The NFL regular season is almost FINALLY upon us! With this new season come rejuvenated hopes with every team starting back at 0-0 and, of course, so many movement skills to be showcased by the select players across the League that have gone out and put in the work to polish their craft to become the best of the best.
Like with the team records within the League standings, our All-Movement Team also starts over fresh & brand new. But with 512 regular season games and 1,696 active players across the 32 NFL rosters to watch, even I need a starting point. And beyond our perennial favorites to make the team such as Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Von Miller, and our reigning Mover of the Year, David Johnson, I also come up with a list of movers to watch at the beginning of each year so I can get a head-start on my movement analysis.
This year, I elected to let you all in on my thought processes as they revolve around this list highlighted by a few key guys so you can follow-along and see if their movement prowess takes up where last season or this year’s preseason left off. Some of the guys on this list will be surprising…others yet, probably not-so-surprising.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
I’m gonna start off with a really easy one for me; a guy that I have gotten to see grow & evolve his game over the last number of years since he arrived in the League right down the road from me in Minnesota, Stefon Diggs (disclaimer: I do not work with Stefon in any way). Last year he was the first guy mentioned on our Third Team of our end of the year rendition of the best of the best at each position and I expect even further movement skill refinement from him this year. Still having a bit of a chip on his shoulder since he was introduced into the League three years ago (this chip has worked out positively for his impact on games), he’s always been blessed with short distance burst and some really tight & sharp change-of-direction angles, the shifty WR took a step last year by gaining confidence to outcompete the higher level defensive backs in the League (practicing daily with guys like Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith probably helped this). Watching him through Training Camp in Mankato, MN, this year, I have every belief in the world that if he’s able to stay healthy, he is ready to become “that dude.” If Diggs is able to take the next step by being able to execute with the same level of movement mastery week-to-week, no matter the competition, while also being able to be a consistent producer throughout the entire course of the season, he will find himself making the jump from just getting a mention on our All-Movement Team to firmly holding down a spot on it.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
This is going to be a really interesting one to see unfold throughout the course of the season for numerous reasons. People across the League always have storylines to follow and this could very well be mine on this blog this year because I don’t think this will be the only time you see the name Christian McCaffrey mentioned on this site. Of course, McCaffrey’s on-field accolades are very well-known over the last few seasons at Stanford. Well, his inclusion into an offense that includes a past All-Movement Team member at QB, Cam Newton, along with a really dexterous & diverse movement toolbox, McCaffrey is EASILY our early favorite to be our Rookie Mover of the Year in 2017. Being assisted and supported in his athletic performance process from a very early age by my good friend, Loren Landow out of Denver, CO, we now see a player who is a skilled and extraordinarily efficient mover in all planes of motions and across a wide variety of movement patterns. If McCaffrey is able to take the next step by being able to make the jump in problem solving from the temporal & spatial organization of movement problems found in the PAC-12 to doing it every week under the dynamically changing conditions of an NFL Sunday, we will get an opportunity to feature McCaffrey much more often here on our site.
Tyreek Hill, KR/PR/WR, Kansas City Chiefs
This player, arguably, shouldn’t be on the list due to him being placed as our top rated punt returner in the League in just his rookie season last year. However, this isn’t a list of ‘surprise’ movers of watch…instead, it’s just the Movers to Watch…and it’s my blog so I will do what I want to anyway. And on that note, there isn’t a player in the League that I am more excited to analyze the growth and evolution of his game than Hill. Besides past Movers of the Year, David Johnson (2016), Antonio Brown (2015), and Earl Thomas (2014), if there were a list with odds on the favorites to be named the Mover of the Year for 2017, it would surely have to contain Tyreek Hill. Last year Hill was among my very favorite players to watch at any position for his exciting, game-breaking capabilities from anywhere on the field which stem from really unique perception-action coupling…being one of the very fastest players on any football field doesn’t usually hurt either. If Hill is able to take the next step by becoming more masterful in all contexts of the problems found within the tasks that he is asked to perform (namely at the WR position) to go along with his exceptional game-breaking return ability, Hill could very well make good on that favorites to come out victorious and knock out those previous Movers of the Year.
Olivier Vernon, DE/LB, New York Giants
One half of the pass rushing dynamic duo in New York (along with DE, Jason Pierre-Paul), Olivier Vernon is a treat to watch in all facets of the game. I have gotten the opportunity to really focus in on him over the preseason and even though 1) it’s been over limited snaps b/c it’s preseason and 2) I’ve always appreciated the well-rounded nature of his game over the past few seasons, I have come out of the preseason myself ready to watch him run all over the field and wreck havoc in the intentions of every offensive player around him in the process when the coin is tossed on the 2017 regular season. Luckily for Vernon, he gets a chance to showcase his skills nicely in the Giant’s defensive schemes because he becomes a moving chess piece asked to do a ton for their defense. If Vernon is able to make even more impact (of course, due to the other really masterfully moving players at his position such as Von Miller and Khalil Mack) in all facets of the game, he can be someone who takes the leap from relatively unknown to some to recognition for all as one of the most masterful doing it.
More to watch…
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Taylor Gabriel, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Jamie Collins, DE/LB, Cleveland Browns
Ryan Shazier, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Reuben Foster, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins
Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
Jamal Adams, S, New York Jets