Power Ranking the NFL's 25 Most Electrifying Players
When you think of game changers and dynamic players, who do you think of? Electrifying players come in all different shapes and sizes. No position is out of the question, even guys pushing three bills have the opportunity to make it on the list.
Whether they are seasoned vets or newbies who are just getting their feet wet, it doesn't matter as long as they belong. It's time to power rank the most electrifying players in the NFL.
Trent Cole has to be one the main reasons why pass rushing is exciting. On the defensive line, there isn't anyone who harasses the quarterback more than this guy. Over than span of his seven year career Cole has averaged almost ten sacks a season. Four of the seven years have resulted in double digit sack seasons.
He does all of his dirty work against left tackles, as he rushed the passer 344 times from the right defensive end spot and only 11 times from the left defensive end spot. Cole makes it a point to not to waste any pass rush opportunities.
Sixty-seven total pressures is quite the number for only 375 snaps where he actually rushed the quarterback. A pressure (sack, hit or hurry) once every five snaps is insane. When a quarterback drops back to pass it's a certainty that Trent Cole will be in his face.
Everyone's favorite quarterback to either love or hate, Tim Tebow. I'm not going to try and sit here and explain why I think Tebow is a great passer, because if I did that I would be lying to each and every one of you that read this. However, I will explain why I think he is an electrifying player who is a flat out gamer.
Like Cam Newton, Tebow had a lot of yards rushing and graded out from Pro Football Focus as an excellent runner. He was in his element last season when the Broncos were grinding out yards on the ground. The read option plays and college-style packages proved to have success at times, but it's hard to sustain an offense of that nature in the NFL where the players are bigger, faster and stronger.
His play on the field in 2011 was unexplainable. No stat could do his impact justice. The fourth quarter comebacks, favorable bounces, miracle throws and his will to win are the four reasons I can come up with. He is a weapon in certain situations, so it will be interesting to see how the Jets use him. Its unlikely he tops 600 yards rushing again, but he could top six touchdowns if they use him as a red zone threat.
I know, I know, you might be asking yourself right now why a 3-4 defensive end is on the list of the most electrifying players in the NFL. But it's simple, Justin Smith is one of the most violent players. And no not James Harrison-illegal-hit violent, but I-feel-bad-that-you-have-to-match-up-against-Justin Smith violent.
He is the most productive pass-rusher from the 3-4 defensive end spot. On 590 pass rush snaps Smith had seven sacks, 14 hits and 48 hurries for a grand total of 69 pressures. The 69 pressures is one of the highest numbers in the NFL regardless of defensive position.
To go along with his pass rushing ability, he is equally as good at stopping the run. Smith was in on 291 run plays and on those plays he registered 37 tackles and 10 assisted tackles. He had 24 stops (stops are considered a loss for the offense) as well, and not to be forgotten was the fact he had only one missed tackle all season.
This one might be a bit of a head-scratcher for some because Adrian Wilson is not a turnover machine like some safeties, but he is however one of the most electric, hard hitting, thumpers in the game. His play in the box is top notch. Box safeties are slowly becoming a dying breed, so it's nice to see Wilson excel at it.
Despite being one of the best run stopping safeties, his play in coverage may be even better. Wilson was thrown at 30 times last season and he only allowed 14 catches for 188 yards. Opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 64.3 when throwing in his direction.
Let's not forget that Wilson played a majority of the season with a torn bicep tendon. The injury didn't stop him from going out and quite possible having the best year of his career.
While Jimmy Graham wasn't the best tight end in the league last season, he was number two after Rob Gronkowski.
Graham quickly has become Drew Brees' favorite and most reliable target. Pro Football Focus charts how many times a particular player is thrown at, and according to them, Brees threw 146 passes in Graham's direction with 104 of them being catchable. No other tight end was thrown at as much as Graham and only four receivers saw a higher number of balls thrown in their direction.
When throwing in Graham's direction, 67.8 percent of passes were caught. His leaping ability as a former basketball player helps him win one on one battles with smaller defensive backs and linebackers. Not all former basketball players work out as tight ends, but he is off to a great start.
Patrick Peterson broke onto the NFL scene in a big, big way and it wasn't for his coverage ability. Even though his coverage skills improved towards the end of the season, his real area of excellence was on special teams.
