Every player who makes his way through college football to the National Football League is a top-tier athlete when compared to we mere mortals. Many are larger than life figures who tower over some teammates, let alone over those who spend money on watching NFL games in-person and on merchandise. The best of the best are offensive and defensive physical freaks, many of whom seemingly live inside of gyms when they aren’t on football fields. They are capable of making plays that many who have featured for teams in high school, college and even the pros can only dream of making in editions of Madden. These walking highlight-reels are tremendous advertisements for the sport and the faces of their teams for fans who can’t get enough of watching them perform.
With that said, more than a few NFL players either on rosters or currently looking for work, as of the posting of this piece, could stand to spend a little more time at the gym in attempts to improve or extend their careers. The man widely believed to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the league may not look like he is a Greek God or somebody sculpted from granite, but he has turned himself into a different type of physical freak because of his strict diets and structured workout programs. Odds are if he isn't watching game film or spending time on the practice field, he is probably working out as you are reading this sentence, regardless of what time you have come upon this piece. That type of dedication often separates champions from good players.
20 Freak: Odell Beckham Jr.
The New York Giants have to be a little concerned about Odell Beckham Jr. as he works to come back from a fractured ankle. Beckham showed throughout his first three seasons in the league that he can be a physical freak with blistering speed and an ability to make absolutely ridiculous catches. The one-handed catch he made against the Dallas Cowboys is so historic, one doesn’t even need to mention when it occurred. Just the mention of it causes fans to immediately replay that moment in their heads. As great as that was, Beckham has added other marvelous highlights to his personal reel. Soon, some team is going to pay Beckham. New York fans are hoping Big Blue will be the franchise to pay the man later this year or in early 2018.
19 More time at the gym: Eddie Lacy
The battles between running back Eddie Lacy and excess weight are no secret. In fact, the Seattle Seahawks once paid Lacy extra money for dropping pounds. It didn’t help. Lacy averaged a paltry 2.6 yards per carry during his single season with the Seahawks before that franchise saw him as surplus to requirements, and he is now a free agent. Lacy recently turned 28 years old, meaning he should still have a little something left in the tank for a season or two before his skills begin to betray him. In September 2017, Lacy spoke with ESPN The Magazine about his weight struggles. Perhaps a completely different workout program could help him find a spot on a roster up through 2020.
18 Freak: Tom Brady
We’re not going to try to convince you New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is similar to Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers as it pertains to athletic gifts. We’re also not going to poke any fun at the TB12 Method that Brady credits for allowing him to play as an MVP level at his age. Brady turns 41 years old in August, but there are no signs that he is slowing down. Brady’s insane diet and his workouts make him a physical freak who continues to defy the odds and notch wins over Father Time. Say, for the sake of argument, Brady continues to perform like an All-Pro up through the age of 45 like he plans. That may cement him as the greatest QB in the history of pro football.
17 More time at the gym: Ben Roethlisberger
We understand that the gimmick with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is that he’s Big Ben. He’s going to train how he wants, eat what he wants and attend the training camp sessions he wants to attend. Just like with Eli Manning, Roethlisberger has earned that right. We’re just saying that he might feel a little better both before and during the season if he were to spend a little more time in the gym and shed a little weight. Roethlisberger is 36 years old, but he has taken all kinds of beatings during his Hall of Fame career. We’re not sure how many seasons he has left, and losing 15 or even 10 pounds could improve his overall play from September through January playoff contests.
16 Freak: Saquon Barkley
Even before he officially declared for the NFL Draft, running back Saquon Barkley earned a reputation for being a physical freak during his days at Penn State. His college workouts are the stuff of legend, and we expect some among the New York Giants cannot wait to see him get to work in the gym later this summer and during the fall. Barkley is more than just a freak athlete who can bench more than most who play the position. While with the Nittany Lions, he showed that he is capable of torching opponents out of the backfield, in a passing attack and on kickoff returns. The next guy spotlighted in this piece cannot wait to have this new toy in his offense as he attempts to win a third Super Bowl.
