wouldn’t be surprised. Let’s just sit back and see what they can do.
14. Denver Broncos. Every year there is a team that double their wins and surprises the league. This year I think the Broncos have what it takes to challenge the Chiefs for the AFC West Title. Drew Lock showed signs of stardom and finally might be the heir to Peyton Manning that Elway has been looking for all these years. With the additions of Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler in the draft, joining star receiver Courtland Sutton and tight end Noah Fant, Lock has no excuse of lacking weapons. Phillip Lindsey and Melvin Gordon join forces in the backfield to make a terrifying running attack. Head coach Vic Fangio is a defensive minded coach that has always had a terrific defense. There is no question the Broncos should make some noise and possibly flirt with a playoff birth.
13. Dallas Cowboys. Since Dak Prescott took the reigns when Romo went down, it has seemed as if the Cowboys had one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, and 2020 will be no different. The narrative was that coach Jason Garrett was anchoring the team from reaching its full potential. They hired Mike McCarthy as their head coach in hopes he could help the team go from underachievers to Super Bowl Champions. It is safe to say they have the talent to make that a reality. With one of the best running back offensive line combinations, and now two deep threats in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. The offensive will go as far as Prescott takes them. Their defense is not flawed as well, due to the efforts of linebackers Jalen Smith and Layton Vander Esch. It is uncertain what exactly is holding Dallas back, but, they seem to have a trend of shooting themselves in the foot.
12. Tennessee Titans. Choosing the division winner between Tennessee and Indy is a coin toss. Both teams should make some noise in the AFC. Last year the Titans shocked the world and rode Derrick Henry all the way to the AFC Championship. Tennessee managed to keep most of their star players from last season, there is no reason why they wouldn’t be a force to be reckoned with next season as well. Not only do they have talent, but their talent is young. Tannehill and AJ Brown were a match made in heaven, it seemed every week they were hooking up for a 50 yard touchdown. It is safe to say it will be a battle for the AFC South crown.
11. Indianapolis Colts. How in the world could the Colts go from out of the playoffs to ranked 11 in the polls? Offensive line. With a line lead by superstar Quentin Nelson, veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers will have all day to pick apart defenses. He will have some quality weapons to throw to and with the best line in the league newly drafted Jonathon Taylor should punish defenses on the ground. It seemed as if last year the only thing the Colts were missing was solid quarterback play, and if Rivers can be what we all know he is capable of, the sky is the limit.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh surprised the world last season by competing with the rest of the league without their star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. After he was ruled out for the season with an injured elbow, the Steelers relied on the efforts of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Both quarterbacks seemed uncomfortable and unfit to be a starter in the league. Even with an offense that seemed to be in neutral week after week, they managed to stay in the playoff hunt relying fully on a young star-studded defense. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree took turns overwhelming quarterbacks while Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick seemed to be picking off balls every single week. In 2020, they will have Big Ben back behind center tossing the ball to an array of explosive receivers. Unfortunately, they share a division with the Ravens who might have the best roster in football, so winning the division seems impossible, but if the defense can maintain domination the Steelers should be fighting for a wild card spot in the AFC.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Adding the greatest quarterback of all time and one of the best tight ends of all time to your roster should automatically place you in contention for a Super Bowl correct? I think so. Tom Brady is growing old, and it seems nearly impossible that he is still playing at a high level. But, Father Time is undefeated and is licking his chops with Mr. Brady. Even with Brady’s resume, it is safe to say he might be playing with one of his best rosters ever in Tampa Bay. Through direction of head coach Bruce Arians, the Buccaneers should compete with the Saint for the NFC South crown. They also have a sneaky good defense that played on a whole other level at the end of last season. Tampa is a mystery but could surprise us next season.
8. Green Bay Packers. The 2020 draft was a strange one for the Green Bay Packers, they have one of the best quarterbacks in the league with Aaron Rodgers, yet they selected a quarterback in the first round. Arguably, the Packers best player are their quarterback and their running back, yet their first two picks were a quarterback and running back. That being said it is easy to criticize now, but who knows what these players will become. The Packers are a solid team all around, their defensive improved dramatically from 2017 to 2018. Their only weakness is a lack of weapons for Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams is a stellar receiver but the only next level option that Rodgers has. Last year the Packers made it to the NFC Championship but fell to the Niners and their overbearing pass rush. They don’t seem to have improved much from last year so they should be a playoff team but not better.
