Welcome to the most unique NFL award compilation that you may come across this season!
When I started this blog back in 2012/2013, I wanted to help readers become more aware of a different lens to watch football through. Though many are obsessed with analyzing statistics and the like as a way to measure a player’s value at his position versus his peers (this is at its height even more so now with fantasy football being what it is and the prominence of sites like Pro Football Focus), I, on the other hand, have always desired to use this blog as a platform where we can peel back the layers a bit and get to the bottom of what actually allows the players to do what they do on-field.
If you have never read my All-Movement Team breakdowns and associated Movement Awards (to be released next week) in previous seasons, I want you to be clear on one thing: this list is compiled with the thought processes oriented around the players who I feel possess the most attuned and adaptable of movement skill toolboxes versus their peers. Sometimes this list corresponds closely to who is named to the All-Pro Team, who was voted into the Pro Bowl, and who sits atop the statistical categories…and sometimes it doesn’t…so, when it does, its mostly coincidental. However, my bias and beliefs should be noted; I do believe that those individuals who have shown that they can execute with the highest levels of dexterity within their movement skill (aka “the ability to solve any emerging problem in any situation and in any condition,” Bernstein 1996) are also those that most often end up leading the way for the entire NFL, as well.
So, here we are now, for the seventh straight season, naming the most skillful movers in the NFL over the course of the 2019 season.
All-Movement Team 2019; Offense
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Elusiveness while moving in the pocket, Making plays with feet when plays break down
First Team: Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
Second Team: Russell Wilson (Seahawks)
Third Team: Deshaun Watson (Texans)
Was this one really ever in any doubt? Though movement skill can be investigated and assessed in many different ways, especially at a position that requires such a unique combination of qualities to be able to execute at a high level, Lamar Jackson has now set a new movement skill standard at the quarterback position. The Ravens second year QB has shown he can do it all in 2019. The evolution and growth in his craft from one year to the next is as equally as legendary as some of the special things he has shown us he can do on the field. Many will try to compare Jackson and his style to certain incredible movers of yesteryear such as guys like Randall Cunningham and, of course, Michael Vick. However, in my humble opinion, Jackson is a better version of both when it comes to his movement skill and its one of the many reasons that he has taken the NFL by storm this season as he has.
Just take a peek at his THREE Movement Plays of the Week from 2019, as well as the highlight video below, and I think you will get a better glimpse as to what we are dealing with here…uncharted movement skill at the QB position.
In almost any other season, (though eventual NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes took the top nod last year), Russell Wilson would be sitting at the top of the heap for the fourth time since 2013. However, with what Jackson did in 2019, Wilson is relegated to the runner-up here again this year. But, what Wilson has routinely done week-to-week, year-to-year, would be worthy of saying he has been most consistent performer across these seven years of the All-Movement Team being in existence. Though they certainly have different nuances within their styles, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Wilson paved the way for a guy like Jackson to be in the position he now is (along with others for sure). Wilson is the epitome of a magician with a ball in his hands in the pocket or extending plays outside of it. He makes plays that no one else can and he makes plays that no one else even thinks are possible to make, as well. Additionally, he often does so with somewhat inconsistent play of those around him (so the ‘shared affordances’ are always changing too) as well as routinely when the pressure is at its highest.
Though we are accustomed to seeing the name Aaron Rodgers somewhere on our All-Movement Team (except for 2017 when he was injured most of the year), and though last year’s First Team performer in Patrick Mahomes is in possession of the most creative and rare of movement skill-sets at the position, they were both edged out in 2019 by Houston Texans QB, Deshaun Watson. It may be an issue of apples to oranges really and any of the three could’ve been insert in this spot with not much of a reach of an argument to be made for any of the three (Watson vs. Rodgers and/or Mahomes). However, with Rodgers not needing to do nearly as much due to the new found focus in the Green Bay running game, and Mahomes being sidelined for a few games and not necessarily being exactly his normal self immediately thereafter, it opened the door for Watson in this spot. Like Lamar, Watson also showed tremendous evolution in his game and continued to calibrate his movement system per how it was best suited to organize solutions at the NFL level. The growth and trust in what is in his toolbox from this year compared to last is what ended up pushing Watson ahead of others at the end of the day for me.
