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

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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.

 

The Tragedy of Aaron Hernandez

Yesterday morning at about 9 AM, I woke up to a text from my mom to see if I had heard the latest news that broke out. Right before I responded, I scrolled through my Facebook timeline to see a link to an ESPN article titled “Aaron Hernandez Commits Suicide in Prison Cell”. Putting it simply, I was in shock. Seeing a story like his come to an end in such a tragic way was difficult to take in.

The Patriots were scheduled to visit the White House that day, being the first championship team to visit President Trump in office, despite boasting small numbers in player attendance. The following day would have the 2017 NFL schedule released to the public, with tickets going on sale in the coming days. Lastly, the NFL Draft is in seven days, creating more exciting animosity in the NFL. But when this news broke out of Hernandez’s suicide, everything else started to fade away, making for a dark day for both the Patriots and the NFL.

I kept thinking back to the first time I had heard of Aaron Hernandez, as a Patriots’ fourth round draft pick out of Florida. As he progressed through the organization, he proved to be a dominant addition to the team, becoming a part of one of the most intimidating “tight end tandems” the league had ever seen paired with Rob Gronkowski. They both combined for 24 touchdowns in the 2011 season and controlled spots in tight end stat categories.

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He was well on his way to having a successful football career, but he just couldn’t get himself out of trouble when in the summer of 2013, he was arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd. It was then discovered that he was involved both in a shooting in Miami earlier that year and a double homicide in Boston in the summer of 2012. He was sentenced for life in prison for the Odin Lloyd murder, but was found not guilty for the Boston and Miami murders on April 14th, 2017. Five days later, he committed suicide.

While I don’t have any sympathy for him and what he did, it’s a tragic story nonetheless. I’ve been seeing posts on Facebook saying that we shouldn’t be calling this a tragedy since he killed people and that he deserved to die. However, there’s another perspective that people are failing to take a glimpse at in this situation which makes the two mutually exclusive.

It’s the tragedy that a player, who had such potential and talent and looked like a sure-fire, accountable weapon for any team, couldn’t step away from gang affiliations despite making a life for himself that would, in the future, lead to a successful and happy career. Yesterday on First Take, Stephen A. Smith reacted to the early morning news and stated:

“He gets no sympathy from me. As far as I’m concerned, he got off easy… The best we can do for both the Odin Lloyd family and the Aaron Hernandez is to forget as much as we possibly can about this. Both families didn’t deserve to be associated with that, especially Hernandez’s four-year-old daughter (who will never know her father). He didn’t still have to be on the streets involving himself in gang-related activity. In the midst of signing a $40M contract, catching passes from Tom Brady, being coached by Bill Belichick, and getting checks cut for you by Robert Kraft, how do you throw it all away like that?”

That’s the real tragedy of it all: that he couldn’t escape and leave behind his affiliation for his main success. That, in the end, it’s what ultimately led to his tragic demise.

It’s very hard to understand that once you find yourself affiliated with gang-related activity, it stays with you. Your fingerprints are on everything that that gang has done and will do.

“My disappointment is what sports has meant to so many kids and what it meant to me,” said Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter yesterday on FOX Sports’ Undisputed. “I’m empathetic of the current peer pressure that young people and the decisions they have to make. There’s so many kids that have been rescued from the streets by sports, and I thought [Hernandez] was going to be another case. This was a colossal disaster, and the kid had all the help in the world. He went to the best schools that offer everything from a medical to a clinical to any type of help an athlete would need. Sports was not able to rescue him because he wouldn’t let go of the streets. He was a high school All-American tight end, basketball star from Bristol, CT, went to play at the University of Florida under Urban Meyer, one of the best athletes to ever come out of Connecticut, and he still couldn’t let go. This is the best example of when people say, ‘Money changes you.’ No, it doesn’t. Money just makes you bigger than what you already are. As he continued to go up the scale in athletics, he only continued to get more violent. Sports has saved so many of these kids, but sports couldn’t save Aaron Hernandez.”

Hernandez had the world at his fingertips, but his life decisions and affiliations held him back. That’s the real tragedy.

What also was tough to see were all the jokes about his suicide. Twitter and other social media platforms were quick to mock his death. There has even been association with his death and the controversial Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” which is about a high school student who commits suicide and the aftermath. The Huffington Post wrote that “we have a long way to go when it comes to having a healthy, productive dialogue about mental health” and that this is a perfect example. “Suicide should never be a punchline,” the article states.