7. Philadelphia Eagles. Watch out for Carson Wentz and his Eagles in 2020. The previous year they turned heads as they took a injury stricken team to the playoffs. By the end of the season they were playing with receivers from their practice squad and still managed to make the postseason. There will be no excuses this year as they have fulfilled all of their off season needs in the draft. They drafted a star receiver from TCU Jalen Reagor and filled their defensive back needs by signing Darius Slay. The rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys will still be highly competitive, but much like last year I think the Eagles have the edge. I believe that the Eagles, when healthy, are a Super Bowl contender.
6. Seattle Seahawks. Last years battles between Seattle and San Francisco were must see TV. With two of the best teams in the NFC residing in the same conference, it was a recipe for good football. This next season should be no different. Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and continues to leave people awestruck with his mobility on the football field. With DK Metcalf going into his second year and Tyler Lockett just growing better they will be hard to stop. Running backs Carson and are bruisers that punish defenses and wear them down over time. If Seattle can manage to find a pass rush there is no reason they can’t beat anyone they play next season.
5. Buffalo Bills. The Bills have finally made it, since their infamous Super Bowl appearances in the 90’s, the Bills have been a laughing stock. Since they hired coach Sean McDermott they have gotten better every year. They have been superb at drafting young defensive talent to the point where they could be in the running for the best in the league. With big names like Ed Oliver, Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, etc they are stacked and ready to make some noise in 2020. There are still some questions whether Josh Allen is their franchise quarterback, but it is clear that he is good enough to establish a winning culture, and with the addition of Stefon Diggs he will have an arsenal of high-quality targets to throw to.
4. New Orleans Saints. Could it finally be the Saint’s year? Perhaps. One of the most tortured franchises in the recent years have been the New Orleans Saints. They have been a top ten years for the past couple season and have seemed to come up short time after time. With what must be the finals years of Drew Brees career, their championship window is a ticking time bomb. Their roster is stacked and is only getting better. With the addition of Emmanuel Sander the Saints now are overflowing with weapons including Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. With Tom Brady selecting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints and Buccs rivalry just got a lot more fun, and will be must-watch TV.
3. San Francisco 49ers. Will the 49ers digress like the Super Bowl runner ups have in the last couple of years? I do not think so. It seems impossible that such a deep roster and coaching staff could not be a championship contender. Though quarterback Jimmy Garrapolo has his limitations, he is still gets the job done and can play above expectations. The Niners may have lost defensive linemen DeForest Buckner, but they replaced him in the draft with South Carolina stud Javon Kinlaw. San Francisco took pride in their high-powered running attack and unreal pass rush. There is nothing that tells me they will not dominate again with the same strategy.
2. Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens seemed like they would have a cake walk to the Super Bowl in 2019, after earning the number one seed for the tournament. Unfortunately, they came up short to a solid Tennessee Titans. The Ravens had more Pro Bowlers than any other team and it was impossible to point out a weakness. After gaining even more solid players like Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell and drafting a superhuman running back in J.K Dobbins they look even scarier than last season. They will certainly give the Chiefs a run for their money this next season as the best team in the NFL. Especially because it is still uncertain how to slow down one of the most athletic quarterbacks the league has ever seen in Lamar Jackson.
Kansas City Chiefs. This seems like a no brainer, if not just a safe placement for the reigning Super Bowl Champions. The Chiefs spared no expense and seemed to keep a similar squad around to run it back. One of the most high scoring, and exciting offenses will return lead by mastermind Andy Reid. Patrick Mahomes and company will have not have an easy road due to the fact that a team hasn’t won back to back Super Bowls since 2004. With weapons everywhere on the field and a quarterback that seems to perform miracles weekly, it seems unreal that they will be beaten out.
With the NBA finally releasing their new restart date, I think it is time to analyze all of the new talent that is taking the league by storm. The future of the league is bright and there are many young leaders that are making the most of their opportunities. With LeBron James waning in years and although he may seem immortal, an heir to the throne is waiting to take the baton, as the greatest in the league. Which young players are most likely to take the next step? Here are the top players under 25.