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Robust movement strategy use in diverse conditions, Stopping/cutting on a dime, Accelerative burst
First Team: Christian McCaffrey (Panthers)
Second Team: Nick Chubb (Browns)
Third Team (TIE): Dalvin Cook (Vikings) & Josh Jacobs (Raiders)
In any other season, we may be naming Christian McCaffrey the clear Mover of the Year. Though, one look at the First Team QB indicates that McCaffrey is going to have his work cut out for him for that. However, one thing is clear here: Christian McCaffrey is deserving of the top nod from a movement skill perspective at the RB position and honestly, based on his body of work in 2019, it wasn’t even a close race. This statement is by no means meant as a disrespect to each of the other three guys on our list as I highly enjoy the movement problem solving processes of each, but McCaffrey was just that damn good in 2019. If you watched him over the years at Stanford, and then in the last two seasons leading up to this one in Carolina, it seemed like it was only a matter of time till McCaffrey found himself here in this spot. In other words, it seemed like he was prepped and equipped for this moment…and with it all, it led to him being only the third player in NFL history to join the 1,000/1,000 club (yards rushing and receiving). I know many people across the athletic performance community want to point to his focus on T&F based speed work-outs in the 2019 offseason as a means of pushing their own agendas. However, to say that work is what is responsible for the movement skill which emerged would be doing an injustice to the depth and breadth of McCaffrey’s movement skill-set. Quite frankly, the hallmark of #22’s movement repertoire is that he is now solving complex problems in his own authentic ways and it most often involves jukes and cuts across a wide variety of positions and patterns as we can see here below.
After Saquon Barkley put down a season-long performance that culminated in him being named our 2018 Mover of the Year as a rookie last season, it could have easily led many across the league to forget that the 2018 NFL Draft class had another standout performer in Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns. Well, for those that were on the verge of forgetting, in 2019, Chubb sent a remainder of how deep and vast his movement skill-set is. Though he doesn’t have the same type of shimmy and shake that Saquon or this year’s All-Movement First Team performer CMC has, the diversity within Chubb’s movement skill-set and his overall physical gifts certainly set him apart from most in the NFL. He doesn’t fit in any stylistic categories per se; meaning, he’s not a power back nor a speed back nor a scat back, etc…but he’s almost equal blend of all types depending on what the global problem in front of him requires of him.
Rounding out our 2019 All-Movement Team at the RB position, we find two more young guys who are getting it done in different ways. Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings is a guy who I have gotten to see the maturation and evolution of his movement skill-set of relatively up close. Though I don’t personally work with him, I have gotten the opportunity to see many of his games over his career live (as well as in Training Camp, and breaking down both practice and game film, etc). Thus, here’s a guy who has truly grown from a dude who was a flat-out straight-line gap exploiting monster coming out of Florida State as a rookie, tore his ACL, and then developed a lot more comfort in the chaos of football change of direction problems (i.e. agility!). His perceptual attunement within the demands of these problems at the NFL grew, and as it did, the dexterity in his movement skill followed suit.
Finally, we have a guy in Raiders rookie RB, Josh Jacobs, who makes his first All-Movement Team. Though he ended up missing a few games down the stretch of the season, Jacobs was too explosive in his rookie campaign to leave him off this list. Like Chubb over the last two years, Jacobs hit the ground running (no pun intended) and showed a wide range of movement skills under a variety of situations and circumstances. Though he’s a thick kid who is usually looking to find himself organizing a power-based solution quite frequently, his perception through his visual scanning and how it led into his decision making and action organization is what really stuck out for me and puts him as a must-mention on this list (especially for a rookie).
