Picking up the trend that I started at the end of last year, I am going to continue to beef up my year-end award giving this season. In fact, before naming the 2017 Mover of the Year tomorrow, and to go along with the ‘Most Improved Mover’ and ‘Most Impressive Rookie Mover’ recognition, I am going to name a ‘Most Masterful Moving Team’ this year for the respective team who collectively showed up each Sunday with the most skillful of performers across their roster.
In true ‘Football Beyond the Stats’ fashion, each of these additional awards will be judged and selected based on the same criteria as the Mover of the Year (and the All-Movement Team for that matter); on the execution of movement skills and not on where individuals (or teams) rank statistically!
Most Improved Mover
Todd Gurley, Running Back, Los Angeles Rams
This selection may come as a surprise to some where after two years ago, while as a rookie, Gurley seemingly took the NFL by storm and showed the flashes of RB greatness to be the new torch bearer at the position for this generation. However, even when he was doing that, I always felt as though there was still a little left to be desired in his movement skill-set. Yes, he was capable of breaking home run plays at anytime. Yes, he was also frequently found laying down some nasty hurdles over guys. So what’s the reason for all of the doubt from me? Well, I felt as though he was often accomplishing those respective tasks by simply being more athletic than his opponents in many cases. Meaning, he was solving those problems through physical prowess and not through the most dexterous of movement toolboxes. Don’t get me wrong here; those plays most definitely count and in the NFL you are to achieve success in any way that you possibly can. That all said though, under the direction and tactical strategies of new Ram Head Coach Sean McVay, Gurley is now being put in positions to literally take games over, and because of this, I have seen a whole new level of improved movement skills emerge from Gurley. There is no doubt that Gurley can still run past just about anyone and he will still jump over a guy if said opponent elects to take his eyes off of him and/or tries to go low, but the Rams RB isn’t just about athleticism any longer. Instead, he’s now out there solving problems in highly attuned and adaptable ways and with the inclusion of new wrinkles in his movement patterns this has all led to more precise timing and creativity in his agility actions. Finally, he’s done this rather consistently throughout the year against all comers which is the mark of someone masterful truly coming into his own in the context-dependent fashions which take place on a field.
Most Impressive Rookie Mover
Alvin Kamara, Running Back, New Orleans Saints
Resembling the whirlwind we saw out of last year’s top rookie mover, Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs, this year’s top first year performer, Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, presented problems to the rest of the league that aren’t often found from a rookie. Though Kamara was absolutely incredible in his own right, it was not a foregone conclusion that he would end up in this top spot. Instead, he had to contend with the impressive movement skills of new comers in fellow do-it-all running backs Kareem Hunt (Chiefs) and Tarik Cohen (Bears) as well as a number of All-Movement Team members including a First Team performer at tight end, Evan Engram (Giants) and Third Team performers like linebacker Reuben Foster (49ers) and cornerback Marshon Lattimore (Saints). In fact, I would say it was possibly Kamara’s teammate in Marshon Lattimore who gave him the biggest push for this recognition. However, based on how he truly took the NFL world by storm, I feel as though it was Alvin Kamara who displayed the most well-rounded and surprisingly refined movement behaviors of all of the rookies. It’s been downright unfair what Kamara has been doing to any team that stands in his way. His visual scanning is precise and sensitive, his decision making is varied but accurate, and the strategies that flow from his creation lead down to feet that are quick but powerful.