15 More time at the gym: Eli Manning
One of the long-standing traditions among those who watch the New York Giants in early training camp sessions is noticing that quarterback Eli Manning isn’t in the best of shape at those times of the year. Manning has earned the vacation time for his service to the club over the years. The two-time Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP is about to enter what could be his final season with Big Blue, and one has to imagine he wants to make the most of it playing alongside multiple physical freaks on his offense. Could Manning potentially add a few more years to his career by spending more time at the gym? The 37-year-old may not be interested in doing so at this point. He’s done enough to get into the Hall of Fame.
14 Freak: Myles Garrett
Take one look at Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett with his shirt off, and you may laugh at how jacked the guy is compared even to others on the team. Thanks to videos that have gone viral, we know that Garrett is not only a physical freak on the football field. The guy can also get the job done on the basketball court. Garrett has the goods to dunk on opponents, and he is also able to take to the skies and reject attempts with authority. On the Cleveland defensive line, Garrett provided glimpses of what he will be able to accomplish as it pertains to pursuing quarterbacks when he is fully healthy. AFC North QBs won’t enjoy seeing Garrett twice a season for the next several years, at least.
13 More time at the gym: Sam Bradford
We’re going to be honest here and admit that we aren’t all that sure if spending more time at the gym will be enough to save the career of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford’s inability to remain healthy sunk his career with the St. Louis Rams, and a knee scope cost him his job with the Minnesota Vikings in 2017. It’s possible that spending additional time in the gym could actually negatively affect the former Offensive Rookie of the Year who is now trying to hold onto his career at the age of 30 years old. Then again, Bradford doesn’t have all that much more to lose as of the summer of 2018. At least he was able to make a ton of money off that rookie contract.
12 Freak: Julio Jones
The celebratory sound you’re hearing in the middle of June is coming from NFC South defensive backs and defensive coordinators upon learning that Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons may not be the best of friends these days. Jones is very much a physical freak who is able to tower over cornerbacks and safeties and also blow past the opposition with his wheels. Back in June 2017, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report explained how one anonymous NFL player referred to Jones as a “freak of nature.” The Falcons are going to need Jones healthy and dedicated to the cause if the team is to have a chance of returning to the Super Bowl.
11 More time at the gym: Calvin Ridley
Former Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley, currently scheduled to be a teammate of Julio Jones with the Atlanta Falcons, isn’t quite as freakish as is the veteran often deemed to be the best wideout in the NFL today. Still, Ridley should be a great fit into the Atlanta defense, but there were some alarms raised when he ran slower than expected at the NFL Combine. Ridley’s frame leaves something to be desired if he is not going to post blinding speed while facing NFL defensive backs who are far more athletically gifted than what he faced in college. The 23-year-old can improve this part of his game by spending a little extra time in the gym.
10 Freak: J.J. Watt
Houston Texans defensive superstar J.J. Watt has become just as known for his insane workouts as he is known for crushing the dreams of quarterbacks around the NFL. Watt looks and also plays like a throwback, and he has become a hero among local fans for his charity work throughout the Houston region. It cannot be ignored that injuries have prevented the 29-year-old from being the force of old over the past two years. In fact, some would even say that Watt has already hit his peak. He still looks like a million bucks, but the Texans are going to need him to get back to being a team MVP starting this fall. He is reportedly on track to return from a broken leg as good as new.
9 More time at the gym: Trevor Siemian
Much like with the previously mentioned Sam Bradford, Trevor Siemian hitting the gym for some extra reps may not be enough for him to find a long-term home in a starting lineup even if somebody ahead of him on the depth chart suffers an injury. The Denver Broncos gave Siemian an opportunity to grab hold of the keys to the offense in 2016, and the hope was that he would show further improvement in 2017. That didn’t happen. Denver moved on in March 2018 when the team traded Siemian to the Minnesota Vikings. Siemian, currently a backup for Kirk Cousins, looks like just a guy when he’s on the field. Spending a little more time at the gym probably won’t fix that or his playing issues, but it couldn’t hurt.