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Crisp/precise route running, Dynamics in the open field, Linear football speed (ability & mechanics)
First Team: Michael Thomas (Saints)
Second Team (TIE): Davante Adams (Packers) & Julio Jones (Falcons)
Third Team: Stefon Diggs (Vikings)
Though I went on my rant and rave above about statistics not telling the story, the leaders of statistics can bring insight to help support an idea as to who stands out among a crowded position filled with standout movers. Statistics, especially when they are gaudy as that of Michael Thomas (he did set the NFL single season reception record through just 15 games after all), can show us quite simply, what outcomes is the player achieving (though this personal success is multi-faceted especially at this position)? That leaves the bigger question, is the player solving problems in the most functional of fashions and across situations and conditions? And when we do that (use those statistics) while also looking at the consistent body of work on the field, we can begin to answer that latter question and it becomes quite clear that there is one guy who reigns supreme at the wide receiver position in New Orleans Saints wide-out, Michael Thomas. Thomas is the picture of dexterity in movement skill.
Having a couple of Minnesota Vikings defensive backs in my stable of guys I personally partner with, I find myself studying Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers as often as I do any wide receiver in the league. Though he missed a number of games with a turf toe that also hampered some of his season when he returner, Adams is in possession of one of the most well-rounded of skill-sets. He is able to make any route look the same (till it doesn’t), he is able to beat all types of coverage, and he simply has such a highly skilled intentionality that he just knows how it is that he should aim to act in any situation. The All-Movement Second Team is not a lonely place though because I couldn’t help but put last year’s First Team performer, Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons, any lower than this spot. Though Jones had a quiet year for his normally achieved high standards, don’t let this fool you. When it comes to sheer physical gifts, along with the ability to put those qualities to work in the finer nuances of what it takes to move skillfully as a WR, there’s no one that you would rather have than #11 in black and red.
Another Minnesota Viking finds themselves here on our Third Team in Stefon Diggs. Though Diggs needs to increase his consistency week-to-week in being able to solve problems at the same level no matter who is on him and what level his quarterback happens to be playing at, when it comes to putting on a clinic in route running, I would take #14 over just about anyone else. Diggs is able to get into and out of breaks that would lead others stuck in their plant and the result of this is often a big bubble of separation between he and defenders.
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Wide receiver-like route running, Athleticism to make plays happen after the catch, Proficiency to be an effective blocker
First Team: George Kittle (49ers)
Second Team: Mark Andrews (Ravens)
Third Team: Travis Kelce (Chiefs)
Last season, George Kittle made our All-Movement Team only to be up-ended by Zach Ertz for the top spot. This year, Kittle is simply without equal. In fact, Kittle’s movement skill is currently in such rarefied air that no discussion on the end of the season Mover of the Year would be complete without including the fun-loving 49er tight end. Though people have come at him over the course of the season regarding his ability to block (as I did to a certain degree last year in our All-Movement Team analysis actually), it’s clear he has simply gone to work on this aspect of his craft, it now stands vastly improved and is near the top of the conversation as we watch highlights of him taking as much pride in blocking unsuspecting opponents at all three levels of the defense with the same prowess that he displays as he makes people miss in the open field. He has taken on a persona of ‘Mr. YAC’ for the way he racks up yards with a ball in his hands. The calling card of Kittle’s movement skill-set is in the abundance of movement strategies and solutions he employs when doing exactly that. He’s equally as likely to make a wanna-be tackler look silly with a stiff-arm or other physical solution as he is with a juke and leaving them grasping for air. Few players are as in control of the personal interactions and relationships on field as Kittle is and it’s been a pleasure to watch his skill acquisition evolution in these ways.
A first time All-Movement Team mention now finds himself knocking off the more well-known guys like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. However, I feel like it’s for good reason though it’s not because Kelce and Ertz did anything wrong per se. It’s just that Mark Andrews, as the go-to guy for Lamar Jackson for most of the season, came on and took this place right from under the more-established feet of our past Movement Team performers. The Raven TE, in only his second season, has proven himself to be a true talent who can dominate match-ups across the field, especially in the red zone. I could honestly see a similar path for him as what George Kittle showed from 2018 to 2019 and am anxious to see how Andrews will grow and evolve with his movement skill-set and it’s application across situations.
