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Green Zone League Articles

GZL Legends
By Wade Pearce
Special to gzl-football.com

GZL Legends

So, here's another subjective piece by myself: who are the true legends of the GZL for each position.

I will be combing L/R sides for a single position (ie. Offensive Tackle). So, let's see where we are.

Disclaimer: - There are a lot of different ways to measure these picks below and I'm only using a very specific and very limiting set of criteria per position. There's 11 seasons of history in the GZL and I'm attempting to pick a single player from hundreds for each position on this limiting set of criteria. It does not mean they are the player, particular in positions where their direct value is a lot less discernible from just viewing career statistics. My measuring stick is also heavily weighted towards players who have put the most seasons in...that's why they're legends!

Caveat: - A player may be picked as a Legend incorrectly due to me missing a position change (OT to OG...I'm looking at you). I also am not taking into account any pre-GZL statistics.

Quarterback - Matthew Stafford - Stafford ranks #1 overall in quite a number of passing categories: attempts, completions, yards, yards-per-attempt, touchdowns and (ironically) interceptions. Some would say that his many seasons in Detroit on a pass-happy offense is reason for the fact he is over 8,000 career yards ahead of the next passer but you can be on a pass-happy offense and still be crap. Stafford has managed a career QB rating of 86.6 and a lot of teams would like to get that from their quarterbacks for just one season.

Halfback - Mark Ingram - While many may think the Colts and Saints would regret letting Ingram go, the reality was that the Raiders' system was the one that suited his playstyle. It is unlikely his career mark as the #1 career rusher in the GZL will be reached or surpassed by any of the current generation of running backs and Ingram remains the only rusher to reach the 2,000 yard mark in multiple seasons.

Fullback - Fred Munzenmaier - Digging for a fullback legend is hard as the position is one notoriously under-utilized by the Madden AI while also being a jack-of-all-trades. In Munzenmaier's case, the first thing that sticks out is his ridiculous 703-2 pancake to sack ratio. This borders on the insane and combine this with 1,000+ career yards in both receiving and rushing makes him the type of allrounder you would want in your backfield.

Tight End - Vernon Davis - Davis' 679-to-5 pancake-sack ratio is impressive for a tight end and helped his teams maintain a strong-blocking presence on the outside of the O-line. But what really sets Davis apart from other tight ends is the fact he has also racked up 6,425 yards and 51 touchdowns in his career. These are stats that see him ranked 52nd overall in receiving lifetime in the GZL. That means in 11 years of GZL history, only 51 receivers have accumulated more receiving yards than he has. If you could get 580 yards receiving and 61 pancakes per season out of an effective 3rd/4th receiver every season, who wouldn't want him on their roster!

Wide Receiver - Demaryius Thomas - There are going to be people out there screaming "but what about Calvin Johnson". Yes, Johnson racked up receiving stats like rings in a Sonic the Hedgehog game, but the flip side was that he was in a pass-happy offense for 9 seasons. Thomas is the #2 ranked in receiving yards but averages more yards per completion and scores a touchdown more often. And while Johnson has seen his numbers drop as he plays more of a depth role, Thomas has only one season where he didn't record 1,000+ yards and that was due to injury. And given his regression, he possibly still has one more 1,000+ yard season in the tank.

Offensive Tackle - Ryan Clady - This is a no-brainer. He's 180 pancakes ahead in career stats and while many of his peers have moved into the guard positions, Clady has remained productive at the tackle position and still only has less than a handful of players who compare to him in athleticsm and skill.

Offensive Guard - Jahri Evans - After scouring the draft classes and Wikipedia to actually find a legitimate player who has always been a guard (and not a tackle masquerading as a guard later in their career), we found Jahri Evans. Drafted in the pre-GZL days by the Saints, Evan's pancake-to-sack ratio was quite good as at the guard position. Seasons comprising of 90+ pancakes were not unusual. While he has started to slow and is now providing depth in Seattle, he ranks #15 overall in career pancakes for GZL.