25. Kendrick Nunn. The story of Kendrick Nunn is an incredible one. After going undrafted in the 2018 draft, he was added to the Golden State Warriors G League affilaite team, the Santa Cruz Warriors. Nunn didn’t even get a lot of playing time in the G-League but managed to average 19.3 points per contest. The Miami Heat gave Nunn the oppotunity to play in the NBA and signed him on April 10th, 2019.
It didn’t long for Nunn to prove he belonged in the NBA, in the Heat’s season opener he dropped 24 points on the Memphis Grizzlies. Since, he has been in the discussion for the Rookie of the Year and has helped his team take a giant leap to a decent playoff team to a legitimate contender.
24. DeAndre Ayton. Ayton played his college ball at University of Arizona and was taken as the number one pick in the NBA draft. Although he may not have completely played up to his potential quite yet, he is still seen as a productive big in the league. He still has plenty of room to grow, and with a lot of young talent, the Phoenix Suns have a bright future ahead of them.
PPG: 19 RPG: 12 APG: 1.9 BPG: 1.7
23. Lonzo Ball. Ball was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers as the second pick in the draft. Like Ayton, he didn’t quite play to the level that he or the team had hoped. It wasn’t until he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans that he started to grow into the player that experts thought he would be. He altered his shot and started to turn some heads before the Covid-19 stoppage. Ball is a lock down defender and a prolific passer. It will be exciting to see where he will be in the years to come.
PPG: 12.4 RPG: 6.2 APG: 7.0
22. Jaren Jackson Jr. The Memphis Grizzlies selected Jackson with the fourth pick in the 2018 NBA draft and chose Jackson to be a part of a rebuild in Memphis. Alongside the newly selected Ja Morant, “The Grizz” have a solid foundation built for the years to come. Unfortunately, Jackson has been plagued with some injuries early that have slowed down his growth early. In the next couples years it seems clear that he will be higher up on this list.
PPG: 16.9 RPG: 4.7 APG: 1.4 BPG: 1.4
21. John Collins. Unlike some of the other players on this list John Collins was selected in the ladder half of the first round and has over performed through his first couple years in the league and continually takes giant steps forward in his game every season. Collins recorded his first double-double in his third ever NBA game, and followed it up with another double-double the next game. If Collins continues to improve he will be one of the best big men in the game.
PPG: 21.6 RPG: 10.1 APG: 1.5 BPG: 1.1
20. Myles Turner. Throughout Turner’s early years he has been a very underrated defensive player. In 2019, he led the entire league in blocks and was a terror defending the rim. He suffered some injuries in his rookie season. The first game of his sophomore season he dropped 30 points and let the Pacers know he was a star in the making. He recently signed a four-year $72 million dollar contract and will most likely take home one or two Defensive Player of the Year trophies when it is all said and done.
PPG: 11.8 RPG: 6.5 APG: 1.1 BPG: 2.2
19. Aaron Gordon. Most people know Aaron Gordon as a high-flying dunk champion. It is true that Gordon is a freak-athlete but he is also a very productive power forward as well. The Orlando Magic seem to be in limbo with the talents of Gordon and Vucevic and seem to be a piece away. If you do get their piece who knows what they can accomplish.
PPG: 14.4 RPB: 7.6 APG: 3.7
18. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA has been a player that has seemed to have spent the duration of his career under the radar. Gilgeous-Alexander was the leader of a Clipper team that played their hearts out every night and secured the eighth seed in a stacked Western Conference. Now, he seems to be assisting in the same kind of phenomenon in Oklahoma City. With nearly 20 points a game he finds ways to get the ball in the bucket. SGA is certainly one of the future stars of the league.
PPG: 19.3 RPG: 6.1 APG: 3.3
17. Ja Morant. Morant’s fame began in college at Murray State University because of videos of his tenacious dunks that went viral. There is no hiding the fact that his athleticism and court vision is next level. Although Morant was a star in his college years he was overshadowed continuously by Zion Williamson. After Zion;s knee injury Morant got to show the league what he was made of. He made the most of the opportunity and is now the front runner for Rookie of the Year, and the leader of his Grizzlies team.
PPG: 17.6 RPG: 3.5 APG: 6.9
16. De’Aaron Fox. Fox is well-known for being one of the fastest players in the league. His incredible speed mixed with his acrobat-like athleticism makes him 16th on the list. He is the leader of the Sacramento Kings team, and seems to get better every season. Fox notched his first triple-double in 2018 against the Hawks showing the world what he was capable of.
