"With the First Overall Pick in the NFL Draft..."
Those words can change a life.
Only 80 people in the history of the world have been given membership to the exclusive First Overall Pick club, and in approximately two weeks someone will join that illustrious group.
There is more than enough speculation these days about who that lucky gentleman will be, but this week I've been focusing on the past here at Inside The Star. Earlier this week I took a glance at the Free Agents who left the Cowboys a year ago to see where they are now. Today... we're talking First Overall Picks.
So about that List of 80 - that's a lot of times the NFL Draft kicked off with one player. Each and every time that First Overall Pick has had the pressure of living up to his Draft Day stock... a burden most fail to carry victoriously.
What exactly comes with that burden? Obviously one is expected to be a great player, sure. What else, though? Typically quarterbacks taken First Overall are expected to deliver that franchise a Super Bowl. That's why we play this game, right? To win Championships.
In looking at the List of 80 there are obviously names that stand out, players that did just fine, and guys who completely flopped. There is one name that stands out among the rest. One name is most identifiable among the First Overall Picks with bringing glory to the team that took a chance on them - Troy Aikman.
Let me show you why.
I understand that you're quite busy, so I'm not going to bore you with the entire List of 80. It's a fair assumption that to be considered the greatest First Overall Pick ever you would probably end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, right?
A lucky 13 of the 80 players selected First Overall have a bust in Canton, Ohio:
|Year Taken #1 Overall||Player||Position|
|1976||Lee Roy Selmon||DE|
There is one First Overall Pick not on this list that will join them in five years, his name is Peyton Manning.
As these are the 13, 14 including Peyton, best First Overall Picks it makes sense that the best would come from this crop.
Why do we play this game? For championships, remember? Super Bowls are the measuring stick of greatness. Let's examine this list again with World Championships included:
|Year Taken #1 Overall||Player||Position||NFL Championships/Super Bowls|
|1976||Lee Roy Selmon||DE||0|
|1999 (Not in HOF)||Peyton Manning||QB||2|
Once you add World Titles to the mix it becomes quite obvious that this is a four man race between Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Troy Aikman, and Peyton Manning. Paul Hornung was an incredible football player and First Overall Pick, but unfortunately just didn't have the same level of influence as these other four due to the nature of his position.
Terry is one of only three men to ever grace the face of the Earth to quarterback his team to four Super Bowl victories (Joe Montana and Tom Brady are the other two). One would concur that this immediately makes him a lock for this prize, but I wouldn't go that far.
Bradshaw had Hall of Famers literally all around him. His Head Coach (Chuck Knoll), Running Back (Franco Harris), Wide Receivers (Lynn Swann and John Stallworth), Center (Mike Webster), Defensive Tackle (Joe Greene), Linebackers (Jack Ham and Jack Lambert), and Cornerback (Mel Blount) are all in the Hall of Fame with him.
With that much talent around him it's hard to give the nod to Terry here. He was a phenomenal quarterback and great investment at #1 Overall, but he isn't the best.
The most iconic #7 that the NFL has ever seen would be a lock for this title as well... if he had played his Hall of Fame career for the team that actually drafted him.
Elway was infamously drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1983 and later traded to the Denver Broncos. Yes, he put together quite the career there. Yes, he set numerous passing records. Yes, he took them to five Super Bowls as a player.
You know what, though? John Elway could never deliver Denver the Lombardi Trophy until he got an elite run game from Terrell Davis. He could not do it alone. There's no shame in that, it's just the truth. Sorry Johnny, you're out.
Peyton redefined the way that quarterbacks assess the field pre-snap and arguably meant more to the NFL as a whole than he ever did to the Indianapolis Colts or Denver Broncos.
Manning helped catapult the NFL to the forefront of sports in America during the early 2000s when technology really took off with how we consume entertainment in general. He overcame the notion that Indianapolis was a basketball and NASCAR town when he brought the city it's first Super Bowl after the 2006 season.
Peyton didn't do it alone, though. His Indy Head Coach and primary receiver, Tony Dungy & Marvin Harrison, will join the hallowed halls of Canton this summer when they are enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While Peyton might be the most iconic First Overall Pick ever, he sadly isn't the best.
Imagine if a franchise fired the only coach that it had ever known (a time spanning 29 years) and that you were the person they brought in to be the future of the new generation. Only Troy Aikman knows what that is like.
As the First Overall Pick in 1989 Troy Aikman not only faced the pressure that all #1 picks do, but he faced the insurmountable task of redefining the Dallas Cowboys. America's Team!
While Aikman had help from his Triplet counterparts (Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin) he did not have a Hall of Fame Head Coach like Bradshaw and Manning. It only took Troy four seasons deliver the expectation of a Super Bowl victory, and it took him a total of seven seasons to deliver three.
Troy Aikman accomplished the most for his franchise and helped redefine them in a time of absolute need. No one on this list even comes close to that type of accomplishment.
Two weeks from now a young man is going to be selected First Overall in the NFL Draft. He will be expected to deliver a lot to the franchise that invests that much in him. He will be expected to win, and to be the best. That's the pressure that comes with being the First Overall Pick.
Whoever he is he'll have to deliver more than Troy if he wants to be the best, because Troy Aikman is the Greatest First Overall Pick in NFL History.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II
Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.
In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:
It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.
Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.
The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.
Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.
The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.
Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.
Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time. I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.
Back to the chart.
Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.
So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.
Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.
When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.
At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.
If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.
Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III."
Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!
Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN
ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.
The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take.
Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.
43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.
I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.
But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.
The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.
Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.
Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.
I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.
I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.
"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.
Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.
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