The season only ended a short while ago and so like ourselves, we find most of our peers still transitioning from season wrap-up mode into offseason mode. That includes the league’s own website. But one feature of interest that I came across was a list provided by Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks of the top five players irrespective of position during the 2016 season.
The top two players on the list should probably be easy enough to guess, as they competed against one another in the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan, the league’s MVP and the quarterback of the Falcons, finished at the top of the NFL analysts’ list, while Tom Brady, the runner-up for MVP, and the Super Bowl MVP for the Patriots, finished second.
But third on the list was Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, which is a pretty impressive, but fair, position for him to hold, especially considering that he only played in 12 regular-season games—though the same can be said for Brady.
Preceding Bell on the list at number four was the player most similar to him in the league, the Cardinals’ David Johnson. Johnson and Bell share a combination of running and receiving skills that pretty much set themselves up in a class of their own, so it’s no surprise that they were the top two non-quarterbacks on the list.
“We talked about David Johnson’s versatility”, said Brooks while segueing from the fourth spot on the list to Bell at three. “Le’Veon Bell does similar things”. That might be taken as a bit of an understatement, especially considering that Bell has been doing it for a bit longer. He caught 83 passes for 854 yards in 2014, after all, and would have had a similar yardage total—with more receptions—had he played 16 games this year. But he is still best known for his running ability.
“What he has become is the standard at running back in terms of exhibiting patience with the ball in his hands”, Brooks continued as he examined a play. “Here we’re just going to see him take the ball off the edge. He does a great job of waiting for the plays to develop. He sees his spots and puts his foot in the ground he’s able to attack and get to the next level”.
“Le’Veon Bell’s patience, his balance, his body control is uncommon for a big guy”, he said, though I should amend that statement to point out that, while still tall, he is not nearly as big as when he entered the league. “And then when you throw in the fact that he can catch the ball out of the backfield, I don’t know if there’s a better running back in the National Football League than Le’Veon Bell”.