I have come to expect so very much from Travis Kelce from a movement skill standpoint that it seemed as though he had a quieter and less impressive year than he has in the past. However, this is more a product of the lofty expectations one has from the movement skill standard he has set in previous seasons. Still the most creative and fluid of route runner at the position, Kelce continues to be the biggest match-up nightmare to be employed for Patrick Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs offense. For any tight end to be as consistent over the years in creating separation and then moving to make guys miss after the catch, means that they are likely also constantly adapting with their skill on a constant basis (based on the physical and varied demands of the TE position).
Why no offensive lineman?!
I am just going to repeat the same sentiments here as I did last year!
I have often been asked (and sometimes criticized) as to why I don’t have any offensive lineman on my All-Movement Team? This question was raised so many times after last year’s list that I vowed to include them for 2018. Well, the best of intentions turned into a no-go from me once again this year. It’s not that I believe that offensive linemen aren’t important or that their movement skill-sets are not highly nuanced. Instead, as with every other position, it obviously takes an incredible amount of skill to play OL at a high level. In fact, it was because of that nuance that I avoided the analysis of their craft for years as I honestly didn’t feel qualified to dissect it at the level that would do justice to respecting what goes into each of the positions (Tackle, Guard, and Center). There are plenty of smart offensive line skill specialists out there who are talking about what it takes to play OL at a high level, and I will leave this discussion for them!
All-Movement Team 2019; Defense
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: First-step explosive burst, Ability to move rapidly to change direction to move laterally when tracking down ball carriers
First Team: Aaron Donald (Rams)
Second Team: Nick Bosa (49ers)
Third Team: Za’Darius Smith (Packers)
Anyone who follows me on Twitter as well as here on this blog, likely knows how highly I think of Aaron Donald. The dude is a flat out creature who has so much nuance in his movement toolbox that he isn’t always given complete credit for (likely due to people not watching interior defensive lineman all that closely and/or the fact that all of those details happen in a blink of an eye). It’s simply impossible to overrate Aaron Donald and what he is capable of. However, I am not going to lie here: this was a tough one for me to choose…and I almost gave the nod to San Francisco 49er rookie DE, Nick Bosa, over the steadfast AD99, though I ultimately was too shy to pull the final trigger. Don’t get it twisted though: Aaron Donald is the champion mover of all players up-front (though his statistics weren’t causing him chase the sack record in 2019).
Hopefully the sentiments above says as much about Nick Bosa as I want it to: he was so absolutely extraordinary in his rookie season in the NFL that he almost up-ended the reigning NFL Defensive Play of the Year who’s craft stems from the dexterity within his toolbox. But whether its for a rookie or for a veteran with more experience, Nick Bosa showed that he is a rare breed of mover and with what characteristics were frequently on display for him, the sky is the limit especially as his perception and intention continues to add skill. That said though, his movement solutions stem from a wide variety of coordination patterns and in his extraordinary ability to control/parameterize them to meet the needs of the problem.
Rounding out our All-Movement Team on our Third Team, is new Packer Za’Darius Smith. I know, I know…most will be quick to point out that Smith is actually officially listed as an OLB. However, it seemed as though each time I turned on a Packer game or the film, he was playing along the defensive line, wrecking complete havoc on the world, and doing so without a wide-open movement toolbox and pass rushing skill-set. There were times this season, such as in Week 16 versus the Minnesota Vikings, where Smith was downright unblockable where opposing offensive coordinators and offensive line coaches, literally had zero answer for him.
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: First step explosiveness in all directions, Ability to rapidly cover ground laterally
First Team: Fred Warner (49ers)
Second Team: Eric Kendricks (Vikings)
Third Team: Bobby Wagner (Seahawks)
The 49ers team and it defense is likely in line for plenty of recognition as they make their push through the NFC playoffs. As this occurs, you’re going to hear a lot about All-Movement Second Team performers Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman. However, the unsung but arguably the most vital component part of the success of that defensive unit is their ILB, Fred Warner. Another young guy who has impressed from jump street, in only his second season, Warner has exemplified the type of skill that allows him to do it all from his middle backer position. He’s instinctual but also highly perceptual, both qualities which will continue to be honed as he gains additional experience, as well.
