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NFL’s finest gamers ever at each offensive place


Quarterback Tom Brady was retired through the 2022 NFL offseason for simply 40 days earlier than opting to return for a twenty third season that might (possibly?) be his final, tight finish Rob Gronkowski just lately determined to hold them up and defensive deal with Aaron Donald inked an enormous contract extension this summer season to make him the sport’s highest-paid non-QB after contemplating retirement himself. All of it received us fascinated with the place these legends of the sport stack up all time at their respective positions.

We requested 50 consultants, reporters and analysts to call the NFL’s biggest participant of all time at each place. The objective was to slim the sector to only one GOAT at quarterback, vast receiver, edge rusher, cornerback and even kicker. We’re beginning right here with seven offensive positions, and protection and particular groups can be unveiled on Wednesday.

After we tallied the ballots and topped every offensive place’s finest participant of all time, our voters weighed in and defined their choices. Plus, Jeff Legwold broke down why every GOAT was chosen, and ESPN Stats & Data dove into the numbers to pick key stats to know. Let’s begin at quarterback, which should not shock many.

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Voting outcomes: Brady earned 44 of fifty votes (88%)

Profession: New England (2000-2019); Tampa Bay (2020-present)
Professional Bowl picks: 15
Profession stats: 318 video games, 84,520 passing yards, 624 passing TDs, 203 INTs

Why he is the GOAT quarterback: Brady is a seven-time Tremendous Bowl winner in 10 journeys, a three-time NFL MVP and already the league’s career-record holder in passing makes an attempt, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. His groups have gained fewer than 10 video games in a season simply as soon as in his profession, and that was twenty years in the past (2002). And in his playoff begins, his groups have a 35-12 document. — Jeff Legwold

Stat to know: Brady is the one NFL QB with greater than 200 profession wins. He has 243, extra wins than 4 present NFL franchises (Ravens at 233, Panthers at 205, Jaguars at 180 and Texans at 139).

What our voters mentioned

“The seven championships are on the prime of Brady’s resume. However let’s not neglect he has mastered the traits of high-level quarterback play. That is the repetitive mechanics, the processing each pre- and post-snap, and the flexibility to throw with accuracy and site. Brady is the mannequin of greatness on the place, and he has completed this for over 20 years on the sport’s largest levels.” — Matt Bowen, NFL analyst

“If having an NFL-record seven Tremendous Bowl titles wasn’t sufficient to think about Brady the GOAT, contemplate he has additionally thrown for probably the most touchdowns and yards in league historical past. He is the one participant chosen to fifteen Professional Bowls all time, and you can argue he has a Corridor of Fame resume in two completely different a long time. Brady was named to the All-Decade Workforce in each the 2000s and 2010s.” — Evan Kaplan, Stats & Data

“The statistics converse for themselves. So does the longevity. For me, it is how even on his worst day, even in probably the most hostile conditions — a snowstorm, a minimize throwing hand, being down 28-3 in Tremendous Bowl LI — Brady has at all times discovered a technique to pull out one or two extra performs than everybody else.” — Jenna Laine, Buccaneers reporter

“Whereas soccer is the final word staff sport, Brady has separated himself from the remainder by advantage of seven Tremendous Bowl wins. That is borderline unfathomable. And whereas longevity doesn’t at all times equate to greatness, it’s Brady’s sustained longevity that’s past comprehension. There are components of his sport which have one way or the other seemingly gotten higher with every season that has handed. This was a simple alternative for me.” — Area Yates, NFL analyst

The runners-up

  • Joe Montana (4 votes): Sal Paolantonio, host of NFL Matchup, says he voted for Montana over Brady as a result of “he was 4-0 within the Tremendous Bowl with 11 landing passes and no interceptions. Powerful to beat perfection on the championship degree.” Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez additionally argues that Montana is the highest QB ever, pointing to “4 Lombardi trophies in 9 years when guidelines benefitted the protection and the promise that no sport was really out of attain with Montana on the helm.”

  • Peyton Manning (two votes): “Manning modified how we take a look at a QB’s capability to run an offense on the sector in actual time,” says NFL analyst Louis Riddick. “He ran every little thing on the line of scrimmage, and no QB within the historical past of soccer made defensive coordinators query themselves from a schematic/tactical standpoint the way in which through which Manning did.” NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler additionally voted for Manning, saying, “He was the sport’s first five-time MVP winner, modified how NFL offenses are run and gained 67.6% of his video games over his profession. And throwing for 55 touchdowns in 2013 — two years faraway from late-career neck surgical procedure — lives in league folklore.”