As someone who’s been deeply affected by the concept of mental illness and suicide, I saw a lot of problems with seeing all these jokes and how we treat mental illness. While this man did kill people, the fact that he faced demons that tormented him that others with mental illness face as well is very hard to imagine. If we treated mental illness with the sensitivity that it deserves, the more likely people with these issues are to get help. The stigma attached to it often silences those who suffer from it and prevents them from seeking the help they need. So next time you see or make a joke about Hernandez’s suicide, take a second to think about that.

Reports say that there will be a book coming out about his life and what ultimately caused him to take his own life. Based on the rumors I’ve heard about why he did it, I’ll be very interested to read it once it hits shelves.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Intelligence of NFL Players

The National Football League is full of players who come from various backgrounds. All of them, however, had to go through years of schooling before making it big time, whether that means two, three, or a full four years of university learning. Maybe even five year, which is what Brandon Weeden did at Oklahoma State before being drafted by the Browns in 2012.

No, players can’t simply be drafted out of high school like some MLB and NBA athletes are. Going from high school football to the marquee NFL is way too big of an adjustment for a high school player to humanly adapt to.

So, scholarships are handed out left and right to recruit top-performing high school football stars so they can attend the well-oiled machines of Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan, etc.

But it’s what these athletes do with these extraordinary offers that they shouldn’t be passing up on; they’re meant to be student-athletes, not the full-time jock only stereotyped to be the playmaker on the field and a party maniac off the field (ex: everything Thad Castle did in Blue Mountain State).

Recently, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Jameis Winston, has received criticism after being a guest speaker at a St. Petersburg elementary school. The remarks that he made in front of the children there were not quite the proper message that he was trying to convey. Here’s the video:

Winston later said that this was “poor word choice” and not at all what he was trying to say. He was attempting to have one individual in the crowd, who was a young male, get involved after being distracted.

Fellow players and coaches say that this was a mistake on Winston’s part and that he has definitely learned from it. They all know Winston to be highly motivational and a huge asset to the team as a leader. He’s one of the main reasons why Tampa Bay had a winning season for the eighth time since the new millennium, finishing 9-7 and placing second in the AFC South behind Atlanta.

But on hot take shows like First Take and Pardon the Interruption, analysts of both shows have said that the elementary school should’ve done its research before having Winston come and speak.

While attending Florida State University, despite having successful on-the-field achievement, his off-the-field conduct was far from admirable. Being the subject of many allegations and scandals, including vulgar comments, shoplifting, and a sexual assault accusation (for which he was later proven innocent), the target has been placed on Winston for quite a while.

However, this should in no way create any questioning of the intelligence level of NFL athletes. They are not dumb, stupid, ignorant, dimwitted, pea-brained, or whatever way you want to put it. For having to learn so much information (plays, formations, routes, defensive shifts, coverages, etc.) and play one of the hardest sports in the world, the level of intelligence is at an all-time high for NFL superstars.

Not only has Winston become the youngest player ever to receive a Heisman trophy and claim the title of a first overall draft pick while at FSU, he also maintained a 3.4 GPA as an exploratory major (meaning that he was so interested in a variety of topics that he couldn’t decide on a specific major).

What Winston did was a mistake, which is what a lot of major league athletes have admitted to committing. What matters is what they learn from it and how they move forward. And no, Winston is not dumb. Saying that should be insulting to other players, like him, who worked hard to get where they are.

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Eric Berry, cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs and now the highest paid cornerback in the league, received the 2015 Comeback Player of the Year Award after taking time off to go through a huge amount chemotherapy for his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While attending the University of Tennessee, he maintained a 3.7 GPA as a psychology major and also interned at several places of medicinal practice, including a dental surgeon where he learned how to perform a root canal surgery (he could still perform one if he needed/wanted to).

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Projected first round draft pick, Deshaun Watson out of Clemson, possesses all the essentials of a quarterback that any NFL team within the first 10 picks this year needs. He has the dynamics, the athleticism, and consistency that will only improve teams like the Buffalo Bills, where Mel Kiper Jr.has projected Watson to go in his latest mock draft (updated on Feb. 15th). He also has stayed out of trouble while attending school, maintaining a GPA of 4.0 and above and receiving a degree in communication this past December. Any team would be lucky to have him.

