Nov. 08, 2016
Rising Stars of the NFL
Recent professional football has been dominated by some familiar names. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, among others, have cemented their names in history. But recent seasons have brought a fresh crop of new faces to the NFL, and the young generation of players are primed to make their names known. Some have already thrust themselves into the spotlight, demanding the attention of the masses, and playing solid ball against the big dogs.
Derek Carr and Amari Cooper
These two franchise cornerstones are impossible to write about without lumping them together. I mean, they already have a nickname, "AC DC." Now that's cool. Carr, a Fresno State product, and Cooper, one of Alabama's finest, teamed up in Oakland to bring the Raiders out of the black hole that was the franchise. For much too long, the silver and black were the laughing stock of the NFL, the butt of one too many jokes. What was once a respected and even feared franchise had been reduced to a joke. Then along came Carr and Cooper. Both athletes are young (Carr: 25 Cooper:22) and talented. In his first two seasons, Carr easily surpassed 3,000 yards passing. He also has no problem finding the end zone, tossing 32 touchdowns last season. This season has also been a memorable one. He's thrown for 2,321 yards and 17 touchdowns in 7 games, posting an impressive 100.9 rating. His name has been delicately tossed around in the MVP discussion. Of course it is far too early to tell, but to be mentioned in the conversation as a third year player is nothing to scoff at. Carr should thank management for supplying him with the deadly weapon he needed for his sophomore campaign, Amari Cooper. Cooper was a Heisman hopeful at Alabama, and the Raiders were wise to grab him with the 4th overall selection. Cooper has earned his keep. He's leading the Raiders in receiving yards this season with 787 yards. He has caught the ball 52 times on 80 targets, taking 2 of those receptions to the end zone. This deadly pairing is the reason behind the Raider's 6-2 record, tied for best in the West with the Broncos. In the coming years, look for the Raiders to scare the league with something other than their fans for once.
Hail State! The Mississippi State prospect has been flexing his muscles for the Dallas Cowboys in the absence of the Man of Glass himself, Tony Romo. You may remember a time when Prescott led his Bulldogs to a #1 ranking in 2014. Though he didn't leave on a good note, struggling in his final season in college, he still earned a 4th round draft selection from the Cowboys. He has started every game this season for America's team. He has lost only one game as a starter, his first one where he endured some growing pains against the New York Giants. Prescott has been performing well, it took him until week 6 to throw an interception. As of week 8, he's thrown for 1,773 yards and 9 touchdowns. The issue with Prescott is Romo will eventually return. Romo is the golden child in the eyes of Jerry Jones, despite Romo's play suggesting otherwise. A decision has to be made in regards to who starts, Prescott or Romo. In my eyes, Prescott is the obvious choice until he struggles. Playing like this as a rookie, he has earned the opportunity to continue getting his snaps. If the Cowboys front office make the right call here, Prescott could carve up the NFL like a plump Thanksgiving turkey, much like he will carve the Redskins on Thanksgiving day if given the opportunity.
Who outside of Fargo, North Dakota and the Eagles front office saw Carson Wentz being the player he is? Certainly not I. Drafting Wentz was a major question mark, especially with the second overall selection. But the gamble has paid off, at least up to this point. Wentz has carried himself and played with a certain swagger. He exudes an aura of confidence you'd see from a Power 5 quarterback. Not only was Wentz not Power 5, he wasn't even competing in the FBS. Where he gets his confidence from? Who knows. All we know is the kid plays the game like a seasoned veteran as a rookie. He has slung the pigskin 1,526 yards for 9 touchdowns in 7 games. While these are solid numbers for a youngster, it's his consistency and precision that set him apart. In 228 attempts, he has just three interceptions, and has posted a 92.5 rating. While Wentz isn't playing out of his mind, he is playing consistently, which shows promise for the 23 year old. The more he plays, the better he will get. This is a bright forecast for the Eagles, expect it to be sunny in Philadelphia for the next few years.
I'm not sure if Todd Gurley is still suffering from jet lag or something of the sort, but he hasn't quite looked comfortable in Los Angeles yet. In St. Louis as a rookie, Gurley was a man among boys. He scampered for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged nearly 5 yards per carry, which is unheard of for any running back, let alone a rookie. The Georgia product is accustomed to success. He has yet to see that in the NFL. He is the one bright spot on a dismal Rams offense, and enduring a relocation has not been easy on the young back. In 7 games this season, Gurley has accumulated a 403 yards and 3 touchdowns. While these numbers aren't terrible, they are by no means on par with his production from his rookie season. Gurley is lucky enough to be paired up with a solid defense in LA. If management pairs him with a decent quarterback (who may be the kid from Cal sitting on the bench currently) the Rams could be back to their stature of the early 2000's. Gurley is basking in the LA sun these days, but may find himself in Orlando for the Pro Bowl sooner than he thinks.
This ex Ohio State star has been running wild on the NFL this season. He is simply doing what he knows. As a Buckeye, he was even more of an issue for defenses. In both his junior and senior seasons, he surpassed 1,800 rushing yards. That has translated well into the NFL. As of recent, the NFL has been starved of talented running backs. Gone are the days of Ladanian Tomlinson and prime Adrian Peterson. The fresh crop of stars is led by Elliot. The rookie has accumulated 799 yards on the ground and 5 touchdowns already. His name has become synonymous with highlights. His weekly appearances have become expected on ESPN. Tapes of him bowling over a helpless defender or hurdling another confused corner back headline the show. If the dynamic duo of Prescott and Elliot remains intact behind the outstanding offensive line the Cowboys have built, we could have another Cowboys dynasty on our hands.