When you think of football players, certain words come to mind. Tough, physical and athletic just to name a few. While we watch on from our couches, these modern gladiators battle it out every week. Decades ago, it was common to see guys walk off the field with bloodied jerseys and bleeding wounds like it was nothing. While the game has shifted more towards a player friendly safe approach, it still maintains – in essence – the physicality it came to be known for all those years ago. At the heart of it all stands the modern NFLer.
We know that football players have to hit the gym a few times during the week to stay in shape. It’s part of their job description. You can’t very well move back a 225 pound running back just by relying on technique alone. These guys are strong and they’re big. Some use that to their advantage and others just can’t seem to have it work for them on the field. Regardless, it’s a tough sport and these guys need to consistently stay in football shape. That means something different depending on who it is you’re talking about. We’re going to be focusing on the guys who look like gym rats on the street. But don’t get me wrong, these guys can play. Here are the top 15 most jacked NFLers.
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15 Steve Weatherford
We don’t typically think that much of punters or kickers. It’s kind of a running joke among football fans that they aren’t really football players. When you consider how long they’re on the field and what they’re tasked with doing while on it, it’s easy to see why some people would hold onto that sentiment. But former Giants and Jets punter Steve Weatherford might be the exception to the rule. Though he plays a position which requires little physical contact, Weatherford is shredded. He’s not a guy who stands out too much when on the field and isn’t usually asked to go toe-to-toe with other players – but you’d have to imagine that he could stand his own. He’s currently a free agent and, while he still looks good for his age, he probably won’t find a new team barring an unforeseen injury.
14 Vernon Davis
Coming into the NFL, Vernon Davis was seen as one of the most physically gifted prospects to come around in a long while. Davis’ first few years with the 49ers were rough. He had all the makings of a dynamic talent, yet he had a hard time grasping the mental aspect of the game. It eventually took off for Davis and he was seen as one of the best tight ends in the league for a number of years. Davis’ athleticism – along with his natural ability – made him incredibly difficult to cover on the field. His career has taken a bit of a dip in the last couple of years, as age has caught up with him. While his best years are behind him, he’s still managed to stay in shape.
13 Robert Turbin
Robert Turbin isn’t a big name in the NFL by any means, but he’s certainly stayed in tip top shape throughout his career. The fifth year running back was brought in by the Seahawks in 2012 and spent the majority of his time in Seattle behind Marshawn Lynch. After leaving the Emerald City, Turbin made his way to Cleveland. However, 2015 was a bit of a strange adjustment period for him as he spent it on two different squads, but never stuck. He’s with the Colts now and it’s hard to say if he’ll have any more success over there. While Turbin has been able to keep himself physically fit, all that effort in the gym isn’t translating to success on the field. Proving that it takes more than pure strength and athleticism to make it in the NFL.
12 Kam Chancellor
Seattle’s defensive backfield is one that consistently beats offenses on a weekly basis, as they can either outplay you mentally or run you down physically. At the heart of it all is Kam Chancellor. Chancellor is one of the best safeties in the league. He’s an old school defensive back who uses his brawn to intimidate and outplay his opponents. Chancellor consistently makes plays and is respected across the league for his big play ability. In a defensive backfield that practically bleeds star caliber players, Chancellor manages to stick out by being one of the more physically impressive of the bunch. The guy’s huge. It’s not hard to imagine how he can be so physical with other players across the league.
11 Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski is a force to be reckoned with. Be it his insane athleticism on the field or his entertaining hijinks during the offseason, Gronk has fans hooked. The Patriots tight end first entered the league in 2010 and is regarded as one of the premier players at his position. Like Vernon Davis, Gronk is a physical freak and matchup nightmare. Line him up inside, outside or even in the slot and he’ll just roll through defenders. The types of tight ends teams are looking for right now are based on the Gronkowski prototype. He hasn’t been all that effective this year, but that’s due in good part to injuries holding him back. Once he gets himself to 100%, Gronk will be back running through defenses with ease.
10 Brian Cushing
The Houston Texans defense is full of tough characters. Before J.J. Watt made his debut, Brian Cushing was top tog on the defensive front in Houston. But ever since Watt began his reign of dominance, Cushing has kind of taken a backseat in the spotlight. But don’t let that fool you, Cushing is still a fantastic player. He’s one of the key players on a defensive unit that loves playing physical football. Cushing himself is a monster. He’s got to be, playing the inside linebacker spot. Be it 300 pound offensive linemen, bulky fullbacks or power runners, Cushing can take them all head on and come out the victor more often than not. The only blemish on his career is his history with violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Even with that in mind, Cushing’s resume speaks for itself.
9 Brian Orakpo
Maybe it’s because he’s moved from Washington to Tennessee, but it feels like you hardly hear anything about Brian Orakpo nowadays. True, he’s playing in a somewhat smaller market, with a slightly less successful franchise, but a player of his caliber usually manages to keep himself on the radar somehow. Orakpo’s last year in Washington was shadowed by injury. His first year as a Titan was filled with mediocrity. Which is strange when you think of just how agile and athletic Orakpo is. Maybe it was some lingering effects from his injury, but Orakpo hadn’t been playing with the same impact he’d had in previous years. That’s changed this year though, as he’s back to throwing around offensive linemen and looks to be headed towards a career year.
