Just like so many other football and sport publications at this time of the year, Beyond the Stats will also be bringing you an All-Something-or-Another Team! However, this is NOT just another list! No, ladies and gentlemen! This one is different; I believe this will be the first ever team released anywhere that is devised all around movement proficiency and human performance. Without further adieu, we are proud to bring you the First Annual BTS All-Movement Team!
In true Beyond the Stats fashion, we don’t care about traditional quantitative statistics. Instead, as you could probably guess, I am making my selections based on evaluation of an athlete’s efficiency and display of his on-field movement patterns only. On this same note, I am not necessarily judging tactical football skills (such as the act of passing for a QB or catching for a WR, etc). I am assessing movement as it pertains to the athlete being able to execute football-specific skills more fully (such as a WR being able to get into the positions he needs to in order to make receptions, etc).
You will notice that my list may also be slightly different in a few other ways. First, my roster of the All-Movement Team is made up of awkward numbers at each position (sorry, I am not sorry!). On this same token, I have not made distinctions at certain positions based on the tactical concerns (for example a 4-3 vs. 3-4 linebacker). Though the demands of individual players will differ depending on these tactical and schematic responsibilities between systems, I had to narrow things down a bit in some way. That said I am fully cognizant of the fact that just like the systems will present differences strategically there will also be differences to an individual’s movement patterns based on how he’s being used and how the system correlates to movement success.
Second, I will be the first to admit that I am more well-versed and familiar with the movement patterns of some positions in comparison to others. Thus, I elected to omit several positions on my All-Movement Team (i.e. Offensive Line). This was not done out of disrespect to those that play those positions. Instead, I didn’t want to make decisions on those positions when I don’t feel fully qualified evaluating their movement and performance (shocking that I am actually admitting my own weakness here).
All in all, it is my list here…so I can do it however I want to! If you don’t like it…go make your own list!
Beyond the Stats All-Movement Team: Offense
With the downfall of RG3’s movement patterns (yes; I am saying what everyone knows but some don’t have the balls to admit) and Colin Kaepernick not being able to make as many plays as he did a year ago, the Panther’s Superman was really the only likely selection here (though Russell Wilson worked some movement magic all year too). This is all thanks to Cam’s size and physical presence, combined with having the open-field movement tendencies and abilities similar to the best moving large running backs in the league today.
Honorable Mention-Russell Wilson (Seahawks)
Running Backs (3)
Minnesota Vikings defensive end, Jared Allen, called McCoy “a human joystick” on the field. And it’s hard to disagree with the accuracy of this analysis. Shady McCoy has always possessed some of the best-rounded movement capabilities in the league but was able to really let them shine within the new Eagle’s scheme courtesy of Chip Kelly. This season’s leading rusher also currently possesses the best speed-cutting abilities in the league. McCoy excels due to great control of his center of gravity and places himself into optimal biomechanical positions that take advantage of his highly reactive nature.
When it comes to pure athleticism in today’s NFL, it’s difficult to match the Chiefs RB. He ranks as one of the best top end breakaway guys in the league and has short distance movement characteristics to boot. Though he can sometimes find himself in too high of center of mass position in rapid change of direction situations, he still has a wicked crossover in which he gets back to reacceleration positions as quick as anyone in the league. He hits top speed as rapidly as any running back you will see play on Sundays.
Though I know very few other lists are going to have 3 running backs selected many know that the RB position is my very favorite one to analyze and break down movement patterns of. Thus, most people had to have known that my list was going to include as many backs as I could deem reasonable. Having won 3 out of 16 Plays of the Week from BTS throughout the season, Giovani Bernard has the ‘IT’…the juice…the wow factor. Though just a rookie, Bernard already has maybe the most well-rounded movement repertoire of any player in the league #25. His ability to stop and restart again is truly exceptional and the crazy thing is that he can do it from numerous body positions (power cuts, speed cuts, lunge cuts, you name it!).
Honorable Mention-Reggie Bush (Lions)
Wide Receivers (3)
If you try to argue with this selection, you simply don’t know what to look for when you watch football. There I said it. Megatron is on his own planet when it comes to movement and physical considerations for the position. There is not another guy on the field on Sundays who is this large, yet this fast, and still in this type of body control like CJ-81. To say he is a freak is putting it lightly. Obviously, most people know that Johnson’s explosive vertical leaping ability is extraordinary, but it’s his horizontal force expression that sets him apart on a football field. To add to this, his physical stature and length (reach plus explosiveness) allows him to have range that has not been seen in the NFL to date.
This selection is not a guy that we would expect to see on the list when the season began. However, Gordon came on and is an absolute beast. At 6’5” and 230lb, he has the ability to be physical but what makes him different is his movement at this size. Gordon can flat-out fly but is also deceivingly agile in short spaces of an open field (especially for a guy with a high center of gravity). He has some of the cleanest backside mechanics you will see from any guy on our list and this allows him to not only to be one of the best striders but also gets his foot off the ground quickly to allow him to hit top speeds rapidly. If he continues to strive for greatness, while working to bring up all the smallest aspects of his craft, the sky is the limit for Gordon and we should see him on the list for years to come.
In my opinion, DeSean Jackson is the quickest and most agile WR in the league today. Like his teammate (McCoy), he can stop on a dime and place his body in the most optimal position to change directions at any moment. He gets in and out of breaks as rapidly as any receiver you will see based on phenomenal body control & kinesthetic awareness as well as exceptional force absorption capabilities. In addition, Jackson can hit top speeds in a blink of an eye due to his crisp reacceleration mechanics. These movement characteristics have allowed Jackson to be one of the most dynamic movers at any position for the last number of years.
Honorable Mention-Dez Bryant, AJ Green, DeMariyus Thomas, Antonio Brown (Yes; there a lot of good movers at the WR position!)
Tight Ends (2)
What Calvin Johnson is to the wide receiver position, Jimmy Graham has proved to be in the last few years at tight end. In recent years he had guys like Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski to contend with in the movement evaluation department. This is no longer the case. Graham is now essentially in a league of his own. I know it sounds cliché, but Graham’s combination of size and athletic ability is special. The thing is, I believe that Graham still has some growing that he can do with his movement efficiency and this will happen with a little more time as well as deliberate emphasis on those factors. He has the ability to stretch a field vertically due to his athleticism and he can get open in short spaces due to the physical presence that he creates, but his ability to get in and out of breaks or rapid changes of direction can still improve with an increase in force absorption capabilities plus work on attaining more optimal biomechanical positions for his anthropometric features.
I know this pick may be slightly surprising especially with the abundance of some very athletic tight ends across the league. However, Cameron’s emergence on this list wouldn’t come as a shock if you watch him move for a quarter or two of football. I saw Cameron live in Minneapolis against the Vikings in September and was immediately impressed by his movement efficiency. Like so many of today’s tight ends, watching Cameron’s movement patterns at first glance could leave even the most informed of football analysts to mistaken him for a wide receiver (which is saying a lot when he is easily over 250lb). Granted, most of today’s top tight ends are explosive and put out a ton of force quickly, but Jordan Cameron separates himself from others across the league by his ability to decelerate and reaccelerate efficiently in short spaces.
Honorable Mention-Vernon Davis (49ers)
That concludes our list as it pertains to the most efficient movers playing offense in the league today. Our BTS All-Movement Defensive Team will be released next week so be sure to keep an eye out for that!