10 Active NFL Players That Deserve to Win a Title

Winning the Lombardi Trophy should be the mindset of every single NFL player in the league; it signifies a team’s dominance and the effort they put into achieving this admirable feat. Unfortunately, in a league controlled by powerhouse teams that take up the Super Bowl spotlight, some players who have made a namesake for themselves have either never been able to win the big one, or ever be in one. It’s a shame that some of the game’s best athletes haven’t been able to get their hands on the championship trophy, despite their incredible work ethic and accomplishments. With that said, here are ten of the most elite, active NFL players that deserve to win a title:

10. Carson Palmer

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Carson Palmer did not have the greatest start to a professional career coming off a Heisman award-winning season and being drafted first overall by the Bengals. He bounced back later in his career to win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals. For his sake, he does deserve some playoff glory for the hardships that he’s been through. For a man who has everything, it’s strange that he is partially defined for what he’s missing: a title.

9. Julius Peppers

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Peppers hasn’t come as close to a Super Bowl win since he and the Panthers were dashed at the hands of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXVIII (how tragic). He is currently the Panthers’ all-time leader in sacks, forced fumbles, and blocked kicks. It’s extraordinary that a man drafted in 2002 is still a force to be reckoned with in the league today. His consistent level of play and upgrade to any defense has made for a great career that would be nicely capped off with a Super Bowl victory.

8. Frank Gore

Frank Gore

At 33 years old, Gore is a still a stud running back that is able to rack up 1,000 yard seasons when most backs his age are at home on the couch. This past season, his 1,025-yard total was the highest by any RB not named John Riggins or Walter Payton in year 12, making for his ninth 1,000-yard season. He did get close to a championship win with Harbaugh’s 49ers, but he won’t get anywhere close with the mending Colts. For a player about to head in to his 13th year, he’s been everything of what a championship player should be.

7. Antonio Gates

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111 career touchdowns – tied for most ever by a tight end alongside Tony Gonzalez. 36 years old, more than 200 NFL games played, and Antonio Gates still doesn’t have a ring. He also earned three straight first-team All-Pro Honors from 2004 to 2006. In the direction the Chargers have taken their organization over the past couple years, Gates won’t be in the Super Bowl spotlight anytime soon, even after all work he’s put in to help his team win… or at least try to.

6. Joe Thomas

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If you give this guy a championship, you might as well give his whole team one too, and they need one more than anything. Joe Thomas has played every snap at left tackle for the saddest team in the league, the Cleveland Browns. His only winning season was his rookie year, where the Browns went 10-6 surprisingly. The six-time first-team All-Pro has done his job extremely well at an elite level while his team has gone 38-106 since 2007. This guy deserves to win, but being the humble guy that he is, he’ll put the entire city of Cleveland first.

5. Eric Berry

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This guy’s life could be a movie if some Hollywood studio decided to pick up his story. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in late 2014 and going through chemotherapy treatment in the offseason, Berry came back for the 2015 season and was named a Pro Bowler, a first-team All-Pro, and AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year. That’s simply incredible. The Kansas City Chiefs just made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL with a franchise tag to go along with his monstrous contract. What would make his story more incredible, however, is if he was able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy to bring it all around full circle.

4. Julio Jones

julio jones.jpg.pngSo close, but yet so far. The Atlanta Falcons were by far the best team in the NFL last year, but fell flat and blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history (Go Pats). Julio Jones is the best wide receiver in the game today and has done nothing to tarnish his reputation off the field. I think back to Stephen A. Smith’s rant about him on First Take back in February about how it’s all about actions with him, not words. Not to mention that he’s a one-man highlight reel (see catches he made in Super Bowl). If Jones and the Falcons win a championship in the next couple years, it’ll be rightfully deserved because of the enormous work ethic they all put into success. But against the Patriots, they might have to work on holding a lead better.

3. Jason Witten

jason wittenSure enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Witten is without question one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. Like Gronkowski, Witten is asked to block very often and is an every-down player. He currently ranks seventh all-time in tight end catches behind Tony Gonzalez. He even helps rookies adjust well to their new spots on the team (example: Dak Prescott completed 72 percent of his passes when targeting Witten). He’s a team player that can still perform at a high level. However, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t seen a Super Bowl appearance since the mid-1990’s. Witten won’t be touching any trophies soon if his team keeps on choking in the playoffs like they have in the recent past.

2. Adrian Peterson

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When healthy and available, Peterson has been a dominant player on any field he steps on. He’s also the last non-quarterback to win league MVP. He came close to breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, which was the main reason why the Vikings landed in the postseason in 2012. Unfortunately, he has missed a total of 28 games over the past three seasons and has developed a severe case of fumbilitis. Now with the Saints, his career is going in a different direction now that him and Mark Ingram will have to share backfield duties. His resume is all of what a championship player should be, but his lone NFC Championship appearance was not one to be remembered. Maybe he’ll help the Saints get back on top and then he’ll finally be able to add a Lombardi Trophy to his repertoire.

