How do you define an NFL playmaker? There isn’t a strict definition, but for us, we’re talking about players who can do the remarkable any time they’re on the field. It can be a quarterback who can improvise or uncork a 50-yard touchdown in the blink of an eye. It can be a running back who can use power, speed, or elusiveness to create something out of nothing. It can be a wide receiver who does the seemingly impossible while making a catch. It can even be a defensive player capable of that game-changing strip sack or a defensive back who can end an opposing possession just like that. These are the biggest game-changers, the guys who can make the biggest plays.
Here are the 20 best playmakers in the NFL.
20) Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
The only thing that has held Zeke back has been his suspension. Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards per game for the second consecutive season, though his mark of 98.3 was lower than his stellar 108.7 yards per game as a rookie in 2016. He has 12 career 100-yard rushing games and is very often rushing for at least 80 yards in a game. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie and had a big play of 60 yards. Expect him to continue breaking big plays and consistently ranking among the league’s best rushers in 2018.
In the aftermath of Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension on suspicion of domestic violence, a number of other anecdotes are being revealed about the Dallas Cowboys running back.
A Friday feature on Elliott by Albert Breer of The MMQB divulged that San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, Elliott’s ex-Ohio State teammate, moved out of an apartment they shared on campus due to their partying.
More from Breer:
Add all this to Elliott’s reputation coming out of Ohio State two springs ago, and a more vivid picture comes clear. Both he and Buckeyes teammate Joey Bosa drew concerns from teams in the run-up to the 2016 draft over their partying. Bosa was suspended for a game at the start of Ohio State’s 2015 season and told clubs he moved out of an apartment he shared with Elliott after that because he knew what was on the line.
The NFL cited other concerns about Elliott’s character in their decision to suspend him, and it appears that the Pro Bowler’s reputation may have ultimately preceded him with regard to the severity of his punishment.
Training camps have started all across the NFL, so that means football is in the air and the regular season is approaching. But before that opening week, there are a lot of battles that need to take place and decisions that must be made.
Every team has multiple storylines worthy of keeping an eye on, but some stand out above the rest. Specifically, there are some players whose stories are more intriguing than others during training camp. Let’s take a look at 10 of those players to watch.
10. Colin Kaepernick, QB, free agent
Colin Kaepernick may be unsigned at the moment, but that could change at some point. Even if not, he’s going to dominate headlines on a daily basis throughout training camp and the preseason.
The debate surrounding Kaepernick’s unemployment has gained national attention and at any given time, can be seen on FOX News, CNN or other major non-sports media outlets. The subject of Kaepernick is often broached among NFL players and coaches, and each time a team finds themselves in need of a quarterback, his name immediately arises.
If Kaepernick remains unsigned, the NFL will continue to face harsh criticism and accusations of black balling him over the national anthem protests he sparked in 2016. And if he is signed, whatever team adds him to the roster will be thrust into the national spotlight.
As it stands, Kaepernick still has one of the better-selling jerseys in all of football, and the interest in his future is only intensifying. That alone makes him a player to watch — team or no team — during training camp.
9. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns
The Los Angeles Chargers will have one of the better pass-rushing combos in the league this season. Melvin Ingram knows all about it, and he actually thinks he’s part of a duo that’s the best in the NFL.
Ingram said Monday that he believes he and Joey Bosa are the “best duo” in the league, according to NFL Media’s Gregg Rosenthal.
M. Ingram on playing with Bosa: "We don’t feel like we have a chance to be best duo. We feel like we are the best duo. Point Blank. Period."
— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) July 31, 2017
Ingram was a first-round pick by the Chargers in 2012 and has overcome injuries to live up to expectations. He had 10.5 sacks two seasons ago and eight last year. Bosa joined the Chargers late after holding out his rookie year, but he still managed 10.5 sacks last season.
The Rams, Giants, and Raiders are all teams that come to mind with some pretty awesome defensive line fronts. And depending on what qualifies as a “duo,” J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney also form a pretty unstoppable tandem. But there is little doubt that Ingram and Bosa will be wreaking havoc this season as long as both stay healthy.
For a second consecutive season, Joey Bosa is missing a portion of the San Diego Chargers’ offseason training program. Last year, his absence had to do with not having signed a rookie contract until late August. This time around, Bosa simply prefers to work with his own guy.
Bosa, who missed the first several weeks of the season last year due to a hamstring injury, has decided to work with an anonymous personal trainer this spring.
“I just found a guy who really knows what he’s talking about and my body changed in ways I could never have imagined last year,” he said Tuesday, per Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. “Pain in certain parts of my body that I’ve had chronically for years and years was suddenly gone after going through this process and this program. After that and after the year I had last year, I saw no reason why I would ever change what I’m doing.
“I wanted to continue with it.”
If the Chargers had to choose between Bosa doing his own thing or missing the first month of the season again, that would not be a difficult decision. That’s probably why the former Ohio State star says he has received the blessing of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and defensive line coach Giff Smith.
“They trust me. All the guys on the team, you could ask them if I’m out there sitting on the couch or if I’m working,” Bosa said. “But, it is voluntary. I think when it comes to your body, you have to do what you think is right. It’s nothing against the team. It’s just what I think is right for my body.”
New Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said previously that he would be pleased if all of his players attended voluntary workouts, but he insists he holds no ill will toward Bosa.
“He’s one of the hardest working guys on the football team,” Lynn said. “I’m not worried about his conditioning or anything like that.”
Bosa is not the first star player to skip voluntary workouts this offseason, and he won’t be the last. At the end of the day, there’s nothing teams can do about it. Even if “voluntary” doesn’t mean what it should, players have a right to do their own thing.
San Diego Chargers rookie defensive end Joey Bosa was forced to exit Sunday’s 28-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers after suffering a scary-looking injury to his head/neck area. But that didn’t stop him from trying to make light of the situation.
The 21-year-old Bosa, who was feared to have suffered a concussion in a second quarter sack of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton but escaped with just a neck strain, joked about the play in an Instagram post on Tuesday.
A photo posted by Joey Bosa (@jbbigbear) on
Here’s video of the play where Bosa was injured:
Bosa was concussed and maybe semi-conscious as soon as he hit Cam. Still managed to drag down the biggest QB in league for sack with 1 hand pic.twitter.com/kLQR6TRD3O
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) December 12, 2016
The Ohio State product might ruffle the feathers of those who see his post as attempting to trivialize the issue of traumatic brain injuries, which is easily the biggest and most problematic one facing the NFL today. But you still can’t help but appreciate Bosa’s offbeat sense of humor, especially given his reputation for doing things on his own terms.
- Joey Bosa
Many NFL rookies find that the NFL is an entirely different animal than the college game. For one rookie, that’s actually helpful.
San Diego Chargers rookie Joey Bosa says that his energy and his play has been enhanced by the fact that he has had to play fewer snaps in NFL games than he did in college.
“I look back at Ohio State and I see I wasn’t flying around as much as I should have been,” Bosa said, via Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “But it has partly to do with the fact that I was playing 80 plays [per game] almost.”
Bosa has played three games as a Charger, and in those three games he has played 27, 56, and 47 snaps. That, he says, has helped him be more relentless and energetic on the field.
“During the game, I think, I definitely have better wind,” Bosa said, “and I’m giving 100 percent more on every single play.”
What may have also helped Bosa is a very late debut. He has unquestionably impressed in his young career so far, though, and it will be interesting to see how he holds up going forward and whether that energy remains high.