Voting outcomes: Brown earned 23 of fifty votes (46%)

Profession: Cleveland (1957-1965)
Corridor of Fame: 1971
Professional Bowl picks: 9
Profession stats: 118 video games, 2,359 carries, 12,312 speeding yards, 106 speeding TDs, 20 receiving TDs

Why he is the GOAT operating again: Brown was 29 years previous when his last season started in 1965 and shocked many when he retired after that season. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry over his profession, was the league MVP 3 times and was chosen for the Professional Bowl yearly of his profession. Brown retired because the league’s all-time main rusher and scored three touchdowns in his last sport — the 1966 Professional Bowl. — Legwold

Stat to know: Brown led the NFL in speeding yards in eight of his 9 seasons within the league. No different operating again in NFL historical past has led the league in speeding greater than 4 instances.

What our voters mentioned

“In 9 NFL seasons, Brown led the league in speeding eight instances, scrimmage yards six instances and complete TDs 5 instances, successful MVP in 33% of his profession seasons. In an period through which everybody ran the ball greater than they threw, defenses nonetheless could not decelerate Brown.” — Michael Proia, Stats & Data

“No operating again in NFL historical past did extra in much less time than Brown. He nonetheless owns the NFL document for speeding yards per sport (104.3), and though he retired after solely 9 seasons, he by no means missed a sport.” — Kevin Seifert, Vikings reporter

“Brown was a first-team All-Professional in eight seasons and three-time MVP winner. Such a decade of full dominance stays untouched.” — Jake Trotter, Browns reporter

The runners-up

  • Barry Sanders (14 votes): Lions reporter Eric Woodyard leaned towards Detroit’s famed operating again, suggesting voters ought to “simply kind in Barry Sanders highlights on YouTube, sit again and luxuriate in.” NFL author Seth Wickersham argued for Sanders, too, saying, “There has by no means been one other participant who might be 5 yards behind the road of scrimmage, retreating, surrounded by 5 defenders closing quick, blockers on the bottom and rendered ineffective, and never solely be able to find an escape out of it and scoring a landing however doing it so usually that followers got here to anticipate it.”

  • Walter Payton (six votes): Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson went with Sweetness in what he referred to as “the toughest vote for any place.” So why Payton? “He received my vote over Smith as a result of his receiving expertise made him a extra compete again, and his longevity gave him the sting over Sanders and Brown,” he says.

  • Emmitt Smith (three votes): “Sturdiness. No participant was as productive or as sturdy as Smith,” says NFL insider Dianna Russini. “Eleven straight 1,000-yard seasons.”

  • Additionally receiving votes: Marshall Faulk (two), Eric Dickerson (one), LaDainian Tomlinson (one)

Voting outcomes: Rice earned 45 of fifty votes (90%)

Profession: San Francisco (1985-2000); Oakland (2001-2004); Seattle (2004)
Corridor of Fame: 2010
Professional Bowl picks: 13
Profession stats: 303 video games, 1,549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards, 197 receiving TDs, 10 speeding TDs

Why he is the GOAT vast receiver: Rice led the league in receiving yards six instances and receiving touchdowns six instances. Even in these pass-happy instances, with the entire numbers that receivers pile up every year, Rice remains to be the league’s all-time chief in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and yards from scrimmage. However he was at his finest within the largest moments. He performed in 29 playoff video games and had 22 TD receptions in these video games, together with eight in Tremendous Bowls (three titles in 4 appearances). — Legwold

Stat to know: Rice is one among two receivers to win the receiving triple crown (led NFL in catches, yards and TDs), Offensive Participant of the Yr and Tremendous Bowl MVP in his profession (Cooper Kupp).