Most Masterful Moving Team
At first glance, this new award at ‘Football Beyond the Stats’ would seem to be easier said than done to select. Theoretically, one could just go through my All-Movement Team in a position-by-position manner and simply count the respective NFL team that was represented with the highest frequency. However, every team has outliers who perform at a level that far exceeds their peers. Thus, rather than do this (i.e. count the team represented most often), I decided to try my hand and do my best at evaluating an entire team roster based on the level of movement skill that was put on a field each and every Sunday. Once the smoke cleared on this above mentioned process, a number of teams kept reoccurring for final evaluation; so much so that I would say that I really couldn’t go wrong with any of them. Here were some of the features of our top candidates:
Kansas City Chiefs – A team appealingly built on speed on both sides of the ball, when you think about dynamic, game-breaking playmakers, you can’t help but think of the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, speed kills. However, just because a team is fast doesn’t mean they are the most skillful and dexterous when it comes to movement skills. That said, they do have a number of performers who show more than pure linear speed or explosive burst such as burner Tyreek Hill, rookie Kareem Hunt, and tight end Travis Kelce (with Hill and Kelce being former First Team members of our All-Movement Team).
Seattle Seahawks – Over the years, I’ve often commented about the movement capabilities of this previous perennial playoff team. In fact, if this would’ve been a couple of years ago, they may have been clearly the tops of this group for a number of years straight. Even now, we stand with my top moving QB in the League on their roster (Russell Wilson) as well as at least one impressive mover at each level of the defense including two members of our All-Movement Defensive First Team (Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas).
Atlanta Falcons – The defending NFC Champion is stacked with movement talent on both sides of the ball. From All-Movement First Team performer Devonta Freeman to dynamic guys like Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen anchoring a consistently moving defense throughout, this team is one to be reckoned with for a list like this. Oh yeah, they also have a guy named Julio Jones who just so happens to be on our All-Movement Team and makes catches appear to be routine that no one else around the league can even make.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Anytime your team has a past Mover of the Year on its roster, you are almost certain to get immediate recognition for being one of the best of the best. This team is more than just about Antonio Brown though; it has a multiple All-Movement Team mention at Running Back Le’Veon Bell and is stacked with other guys like youngster TJ Watt and Ryan Shazier (2017 All-Movement Second Team) on the defensive side of the ball. Additionally, with the pocket presence of Big Ben at QB thrown into the mix this team have the makings of a roster worth evaluating deeper from a movement standpoint.
Minnesota Vikings – For the Vikings to turn my head says something; even when they have me being more highly critical of them due to the fact that they are the team that I have the highest number of my personal clients on. Unlike the other teams, I have not missed a single snap from the Vikings’ season. Because of that, I get to see the best and the worst of them. No matter the week, one of the NFL’s best overall teams is stacked on both sides of the ball with proficient movers including guys like Everson Griffen (All-Movement First Team at DE), a consistent mover like Harrison Smith (Third Team Safety), and one of the most mobile QBs of 2017 in Case Keenum (Third Team QB).
Jacksonville Jaguars – The surprise team of the entire AFC and this list, the Jaguars roster is loaded across the defense with performers who are as dynamic as it comes especially as a unit. This includes All-Movement First Team performer A.J. Bouye and fellow cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Though this team does deserve mention here, especially with what their defense did all season long, I feel as though they are still a year or two away from both further movement skill refinement from their standout defense as well as acquiring a few more dynamically skillful playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
That all being said, when the dust is settled and the game movement analysis has been completed, the winner is…
The Atlanta Falcons!
I decided to go in the direction of the reigning NFC Champion, Atlanta Falcons, as my first-ever Most Masterful Moving Team award winner! From top to bottom, from offense to defense and into the special teams, this team has few weaknesses when it comes to the movement skills that they display. The Falcons have an offense that have world class movers (Freeman, Jones, Ryan) and depth to boot (such as Tevin Coleman, Justin Hardy, Mo Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, & Austin Hooper) which aids in them winning this award. The thing that puts them over the edge is likely the level to level movement mastery on the defensive side of the ball. I already mentioned their outstanding safeties, but they are dynamic upfront with the authenticity displayed by edge rushing guys like Courtney Upshaw, Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley and with one of the more athletic LB tandems playing in the game in Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell. Beyond those aforementioned special safeties, we find two crafty corners who can sufficiently get movement jobs done, as well. This all combines to make the Atlanta Falcons the most fun treat for any Movement Coach to analyze in 2017.