The 2017 NFL season is slowly nearing. While teams continue to trim their rosters for the challenge of a 16 game schedule and hopefully more, you can’t help but realize that there are a few players who have a greater impact on their individual teams than others.
Without players like these, these NFL teams could look a whole lot different success wise. With that being said, here are the Top Ten most impactful players currently in the NFL:
10. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
Although Odell Beckham has quickly grown from one of the most liked players to one of the most hated, you’ve got to respect his talent. Beckham has been an absolute monster since entering the NFL putting up over a 1000 yards in each season he’s been in the league. The impact that Beckham has on the Giants (negative or positive) can’t be ignored. Sometimes your forced to live and die by talent.
Despite the Giants overall inability to be a consistent offensive team, they managed to go 11-5 last year and finish second in the NFC East. While the Giants were continuing to search for answers, Beckham carried them by finishing the season with 101 receptions 1,367 yards and 10 TDS. Despite his excellent regular season, when the Giants needed their best player on the biggest stage, Beckham was nowhere to be found. Making only 4 receptions for 28 yards during last year’s playoffs, the Giants were blown out by the Packers 38-13.
Beckham’s temper and his off-the-field antics tend to grow old and are certainly childish, but his talent is so great it can mask it… most of the time.
If you were to take Beckham off of the 2017 Giants roster, there would be a whole different opinion surrounding this team because Beckham has solidified himself as a top 5 receiver in the game.
9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Quarterback is by far the hardest position to develop while also being the most important position in football. So if your team has the right guy at the helm, then everything becomes a million times easier. That’s exactly what happened with Atlanta last year. With the help of Kyle Shanahan, Matt Ryan was able to exploit his talent and find his comfort zone in the explosive Atalanta offense.
Matt Ryan was a quality quarterback in 2015 as the Falcons went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. One year later Matt Ryan explodes into the NFL MVP and Atlanta goes 11-5 and comes within an arms length of being Super Bowl champions. Yes, there were many other factors that played into the Falcons turnaround but none came even close to Ryan’s impressive play. Without Ryan the Falcons would be just like the Miami Dolphins, a team loaded with talent that somehow only goes 8-8. That is how important Ryan is to Atlanta: he makes them a playoff team and the favorite to win their division.
Although everyone should fully expect Ryan to come back to earth don’t expect to great a drop off. Because he is a top 5 quarterback in the NFL right now.
8. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks
Earl Thomas has established himself as one of the best, if not the best safety in the NFL. His importance to the way the Seahawks defense operates was shown to everyone when he went down last year. His extraordinary closing speed allows him to make up a ton of ground in a short period of time and allows Seattle to leave him alone to play center-field practically. This aspect of his game can’t be taken for granted. Everything Seattle does on defense revolves around this. This allows Chancellor to step up more into the box and make those tone setting hits. It also allows Sherman to play one-on-one knowing that if he gets beat that Thomas is over the top waiting, which does wonders for a corner’s confidence. The defensive line and linebackers of the Seahawks are also allowed to freelance a bit more and go full steam ahead at the opposing quarterbacks since Thomas is patrolling the field waiting to fix any mistakes.
Before Thomas broke his leg, the Seahawks defense was allowing an average of about 16 points per game. Afterwards, it went up to over 23 points per game and opposing quarterbacks yards and completions also went up. Thomas is the engine that makes the Seahawks run. The chip he plays with is infectious and without him their defense goes from great to average at best.
7. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
This is a controversial one especially with how bad the Colts have been the past few seasons. But imagine how much worse they would be if they didn’t have Luck at the helm. Honestly, they would be lucky if they won three games in a season. Yes, they played in an absolute garbage division last year, but the Colts team outside of Luck and a few others is quite honestly garbage itself.
A few years back I believed one day Andrew Luck would be the best quarterback in the league. I still believe he will eventually turn into that. His talent-potential is through the roof and although he tends to make some stupid decisions, it’s hard to really rag on the guy if you were consistently getting the crap kicked out of you play after play. You would make mistakes too
The offensive line of the Colts has been an absolute joke the past few years and Luck has been the one that has payed for it, taking way to many high and hard hits have cost him playing time and may cost him at the start of this season.