PPG: 20.4 RPG: 4.0 APG: 6.8
15. Jamaal Murray. Murray was drafted to the Denver Nuggets in the 2016 draft and in 2020 has found himself as key player on a Championship caliber team. Murray didn’t exactly burst on to the scene in Denver, but has progressed every year into the productive player that he is today. On November, 2019 Murray shot the lights out against the Grizzlies and reached his career high 39 points. It is clear that Murray is a star in the making, who knows where he will be in the years to come.
PPG: 18.8 RPG: 3.9 APG: 4.8
14. D’Angelo Russell. Russell was the second pick in the NBA draft to the Lakers and came out of the gate confident as ever. With a filthy three point ball and an arsenal of moves, Russell is the definition of the word scorer. Although Russell has excelled on the court he has made some questionable decisions off the court that leave him lower on this list then others might see him. Now in Minnesota, perhaps he can lead a losing franchise on a playoff run in the next couple years.
PPG: 23.1 RPG: 3.9 APG: 6.3
13. Zion Williamson. Zion Williamson is one of the most exciting and hyped up players to enter the league. There is no player on this list that has as much pressure on them as Williamson. In 2019, he was drafted number one overall to the New Orleans Pelicans. Unfortunately, his career began with a knee injury that set him back. He finally made his debut on October 13th, 2019 against the San Antonio Spurs and since has become the only teenager in NBA history to score 20+ points in ten consecutive games. If Williamson did not have the late start who knows where he would be on this list.
PPG: 23.6 RPG: 6.8 APG: 2.2
12. Jaylen Brown. The Boston Celtics seem to have found a young dynamic duo that has the potential to win Championships. Brown was the 3rd pick in the 2016 draft and has steadily increased in talent season. Along with Tatum, Brown took the Celtics to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, a game away from the big one. Brown is one of the best do it all players in the league, he seems to always be near the ball making big players on both sides. His determination and grit is what ranks him so high on this list.
PPG: 20.4 RPG: 6.4 APG: 2.2
11. Bam Adebayo. The Miami Heat selected Adebayo with the 14th pick in the draft and only averaged 6.9 points per contest in his rookie season. Last year Bam began to show his talent and determination and earned his stripes as a sixth man. In 2020, he could potentially be the Most Improved Player and was an NBA All-Star. His defensive capabilities have been on full display as he as been one of the few to slow down the Greek Freak. The Heat have been off the charts with drafting lately and Adebayo is evidence of that.
PPG: 16.2 RPG: 10.5 APG: 5.1
10. Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis is a name that a lot of casual fans might not have heard much. He is a sneaky good player that plays hard and does a lot of stuff on the court that others don’t want to do. He was drafted out of Gonzaga in 2016 and was selected as the 11th pick. He played for the Thunder and was a serviceable player. It wasn’t until his time in Indiana where he took his game to a whole other level. He made the Easter Conference All-Star team and with the injury to Victor Oladipo was the leader of his team.
PPG: 18.5 RPG: 12.4 APG: 5.0
9. Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis was selected by the New York Knicks in the 2015 draft. Although he was greeted by an abundance of boos from the New York fan base, he quickly established himself as a unique talent. It was unprecedented to have a 7-footer launching threes and connecting. This gave him the name of “the Unicorn.” He found stardom at a very early stage in his career, but it was all put on hold after a gruesome ACL tear. Time passed and he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks to play alongside Luka Doncic, through the duration of the 2020 season Porzingis seemed to slowly morph into the player that he once was, This should scare the rest of the NBA.
PPG: 19.2 RPG: 9.5 APG: 1.7
8. Ben Simmons. What a roller coaster ride the career of Ben Simmons has been so far. His intrigue to begin his basketball career was like a LeBron James or Zion Williamson, but was ended early by injury. Simmons missed his rookie season due to injury, but still managed to win the Rookie of the Year award in 2018. Simmons is a unique player and is one of only a few with the height and ball skills to call themselves a “point forward.” Whether Simmons is underrated or overrated seems to depend on the day. It is like we are all waiting for the day that he takes the next step to be a superstar. Partnered with Joel Embiid the duo seems to be one of the most lethal duos in the Eastern Conference. The two haven’t quite lived up to the hype thus far, but if they do a dynasty could be in the making.