Another Minnesota Vikings finds himself on our All-Movement Team (joining Dalvin Cook) here in Eric Kendricks. Before y’all out there getting your undies in a bunch, don’t worry, I also do not work with Kendricks. Thus, there is no personal bias with this selection. However, #54 in the middle for the Vikings is quite deserving of this recognition. Like Warner, Kendricks is an all-around movement skill fiend who makes his presence both known and felt in every facet of the game. Their crafts are eerily related to one another. In fact, all season long, Kendricks and Warner were going back and forth on my internal analysis for who would get the top nod with Warner only barely edging Kendricks out down the stretch of the season (when Kendricks strained a quad a few weeks back).
Like his counterpart on the offensive side of the ball in QB, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner has been the hallmark of consistency and a mainstay on our All-Movement Team over the years. Being that his execution is based off of incredible instinctual feel and perceptual sensitivity, I also believe that this isn’t the last time that we see Wagner on our list even as he gets just a tad longer in the tooth. Very rarely are you going to see Bobby Wagner out of position or perceiving inaccurately, if you look for the ball when the opposing team has the ball, you know that Wagner isn’t going to be very far behind.
Outside Linebackers – Pass Rush OLB
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: First-step explosive burst, Ability to move rapidly to change direction to move laterally when tracking down ball carriers, Versatility to be moved around the formation and asked to execute various tasks
First Team: TJ Watt (Steelers)
Second Team: Chandler Jones (Cardinals)
Third Team: Shaq Barrett (Buccaneers)
It’s an odd feeling here to not write either of the names Khalil Mack or Von Miller here. But, it is for good reason as the guys who did make the list are more than deserving of up-ending our normal pass rushing phenoms. Talk about a quarterback’s absolute worst nightmare…in ALL three of these guys who made the list as the game’s best, pass rushing focus OLB coming off the edge to wreck absolute havoc week-to-week across the season. This was one of those positional races where you could probably just take your pick and personal preference over who you want to put where. Each of them was just that good. However, that doesn’t mean that they solve their requisite problems in similar fashions.
A legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, TJ Watt showed the family pedigree in his third season that allowed him to morph into one of the most feared defensive players in all of the league as well as one that must be schemed against. Like his brother, TJ’s motor just doesn’t stop and it drives much of the adaptability within his movement solutions which emerge, as well. Though his 14.5 sacks and 36 QB hits (among lots and lots of pressures) was certainly impressive, it was his ability to move laterally to track down ball carriers in the open field as well as the needed ability to be moved around and still contribute that give him the top nod here on our list (as those tasks take the movement skill dexterity up a notch).
For some odd reason, when the top pass rushers are discussed, many pundits seem to forget about Chandler Jones way too frequently. I am not quite sure how that happens when a guy seems to record double digit sacks year after year even has others across the league get more film on him. However, Jones has the ability to absolutely take over games. Slippery and spidery (that’s a compliment), though he is absolutely physically gifted, at 6’5” and 260ish pounds (and with real long arms!) with exceptional athleticism to match, Jones also has developed a wide variety of moves that can be employed at the drop of a hat and a change of technique by a setting OL. Additionally, he has some of the most wicked, skilled hands in the game where if an opponent touches him, you can almost bet that their hands are coming off of him in a hurry.
Rounding out our All-Movement Team at this position is Shaq Barrett. The former Bronco now Buccaneer came out swinging hard and hot for his new club in 2019 and ended up leading the league in sacks in the process. Blessed with a lower center of gravity and having the ability to get even lower while turning corners and coming in and out of necessary breaks, Barrett truly wins his positional battles with movement skill.
Outside Linebackers – All-around OLB
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Accelerative burst, Deceleration/Cutting ability to be able to stop quickly to re-accelerate while tracking ball carriers, Versatility to drop into coverage frequently
First Team: Darius Leonard (Colts)
Second Team: Demario Davis (Saints)
Third Team: Jaylon Smith (Cowboys)
Last season, Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts was one of three rookies (along with Saquon Barkley at RB and Derwin James at safety) that found himself leading the way at his respective position in just his first year in the league. Though he didn’t quite seem to make the splash that he did in 2018, if you watch the Colts week in and week out, or even just sparingly, your eyes can’t help but be drawn to Leonard as he pops off of every screen every few plays.