While the line has been awful it’s not like his receivers have been stellar either. The best receiver Luck has played with since arriving in Indianapolis is T.Y. Hilton, who’s a solid receiver but hasn’t been great. Their has also been literally, and I mean literally NO running game whatsoever to support Luck and take some of the pressure off of him. Heck even to give the defense something else to think about instead of teeing off on him would be nice.
Despite all this, every single year the Colts are a threat to make the playoffs solely because of the outstanding talent Luck is. His mobility allows him to avoid some major blows and make highlight real plays time and time again. When he is fully healthy he can go toe to toe with the best of them in arm strength.
It’s hard to argue that Luck isn’t a major difference. You’d be blind if you couldn’t see it. If Luck plays this year the Colts will probably go 10-6. If he doesn’t due to his ongoing shoulder issues, they will go no better than 3-13. That’s how big a difference this guy makes. No other team in the NFL would fall of that badly without their quarterback.
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Back to Seattle and yet again another player who is irreplaceable for the Seahawks. What Russell Wilson provides for the Seahawks is what no other quarterback can provide. Everyone knows he can run. His ability to escape the pocket and consistently make players stop and go is really uncanny. However, what has really made Wilson an offensive force is his development from inside the pocket. Over the past couple seasons Wilson has begun relying more and more on his underrated arm and less on his legs which is great news for Seattle.
Although Wilson’s ability to break out of the pocket is one of the things that makes him special, being a duel threat can also get him into trouble. Wilson is only 5’11 which is short for an NFL quarterback, so he’s not the biggest player out there. The more and more Wilson runs the more he is exposed to taking some major hits or sliding awkwardly. Taking a big hit when your 26 is no big deal but when you take them on a consistent basis with a frame like Wilson’s, it’s hard to hold up.
But I digress. Wilson’s recent explosive plays in the passing game have turned Seattle from a running and clock management team to a high flying offense. The importance of this can’t be stated enough and the Seahawks know this. That’s why they brought in Jimmy Graham and with Doug Baldwin’s emergence the past few years, he’s got some pretty nice looking targets to throw to.
This is all irrelevant however if Wilson wasn’t under center. The impact that he makes on the offense of the Seahawks is gigantic. His running makes the defense be cautious of putting to much pressure on him, but when they give him time he goes deep and more often then not hits.
As he grows more into a leader and a passer, the Seahawks get closer and closer to the Super Bowl. If they win it you better bet the main reason will be because of number 3.
5. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
There isn’t a more dominant player at tight end in the league than this guy. There isn’t even one in NFL history. Gronk has become the most dominant offensive weapon in football and also maybe the cheapest. His 6’6 265 lb frame allows him to tower over smaller corners and safeties who simply can’t compete with his physical attributes. His surprising amount of speed also allows him to run right by bigger defenders who can’t move as swiftly and agile as he does.
It’s hard to say that a player can’t be covered. But Gronk is as close as a player can get, and he certainly can’t be covered one-on-one. If he gets in the open field watch out, because he is a freight train when he gets going and makes really good tacklers look like high school players.
If Gronk is able to stay healthy, which granted isn’t ever guaranteed, he changes everything for the Patriots offense. Game planning for Edelman and all the other weapons the Patriots have is hard enough. Add in the best pass tight end in the game and defensive coordinators have nightmares.
The key for the Patriots is keeping him away from big hits because his big frame is an easy target for low hits. As long as Brady can put him in good position and keep him on the field, this guy just can’t be stopped.
4. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown is as talented as any wide receiver in the NFL. But what separates him in my eyes is his ability to compete. You’ll see weeks were Julio Jones or Odell Beckham has a quite game but it seems every week Brown puts up 8 catches for 100 yards it’s frankly ridiculous. His numbers reflect that he had a great season last year, with 106 receptions for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. He can play the slot at a high level, make tough catches on the sideline or go straight down the field if you need him to. He can do it all at an extraordinary level.
The impact he makes for the Steelers especially for Big Ben is what makes them one of the best offensive teams every single year. He’s the definition of a security blanket: if in doubt throw it to Brown because he’s more than likely going to come down with it.
Brown also is a weapon once he gets the ball in his hands. His ability to pick up extra yards after the catch is what makes him stand out the most. He’s so elusive and can accelerate to top speed in a moments notice. Brown also is a major impact in the Steelers return game as just him being back their is a threat. Along with the fact that he has 5 career punt and kick returns for TDs.
