B1G Ten coming up big for NFL
Ever since the 2016 – 17 NFL football season concluded, many have sparked up various mind stimulating debate topics such as, Tom Brady the greatest quarterback ever, the title for most dominant wide receiver today between Julio Jones, Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown, and whether or not Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by teams around the league. While all those topics are intriguing and make for the perfect breakroom icebreaker, there’s one topic of debate as of late that have a lot of people talking. Whether you’re a fan of the Steelers, or fan of the Cowboys, maybe a religious fantasy football player or just a person who loves debating with numbers, you can bet your bottom dollar that people are talking about who owns the rights to the number one spot at running back in today’s league.
No disrespect to David Johnson, but if their name isn’t Le’Veon Bell or Ezekiel Elliot…they’re not a candidate. While all signs point to me discussing why one is better than the other, I will be the first to inform you that it’s not (my take on that is coming sooner than later so don’t worry). I’m actually looking past the numbers and into the bigger picture. Not only are people buzzing about one former Big Ten running back being the best out today, but TWO!
Now it’s quite obvious that the Big Ten has produced a plethora of star studded athletes, but when was the last time the recently refined conference produced an athlete that has been put onto the “greatest of all time ”or“ best in today’s league” pedestal? Hint: he just turned 40 years old and shows no signs of slowing down… Tom Brady *cough* *cough*
I honestly think it’s safe to say that the Big Ten as of late, has become a franchise player factory. Since 2013, the NFL has been blessed with a running back who’s style and versatility simply cannot be replicated nor figured out. As if Bell wasn’t making enough noise on his own, here comes former Ohio State and Cowboys running back, Ezekiel Elliot, who paced the NFL with 322 carries and 1,631 rushing yards while finding the end zone a total of 16 times last season. Even looking at the numbers, the leagues runner up ball carrier was former Hoosier and Chicago Bears 22 year-old Jordan Howard.
The fact that these two are consistently in conversation for the number one spot is not only a nod to their respective programs, but the Big Ten as a whole, but to who do we owe the credit to? See, the Big Ten is simply just a power five conference; it’s the coaches that are putting these young men in place in order to help not only the school’s program shine, but these athletes as well in hopes of taking their talents to the next level.
When it comes to the Big Ten, people love holding up the conference’s résumé up to the SEC’s which is fair but breaking it down it’s not even close. In terms of developed talent, again, it has all to do with coaching, and while everyone in the SEC is chasing Nick Saban and the Tide, the Big Ten has three juggernaut head coaches in Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh, while other programs have well developed consistency in Paul Chryst (Wisconsin) and James Franklin (Penn State).
Over the years, the SEC has had padded depth for “big money” coaches but as of late, the Big Ten has taken notice and followed suit. According to USA Today’s database, every coach in the SEC West made a minimum of $4 million in 2016, but my theory is, what good does it do the program to cash out on some of these big name coaches when they constantly struggle to stay afloat as a top ten team? With good coaching, a title contender program should be the next to follow, which is something the Big Ten can consistently hang over the SEC’s head. Like I stated before, everyone in the SEC is chasing untouchable Nick, while the Big Ten essentially had three title contenders up until the final week of the season and even still managed to have two schools that felt they belonged. With Harbaugh leading the way at Michigan, the Big Ten currently has five coaches exceeding the $4 million mark, and in my opinion, it’s money well spent throughout the Big Ten.
As far as the players themselves go, as much as it hurts me to say it, Ohio State as of late has tuned into a franchise player farm, producing stellar players like Cameron Heyward, Eli Apple, Joey Bosa and Ryan Shazier amongst others.
Outside of Ohio State, here are some other household names that have filtered through the Big Ten and into prominent roles in the NFL: Tevin Coleman, Jonathan Babineaux, Riley Reiff, Marshal Yanda, Stephon Diggs, Kirk Cousins, Darqueze Dennard, Trae Waynes, Eric Decker, Ameer Abdullah, Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Cliff Avril to name some of recent.
Definitely not bashing the Sec or any other conference, as all conferences send solid athletes to the next level, but the fact that the NFL best running back debate is centered around two young former Big Ten players speaks volumes for the new look conference.