With the 2020 season just a few hours away, anticipation remains at a fever pitch. Although a pandemic plagues America, the NFL will make its season debut tonight. After the Kansas City Chiefs hoisted the Lombardi, the league’s elite began to plan their journey to dethrone the Chiefs. With that said, five players stand out as the most important.
If you’re honest, Jackson sits as the only AFC quarterback that stands as the only quarterback in the Chiefs’ way. Jackson, the reigning MVP, takes the field with an improved array of weapons. First, Hollywood Brown gains twenty pounds of muscle that will help his ability to fight the jam. Next, the drafting of Devin Duvernay and JK Dobbins. Duvernay, the former Longhorn standout gives the Ravens a tougher wideout that runs like a back after the catch.
Meanwhile, mixing in the drafting of JK Dobbins helps the Ravens ground game. With Ingram, Edwards, and now Dobbins, that takes the heat off Jackson to run as frequently. More importantly, Jackson looks at the point of feeling comfortable with buying even more time within the pocket to make throws.
The league belongs to the best player. Currently, Mahomes owns that title. In leading the Chiefs to a come-from-behind Super Bowl win, Mahomes solidifies his resume. He led the Chiefs to where many expected them to be. In 2019, Mahomes looked different. Whether the injury or maturity, he played with an edge. For the most part, the Chiefs kept their offense intact. The only two major additions are rookie back Clyde Edwards-Hilaire and veteran guard Kelechi Osemele. Either, Mahomes approaches the field with the same aggression and willingness to make any and every throw humanely possible.
Teams blitzed him less in 2019, at twenty percent clip. If you send the house at Mahomes and don’t get home, he will make you pay vertically. Someone always appears open. The AFC championship runs through Arrowhead, behind the talent in Mahomes’ arm.
When Bill O’Brien traded away the best receiver he’s coached in Houston for the proverbial magic beans, eyes raised. Arizona won this trade. They acquired a top-two wideout with a freakish catch radius and the stickiest hands in the NFC. Over the past two seasons, quarterbacks targeted Hopkins 313 times, with only six total drops.
In Arizona, Hopkins lines up with the best wideouts he’s teamed with. Despite entering the twilight of his career, Larry Fitzgerald still provides a valuable bookend to Hopkins. Hopkins frees himself from Bill O’Brien, and will enjoy a free-flowing offense. The Cardinals could possibly threaten for a playoff spot. Either way, Hopkins will remain in the conversation for being the top wideout in the NFL.
After 1169 carries and four seasons, Elliott welcomes a new coach and system to Jerryworld. Mike McCarthy, known for his love of the passing game, inherits the best back that he’s coached. McCarthy’s affinity to throw will help Elliott in 2019. In four seasons, Elliott tallied over 350 touches three times. Elliott’s yards-per-carry dips over a half-yard from the third to fourth quarters. Look for McCarthy to spell Zeke more, limiting his carries. As a result, look for Zeke featured late in the season. In the NFC East, Dallas makes a run with a fresher Zeke after Thanksgiving.
With equivocation, Gilmore is the best cornerback in football. He allows the Patriots so much flexibility in coverage. The definition of a lockdown, Gilmore approaches the game with a feisty mindset. More importantly, he reads down, distance, and the receiver like few in the NFL. Gilmore will trace the route, arriving at the route before the receiver. Additionally, Gilmore wins before the game starts, through voracious tendency. Receivers, regardless of years played or athleticism all display a tell, a small giveaway that alerts the corner to am impending break or the arrival of the ball. Gilmore notices this in film study and implements this during games.
While two or three of these five may not register, look deeper. Stats remain important, but wins supersedes everything else. Mahomes sits atop of the NFL, while the other four fight to see who dethrones him.