What our voters mentioned

“He is the no-brainer of all no-brainers. Rice might’ve stopped enjoying after 11 years (he wound up enjoying 20), and his receiving yardage complete nonetheless would’ve been adequate for third on the all-time record (16,377). To paraphrase Invoice Parcells, he went to Canton on curler skates.” — Wealthy Cimini, Jets reporter

“Rice has over 5,000 receiving yards greater than the following vast receiver on the all-time record, nevertheless it’s if you parse via these 22,895 profession yards that you simply discover what makes him the GOAT. He has probably the most 1,000-yard receiving seasons with 14 (together with 11 straight), notched 2,245 receiving yards within the playoffs (probably the most all time) and topped 1,200 receiving yards at age 40.” — Courtney Cronin, Bears reporter

“The 13,394 receiving yards that Rice recorded from age 30 to 41 would rank because the sixteenth most in NFL historical past by itself. And because it stands, his 22,895 profession receiving yards is a document that may doubtless by no means be damaged. The size of his prime and his ability degree at its peak make him the unquestioned GOAT receiver.” — Marcel Louis-Jacques, Dolphins reporter

“To be thought of one of many biggest of all time, a participant at any place ought to supply elite manufacturing with enduring longevity — however no one at any place can contact Rice’s mixture of the 2. Positive, Rice holds each important receiving document in league historical past and repeatedly carried out nicely on the Tremendous Bowl stage, however contemplate that when different greats have been long-since retired, he was nonetheless producing like among the best wideouts within the sport.” — Nick Wagoner, 49ers reporter

The runners-up

  • Randy Moss (4 votes): “Solely the most effective of all time might have his final title changed into a verb,” says ESPN Stats & Data’s Evan Kaplan, referring to You bought Mossed. “No NFL participant has ever had extra receiving touchdowns of their first 4 seasons, and his 23 TD catches in 2007 are probably the most in a single season in league historical past.” NFL draft analyst Jordan Reid says Moss “utterly transcended the place” and that “there wasn’t a participant on the place who struck extra worry in defenses than Moss.”

  • Additionally receiving votes: Don Hutson (one)

Voting outcomes: Gronkowski earned 23 of fifty votes (46%)

Profession: New England (2010-2018); Tampa Bay (2020-2021)
Professional Bowl picks: 5
Profession stats: 143 video games, 621 receptions, 9,286 receiving yards, 92 receiving TDs

Why he is the GOAT tight finish: It is simple to neglect now that Gronkowski entered the NFL with questions after again troubles in faculty, however he blossomed rapidly in his time with Tom Brady within the Patriots’ offense. A tricky participant alongside the road of scrimmage with elite footwork and fingers within the passing sport, he led the league in landing catches in 2011 with 17 and had 4 seasons through which he averaged at the very least 15 yards per reception. Gronk additionally had at the very least one landing catch in 15 of twenty-two playoff video games over his profession. He retired for a second time this summer season. — Legwold

Stat to know: Gronkowski had three seasons with at the very least 1,000 receiving yards and 10 landing catches, probably the most amongst tight ends all time.

What our voters mentioned

“The GOAT tight finish must be equally devastating as a blocker and pass-catcher, which helped remove a very good portion of the candidates. However that defines Gronk nicely. And Patriots coach Invoice Belichick usually says the greats play their finest within the largest moments; Gronkowski’s 1,163 receiving yards within the playoffs are simply probably the most by a good finish in NFL historical past.” — Mike Reiss, Patriots reporter

“No tight finish has mixed bodily blocking and landing manufacturing on the degree that Gronkowski did in his 11 seasons. His dimension and talent to regulate to the ball made him virtually not possible to defend down the sector. At instances he regarded like a runaway freight practice. Not solely did Gronk stretch the sector vertically, however he additionally gained battles in opposition to safeties and held up in opposition to defensive ends within the run sport, one thing hardly ever seen by tight ends in 2022.” — Dianna Russini, NFL insider

“His influence goes past his profession stat line. Gronkowski established himself as probably the most dominant tight finish in NFL historical past due to his capability to catch, persistently make performs within the clutch and be a feared blocker.” — Josh Weinfuss, Cardinals reporter

The runners-up

  • Tony Gonzalez (21 votes): NFL reporter Dan Graziano says, “Gonzalez ranks third all time in receptions, sixth in receiving yards and eighth in receiving touchdowns amongst all gamers. If the fashionable tight finish is a supercharged vast receiver, Gonzalez deserves credit score because the man who’s already inhabiting a large receiver neighborhood on these all-time lists.” What actually makes him stand other than the remainder? Payments reporter Alaina Getzenberg factors to “the sustained success over his 17-year profession, surpassing 900 receiving yards in 9 seasons.”