A relatively unknown player on a defense that doesn’t get as much credit as they deserve, Demario Davis has taken over the weakside LB spot for the Saints over the past few seasons and has truly done it all, contributing in every aspect of the game as well as any player in the entire league. Though I will admit that the first time I really began to take notice for Davis was in the NFC Conference Championship game in the 2018 NFL Playoffs, #56 now is mainstay for my movement analysis. Like Leonard, Davis trusts what his eyes see, then acts decisively like a man on a mission at all times and, because of this, he’s the trendsetter for the entire Saints defense.
Coming in on the Third Team is the Dallas Cowboys man roaming the outside in Jaylon Smith. Smith seemed to be on an absolute tear this season and for the third straight season, played in all 16 games (which is saying something given the nature of the position and the nature of how his game is played). Just years removed from a horrible injury that threatened his football livelihood, Smith has made an incredible comeback and it seems as though he uses those aspects of his journey to drive his constant passion while he plays the game. This passion and energy then manifests in his sideline to sideline tracking of anyone and everyone who touches a football.
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Mastery of body position & control (especially during cover situations), Movement speed in multiple planes, Athleticism while ball in the air (leaping ability, tracking, kinesthetic awareness, etc)
First Team: Stephon Gilmore (Patriots)
Second Team: Richard Sherman (49ers)
Third Team (TIE): Marcus Peters (Ravens) & Tre’Davious White (Bills)
The New England Patriots are often thought of as a juggernaut of well-rounded but unheralded guys who just play really well off of each other. Though this is still certainly true on every level of their great defense, and that is definitely the expectation on the back-end of their secondary (that you have to play Patriot ball and connect to movement behaviors of your teammates, do your job, etc), I hope it doesn’t take away from just how exceptional Stephon Gilmore has been in locking guys down from his corner position in 2019. In order to do exactly that, and to match up against each team’s best each and every snap, of each and every week, Gilmore has had to display exceptional variability/abundance in his movement solutions both within the game as well as from game-to-game. Reminder: when I speak to variability and abundance in his movement solutions, I mean across the intertwined nature of his perceptions, intentions, and actions (and not just motor system degrees of freedom). This is all my fancy way of saying that not only is Gilmore quite dexterous, but he also does so through displaying tremendous diversity in what emerges in his movement behaviors, as well.
Some may find it odd that I have Richard Sherman, in his 9th year in the league, the 31 year old just a couple years removed from a career threatening Achilles injury, here on the All-Movement Second Team when there are so many skillful corners across the league. But, that’s just it, due to those changes in his personal constraints, how Sherman has continued to evolve his craft to transfer to the game over the years is extraordinary. Being that he’s never been the most fleet of foot, he’s always been one of the most cerebral and craftiest with how he handles nuances of the opponent he’s facing in front of him. He’s very noticeably as well-studied as they come leading into each Sunday, he’s been able to adapt his physicality of his game through rule changes to the advantage of the offense and came out the other side still playing at a very high level. It cannot be overstated just how hard this is to do in today’s NFL, and it’s for this reason among others, that Richard Sherman should not be left off this list.
Though I put Marcus Peters on the All-Movement Team a number of years back, I have never been completely sold on his craft; especially his intentions (as well as some of his antics) which were always somewhat of a boom or bust, go-for-broke type of nature, always hunting for his chance at picking a ball off. I’ve always wanted to see him balance that mentality, and how it would guide his perception-action coupling, with that of being more strategic (I hate to use the word conservative) with how risky his movement behaviors could be (meaning, if he didn’t end up picking it off, he was giving up too much, sometimes without much defensive teammate help close by). However, now that Peters is a Raven, things have seemed to finally fall into place with this and, in my mind, he is truly one of the more skillful movers in all of the league now.