PPG: 16.7 RPG: 7.8 APG: 8.2
7. Brandon Ingram. Ingram was one of the many young stars to be drafted by the Lakers and be traded away. Much like Lonzo Ball, this now seems more of a blessing then a curse. Since his trade to New Orleans, Ingram has exploded and has found himself of the status of superstar. He has made monumental improvements that should land him in the running for Most Improved Player. His comparison to Kevin Durant early on in his career seemed preposterous, but now are looking a little more realistic. His long lanky arms make it easy for him to get his jump shot over defenders.
PPG: 24.3 RPG: 6.3 APG: 4.3
6. Trae Young. There was a short time when Young played for the University of Oklahoma where he showed signs of a superstar. This is what propelled the Atlanta Hawks to select him at five in the 2018 draft. It seems as if Young will always have the inconvenience of being compared to Luka Doncic because he was selected before him. Though he may not quite be on his level, Young is still one of the best young stars in the league. Even college Young was compared to Steph Curry and has proven that his game does in fact resemble a young Curry. He can hit a shot from anywhere on the court, his range seems to be limitless. He may not accomplish all that Curry has but maybe he can reach that superstar status.
PPG: 29.6 RPG: 4.3 APG: 9.3
5. Devin Booker. Booker is one of many of these players to have been drafted from the University of Kentucky and has since been one of the greatest scorers in the entire NBA. Unfortunately, he has been trapped in a franchise that is dysfunctional and always seems to be making the wrong decisions. Despite of this, Booker made the All-Star team. Against the Boston Celtics on March 24th, Booker scored 70 points joining Wilt Chamberlain and five others as the only players in history to do it. Booker is a generational talent and hopefully someday soon will be able to push through to the next level.
PPG: 26.1 RPG: 4.2 APG: 6.6
4. Karl Anthony-Towns. Some might argue that KAT deserve to be higher on this list because of his offensive scoring abilities. This would be valid argument, because Towns really is one of the best offensive big men the league has ever seen.If you were to base this list strictly on stats Towns would be one or two on this list. His post moves are unstoppable and his shot is clean for being as giant as he is. What KAT lacks is leadership and defensive skills. If Towns does find a way to improve in these areas his ceiling is extremely high and his future would be bright.
PPG: 26.5 RPG: 10.8 APG: 4.4 BPG: 1.2
3. Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell was drafted by the Nuggets and traded to the Jazz in the same day as the 13th pick in the draft in 2017. Mitchell did not waste much time before lighting up the league and proving that he was a star. In his first year he was one of the best shooting guards in the league and took the Jazz to the second round of the playoffs. In their playoff run Mitchell hit clutch bucket after clutch bucket to eliminate the star-studded Thunder. Mitchell has been made known for his soul-taking dunks and extreme athleticism, but the reason his is so high on the list is due to his postseason accomplishments.
PPG: 24.2 RPG: 4.4 APG: 4.2
2. Jayson Tatum. A lot of a player’s success stems from the team that selects them. Some players are blessed with the opportunity to play for franchises that are functional and help their players be the best that they can be, The Celtics have given Tatum opportunities to shine in the brightest of lights and Tatum has come through time after time. The reason Tatum is so high on this list is because of his playoff experience and his play right before the stoppage due to Covid-19. He was putting up unreal and leading his Celtics into great playoff position.
PPG: 23.6 RPG: 7.1 APG: 2.9
Luka Doncic. I do not think there is much debate as to who number one should be on this list. Dominic’s ceiling as a basketball player seems limitless. He plays like a seasoned veteran and can make defenders looks foolish. His eye for the court seems unreal and his basketball instincts are off the charts. The Dallas Mavericks will reaping the benefits of selecting Doncic for years to come. The question isn’t if Luka will win an MVP award, but when.
Today I watched my 9-year-old nephew play a baseball game at a local park. During a normal year (remember those?) his game would be just one of hundreds of baseball games I’d be following throughout the summer. There would be dates to Bee’s games and Yankees highlights at night. I’d be getting alerts on my phone any time Aaron Judge launched another moon shot. I’d be following the Phillies so I could know just how to needle my roommate. Though I wouldn’t talk about it, I’d be keeping secret tabs on the Red Sox, taking silent satisfaction each time they drop a game. But this is no normal year, and thanks in small part to a worldwide pandemic and in large part to some very rich, very stubborn people, hometown little leaguers may be the only baseball we get this season.