1. Larry Fitzgerald

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It hurts me that Fitz hasn’t won a championship yet. Fitzgerald will obviously waltz right into the Hall of Fame when eligible. But can he get a ring to walk in with? His best shot was back in Super Bowl XLIII where the Cardinals lost to the Steelers. He currently ranks third-all-time in receptions and led the league last season in that same category. Time is running out for him as he has already openly pondered retirement. As one of the most reliable wide receivers to ever lace up his cleats, Larry Fitzgerald deserves a championship that will make his career completely fulfilled.

Is Kaepernick a Good Fit Anywhere? Serious Question…

I probably don’t need to remind you of what happened during the preseason last year with Colin Kaepernick… but for all intents and purposes, it’s somewhat necessary when dealing with the situation at hand.

In 2016, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick gained national attention when he began kneeling in protest during the singing of the United States national anthem before the start of games, motivated by what he viewed as the oppression of black people and other non-white races in the U.S. His actions prompted a wide variety of responses, including additional athletes in the NFL and other U.S. sports leagues protesting the anthem in various ways. Others who didn’t agree with him would scrutinize him, including active soldiers and veterans alike.

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Head coach Chip Kelly named Blaine Gabbert the starter over Kaepernick before Week 1. This wasn’t because of politics, but simply because Gabbert showed more promise over the, at the time, controversial quarterback making national headlines. Fast forward five weeks, and it was announced Kaepernick was given the starting job against the Buffalo Bills and it remained like that for the rest of the season. On October 13, it was announced that he and the 49ers restructured his contract, turning it into a two-year deal with a player option for the next season.

Kaepernick finished the season with decent numbers despite having no weapons on the offensive side. He racked up 2,241 passing yards, sixteen passing touchdowns, four interceptions and added 468 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. On March 3, 2017, he officially opted out of his contract with the 49ers, an option as part of his restructured contract, therefore making him a free agent at the start of the 2017 league year.

So now he’s on the market and some teams may or may not feel indifferent about signing a quarterback with a specific political agenda.

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He wants to play, but so far no one has shown interest. The reason is due to two factors: his politics and the fact that he has a 59.8 completion percentage.

People are speaking out in support of Kaepernick that teams won’t sign him solely due to him speaking out against injustices against African-Americans in the United States. On the other hand, some people fail to see that no one wants a to sign a quarterback for whom you’d have to change the offense. Especially since he’s given up hope of being a starter for another team, signing a quarterback with 58 career starts isn’t exactly ideal for most teams.

It’s not a matter of politics that is keeping Kaepernick on the edge of his seat, waiting to be signed. It’s a matter of his playing ability and how he’s performed in the past, regardless of what he did pre-game on the sidelines. Granted he didn’t exactly have any offensive playmakers in the past couple years that could have helped him get better numbers. What’s important to remember is that this is not a matter of politics, but simply football.

Sports and politics have proven to not mix well and the league and its organizations are doing all that they can to remain out of the political spotlight. If a team were to sign him, then that spotlight is going to be cast on them, which is something they want to avoid.

A potential spot for Kaepernick could be Seattle since a system with a running quarterback fits the mold of what he does at the position. With only a couple more weeks until teams start OTA’s, Kaepernick is left to wait while other teams continue to stall signing him.

 

 

 

NFL Draft First Round Recap

For the first couple picks of the draft last night, I was only able to watch it on my phone between my legs while at my school’s Danceworks show (which was amazing by the way). I was blown away by a lot of the selections and moves that ultimately spelled out a team’s future for this upcoming season. Here are some of the major events throughout the night that made this first round so special:

  1. The Browns Draft an Army, But Will It Make a Difference?

Hey, at least they didn’t draft another QB… yet. It was obvious that DE Myles Garrett from Texas A&M was going to go first overall. However, their following picks were very surprising because of the big names they selected, trying to bring some life into an already dead team. For their 25th and 29th overall picks, the Browns selected two studs with safety Jabrill Peppers from Michigan and TE David Njoku from Miami. Will these big names help them though? Garrett will be a powerful force coming off the end of the line, but going up against an NFL, possibly all-pro, tackle is way different than embarrassing some far-from-standout offensive lineman. He will be explosive, yes, but he’ll need to prove himself if he wants to be the dominant force that he says he is. Peppers did it all in college, playing nine positions offensively and defensively. If he can help the Browns succeed, then it’s very vital that the Browns strategize their defense, or offense, around him once he finds his groove within the organization.

