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Debating NFL's most exciting player

Pro Football Weekly
Key matchup: Texans DE J.J. Watt vs. Bengals O-line

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Key matchup: Texans DE J.J. Watt vs. Bengals O-line

I was asked a very interesting question on the radio the other day and the more I’ve thought about it, the more it has intrigued me. The question is quite simply, “Who is the most exciting player in the NFL today?” Not the most valuable player, nor the best player, but who is the most exciting player in the game today?

It’s actually not something I’ve ever really thought about before and it immediately opened up a bunch of possibilities. For instance, none among Devin Hester, Patrick Peterson, Joshua Cribbs, Leodis McKelvin, DeSean Jackson or any of the great returnmen in the game today would ever get a mention for MVP or best player in the game, but how do you leave, at the very least, Hester and Peterson off this list?

Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning are the two best quarterbacks in the NFL today. But as far as players who bring electricity to the QB position and are capable of something you’ve never seen before with almost every snap they take, the most exciting QBs in the game are Robert Griffin III and Michael Vick. Cam Newton would have made the cut last year but not now. If I were building a franchise tomorrow I probably wouldn’t take any of the three because of the additional beatings and risk of injury they expose themselves to with the way they play the game. But is there anybody you would rather watch today than RG3?

Adrian Peterson is still the best running back in the NFL, and I’m sure many of you will make credible arguments for Ray Rice, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and Matt Forté. But while none of them will be considered for a best or MVP title, I think Darren Sproles, Jamaal Charles, C.J. Spiller, Alfred Morris and McCoy are the most exciting RBs in the NFL. Morris makes this list more because he has exploded out of nowhere as a rookie. But no back in the league over the past couple seasons has made as many game-changing plays as Sproles and Charles, and Spiller and McCoy are explosions waiting to happen every time they touch the ball.

When you look at the career arcs of Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker and others, it’s easy to argue that wide receiver has become the glamour position in the NFL today. The unrelated Johnson boys, particularly Calvin, still make my best of and incredibly exciting lists, and Wayne might be on his way to the best year of his career. But there are new kids split wide on the block as well, and none are more exciting right now than A.J. Green, Julio Jones — who might be the most athletic big man I’ve ever seen — and Victor Cruz.

On the defensive side of the ball, excitement is more about snot-bubbling hits, pass rush and takeaways, and it can be more difficult to identify individuals in those categories, but there are three players who clearly stand out to me: DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews and J.J. Watt. When I broadcast games these three are playing in, I invariably at a few points during the game find myself focused on them rather than the ball because I know they are where the action will end up.

So, for the “Most Exciting Player in the NFL” today, my top five, in no particular order because they’re all so much fun to watch, are: RG3, Hester, Jones, Sproles and Watt. Hester, to me, can’t be left off this list, but he also can’t win right now because he has been in a bit of a slump in the return game, and as much as I’m enjoying RG3, the body of work needs a little more work. On a different day I might just pick Jones or Sproles but today …

I was doing the Texans-Packers game a little more than a week ago and I saw the best T-shirt I’ve ever seen. It said simply, “Watt Just Happened!” And even though it was the Texans’ worst defensive performance of 2012, Watt kept happening, and happening, and I believe right at this moment he’s the most exciting player and the best player in the game today.

So fire away, folks, the debate is what this is all about!

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