Peterson's punt returns gave special teams coaches heart attacks and caused them to hold their breath until he was on the ground. He returned 44 punts last season for a total of 701 yards. Out of qualifying players only Devin Hester averaged more yards per return.
But there was one category that set him apart, and that was return touchdowns. Peterson took four back to the house and made history with his 99-yard punt return against the Rams. Click here to watch the game winning return.
After an exciting preseason in 2010, Victor Cruz was placed on injured reserve early in the season. To a certain degree the Giants had to have known that he had big-time playmaking ability waiting to be unleashed, but to predict a season like 2011 that would be hard to do no matter who you are.
The area of Cruz's game that is most impressive is the deep passing game and the route running on those deep routes. On targets of 20 yards or more Cruz saw 27 targets which led to 14 catches, 516 yards and four touchdowns. An average of 36.9 yards on downfield targets is ridiculous.
Arguably the top running back in the NFL today is Adrian Peterson. Peterson has displayed his electrifying play since entering the league in 2007. Some would describe his running style as violent, punishing or mean. Personally, I would say it's all of the above.
There aren't many who hit the hole as hard as he does, and like the other running backs on this list he forces plenty of missed tackles and picks up plenty of yards after first contact. In 2010, Peterson had 18 runs of 15 or more yards. And even after having an injury-shortened 2011 season, he still managed nine runs over 15 yards.
The "record breaker" should be Rob Gronkowski's new nickname as just about every tight end receiving record was broken by him in 2011. He holds the record for most touchdown receptions by a tight end in a season, most touchdowns by a tight end in a season, first tight end to lead the league in receiving touchdowns, most receiving yards by a tight end in a season and most offensive touchdowns in a player's first two seasons. Quite a feat for a 23-year-old player.
Just like Jimmy Graham, Gronk has been electric on every level. The deep passing game isn't something that is really well known as a thing for tight ends, but in Gronkowski's case he is a trend setter. On targets of 20-plus yards downfield he caught six balls for 128 yards, and on those six receptions five of them were touchdowns.
Even as a pass catching record breaker Gronkowski is a rare specimen because he is a great run blocker as well. Some would argue that he was the best receiving and blocking tight end last season. At this pace he has a chance to be the greatest of all-time at his position.
There is track fast, which is something you see on display at pro-days and the scouting combine, and then there is football fast. Track fast doesn't always develop into football fast, but without a doubt Mike Wallace has no problems playing fast in pads.
He runs a 4.33 40-yard dash and it's every bit that fast when he is blowing by a defensive back. Some receivers have deceptive speed that kind of creeps up on you, but not Wallace. He's like a rocket when he has the ball in his hands and runs by defenders, as he only has one gear.
Wallace's 6.8 yards per catch after the reception put him in the top ten of all wide receivers. His total yards after catch equaled 493, sixth best of all wideouts.
Is it safe to say Patrick Willis has taken over the spot as the best inside linebacker in all of football? Willis is a rare athlete who could be categorized as a freak.
Ever since he entered the league in 2007 he has been a tackling machine. Totaling 692 tackles in five years is nothing to scoff at, plus he has 17 sacks. When it comes to tackling there might not be a better tackler in the league.
In 2011, out of his 235 snaps in the run game he only missed one tackle, and out of his 501 snaps in the passing game he only missed one tackle as well. With 736 snaps total on the season means there was only one missed tackle every 368 snaps. Impressive numbers, but not surprising considering he excels in every area of his game.
It's pretty rare that a quarterback makes a most electrifying players list, but when you have the season Cam Newton had in 2011, a spot gets reserved for you. Cam faced lots of criticism when he came out of Auburn, as many thought he would be too much of runner.
The truth is he did a fair share of running, but passing for 4,051 yards says a lot about his desire to be a pass-first quarterback. Newton shattered just about every rookie record possible on his way to being named rookie of the year.
He had 706 yards rushing on 126 attempts, and 5.6 yards a carry is a high number that puts him in good company. For comparison sake Tim Tebow averaged 5.3 yards per carry, Fred Jackson averaged 5.5 and Ben Tate averaged 5.4
I will be the first one to admit that when Von Miller was drafted at No. 2 overall, I thought it was a bit high for a 4-3 outside linebacker. But then when I saw how the Broncos used him last season, all the doubt went out the window.
