By Chris Lehman
Football is a game dominated by speed and strength. While these players aren’t necessarily taller than most athletes in other sports, there is a clear difference in the makeup of their bodies. Relative to their height, professional football players are some of the most muscular athletes around.
Gameplans are drawn up to guide the players, but at a certain point, you cannot defend sheer athleticism. Here’s a list of the ten most physically gifted players in the NFL:
10. Vernon Gholston – The former Ohio State standout was one of the top prospects entering the NFL draft. He has a great combination of size and speed which is why he was so highly scouted. Things only got better for Gholston at the combine where he had one of the most impressive showings in years. The 6’3″ 265 lb edge rusher showed surprising speed as he posted a 4.56 in the 40 yard dash. He shocked everyone with his explosiveness by leaping 35.5 inches and powered out 37 bench press reps at 225 lbs. With all the physical ability in the world, it’s a shame he hasn’t been more successful.
9. Larry Fitzgerald – Fitz is known for being one of the top receivers and play-makers in the league. At 6’3″ and 218 lbs., he is a large target. But what sets him apart is his explosiveness and ability to go up and grab the ball at its highest point. He only posted a 35 in. vertical, but watching him play, I am sure he can jump much higher than that.
8. Percy Harvin – At first glance, this 5’11” and sub-200 lb. speedster does not appear too physically overwhelming. But don’t be fooled and think that just because he is short and fast, that he isn’t big. This guy is jacked. There have been many instances where defenses relax thinking he’s easy to tackle and then get plowed over by the surprisingly strong Harvin. His 4.37 40-yard dash time verifies that his speed is undeniable.
7. Taylor Mays – Mays made a name for himself at the University of Southern California as being a lights-out hitter. He provides a very unusual combo of raw strength combined with great top-end speed and explosiveness. It’s said that at seventeen years old, Mays was already 6’3″ and weighed nearly 230 lbs. That size makes for an incredible NFL player, let alone a high school kid! He puts his body to great use by demonstrating great explosiveness. With terrible running form at the combine he ran a 4.43. With better form he should hit anywhere in the 4.3 range. Oh yeah, and by the way, he has a 41″ vertical.
6. Reggie Bush – This guy is a no brainer. Everyone knows about what kind of incredible shape he is always in. It’s good to finally see him doing something in the NFL (as much as I wish he did it for the Saints). Since he was a kid, he’s always been known to simply run away from defenders. He’s one of the fastest players in the league as his 4.33 40 time would suggest. He is a very explosive talent as he also has a vertical jump of 40 inches. Similar to Harvin, people don’t realize how big he is because of his style of play. But make no mistake about Bush, he’s got the ability to run through, around or jump right over you.
5. Vernon Davis – Ever since coming into the league in 2006, people have been amazed by his raw physical talent. When you draw up an ideal tight end, Davis has to be the prototype. At 6’3″ he is a very big target. Add on his 42″ vertical and it’s hard to miss him. Once he has the ball he’s hard to bring down because he’s incredibly fast and strong. He bench pressed 225 lbs. an amazing 33 times. On top of that he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash. As impressive as he is on paper, watching him play is even more frightening.
4. Mario Williams – To my knowledge, Williams doesn’t have a trademark nickname. While he has a Superman tattoo on his shoulder, it hasn’t really stuck yet. Unfortunately, Jevon Kearse already took “The Freak,” so the only other name that is fitting is “The Beast.” Standing at 6’6″ he is taller than just about every other player in the NFL, with the exception of a few. He is also 283 lbs. but doesn’t waste any of that. Any time someone of size posts a 4.7 40-yard dash, the opposing quarterback is in trouble. Even if he doesn’t get there he has a 40 inch vertical making it easy to swat the ball down at the line. Some were surprised that we went before Reggie Bush and Vince Young in the draft. But come on, look at this guy.
3. Patrick Willis – Some people would regard him as the best player in the game. One can sure argue that. I would say he’s one of the two best defensive players in the league. The other one is off on some island. But seriously, I’m scared of this guy. He’s considered the next Ray Lewis, but I would disagree. I think he will be better. As a rookie he led the league in tackles due to his ability to cover the entire field. At 6’1″ 240 lbs., he fits the prototype of an all-pro middle linebacker. At the combine, he clocked a 4.51 in the 40, but rumor has it he ran a 4.37 which I would not doubt as I’ve seen him chase down receivers from behind. With his 39″ vertical, it makes it hard to throw over his head. He has all the makings of a hall of fame player. I easily expect to see him there after a long career.
2. Calvin Johnson – They call him Megatron for a reason. This guy is not human. As productive as he has been, I still feel that he is underutilized. I’m not just saying that since he’s on my fantasy football team. He’s the ultimate goal-line weapon. There isn’t a person in the world that can guard him one-on-one in the endzone, or anywhere on the field for that matter. At 6’5″ he towers over every defensive back in the league. When you add on his 44″ vertical, he can reach way higher than anyone, making the jump ball situation just about as surefire as you can hope for. Plus, he has 4.3 speed in the open field. So what are his weaknesses? You tell me.
1. Adrian Peterson – Ever since entering the NFL, Peterson has been known to be the most gifted player in the game. Many thought he wouldn’t last long due to his violent running style. So far he’s done pretty well for himself. The 6’1″ 217 lb. running back is probably the strongest player in the league pound-for-pound. Just ask William Gay. In addition to his raw strength, the man has 4.4 speed and a 37″ vertical. What’s even more impressive is his speed and quickness through his cuts. In the open field, no one is going to tackle him one-on-one. I can guarantee you that. When you watch him play, he runs away from, over and through these other NFL players who are known to be the toughest men out there.