NFL players are known for being some of the most physically fit people on the entire planet, some players are so massive that they weigh close to 300 pounds with very low body fat. Factor in the speed of the collisions that take place on the field, and that is why players have to take such good care of their bodies to avoid injury. One of the biggest adjustments rookies have to make coming into the NFL is the size of the men compared to the players in college. In football it is imperative that the body has a strong core and lower body muscles to make explosive cuts and hits. To have success early on in their careers, players must get into the best shape of their lives to compete on the professional level.
All the players included on this list transformed into complete monsters after their first year in the NFL. Most of the players on the list were already physical specimens when they were drafted, yet they somehow got stronger and became some of the most imposing players in the entire league after their rookie season. Other players on the list were just known as speedsters in college and had to pack on extra muscle to add that extra punch to make it on the next level. These players are all gym rats and are easily in the best shape out of all the players in the entire NFL. It is hard to stand out in locker room full of gargantuan men, but these players are amongst the few that actually do.
15. Vic Beasley
Beasley entered the league as one of the best pass rushing prospects in his class coming out of Clemson, but his game was mostly based around his lightning quick first step on the edge rather than strength. That is why Beasley had trouble adjusting to the size of left tackles in the NFL his rookie season. The Atlanta Falcons selected Beasley with the 8th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and after only recording four and a half sacks as a rookie Beasley was looking like somewhat of a bust.
However, Beasley changed everyones perception of him in his second season after he exploded for fifteen and a half sacks. A big factor in Beasley playing better was him adding some muscle in the offseason. After one year he had the chance to see the strength of NFL offensive lineman and he adjusted well enough to become a Pro Bowler in only his second season. Beasley is now known as one of the fastest and best pass rushers in the entire league at this point in his career.
14. Danielle Hunter
One of the most jacked and underrated players in the entire league is defensive lineman Danielle Hunter. He put up an impressive twenty five reps of 225 pounds at the NFL combine and has only gotten stronger since then. Coming out of LSU Hunter was seen as a player high energy and limited upside. However since entering the NFL he has proven to be an athletic beast and has turned into a solid defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings.
Hunter put up a very respectable six sacks as a rookie, but then in his second season he more than doubled his total obtaining twelve and a half sacks in 2016. Hunter was obviously strong coming into the NFL showing it at the combine, yet he got bigger going into his sophomore season for the Vikings. He was the only member of the Vikings to be featured on Elliot Harrison’s NFL.com article that created an All-Under-25 team.
13. Vernon Davis
Coming out of Maryland Vernon Davis was seen as one of the best pass catching tight ends to come into the league in quite some time. He was also seen as one dimensional because he lacked the necessary tools to be a good blocker in the running game. At the combine before his rookie season Davis put on a show running an incredible 4.38 at 250 pounds. He also had a 42 inch vertical leap and put up 33 reps on the bench press.
Davis had a great career at tight end for the 49ers and became one of the best pass catching tight ends in the game. After his rookie year he was more used to strength of the defensive lineman in the NFL and transformed his game into becoming a great all around tight end. This was because of his ability to change his body into a bigger and stronger player after his rookie season.
12. Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick came into the NFL with solid size for a quarterback at 6’4 and 230 pounds, but he was nowhere near the beast he was when he looked like a running back playing quarterback for the 49ers on their run to a NFC Championship in 2013. Kaepernick became known for his signature touchdown celebration kissing his bicep that season. He looked like the biggest beast at quarterback besides Cam Newton at that point.
During his rookie season Kaepernick did not play much at all and only got into a few games. He took that time to learn the playbook behind Alex Smith and transformed his body to become one of the most shredded players in the league regardless of position. Now Kaepernick is looking for a job as a free agent. The past couple of seasons Kaepernick strangely lost the muscle that made him so good as a runner during his second season in the NFL.
11. Connor Barwin
Barwin was a relatively unknown prospect entering the NFL out of the University of Cincinnati because he did not change to defensive line until his senior season. Barwin was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2009 and had a decent rookie season with four and a half sacks. His next season was a lost one due to injury, but after that Barwin transformed his body and switched to outside linebacker with a more cut and lean frame. After that switch Barwin had a career season recording eleven and a half sacks and even had a franchise record four sacks in one game.
Barwin has been seen on Instagram bench pressing over 400 pounds for two reps which is incredible because he only weighs 265 pounds. Barwin is a perfect example of what shedding some weight can do for a player’s explosiveness, leading to them becoming a more productive player on the field.
10. Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush was one of the most electric and entertaining players ever to play college football during his time at USC where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2005. His game was based on speed and elusiveness that could not be matched by anyone on the field. He put up a surprising 24 reps in the bench press at the NFL combine which is solid, in comparison this years version of Reggie Bush, Christian McCaffrey only benched 10 reps when he worked out at last years combine.
After entering the league at around 200 pounds, Bush added nearly 20 pounds of muscle so that he could adjust to the hits that came with playing running back. During his rookie season he had more success on getting the ball on screens and on special teams. But after changing his body he turned into more of an every down back further into his career.
9. Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon was one of the most productive college running backs of all-time during his career with Wisconsin. This success in college lead to him being selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers in 2015. He had a pretty disappointing rookie season after entering with all the hype surrounding him and only ended up rushing for a measly 641 yards on 184 carries.
In the offseason Gordon took time to get stronger and worked out in the weight room harder than he ever had becoming even more of beast than he already was coming into the league. In his second season his hard work payed off and he was only 3 yards shy of cracking 1,000 on only 254 carries. Gordon has improved each season he has been in the NFL and is now one of the more bruising every down backs in the entire league.