Whether Miller is standing up or his hand is in the ground, the dynamic ability of his overall play shines through. Pro Football Focus didn't have a higher graded defensive player at any position last year. Most players will excel in one certain area, but playing the run is just as easy as rushing the passer for Miller.
His path to the quarterback is fast, relentless and striking. Here's a clip from NFL Network's Top 100, where he makes taking down offensive tackles look too easy.
Bills running back Fred Jackson has quite an intriguing story on his path to the NFL. It's not traditional in any sense and success wasn't in his grasp until about the age of 28. But like others on this list, he belongs here just as much as the next guy, despite his late start.
By no means is Jackson a household name yet, but diehards know he is one the most underrated runners in all of football.
Over the past three years he has become one of the most shifty and elusive running backs in the game. In that time span his total touches have reached 746, and of those 746 touches he's forced 149 missed tackles, which averages out to be 2.7 yards after contact. Only one player, Michael Turner, has a higher number over the last three years.
Coming off the edge, Cameron Wake proves to be virtually unblock-able. Just ask any offensive lineman who has tried to impede his path to the quarterback over the last three years. More specifically, rewind to Week 6 of the 2010 season.
Wake piled up three quarterback sacks, three quarterback hits and one quarterback hurry. I'm sure Aaron Rodgers was tired of ending up on the ground after that game.
During his tenure in the league, Wake has accumulated 32 sacks, 47 quarterback hits and 101 hurries. There's no question that he's one of the best edge rushers in the league as he registers either a sack, hit or a hurry once every six pass rush snaps.
When talking about exciting and electrifying players, how can anyone not mention Larry Fitzgerald? Fitzgerald is easily the most consistent wide receiver in the game. There is no one who puts up better numbers year after year despite having question marks at quarterback every year.
In his eight years in the league he has only had less than 1,000 yards twice, and his hands have earned him nickname "sticky fingers." From 2008-2011 Fitzgerald has seen 275 catchable passes, and on those passes he only has nine drops.
His 4.63 second 40 yard dash proves that speed isn't the only factor in becoming a vertical threat. In 2011, Fitz caught 14 balls of 20-plus yards for 496 yards. And of the 34 downfield targets, he didn't have a single drop.
Outside of Kurt Warner, he never has had consistent quarterback play, so for his sake let's hope Arizona figures it out sooner rather than later.
Earlier this week the Bears finally rewarded Matt Forte for all of his hard work over the past four seasons with a new contract. It was a well deserved deal as he is the centerpiece of Chicago's offense.
The thing that makes Forte so valuable to their offense is his dual threat ability. Not only does he run the ball well, but his receiving talents are top notch as well. Every year in the league he has caught at least 50 balls, and for his career there has never been a season with more than three drops.
Having less than 10 drops in four years is absurd considering he's been targeted 293 times. Also, 41 is the number of missed tackles he's forced as a receiver out of the backfield. It's hard to find another running back who poses as a bigger danger to opposing defenses.
I feel like I might take some flack for this one, or maybe not, but it's hard to argue Jordy Nelson's energetic play. There might not be a more productive receiver in the NFL on a per snap basis.
Nelson played 633 snaps last year, which in comparison is a very low number compared to Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, who both played more than 1,000 snaps. Even though Nelson only played 633 snaps, his production was a knockout. An 18.6 yards per catch average with 15 touchdowns and 1,263 yards on only 68 catches almost seems fictitious.
As a downfield target (targets of 20-plus yards), Nelson caught 15 passes for 637 yards and seven touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson have some explosive chemistry, because 22.6 percent of Nelson's total targets were deep targets. Look for his numbers to be on the up-tic if the Packers find more snaps for him.
Michael "the burner" Turner may have lost some of his juice according to some, but from what I see it doesn't look like that at all. Statistically, he had a great season in 2011. If you didn't see much of the Falcons last year, the stats could lead you to believe differently, but without a doubt there were some major run game problems at times.
But I have to point the finger at the offensive line and not Turner. Turner proved to be the most elusive running back in all of football last year. He ran the ball 301 times and caught 17 passes, out of those 318 attempts he forced 67 missed tackles. That means he forced at least one missed tackle every four touches, which was by far the best rate in the league for qualifying backs.