  • Kellen Winslow (two votes): “Winslow helped remodel the tight finish place,” says NFL analyst Mike Tannenbaum. “His traits transcend any period, and he would have been a fantastic participant in any technology.”

  • Additionally receiving votes: Mike Ditka (one), Antonio Gates (one), Ozzie Newsome (one), Shannon Sharpe (one)

Voting outcomes: Munoz earned 27 of fifty votes (54%)

Profession: Cincinnati (1980-1992)
Corridor of Fame: 1998
Professional Bowl picks: 11
Profession stats: 185 video games, 184 begins

Why he is the GOAT offensive deal with: Munoz was named to the NFL’s a centesimal anniversary staff, the seventy fifth anniversary staff and the Eighties All-Decade staff, all after having three surgical procedures on his knees in his faculty profession. He was an All-Professional in 11 consecutive seasons. Munoz had unimaginable traits and virtually unfailing consistency at an elite degree. — Legwold

Stat to know: From 1981 to ’90, the Bengals’ offense ranked within the prime 10 in scoring seven instances and within the prime 10 in yards 9 instances, thanks partially to Munoz’s safety at left deal with.

What our voters mentioned

“Munoz has lengthy been thought of among the best offensive linemen to play the sport. In 2000, he was voted to the NFL All-Time Team by the Corridor of Fame choice committee, and former Bengals tight finish Bob Trumpy advised NFL Community that Munoz ‘completely devastated defensive ends on this league.'” — Ben Child, Bengals reporter

“It is fairly easy for me: He was as dominant a participant at his place as there was within the NFL. A mauler with the ft of a dancer, he might overpower guys or beat them together with his mobility. Munoz is the usual in opposition to which all offensive tackles are measured.” — Michael DiRocco, Jaguars reporter

“He dominated his period with a staggering 9 first-team All-Professional picks. And he is arguably probably the most identifiable icon from the Bengals’ 1981 and 1989 Tremendous Bowl groups, which is uncommon air for an offensive lineman. He simply set the bar too excessive for all the opposite elite candidates who adopted.” — Mike Triplett, Saints reporter

The runners-up

  • Jonathan Ogden (10 votes): “Think about you step to the road of scrimmage and the person throughout from you is 6-foot-9, 345 kilos and smiling. That is what Ogden’s opponents bore witness to for 12 seasons,” says Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques. Rams reporter Sarah Barshop additionally picked Ogden right here, saying, “Ogden was one of many linemen who confirmed simply how vital it’s to guard a quarterback’s blind facet. And he was constant, making the Professional Bowl yearly of his profession apart from his rookie season.”

  • Orlando Pace (4 votes): The 6-foot-7 blindside protector for the Best Present on Turf “boasted a uncommon mixture of mobility and ending power,” in response to NFL draft analyst Todd McShay. “Twenty-five years in the past when he entered the NFL, no one at his dimension might transfer like Tempo.”

  • Walter Jones (three votes): Giants reporter Jordan Raanan acknowledges that Jones maybe flew beneath the radar however had a terrific “mixture of run- and pass-blocking dominance that was unmatched.”

  • Additionally receiving votes: Jackie Slater (two), Forrest Gregg (one), Willie Roaf (one), Joe Thomas (one), Gary Zimmerman (one)

Voting outcomes: Allen earned 21 of fifty votes (42%)

Profession: Dallas (1994-2005); San Francisco (2006-2007)
Corridor of Fame: 2013
Professional Bowl picks: 11
Profession stats: 203 video games, 197 begins

Why he is the GOAT offensive guard: Allen as soon as mentioned his mission on the sector was “to make the opposite man give up.” Mission completed, as his mixture of energy and mobility launched a lot of Corridor of Famer Emmitt Smith’s biggest runs. Over his profession, Allen began 121 video games at left guard, 45 at proper guard, 20 at left deal with and 11 at proper deal with. And there are lots of who labored for the Cowboys who say they have been there when Allen’s legendary 705-pound bench press occurred. — Legwold

Stat to know: Allen was a part of a Cowboys offensive line that helped Smith rush for a then-Cowboys single-season document 1,773 speeding yards in 1995 (since has been topped by DeMarco Murray’s 1,845 yards in 2014).