8 Vic Beasley
Vic Beasley is the youngest player on this list. The Clemson prospect is currently working his way through his second NFL season with the Falcons. While there’s a lot of pressure on him to revive the Falcons pass rush, he seems to be progressing through it quite well. He’s no superstar – not yet anyway – but he’s definitely a guy you have to keep your eye on. Beasley has shown some promise in his early career, but he finds himself on this list for different reasons. If Beasley does end up being a flop in the NFL, fans will know it wasn’t because of his physical ability. The guy’s huge, his arms look like they could rip the lids off tanks. Now all he has to do is figure out how to make that translate over to the football field.
7 Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush has long searched for stability within the NFL. Be it during his early years as a Saint, or his short stints in Detroit or Miami, Bush has had a hard time finding a permanent home. Bush is a versatile athlete who can move all over the field as either a runner or receiver. It’s his athleticism that’s kept the former first round pick in the league so long. Though he might not be a starting caliber player anymore, his ability to move around on the field has kept interest in the former USC product from going stagnant. Still playing at 31, Bush is finding ways to stick on NFL rosters. He might be past his prime, but Bush is still in great shape – especially for a seasoned vet his age.
6 Colin Kaepernick
Looking at it coming into September, Colin Kaepernick’s career looked to be more or less over. He was sitting on the bench – usurped by Blaine Gabbert of all people – and had seemingly lost the trust of the front office. The last few years have been rough on Kaep. What seemed to be a promising young career quickly snowballed into a messy situation overshadowed by a huge contract and little done on the field to justify it. In his prime, Kaep was a dual threat passer. He had the kind of arm that could stretch the deep ball and the kind of speed and physicality that made him hard to bring down on rushing plays. He’s just recently got the starting nod in San Fran, so we’ll see if he can recapture some of that magic.
5 Connor Barwin
The Philadelphia faithful are known for being a little mean and kind of nasty, win or lose. That kind of fan base requires similar traits in their own players, and that’s exactly what the Eagles have with defensive end Connor Barwin. Barwin started his career off in Houston, but has made strides as a member of the Eagles. You’ll notice that there are quite a few defensive guys on this list. Well when you’re main job is to push people back, you can bet that it’s going to require a significant amount of strength. Defensive end is probably the most physically demanding job on the defense next to linebacker and, at 30 years-old, Barwin still looks like a young gun out on the field.
4 Clay Matthews
The main man out in Green Bay is undoubtedly Aaron Rodgers, but Clay Matthews has to be a close second in that regard. The defensive standout has made a name for himself by playing physical, relentless football and having a keen sense of when and where to make the big play for his team. Matthews is arguably one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He’s also one of the league’s biggest personalities. You’ve probably seen him in some Campbell’s or Fathead commercials. While those seem to emphasize his more cheerful nature, he’s a complete beast on the field. The Packers have moved him all over the field in his career and he’s handled it perfectly. That’s all a testament to how great of an athlete he is. It’s not just pure strength with this guy. But that certainly plays into his game.
3 LaRon Landry
After spending a good portion of his career with the Washington Redskins, LaRon Landry is currently looking for a home in the NFL. Having last played with the Colts in 2014, it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting another shot anytime soon. He was recently suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, his third such violation. That might account for why his arms look like they’ve been stuffed with testosterone. These kinds of things seem to haunt players throughout their careers and it doesn’t help when they’re repeat offenders. But nonetheless, Landry is jacked. Unlike other defenders on this list – like Matthews and Orakpo – Landry hasn’t been able to bring his physicality onto the field. At best he was an above average safety. If the whole football thing doesn’t work out, he can probably find a new career in weightlifting.
2 Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson is going down as one of the best running backs to play in the NFL. Hands down. Ever since coming into the league as a rookie, Peterson has taken every opportunity he’s had to show fans he’s the real deal. He’s elusive, he has tremendous vision and can power through almost anybody. Though he’s getting on in years, Peterson is still regarded as one of the league’s top backs. At his age, it gets even harder for guys to properly condition themselves. But Peterson manages to do so just fine. You wouldn’t think that he’s in his 30s by looking at him. Hopefully for Vikings fans, he can make his way back from injury and still be the same player he was before.
1 J.J. Watt
This man is a force of nature. In a league filled with tough, talented athletes, J.J. Watt seems to make them all look like kids when he’s on the field. The Texans defensive end has put up monster numbers over the years and has earned four Pro Bowl nods. He’s still in his prime and that’s a good thing for Texans fans. Opposing offenses, however, have to deal with the bleak reality that he’ll be around tossing them around like ragdolls for years to come. The man is huge. He can’t be stopped. Tackles, guards, centers – you name it, they’ve tried and failed. We seem to overhype certain players in this day and age, but Watt is the real deal. He’s a tremendous player and an unbelievable athlete in a class of his own. Houston lost him in 2016, but look for him to resume dominating next season.
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