One guy who has impressed all season long that remains a relative unknown commodity (thanks to playing in Buffalo of all places) is Tre’Davious White. In just his third year in the league, playing one of the toughest positions in all of football, White has turned into a pass deflecting magnet. His hands getting on the ball frequently is all made possible due to his unique adaptability where he’s able to functionally match what wide receivers are trying to do to him in a very calm and controlled manner, but like a cat, its easy to see that he’s ready to pounce at any moment when the bait (either the ball or the WR) is in front of him.
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: 360 degree movement ability (acceleration, stopping, changing direction), Movement speed to snipe guys from anywhere in the field in both aspects of the game, Athleticism while ball in the air (leaping ability, tracking, kinesthetic awareness, etc)
First Team: Budda Baker (Cardinals)
Second Team: Justin Simmons (Broncos)
Third Team: Tyrann Mathieu (Chiefs)
There were a number of safeties across the league who one could make the argument to get mentioned on this list. Individuals like Marlon Humphrey from Baltimore, Minkah Fitzpatrick from Pittsburgh, and a couple of All-Movement Team members from last year, Jamal Adams from the New York Jets and Eddie Jackson of the Chicago Bears, all would have been very worthy candidates to see their name on this list. However, this race was a highly contested one (as it often seems to be besides when Earl Thomas won my Mover of the Year in 2014). When the smoke cleared, it was Budda Baker, who reigned supreme. Sure, there were guys who are flashier and there are those who do a whole lot more in the passing game. But, no matter where he is on the field (playing deep or in the box), if a safety has nearly 150 total tackles, you know that they are absolutely everywhere on the field letting their impact be felt.
When the Broncos were in town to play the Minnesota Vikings, my friend and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Denver Broncos, Loren Landow, said to me at dinner: “The one guy you’re really going to want to watch tomorrow from a movement standpoint is #31, Justin Simmons.” Well, when I got to the game, I saw a guy who was fluid and graceful in space, yet violent and poppy when he had to be. I started to watch Simmons more closely as the remainder of the season went on, and also went back to watch his film from the earlier games before that point too, and I found that Simmons is certainly the real deal. Though he definitely excels in coverage, Simmons is not a one trick pony by any means and he is maybe the most well-rounded mover in all of the league.
Having been a member of our All-Movement Team years ago, the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, had taken a bit of hiatus and at times, whether it was in his last years in Arizona or last year in Houston, he just didn’t look the same to me as he once did. Well, especially over the second half of this NFL season, the Honey Badger has found a bit of resurgence for the upstart defense of the Kansas City Chiefs. Mathieu is now back to flying around with the same instinctual feel and will to impact the game as he displayed in his early years in Arizona coming out of LSU. These characteristics, which in the past often used to relate to him moving like his hair was always on fire, have now begun to manifest themselves in a new and patient, comfortable yet confident, and overall, highly skilled mover who is letting his perception lead his actions where he the movement behaviors must go.
All-Movement Team 2019; Special Teams
General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Rapid acceleration, Top end speed (mechanics & ability), Curvilinear running ability (mechanics & speed), Open-field decision-making, Movement strategy use in chaotic conditions,
First Team: Cordarrelle Patterson (Bears)
Second Team: Deonte Harris (Saints)
Third Team: Mecole Hardman (Chiefs)
A guy who has become a mainstay here on our All-Movement Team for his returning capabilities is back again. If you are looking for must-see TV anytime a ball is kicked and flying high in the air, your eyes must be glued on Cordarrelle Patterson. Though, he hasn’t really ever changed too much of his craft over the years, even dating back to his time as a Minnesota Viking, Patterson really hasn’t needed to change. His highly attuned perception and dynamic explosive ability often looks somewhat reckless to the uninformed viewer, but it’s actually quite calculated and connected to the problem unfolding in front of him and around him.
Rounding out our All-Movement Team we find two new players, both rookies in fact, who have made the most out of their NFL opportunities and made plays on special teams in a way that was…well…special. Both guys, Deonte Harris of the Saints, and Mecole Hardman of the Chiefs, are relatively smaller in stature but big on movement skill. They represent lighting in a bottle like the front-running Patterson and being that they are both rookies, they will continue to become more attuned, intentional, and adaptable in the return game as experience accumulates too.