In case you haven’t been following MLB labor negotiations (between pandemics, riots, earthquakes, and murder hornets, who has the time?) let me give you a quick rundown of the situation. What we think of as “Major League Baseball” is really made up of two organizations, namely, team ownership and the MLB Player’s Association. Ownership consists of team owners. The goal of these billionaire-baseball fans is to bring money into the organization. They negotiate (or delegate) TV contracts, payments to players, and how much to charge for tickets. The players association is made up of players (obviously), usually with a former player serving as head of the organization. The goal of the PA is to negotiate on behalf of the players, trying to set up agreements with ownership that ensure high salaries, specify how soon players can become free agents, secure pleasant and safe playing conditions, and claim other benefits that one would want from an employer (paternal leave, minimum salaries, etc.).
Now, the relationship between these two sides is tenuous at best (The Office fans, think Michael and Toby). Each side wants to squeeze as much out of the other side as it can while giving as little ground as possible to the other. On November 30, 2016, after months of negotiation, the two sides were able to hammer out a deal for the next five seasons that specified pay rates, working conditions, and some travel plans. That means all should be well, right?
When the coronavirus struck (do viruses strike?), baseball, like just about everything else, was put on hold. Players were sent home from training facilities and owners were left twiddling their thumbs, waiting to see how things would play out. Now, as restrictions have started lifting, it has become clear that we could, with a few precautions, play some baseball games without posing a huge health risk to players and fans. The only problem, however, is that the current agreement between owners and players, the one from 2016, said nothing about what to do if a worldwide pandemic shortens the season, cuts playing opportunities, and limits ticket revenue (what kind of agreement doesn’t include a virus clause?).
So that brings us to the present predicament. Players and owners are now tasked with negotiating a new deal that both sides can agree on in a matter of weeks. The longer they take, the fewer baseball games we’ll see this year. Owners want players to take a pay cut to help save some revenue, which isn’t entirely unreasonable… especially for the players making upwards of $25 million per year (looking at you, Bryce Harper). Players want to extend the season into November. That would mean more games, more money, and smaller pay cuts, but also higher odds of another Corona outbreak, which could shut down the season again and cost owners millions. There are several other ins and outs to the arguments of each side, but at the end of the day, it comes down to millionaires fighting billionaires about who gets a bigger slice of the pie, all the while America is left without its pastime, forced to watch professional athletes play each other in televised video games.
And so, we wait, watching little leaguers, squeezing in some backyard wiffleball after work, and praying that owners and players can swallow their collective pride and give us the one sport that makes summer feel like summer before it’s too late. @MLB, the clock is ticking.
In today’s day and age one of the most flattering accomplishments that an NFL player can obtain is that of appearing on the cover of one of the most popular video games on the market, Madden. To be on the cover of the game you have to be a superstar and one of the most talented players in the league. Throughout the years there have been some players that found themselves on the cover that have never quite lived up to the hype. On the other hand there have been players that have excelled at their position and never received such honors. Madden has only been around for thirty or so years, so players prior to then will not be eligible to make the list. Which players are most deserving of being on the cover of Madden?
10. Tony Gonzalez. One of the factors you have to consider when you are looking for the best player to put on Madden is excitement. How exciting is the position of the player and how electric are they on the field? Gonzalez is certainly in the discussion as the greatest tight end to ever take the field, and solidified this by owning many of the tight ends records. When Gonzalez hung up his cleats in 2013, he owned the NFL record for receptions (1,325), 100-yard games (31) receiving yards (15,127) and was 2nd in touchdown receptions.
His resume may be one of the strongest on this list, but unfortunately the position of tight-end is not the most glamorous especially when Gonzalez was playing. Only one tight end has ever been on the cover of Madden and that player was Rob Gronkowski on Madden 17.
9. Julio Jones. This one is tricky because Jones still has a lot to prove in the league. He will most likely have many productive years in his future and plenty of opportunities to find his way to the cover of the game. This being said his counterpart Antonio Brown received this accolade just last year on Madden 19. While is seemed at the time that Brown had earned this award because he was in fact phenomenal on the field. But, as we know his off field antics certainly shouldn’t make him a role model for kids on a video game.
