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Top 10 Explosive Players in the NFL

Graphic by Pat Pryor

In honor of 4th of July, the Blitz team voted on the most explosive players in the NFL. Check out our consensus Top 10 explosive players that are currently playing. Happy 4th and be safe!!!

1. Aaron Donald

Mean Joe Greene, Bob Lilly, and Warren Sapp are some of the best interior defensive linemen in the history of the NFL, and yet Aaron Darnold might be better than any of them. It’s not just hyperbole. The way Aaron Darnold moves at 280lbs jumps off the tape. His speed and explosiveness are almost as impressive as his stats. He leads all nose tackles in sacks since 2016 including 20.5 in 2018. He adds that to 16 stuffs and 73 QB pressures. He is the only interior linemen in the league to generate double-digit numbers in disruption percentage (10.4), while also racking up more total stops than any other interior lineman by a lot (52). Whether it’s on the tape or on the stat sheet, Darnold’s explosiveness is bar none.

-David Connors

2. Saquon Barkley

Of course Barkley made this list — look at his quads! On an offense that featured Eli Manning at quarterback and the 29th ranked run blocking offensive line in the NFL by Football Outsiders, Saquon Barkley thrived, ranking 2nd in the league in total yards and 9th in yards per attempt. According to PlayerProfiler, Saquon ranked 1st in evaded tackles (114), 3rd in breakaway runs (18), and 1st in yards created (688). He’s also in PlayerProfiler’s 97th percentile of their explosiveness metric, and his ability goes beyond that to his tackle-breaking strength and pure speed. He might be the most talented running back the league has ever seen, and he’s nowhere near his prime yet. Saquon alone makes Giants games exciting with his instant ability to change the game.

-Alexander Amir

3. Tyreek Hill

Hill is arguably the biggest weapon in the NFL when he is on the field. He has the ability to return a punt to the house, take a handoff and scoot for 20+ yards, and can find any ball that Patrick Mahomes put in the air with his speed and tracking ability. In 2018 he earned All-Pro honors as he put up 87 receptions, 1,630 total scrimmage yards, and 13 touchdowns to help out Mahomes’ MVP campaign. His big-play ability is what makes the Kansas City Chiefs offense such a threat for defenses to deal with.

-Cody Manning

4. Khalil Mack

When you think explosiveness, you think of Khalil Mack. Explosive football players make contributions the very second the ball is snapped. Mack is the most dangerous edge rusher in the NFL, consistently knocking offensive linemen off their feet, bulldozing his way into the quarterback with one arm, and exploding into the backfield sacking the quarterback. The explosiveness and the danger of Khalil Mack on the football field single-handedly brought back the meaning of the “Monsters of the Midway.”

-John Stocco

5. Christian McCaffrey

CMC is your prototypical dual-threat running back that NFL teams would love to have on their team. He has the ability to take a handoff and break off a long run. Then he has the ability to take a catch, break some ankles, and scoot down the field. In his breakout season in 2018, he had 1,965 total scrimmage yards, 107 receptions, and 13 touchdowns. According to PFF, in 2018, McCaffrey led all backs in explosive receiving plays (15+ yds) out of the backfield. Even though Cam Newton is there, the Panthers offense is now focused around the stud back.

-Cody Manning

6. Alvin Kamara

In 2017, Sean Payton took a chance by selecting Kamara in the third round. Featured in a two-back system, he took the opportunity and (literally) ran with it. Kamara proved that he could easily break into the second level with ease on handoffs or make defenders miss in open space on passes from Drew Brees. Claiming to make his body go limp on contact to stay up, his ability to get those hard-to-reach yards keeps the Saints offense on the field longer. Now with Mark Ingram in Baltimore, he’s going to be the featured back in the “Big Easy.” If he can continue the torrid pace he’s demonstrated so far, New Orleans is set in the ground game for the foreseeable future.

-Joe Carlino

7. Antonio Brown

What can be said about Antonio Brown besides a diva and one of the best wide receivers in football today? Well, quite frankly, his ability to catch in traffic and beat anyone on the outside is what makes him a top target for any quarterback and a mismatch for any member of an opponent’s secondary. People still remember the massive catch he had against the Browns, going up to get the ball in triple coverage, or when he pinned the football to his helmet in blanket coverage against the Titans for a score. When your squad has AB on the outside or in the slot, it’s clear the offense will be explosive because he possesses the ability to turn a bad situation into a good one.

-Joe Carlino

8. Tarik Cohen

“Who?!” “We got him from where?” “He’s how short?” Those were the questions being asked when the Bears drafted Tarik Cohen. The pick came with a ton of skepticism, but Youtube is everybody’s best friend, and with a mix of his highlight tapes and the first time he put on a Bears uniform, we knew why he was called “The Human Joystick”. Tarik Cohen is one of the most exciting players to watch because you don’t know what he’s going to do next. He can explode out of the backfield, exposing any hole the defense gives him, and he has the same mindset as a receiver. He’s also one of the toughest players to bring down because of his exceptional acceleration. With another year under Matt Nagy, I cannot wait to see what type of plays are drawn up for Tarik Cohen.

-John Stocco

9. Von Miller

When listing the most explosive players in the NFL, Von Miller has to be in the conversation. He may not be playing as many snaps as he used to, but when he is on the field, he is making one of the biggest bangs (get it?). In 2018, Miller held opposing quarterbacks to a minuscule 3.76 raw yards per passing play. That was good enough for best in the league among players who played at least 300 snaps. To put that in perspective, 2018 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack ranked 13th with almost an entire yard more than Von. Miller also generated two more pressures than Mack in 2018, ranking him 3rd in the league behind only Dee Ford and Myles Garrett. There is no greater stat to judge an edge rusher’s success than sacks. In only 8 seasons, Von Miller is only 2 sacks from getting to 100 and is already 33rd in NFL history for career sacks. Rotoworld’s Josh Norris says “disruption is production” and Von Miller is one of the most disruptive forces year in and year out.

-David Connors

10. Odell Beckham Jr.

OBJ put the league on watch as soon as he stepped on the field in his rookie season, becoming the only rookie to post a season of at least 75 receptions, 1,100 receiving yards, and 10+ touchdowns in NFL history even after missing the first four games of the season! This past season he admittedly was hampered by offseason ankle and in-season quad injuries, he still put up 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns. From 2015-2017, here are Eli Manning’s numbers with and without Odell Beckham Jr., courtesy of Graham Barfield:

This is all that needs to be said. His impact on the game is undeniable, and he entirely alters game plans and game outcomes. The Giants were foolish to think that they will be better off without Odell, and Browns QB Baker Mayfield should be ecstatic to be playing with one of the most electric players in the NFL.

Alexander Amir

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