Center - Maurkice Pouncey - For 10 seasons Pouncey was the stalwart in the center of the Pittsburgh Steelers line, helping contribute to all three of their Super Bowl wins. He's the #1 center with regards to pancakes and #34 overall in the GZL. The Broncos may have claimed him in the 2020 UFA period, but the reality is that he is, and always will be, a Pittsburgh Steelers legend.

Defensive Tackle - Marcell Dareus - While Dareus doesn't have the most tackles of the DT in the GZL, he does have tackles-for-loss and sack numbers a number of defensive ends would envy. And while tackles are good, the ability to get into the backfield and disrupt the oppositions playmaking has a much bigger and positive (in my opinion) impact for your team than just tackling someone does.

Defensive End - Mario Williams - The all-time sack leader of the GZL. Combine his 110 sacks with 117 tackles-for-loss, 564 tackles and 10 forced fumbles across his GZL career and you have most feared defensive end any offensive lineman would face in the GZL. And the worst part for opposition teams is that retirement, not regression, will be what removes him from the field.

Middle Linebacker - Von Miller - This one was a hard one to decide upon but in the end I had to go with the GZL's leading career tackler. The biggest marker for myself in picking Miller was the fact that for the exception of 2015 when he only played half a season due to injury, he has recorded at least 100 tackles every...single...season. And while 2020 saw a drop in his TFL count, every other season has seen at least 10 TFLs recorded. He also has 27 interceptions to his name, something we all like seeing our linebackers do.

Outside Linebacker - Keenan Clayton - The OLB position is a difficult one to judge, but I consider a valuable OLB to be one that is as disruptive as possible to the oppositions gameplan. While there are a number of other players with greater stats, I picked Clayton because he ranks #6 overall in forced fumbles, #9 overall in tackles-for-loss and #26 overall for tackles. Given that other positions such as DE and MLB are more primed for TFLs and tackles overall, I feel this is a great all-round effort for a player.

Corner - Dominique Cromartie - As a GM who got to face off against Cromartie twice a season for 7 seasons, I can say without a doubt he's the most shutdown corner in the league. Once again, he doesn't top a single category, but his 43 career interceptions rank him #5 and his 256 career deflections rank him #4. The reality is that he's the only corner that stays at the top of the career list when you order it by the two most important criteria to judge a corner by. It also helps that he's also equal #1 all time for defensive touchdowns.

Safety - Eric Berry - Safety was another hard position to pick from but after comparing Berry against some of his peers, I felt he just nudged the others at this position. While safety statistics don't generally see them top anything, his 697 tackles (24 for loss), 22 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles and 5 defensive touchdowns mean he was a solid contributor in the secondary for primarily the Chiefs across the years.

Kicker - Garrett Hartley - This was a straight shoot-off. Hartley has the field goal most attempts, the most field goals made and a top 5 completion percentage.

Punter - Pat McAfee - I went with pure yardage with this category. And McAfee is a good 3,500 yards ahead of the next punter. Possibly not a statistic a teams wants to know about. But I'm also impressed by the fact he holds the league record for the longest punt of 94 yards. More importantly, he is ranked #2 lifetime for inside 20 punts, a more valuable contribution to his team than simply being called onto the field the most.

Author's Notes

This was an interesting exercise. Possibly the most interesting bit was that there is a repeating number of culprit's team-wise in this list. For example, the Broncos appear numerous times though with the exception of Ryan Clady we can't really claim all the glory on the contributions of the player. There are also some conspicuous absentees from the list, such as the Buccaneers. It would be interesting to look into such teams coaching, progression and trading tactics. My opinion is that the Buccs are quite successful traders in the off-season and that teams just don't get the same out of their players during the rest of their career that the Buccs do early on.

Anyway...I hope people enjoy this article as well...and hope it's not too controversial!
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