He sets up field position for the Steelers offense then scores for them. What can’t he do? Critics of Brown will say he benefits from playing along side Bell, but that doesn’t minimize the fact that he plays week in and week out against the leagues best corners and wins.
Brown is the most versatile receiver and has the best hands in the NFL. At 5’10 he’s a lot smaller than most big name receivers but that hasn’t stopped him from taking over.
3. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
After finishing 15-1 in 2015 and being beaten by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, the Panthers had a setback year being one of the most disappointing teams in football by going only 6-10 and finishing last in their division. The main reason why was the play of Cam Newton who won the MVP in 2015 but followed it up last year by having the lowest completion percentage of his career.
So just by the record alone, it’s quite obvious how big of a difference Newton makes. He’s really like no other quarterback we’ve seen recently. His mobility is a great attribute and once they get within three yards of the goal line, it’s almost a guarantee that Newton is going to sneak it in. His 6’6 260 lb frame is really something you’d expect out of a linebacker not a quarterback, and that allows him to have a clear vision down field, break tackles and avoid taking bad sacks.
With last year being the exception not the trend, Newton’s accuracy has improved since entering the league. His deep ball has also gotten much better while his interceptions have been kept to a low number. Newton has the same problem as Wilson however, although much bigger than him, Newton’s willingness to scramble with the ball leaves him open for some big hits. He took a lot of really big hits last year and that should be a concern for the Panthers. Newton can be a really great pocket passer as long as he doesn’t lose trust in his arm.
Newton has the talent, the weapons, and the coaches. He has to put the pieces together now. Newton has to step up and take leadership of this team and have a great season to prove that he wasn’t a fluke. Newton will need to carry this Panthers team on his back and if he’s great, then they will be a real threat in the NFC.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Tom Brady recently turned 40 years old and here we are talking about how he is the key to the Patriots winning another Super Bowl, really just amazing.
Besides that, this Patriots team is a great team with a ton of offensive weapons, a solid offensive line, and a good defense. But Brady is the cherry on top. Brady’s leadership can’t be overlooked. The mindset that he goes into each game with is contagious. His mobility has continued to improve even as he grows older and his accuracy is still amazing as was proved during his epic comeback to win his 5th title.
Although there were signs of fatigue in Brady’s arm near the end of last year, he can still put enough zip on the ball when he needs to. Brady’s resume speaks for itself, but if the Patriots want to repeat as champions, he needs to be on the top of his game. One thing to keep an eye on is Brady down the stretch, as last year he was able to rest for the first four games of the season which allowed him to have more gas in the tank near the end.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
After looking at all the players in the NFL, it really wasn’t hard to see that Rodgers impacts the Packers more than anyone else impacts their own team.
Year after year the Packers are in the playoffs and competing for the NFC title. Frankly, outside of Rodgers, their team isn’t all that good, it’s very average actually. His offensive line is mediocre and he hasn’t had a consistent running game with James Stark playing as the lead running back most of last season.
His receivers are also mediocre. Cobb has lost a step and maybe more, Adams needs to go learn how to run a professional route, Nelson is a talented receiver but other than that he is playing with stiffs. The Packers did bring in Bennett to play tight end this year but he doesn’t seem to have as much gas as he use to either.
The Packers defense was bad all last year ranking 25th in the NFL in points allowed per game. One may ask how can a team with all these flaws on offense and a bad defense go 10-6 and win a playoff game. Two words, Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL right now. His accuracy is amazing, arm strength is still as sharp as ever as he constantly is able to zip balls into micro sized openings. His mobility and his ability to extend plays by 5 seconds sometimes is mesmerizing. But the most amazing part is how he is always keeping his eyes down field and hits the open man leaving us asking how did he make that throw.
He’s always R-E-L-A-X-E-D.
However sometimes Rodgers falls in love with his ability to extend plays and that can lead to him missing open men and taking bad sacks. Other than that, he is an all around fantastic quarterback. Once again this year you better bet the Packers will go 10-6 or 11-5 with a bad roster and average coaching at best. One thing they do have is the super glue that is Aaron Rodgers.