2. Bears Trade ONE PICK UP to Select Mitchell Trubisky

Instead of me talking about this pick, I’ll let some Bears fans express how they feel about this…

Some Bears fans weren't exactly pumped for their team's selection at No. 2.

A post shared by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on

Last night, the Bears, who originally had the third overall pick, traded one pick up in order to take QB Mitchell Trubisky from North Carolina. But why? The Niners didn’t even want him; they were going to select DE Solomon Thomas from Stanford regardless. And to top it off, they traded away multiple 2018 third round draft picks when they could end up needing those later on. After signing QB Mike Glennon to an absurd $15M contract, the Bears seem to really be banking on quarterbacks this season, which is understandable after watching Jay Cutler fall off a cliff these past couple seasons. The Bears surely needed a change, but was this the right approach?

3. Jaguars Add Another Name to Their Backfield with Leonard Fournette

Since I predicted this pick, I won’t dive in too deep with the analysis. The Jaguars need some help in their backfield since T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory don’t seem to be carrying the load. Fournette could surely help, but after a lackluster season, I’m very interested to see how he adjusts to a major NFL role.

4. Can the Panthers Bounce Back After a Shaky Season with McCaffrey?

I think this was the most surprising pick of the night other than Trubisky. I wasn’t expecting McCaffrey to go in this direction, but after taking about 30 seconds last night to reflect and think about it, it totally makes sense. The Panthers needed both a running back and a wide receiver; they got both in one pick. This Stanford stud fits the mold of a running back while also being the right size for a slot receiver. It’s a perfect match. Unless I’m proven wrong this coming season, the Panthers could get back up to an over .500 record like they did two seasons ago.

5. The CFP Champion Lands in Houston

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, who, three months ago, brought down the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Championship with two seconds left, was selected by the Houston Texans with the 12th overall pick. After giving away Brock Osweiler, who proved to not be worth the $72M they gave him, Houston saw that it was time to invest in a new quarterback that would help them be a major contender in not only their conference, but in the AFC South which, statistically, was the worst division in all of the NFL last year. Watson could definitely make a statement early if he and DeAndre Hopkins feel each other out during summer training and running routes after practice. And by the looks of it, that could happen very early…


6. The Eagles Find Someone to Match Legend Reggie White

There were a lot of fans who were very pleased by this pick when Philadelphia selected Tennessee All-American DE Derek Barnett. With the Volunteers, he broke the university’s career sack record of 32.0, which was formerly held by NFL legend Reggie White, who also played with the Eagles from 1985-92. If this isn’t something that has shades of destiny, I don’t know of anything else that could spell it out better. Many improvements need to be made to the Eagles, especially defensively, and this was a great start.

There are only six more rounds to go, but last night showed some impressive faces landing in spots where they could eventually make a difference. The Patriots won’t have a pick until early in the third round, and the 49ers are still looking to make a change since newly-appointed GM John Lynch took over. I’m very interested to see what else unfolds, especially since Florida State RB Dalvin Cook is still on the board. It’s anyone’s game, but it’s the most exciting time of the month for football.

 

2017 NFL Draft Expectations

With the Final Four set for this Saturday, it marks the soon-to-be closing of the NCAA basketball tournament, and brings along the ever-exciting Opening Day of the MLB and the heated up tension of the NBA going into the playoffs. It’s a never-ending cycle of major sports events that come and go every year.

At the end of the month of April, however, essentially starts the NFL season with the 82nd annual draft on the 27th, held in front of the stoic Philadelphia Museum of Art. Being one of my favorite events of the month, I enjoy seeing which players will go where and whether they’ll make a positive impact on whatever team they land on. Unfortunately, some players will end up being labeled busts within two years of playing.

Despite all the animosity, there are many things I look to see: how much Roger Goodell is booed, how uncomfortable the draftees get when Goodell tries to embrace them on stage, how loud Mel Kiper will get on the panel, and what draftees are waiting on the edge of their seat to have their named called surrounded by their families. With that said, here are my notable picks of the 2017 NFL Draft (note: this is not the order of the draft. They are simply the specific picks that I believe will have the most impact within the respective franchise).

  1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett (DE), Texas A&M

For the Browns to draft another quarterback would only add to the list of problems they already have, especially since Brock Osweiler is practically fighting for the starting spot. With Garrett posting astronomical numbers for a player his size at the Combine, he’s what Cleveland needs as a pass-rusher, upgrading their defense. Cleveland often focuses on their offense too much when they need to simultaneously focus their attention on improving their defense. That’s where Garrett fits the mold.

2. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen (DE/DT), Alabama

The Bears were projected to pick a quarterback with this selection. However, after signing Mike Glennon to an absurd contract and kicking Jay Cutler out, the QB spot has been filled. Allen is the best player available at his position and would fill a huge gap on the defensive line across from Akiem Hicks. Despite the concerns with his shoulder, Chicago cannot pass up on talent like Allen’s.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette (RB), LSU

Adding talent around Blake Bortles would very much improve their offense. I’ve said before that the Jaguars could very well be a dark horse one season and become a contender. After signing defensive keys in Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler, Jr., Fournette is best running back prospect available since Adrian Peterson. Although his 2016 season was lackluster due to an injury, his tape from the 2015 season showcases some of the best talent ever displayed. For Jacksonville to select him would add to a budding backfield alongside Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon.

4. New York Jets – OJ Howard (TE), Alabama

Alabama keeps cranking out “first rounders” left and right every year, and Howard is one that is very unique. He didn’t get the ball in his hands nearly enough this past season. But when he does, he is explosive and makes big plays. If Fournette is not available by the time the Jets get to select, I can see them going in this direction. They’ve been trying to sign tight ends during this offseason, so it is seen as a need, and Howard could provide the team with some much needed play-making ability.

5. Cincinnati Bengals – Dalvin Cook (RB), Florida State

He posted poor numbers at the combine… big whoop. That shouldn’t take away from his excellent vision of the field and his high-level production. Jeremy Hill has posted disappointing numbers these past two seasons while Giovanni Bernard cannot handle the full-time responsibility as the main running back. If the Bengals like Cook enough, I see them taking him.

6. Cleveland Browns – Mitch Trubisky (QB), North Carolina

Oh wait,… sorry, it’s Mitchell. Mitchell Trubisky. Because, apparently, that’s a very important thing to factor into this player’s ability. My fault. Anyways, if the Browns go defensively with Garrett for the first pick in the draft, this selection could possibly happen for the 12th overall pick. He does fit Hue Jackson’s scheme well, and could very well still be available come time for Cleveland’s second pick in the first round.

7. Indianapolis Colts – Reuben Foster (LB), Alabama

Yet another Alabama “first rounder”. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Colts’ linebackers suck. There’s no other way to put it. They haven’t been able to cover tight ends and pass-catching running backs out of the backfield, so Foster will be a much-needed upgrade. Although he made some news after yelling at a hospital employee, this debacle isn’t expected to affect his draft status that much. And it shouldn’t; if you want to see how much he wreaks havoc on the field, go to YouTube and you’ll see why.

8. Tennessee Titans – John Ross (WR), Washington

Okay, yes, the Titans did acquire a wide receiver during this offseason, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough. Tennessee made great strides last year posting a 9-7 record, placing second in the AFC South. They fell short, however, when their main asset, Marcus Mariota, ended the season on the injured reserve. When he comes back, he will need some weapons, and Ross will be the playmaker. After breaking the combine 40-time record, he’ll be able to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Christian McCaffrey (RB/WR), Stanford

He predictably stood out at the combine by not only posting good numbers, but also showing a passion for the game. That’s what Tampa Bay has been looking for in their players as of late. They desperately need a running back, and McCaffrey fits that description. I did see him going lower in the draft after he skipped out on the historic Sun Bowl, but the combine turned that around.

10. Miami Dolphins – Jabrill Peppers (S/LB), Michigan

He played a total of nine positions last year, both offensively and defensively. I repeat, nine. Any position you put him in, he will do the job that he is expected to do. After a tremendous combine, I see Peppers adjusting well to a professional environment with the fortitude to succeed and help whatever team he lands on. For Miami, in order to compete against New England, they need all the help they can get.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers – Deshaun Watson (QB), Clemson

It seems like a longshot, but there’s a lot to take into consideration when it comes to this pick. Big Ben has been hinting at retirement quite a bit during the offseason. He will play this upcoming season, but after suffering from injuries from time to time, the end of the Roethlisberger era in Pittsburgh may be closer than you think. The last time a team had future Hall of Fame quarterback retirement drama was Green Bay. Remember that? Out with Favre, in with Rodgers. Something similar could very well happen again, especially since Landry Jones isn’t the ideal quarterback you want leading your team. Watson has to go somewhere within the first round, given his ability and “wow” factor at his position. This move could potentially be a huge storyline for the NFL, and for the Pittsburgh franchise.

This upcoming NFL Draft flaunts big names; some that could possibly leave a long-lasting impact on a team. Like I said, these were the points that I think could make a difference in the progression of certain teams. I’d like to see all of my predictions come true, but even that is a longshot, especially after last year with the Laremy Tunsil scandal shaking up the entire projected order of the draft. Either way, it looks to be an exciting time for football and these young players’ futures.