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Green Zone League Articles

An Idiot's Opinion - Players of the Year
By Wade Pearce
Special to gzl-football.com

An Idiot's Opinion - Players of the Year

So, the 2021 season is nearly in the bag and it's time for this intrepid journalist to sprout his off-season opinions on an unsuspecting fanbase.

Sure, there's still a Super Bowl to be competed for by my beloved Broncos, but let's face it, either through misery or joy, I will be incoherent for a good week post-match so I really should get at least one good article in before reality unwravels into a drunken haze of Jose Cuervo tequila.

There is no science behind the following choices. I don't work that way...so leave me alone when you think I got it wrong. Right, on with the madness!

QB Geno Smith - It's a hard job being a passer with a good QB rating in the GZL. Geno Smith finished the regular season with a QB rating of 90.4, ranking him #2 in that category and combined this with 3,701 yards passing, ranking him #5 in that category. Combine that with his 26 touchdowns making him tied for the #3 ranked QB in the league for that position, it makes Geno the pick of the quarterbacks for a season's production because who doesn't want 3000+ yards at 90+ QB rating out of their play caller?

HB Melvin Gordon - This one was hard as there is a bit of a log-jam at the top of the stats for halfbacks. Given that the Bear top the touchdown counts for both passing and rushing had Bronze Pittman in the running, but then when you see Gordon posted 1,848 yards while Duke Johnson was snaffling another 758 yards for himself it pretty impressive. Combine his #1 yardage ranking with his equal-#3 ranking for touchdowns and 4.8 yards-per-carry and he's had a pretty solid season. But this has given me an idea for writing an article on best teams-by-position because there are some really interesting combinations to be observed.

WR Demaryius Thomas - He may not have had the most yards for the season, but the fact he had over 25% less receptions for the season than the Ravens' Jonathan Baldwin makes this even more impressive. Specifically, his 13 touchdowns for the season ranked him #2 for the season and his 17.18 yards per reception was a league leader for the season. And all this at the age of 34!

TE Terrell Edwards - Edwards had an excellent all-round season for the Packers at tight end, finishing #4 in receiving yards, #2 in touchdowns and #4 in pancakes (while giving up 0 sacks). While there are players in each category that outranks him, he's the one consistent player in the top 5 of each crucial statistic.

OT Greg Robinson - Linemen are reasonably easy to compare. In this case, the 120 pancakes made by Robinson were only marred by 3 sacks allowed all season at offensive tackle is pretty damned nice. Eric Fisher from the Bills came close in reckoning here because he only gave up one sack for his 90 pancakes at the right tackle position, which has much harder time than the left tackles, but the 30 extra pancakes by Robinson were enough.

OG Jake Long - A starting guard that gave up no sacks all season. Pretty damned impressive. Frankie Gerard of the Buccs was a close 2nd with his sole sack allowed.

C Alex Mack - The centre is not a high-pancake position, but they can find themselves regularly blamed for sacks allowed (particularly if the opposition defensive tackles are nasty), so for Mack to only be credited with 2 sacks allowed is impressive. Maurkice Pouncey of the Broncos made six more pancakes, but not allowing sacks is a much more important credential.

DT Archie Waters - The big man from Pittsburgh was not the friend of the offensive line. He lead the league in tackles made, was equal-#2 in tackles-for-loss, made 7 sacks and most importantly for a defensive lineman, forced three fumbles and recovered one. While other players may have beaten him in all categories bar tackles made, Waters provided what I feel was the best all-round defensive effort for his position.

DE Jadeveon Clowney - I swear this guy is still hunting me due to an incident at the 2017 draft, but this is not an appeasement selection. I said he was a monster then and he's a monster now. His 15 sacks combined with 57 tackles, 17 for loss and forced fumble make him a nightmare for offenses to deal with. That's 32 times he chose to give the quarterback or a running back his personal attention and a hug like a Mack truck!

MLB Luke Kuechly - Kuechly is the third write up I've done on this position, as I paid more attention to different stats. Kuechly made 124 tackles during the season. Not the highest of the middle linebackers, but his 23 tackles for loss give him a high hit rate that per tackle, he's going to be in the backfield. Then you work across his defensive line. Kuechly forced 5 fumbles across the season, a equal-league leader in this position and then you notice he also pulled in 4 interceptions (something a number of corners would love to achieve) and made 18 deflections. The end result, by far the best under-zone defender of the 2021 season.

OLB Dante Fowler - You want your outside linebackers being a mix of defensive ends and middle linebackers. Stopping the edge runs appropriately and disrupting the backfield as much as possible. Fowler's 84 tackles, 17 for loss and his position-leading 9 sacks made him an excellent defensive presence for the Dolphins.

CB Braylon Bender - This one was the 11 interceptions Bender pulled in. Any corner that records 10+ interceptions for a season and combines it with 3 touchdowns is a defensive presence any team would gladly have on their roster. Effectively, Bender was the equivalent of -200 offensive yards and -21 points against opposition. There are offensive players who don't have that kind of scoring production. There were corners who had higher tackle counts or deflections, but he led the position in interceptions and defensive touchdowns.

SS Mike Greenfield - Strong safety is a position that is hard to judge, but you generally want a player that can make an impact in a number of different areas on the field. Whether that's stopping plays with tackles or helping shut down the passing zones. Greenfield covered most bases. While he might not have been the league leader (or even close) in tackles made, he recovered two fumbles for his team, pulled in an important 5 interceptions, made a defensive touchdown and only allowed 7 catches. In comparison, the tackle leaders at the strong safety position allowed 12 and 18 catches respectively.

FS Kyle Nelson - I see free safety as an adjunct to the corner position. Better capable at shutting down escaped running backs or receivers, but if their stats are in tackles, they're missing the point. Nelson was as disruptive a defensive influence as you want a free safety to be, make 3 tackles for loss while also forcing a fumble, pulling in 4 interceptions, 17 deflections and only allowing 6 catches.

K David Buehler - Buehler made the most field goals all season, putting away 44-of-45 attempts. Without a distance breakdown for players, it's hard to rate those field goals (ie. was Buehler chipping them in from 10 yards while Roth of the Bills was stuffing them home from 50 out?). The Broncos' Shaun Willis would be considered a close second with his 41-of-42 effort.

P Pat O'Donnell - Forget yardage here; it's how often does a punter peg the opposition back in their own twenty. O'Donnell lead this category, forcing the opposition inside their own 20 nearly 30% of the time.

KR Andy Bloom - Bloom led the league in total kick return yardage but more importantly kickoff touchdowns. He added 28 points to the Texans points-for column across the season.

There we have it. My breakdown of who I think was the best player at their position this season. Some choices were more difficult than others, and there isn't any scientific approach to it. Now, off to prepare my bunker for Super Bowl XII!
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