8. Terrell Suggs
Terrell Suggs is easily one of the most intimidating players in the entire NFL who has played for the Ravens his whole career. Suggs was a high level prospect holding the NCAA record for sacks in a single season with 24. Even though he only started one game as a rookie he ended up with twelve sacks and took home the defensive rookie of the year award that season.
After Suggs added more muscle going into his second year, that is when he transformed into the combination of power and speed that we now know today. He started every game in his second season and he was named to his first Pro Bowl as well. Suggs is now the all-time leader in sacks for the Ravens and is one of the strongest defensive players that there is in the league.
7. Brian Orakpo
At 6’3, 258 pounds, Brian Orakpo is an athletic freak playing defensive end for the Tennessee Titans. Entering the draft in 2009, Orakpo was seen as one of the players who could have an impressive combine and he did not disappoint. He put up thirty one reps of 225 pounds and an impressive vertical leap of thirty nine and a half inches. This lead to him being selected 13th overall by the Washington Redskins.
Orakpo used his great speed off the edge to get an impressive eleven sacks in his rookie season and was the first Redskin rookie to be selected to a Pro Bowl since 1978. Since his great rookie season Orakpo has failed to put up as many sack numbers, until last season with the Titans when he got ten and a half sacks. Orakpo has become a much better all around defensive end since he has added some muscle and relied less on his speed to get the job done.
6. James Ihedigbo
Looking at current free agent safety James Ihedigbo one would think they are looking at a professional body builder rather than a professional football player. That is why it is hard to believe that Ihedigbo only put up fifteen reps of 225 pounds at the combine that is the lowest of anyone on this list. That probably factored into him going undrafted in 2007, he eventually ended up signing with the Jets as a free agent.
Ihedigbo was never more than a special teams player during his 9 year career, but he was a Super Bowl champion with the Ravens in 2013. Ihedigbo always looked like more of a player than he was with one of the most chiseled frames in the entire NFL. It is players like Ihedigbo that make it so hard for scouts to judge if a player is truly a good football player or if he is just a strong workout warrior.
5. Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack has been one of the best players at any position since he entered the NFL in 2014 as a linebacker. Since entering the NFL he has added a lot of muscle to his frame and has became a better player because of it. He had an above average rookie season for the Raiders starting all sixteen games, but he only had four sacks.
In his second season Mack made the switch to playing defensive end as well as linebacker depending on the defensive alignment. Because of this he came in stronger and was more equipped to handle the strength that offensive linemen possess. During that season Mack became the first player in NFL history to be selected as an All-Pro in two different positions. He made the leap from being a good player his rookie year to a great player in his second year by transform his body into that of a defensive end rather than a linebacker.
4. J.J. Watt
Coming into the 2011 draft Watt looked like he had the ideal size to be an impact defensive end, however scouts doubted his ability to blow past anyone at the next level. In his rookie season Watt showed a lot of promise and put up a respectable sack total with five and a half sacks. His second season is when Watt really burst onto the scene as one of the best players in the league. In 2012 Watt had one of the best defensive seasons in NFL history. He had twenty and a half sacks which was two shy of the NFL record and he was also named Defensive Player of the Year. This success was earned by him in the offseason because Watt is known as one of the hardest working players in the league. He has been known to even work out with and flip 1000 lb tires. The above photo is from his rookie season, before he really got jacked!
3. Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson made a name for himself at the University of Oklahoma as one of the hardest running players to ever play college football. His violent running style and his explosive highlight runs made him a house hold name before he ever played a down in the NFL. His success followed him into his rookie season where he won the rookie of the year award and broke the record for yards in a single game with 296 yards.
It is hard to believe but Peterson actually improved his sophomore season. He put up the third highest yardage total for any second year running back with 1,760 yards that led the NFL that season. Peterson has always been one of the most shredded players in the NFL and that was definitely the case after his rookie season when he was in his physical prime. During this time he was the scariest player in the NFL to tackle.
2. Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews has always been an underrated player, going into college he was not even recruited and he had to walk onto USC. Even after having a very successful career at USC he fell to the Packers late in the first round at twenty seventh overall in 2009. In college Matthews committed to weight training and conditioning programs to gain size and improve his performance level and stamina.
These work habits followed Matthews into the NFL and he has been one of the Packers leaders on defense since he entered the league. In his rookie season he only started thirteen games but still managed to get ten sacks. His sophomore season is when he really broke out after Don Capers decided to take him off of the line and move him all over the field. He became more lean and agile to become more versatile to line up anywhere and everywhere for the Packers. This lead him to have thirteen and a half sacks and finish second in the voting for defensive player of the year.
1. Amari Cooper
Amari Cooper was known for his speed and route running at the University of Alabama where he won a National Championship trophy in 2012. Cooper was seen as the best wide receiver in his draft class and was taken fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2015. The only knock on Cooper was his weight and that he could lack the ability to break press coverage because of it. Amari also declined to bench press at the combine that was a red flag to some scouts.
In his rookie season Cooper silenced any and all of his critics by breaking nearly every Raider rookie record for receiving that season and being selected to the Pro Bowl. In the offseason following his rookie season Cooper added a tremendous amount muscle and was almost unrecognizable when he showed up for training camp. This benefited Cooper and helped him fight against double teams and he went on to have his second straight Pro Bowl season. Cooper and Carr have proven to be one of the best young receiver and quarterback duos since Cooper entered the league in 2015.
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