In 2019, Jones finished the 2019 season compiling an average of 96.2 receiving yards per game,. This was an NFL record and the next highest was 8.7 yards a game fewer. This was not the only insane stat that Jones cooked up. In the same year Jones had 1,394 yards receiving which added up to six seasons of at least 1,300 yards. Only Jerry Rice had more. Safe to say Julio Jones is a man among boys and has earned a spot as a likely candidate for a Madden cover.
8. Patrick Willis. Willis played the duration of his career in San Francisco and quietly became one of the greatest linebackers of all time. While it is rare for a defensive player to make the cover, Willis should have at least been in the conversation. Willis made it to the Pro Bowl and made the All-Decade team. He was underappreciated his entire career and never quite received the praise that he was due.
7. Marvin Harrison. Much like Willis, Harrison seems to be swept under the rug when it comes to greatest of all time at their position arguments. In 2002, he shattered the NFL single-season record for receptions with 143 and made it to eight Pro Bowls. Throughout his career in Indianapolis, he racked up huge numbers such as 1,102 career receptions, 14,580 yards, and 128 touchdowns. There is no question that Marvin Harrison was one of the best receivers to strap them up and was certainly talented enough to be on the cover of Madden.
6. Adrian Peterson. Though Peterson did appear on the cover of Madden 25, Barry Sanders stole the show while Peterson was shown on an alternative cover. Peterson is an explosive running back and one of the few half backs to win the MVP trophy. He was undoubtedly the best player on the Vikings through the duration of his tenure there, he led the league in rushing yards three years and led the league in touchdowns in two. After seven Pro Bowls he earned a spot on the 2010’s All Decade team. It is safe to say that there would be no reason to not place him on the cover of the video game.
5. Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers career like Julio Jones has not been finalized yet. He still has some chapters in his story that have yet to be written. Although this is the case, it seems as if we have seen the best of Rodgers and he has now entered the latter end of his prime. In his hey-day Rodgers was said to have been the greatest talent at quarterback the league had ever seen.
In 2010, he performed one of the best single-season performances of all time and certainly should have been the leading candidate for the cover of Madden. Perhaps Rodgers will find a “second wind” and rediscover his peak talent and shock the world.
4. Ed Reed. Reed was a member of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history, and participated and won a Super Bowl. In 2002, his teammate Ray Lewis was shown on the Madden cover and rightfully so, but Reed was no less impressive and is arguably the greatest safety of all time.
Much like Patrick Willis it can be difficult to make the cover while playing on the defensive side of the ball, but Reed was the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year, and owns the record for most interception yardage in a career (1,590), as well as the most seasons leading the league in interceptions at 3. Legends like Bill Belichick agree that he is the best to ever do it, should this qualify him for a spot on a Madden Cover?
3. LaDainian Tomlinson. There were years where Tomlinson was the most exciting player in the league. He was a wizard on the football field and broke records at every turn. Like Adrian Peterson he also took home the MVP trophy in 2006, and owns the record for touchdowns in a season (28). Tomlinson also co-owns the consecutive games with a touchdown record. Clearly, Tomlinson deserves to be one of the most talented players that never was on a Madden.
2. Randy Moss. Few snubs are as disrespectful as that of Randy Moss’ absence from Madden Covers. Randy Moss repeatedly surprised viewers and shocked the world with his next level athleticism and skill. After receiving the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 1998, he went on to lead the league in touchdowns for five different years and ended his career with 15,292 receiving yards and 156 touchdown passes. He owns the record with 23 receiving yards in a season. He is truly one of the best players in the last century, and changed the game of football as we know it.
Peyton Manning. This one seems quite obvious. Peyton Manning is undoubtedly the best and most talented player that never had the opportunity of gracing the cover of Madden. Not only was he a quarterback, which is the face of a team, but he was one of the best quarterbacks of all time and still is one of the faces of the league. By the end of his career he had tied for the most touchdown passes in a game all-time (7), has the most passing yards in a season all-time (5,477), and also has the most touchdown passes in a season (55). Peyton Manning was a statistical juggernaut and one of the best players we have ever seen.