What our voters mentioned

“He might dominate the inside line of defense whereas additionally attending to the second degree to get linebackers and defensive backs. Maybe most spectacular was his monitoring down of Saints 250-pound linebacker Darion Conner to forestall a Troy Aikman interception-return landing.” — Todd Archer, Cowboys reporter

“No offensive lineman higher encapsulates the Nineteen Nineties than Allen, and no offensive guard higher highlights what elite play on the place means than the 11-time Professional Bowler and seven-time All-Professional. Allen was the right mixture of brute power, agility, poise and violence on the level of assault. He is the prototype by which I consider offensive guard play.” — Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst

“Allen was so bodily dominant that it was no secret that he punished opposing defenders to tears through the course of a sport. Tears. Sufficient mentioned.” — Chris Mortensen, NFL insider

The runners-up

  • John Hannah (9 votes): Soccer Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz picked Hannah right here as a result of he “was named All-Professional for 10 consecutive years and anchored the 1978 Patriots’ offensive line that set an NFL document for complete speeding yards (since damaged by the 2019 Ravens).” Analytics author Seth Walder checked out these All-Professional nods compared to Allen. “Hannah was an All-Professional in 10 of 13 seasons, whereas Allen was in seven of 14.”

  • Gene Upshaw (eight votes): “It’s robust to categorise offensive linemen of various eras due to the variations in dimension and velocity of each the participant and their opponents, however Upshaw transcended these variations,” says Falcons reporter Michael Rothstein.

  • Additionally receiving votes: Bruce Matthews (three), Alan Faneca (two), Steve Hutchinson (two), Randall McDaniel (two), Jim Parker (two), Jerry Kramer (one)

Voting outcomes: Webster earned 15 of fifty votes (30%)

Profession: Pittsburgh (1974-1988); Kansas Metropolis (1989-1990)
Corridor of Fame: 1997
Professional Bowl picks: 9
Profession stats: 245 video games, 217 begins

Why he is the GOAT middle: In his first two NFL seasons, Webster break up time at middle with Ray Mansfield, however he began the ultimate sport of the 1975 season and did not miss a begin after that till 1986, when he suffered an elbow damage. A staff captain within the Steelers’ dynasty that gained 4 Tremendous Bowls, Webster died in 2002 at age 50. — Legwold

Stat to know: Webster was a first-team All-Professional 5 instances over six seasons from 1978 to ’83.

What our voters mentioned

“I gave the sting to Webster due to an ideal mix of championship titles, particular person achievement and longevity. He’s the one offensive lineman in NFL historical past with 4 Tremendous Bowl rings and at the very least 4 first-team All-Professional picks. Iron Mike made 150 consecutive begins and had probably the most video games performed in Steelers historical past (220) till Ben Roethlisberger handed him.” — Doug Clawson, Stats & Data

“It is exhausting to discover a extra full resume than that of Webster, who turned synonymous with Pittsburgh’s excellence through the Metal Curtain period. His consistency was spectacular, and Webster was the overall bundle.” — Jeremy Fowler, NFL reporter

“An offense’s success and continuity rely tremendously on the middle place, which is often missed. However Webster excelled at run- and pass-blocking and was the linchpin of the Steelers’ offensive line as a result of his glorious play power and quickness.” — Eric Moody, fantasy author

The runners-up

  • Jim Otto (13 votes): “Otto was one among three gamers to play in each one among his staff’s 140 video games through the AFL’s 10-year run (1960-69),” says ESPN Stats & Data’s John Parolin. “And the one AFL/NFL gamers with extra consecutive Professional Bowls than Otto’s 12 straight are Bruce Matthews (14), Merlin Olsen (14) and Reggie White (13).”

  • Chuck Bednarik (11 votes): “Perhaps I let Bednarik’s full physique of labor think about too closely after I voted for him because the GOAT middle,” admits Steelers reporter Brooke Pryor. “A two-way participant, Bednarik was an All-Professional choice at each middle and linebacker.”

  • Additionally receiving votes: Dermontti Dawson (5), Dwight Stephenson (5), Mel Hein (one)

Examine again for our GOAT at each defensive and particular groups place on Wednesday.

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