Will Turner stay consistent and keep being one of the most elusive backs? Long runs will show people he still has the movement, but it may be hard to top his league leading 21 runs of 15-plus yards.
While DeMarcus Ware doesn't have a nickname, he definitely needs one for all the dirty work he does as an edge rusher. Impact pass rushers usually have up and down seasons from time to time based on varying factors, but that generalization doesn't apply to Mr. Ware.
According to NFL.com statistics Ware has 99.5 sacks for his career, which places him 29th on the all-time sack list. He is 29 years old, so would another 100 sacks be feasible to break the record? It's doubtful that he breaks the record, but he could easily get inside the top five.
He has a higher probability of breaking the single season sack record of 22.5 set by Michael Strahan in 2002. All records aside, it's important that Ware is recognized as one of the most electrifying pass rushers in the game, as he is unrelenting in his pursuit of the quarterback.
Charles Woodson, like Ed Reed is one of the best ball hawks to ever step on the field. Joining the Packers really upped the cause in that regard because it seemed like once he joined them he became a one man turnover creating machine.
In his six years in Green Bay, Woodson has forced 14 fumbles and picked off 37 passes. By putting it on an even smaller scale, his turnover rate becomes that much more impressive. Over the past three seasons he has played 3,346 snaps for the Packers, and he is averaging one forced turnover every 119 snaps.
Age doesn't prove to be a factor for Woodson as it seems like his play only gets more invigorating as the years go one. Him or Ed Reed as the best ball hawk in the NFL? You tell me.
Megatron, the monster wideout known as Calvin Johnson. In 2011, Johnson had one of the best seasons out of any wide receiver in NFL history. It rivaled Randy Moss' 2007 season when he was with the Patriots. It could be argued that Johnson's impact on games meant more for the Lions than Moss' did for the Patriots in '07.
Nobody had more yards or touchdowns than Johnson did, plus there were only a few who averaged more yards on a per route basis. Pro Football Focus accounts for the number of snaps a player went into a pattern. Johnson averaged 2.43 yards per route he ran, good for sixth best in the NFL.
PFF says yards per route ran is a better indicator of production than yards per reception or even yards per target. One thing is certain no matter which way you spin it, Megatron is a dynamic player and there might not be a better receiver in the game today.
LeSean McCoy is definitely not the biggest guy, but man he sure is shifty. At 24-years-old McCoy is just entering his prime and is looking to improve on an already solid start to his career.
One of the things that makes him so electrifying is his touchdowns. The guy is an absolute touchdown machine with 20 total, 17 of which were rushing touchdowns. Multiple touchdown games proved to be nothing out of the ordinary, as he had six games with more than one touchdown. There were only two games all season long where he was held out of the end zone.
Here's a couple stats to ponder. McCoy led the NFL in first downs with more than 100, and 31 percent of the Eagles' first downs came from him.
Ed Reed is easily one of the most well known ball hawks to play the game. When watching Ed Reed, the things that shine through most are his instincts and anticipation. His range and ability are both traits that allow him to be more of a gambler than any other safety.
Reed holds the record for the longest interception return in NFL history. Not to mention, he holds Raven franchise records for most career interceptions, most career interception return yards, most career interception return touchdowns and most passes defended.
Here's a quote from an article I wrote about the NFL's best ball hawks.
From 2009-2011, he has accounted for a total of 22 forced turnovers while only playing 2,888 snaps, which calculates out to about one turnover forced every 131 snaps. It wouldn't take much to argue that he may quite possibly be the best ball hawk of all time.
Devin Hester you are ridiculous! That's how the saying goes, right? As of right now, Hester is the best return man to ever play the game. A couple of young guns will be challenging that title in years to come, but for now he is still the man.
At the beginning of last season he had 14 career returns, and he decided it would be best if he added three more to that total. He took two punts back last season, his longest was 82 yards, and the one kick return he took back was 98 yards. The thing that impresses the most is the consistency of his play. There never seems to be a year when his return game falls off.
Hester will turn 30 this year, so it will be interesting to see how much longer his incredible returns last. Plus, the Bears added Eric Weems, who is also a great returner in his own right. But for now all we can do is enjoy one of the most electrifying players of all time.