The previous two years in the NFL the MVP award was given to a player that nobody expected, in 2018 there wasn’t a soul in sports media that could have predicted that the hardware would have been awarded to the sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In 2019, the streak continued, Lamar Jackson, once again a sophomore quarterback that nobody saw coming, took home the MVP trophy. If this streak was to continue who would be the most likely to explode on to the scene and win Pro Football’s greatest individual award?
5. Gardner Minshew. Minshew had the opportunity to show his talent when Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles went down with a collarbone injury. The Jacksonville Jaguars had high hopes coming into the season with a squad that had recently found themselves in the AFC Championship. The narrative was that they were just a quarterback away. After acquiring a proven leader from previous Super Bowl Champions they felt they could potentially reach the biggest stage. After those hopes were dashed by injuries their hopes rested upon a backup quarterback out of Washington State that nobody really knew much about.
After a decent year but nothing miraculous, he falls to number five on my list of second year quarterbacks that could potentially win the MVP. To win this award your team has to win and this just does not seem like a plausible option as the narrative going into 2020 is that the Jaguars are in rebuilding mode or others might call it, “Tanking for Trevor.” Although Minshew is not a bad quarterback, he is short on offensive weapons and opportunities to prove his worth in the future.
4. Dwayne Haskins. Haskins was unlike MInshew in that he had a lot of pressure riding on his shoulders going into the 2019 season. After an explosive year as a the Buckeye quarterback over at Ohio State he was scene as a star that could be a franchise quarterback. After a season of only completing under 60% of his passes and matching his touchdown total with his interception total, his first rookie season was certainly underwhelming. After rumors of the Redskins taking a quarterback with the second pick in the draft, it became clear that the narrative was that the Redskins do not see Haskins as their quarterback of the future.
Haskins ranks higher than Minshew because the Redskins are further along the rebuilding process and have a new and exciting coach in Ron Rivera. Although the Redskins have a decent roster they are not overflowing with weapons on the perimeter. With a hefty running back room, and halfway decent wide outs they may be a piece away from a respectable offense.
3. Daniel Jones. We all can remember the moment when the New York Giants shocked the world and selected Daniel Jones with the sixth pick in the draft out of Duke. When the Giants finally decided to give Jones a try he exploded out of the gate and was an exciting player to watch. Eventually he came back down to earth and was respectable, but not spectacular. Jones acquired a mere 87.7 QBR and led the New York Football Giants to a 4-12 record.
Much like the Redskins it seems as if they are on the right side of a rebuild and with a new coach in the office, there is hope in the future. But, it seems as if they are a couple years away. Daniel Jones seems to have played well enough to avoid the bust narrative, but hasn’t exactly turned heads. With a new coach and a new year could he be the one that takes this next season by storm?
2. Drew Lock. Since the retirement of Peyton Manning it seems as if GM John Elway has had a difficult time nailing down a formidable quarterback for the Denver football team. From Trevor Siemien to Joe Flacco it seems as if his judgment has been a tad flawed. Those days look to be coming to an end. Has Elway finally found the heir to Manning? The answer is yes. Lock put up historical numbers at Missouri and it looks like his style of play will mesh perfectly with the pro style.
In the five games that Lock started in, the Broncos went 4-1. Lock is overflowing with confidence and now has an arsenal of weapons to throw to. Somehow Jerry Juedy fell to Denver in the draft to join Courtland Sutton and future star at tight end Noah Fant. There is no question that the Broncos are a team that has a talent and has the potential to make some noise behind their new stud quarterback Drew Lock. Could it be Lock that takes home the trophy?
Kyler Murray. Murray truly came into the NFL with large amounts of pressure like most first round picks do. With a lot of questions marks including their new coach that came from Texas Tech without a winning record. And an old running back and wide receiver it seemed like it could have been a difficult introduction into the league. Murray proved to fit in just fine and brought the Cardinals to a 5-10-1 record in the toughest division and football.
In 2020, Murray and the Cardinals are expected to be superior and could potentially take the leap to be a productive team. With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins the Cardinals will have two of the best wide receivers of all time on their roster at the same time. Granted Fitzgerald is seasoned and most likely will be playing his last year in 2020. To me Kyler Murray feels like the safest bet to be the most productive quarterback in their sophomore season.