Before you start questioning the intelligence of NFL players, or any athlete for that matter, do your research and check the facts. You’ll most likely eat your words because of what you find. Athletes from all walks of life may dedicate themselves to the game and their craft, but they are aware of the importance of getting a proper education, and that’s one thing that makes a huge difference in how they perceive themselves and how the media sees them.

Super Bowl Matchup: Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning

The matchup for the big game is set. The Denver Broncos will take on the Carolina Panthers in the 50th Anniversary of the Super Bowl. Sadly, my New England Patriots came so close to making it, but came up short in the AFC Championship Game, and rightfully so. The Patriots showed a lot of weakness in that game; the O-line was letting more people into the pocket than the clubs here at my school (sidenote: Marcus Cannon should not be starting) which gave Brady little to no time to throw the ball. But even when he did have time, he was underthrowing balls at receivers’ feet, especially the one where he was intercepted by Von Miller. That pass should not have been thrown in that direction. Overall, the Patriots have a lot of work to do in the offseason. Nevertheless, let’s get to the big game.

Cam Newton is undoubtedly going to be the NFL MVP. I read a stat somewhere that unless you were the Patriots, Broncos, Saints, Cardinals, or the Packers, Newton had more touchdowns on his own than your entire team. That right there is incredible. He puts on a show every single game and his fans, young and old, adore him. But how much of a show is too much? Recently, Newton has been scrutinized by the media by being too much of a showoff. The quarterback position is claimed to be the centerpiece of a football team, carrying the reputation for the team on his shoulders. They must represent the team in an appropriate manner. Some feel that Newton has not taken this role seriously. Excessive celebrations and running around the stadium like a lunatic screaming doesn’t make the media love him any less. I’ll admit, while I do enjoy seeing his celebrations and mimicking him anytime he “dabs on ‘em,” it can be a bit excessive at times. He claims that because of his race, the media is responding to his actions in this way. Ryan Clark, former Super Bowl winning safety, was on Sportscenter discussing the story and, overall, sticking up for Newton. Why is Newton’s dabbing any different than seeing Gronkowski spike after every touchdown, or Cruz doing the salsa, or even Joseph Fauria with his trendy dances? Newton is enjoying what he does for a living. And damn, does he look good doing it. Because of him, he now leads his team to their second Super Bowl in their franchise’s history.

Peyton Manning is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame after he retires. It’s almost going to be unanimous. He’s broken records, won titles, and is just another example that someone at that age can still play. Knowing that this might be his last rodeo, as he said to Belichick after the AFC Title game, it would be nice to see him go out on top. You can’t help but respect him. Even Belichick said to him that he was a great competitor. The Brady vs. Manning rivalry is always a marquee matchup to watch, usually put in the primetime slot. Currently, Brady leads in wins against Manning, but that’s just overall. Manning has won against Brady where it has really mattered: the postseason. As a Patriots fan, I have a love/hate relationship with Peyton Manning (I just purely hate his brother). But I have no choice but to respect him for his accomplishments in the game and all the great moments he gave us. Also, among the HGH scandals he’s had to deal with recently, I feel that he either did or didn’t. I find it hard to believe, however, that someone who has had four neck injuries/surgeries can heal and return to playing “naturally.” Right? Nevertheless, he is and always will be considered a legendary quarterback that will be talked about for years to come. Coming from a football family, he took to the field in 1998 for the Colts, hitting the ground running. Eighteen years later, he now is about to play, what appears to be his last game, on the grandest stage of them all: Super Bowl 50.

Fun fact: This is the first time that two quarterbacks drafted first overall will face each other in the Super Bowl.

I think this game will be of an “out with the old, in with the new” type. Cam Newton is becoming the new face of the NFL alongside many other young, up and coming quarterbacks (Rodgers, Wilson, etc.). Manning has spent years in the league and his time is slowly coming up. Whether he wins or loses, this will be his last game. In my opinion, Old Yeller has to and is going to be put down. The Panthers will take home the Lombardi trophy for the first time in its franchise’s history. Manning will go home not a loser, but a winner. All of his accomplishments speak for themselves. His resume will not go unnoticed come time for the voting ballots for the Hall of Fame. I look forward to watching this game. Hopefully, it’ll be exciting and Manning will go down fighting and a champion in everyone’s eyes.

On the other hand, good news for all of us sulking Pats fans, they made the Super Bowl after the last two times we lost to Peyton in the AFC title game. Good news for next year? I guess we’ll see.