8 Freak: Rob Gronkowski
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski often generates headlines for his numerous off-the-field hobbies, his fun-loving nature and also his enjoyment of a certain number that he would probably rock on his jersey if NFL rules allowed him to do so. Gronk makes us laugh, no doubt, but he is also a physical freak who should be headed to the Hall of Fame not long after he retires. Gronkowski is a massive individual who moves well for a big man, and he has huge hands that allow him to catch just about any pass Tom Brady throws his way. Neither linebackers, cornerbacks nor safeties can stop him when he is 100 percent. We hope Gronkowski isn’t actually considering retiring from playing just yet. The NFL would miss him.
7 More time at the gym: Julian Edelman
Perhaps this one is a little unfair. New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was lost for the 2017 season after he suffered a torn ACL, and it was reported in June that he is facing a four-game ban after he allegedly violated the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy. While that suspension surprised some, it was not all that shocking to former quarterback Chris Simms. Simms explained on an episode of the “Simms and Lefkoe” podcast that people around the NFL have been “suspect” of the New England receiver. We’ll just say that Edelman should spend a little more time at the gym during the suspension, and also be careful about what he does and doesn’t put in his body.
6 Freak: Cam Newton
In many ways, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton just isn’t fair. Newton is built more like a linebacker than a signal-caller, and his power and strength allows him to shed would-be tacklers with ease. He can extend plays using his legs, when necessary, and he is able to plow over defenders in goal line situations. The one-time NFL MVP also possesses a cannon for an arm. Scariest of all for those tasked with trying to stop Newton, he turned 29 years old only this past May. QBs are often at their best once they hit their 30s and have years and years of experience on their resumes. Some may want to speak with Cam about the suits he wears before and after games, but that’s a different topic for a different piece.
5 More time at the gym: Ereck Flowers
New York Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers has been nothing short of a disaster playing at left tackle since he entered the NFL back in 2015. Per multiple reports last year, Flowers was putting in work to try to improve, but it just wasn’t happening. Earlier this offseason, the Giants declined Flowers’ fifth-year option, and the team moved him to the right side of the line after signing Nate Solder. Flowers getting literally run over by defensive linemen is a trend that has to end if he has any chance of surviving, let alone thriving, in the NFL, Hit the gym, put on some additional muscle, if possible, and correct your lousy technique, Mr. Flowers. The Giants are counting on you.
4 Freak: Jason Pierre-Paul
Joke all you want about the fireworks accident that cost Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul some digits years ago. The fact that the guy was able to come back and return to form to the point that the New York Giants used a franchise tag to retain his services says plenty about him being a physical freak and someone who could be one of the best pass-rushers in the game so long as he is able to remain healthy. JPP turned 29-years-old on the first day of 2018, meaning he could be in the twilight of his physical prime. Nevertheless, expect Pierre-Paul to want to impress his new teammates during his first year with the Bucs.
3 More time at the gym: Orlando Brown
Back in March, Bleacher Report’s Doug Farrar speculated if Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown had “the worst combine performance of all time.” While Brown looked the part in shorts and a shirt, he failed to impress during drills such as bench press, the vertical jump and the broad jump. Not every player who eventually finds himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame has a noteworthy combine. Ask Tom Brady (more on him later) about that. Moving Brown to guard may be only one of the steps needed for him to excel in the pros. The Baltimore coaching staff is likely banking on Brown hitting the gym early and often leading up to the first preseason game of August.
2 Freak: Josh Gordon
Near the end of May, Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor referred to Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon as a “physical freak.” Gordon looks like a superhero these days, but his appearance is not the only reason Taylor would make such comments when speaking with reporters following a workout. We’ve seen Gordon when he is at his best and healthy. He’s nearly unstoppable wherever he is on the field, and he has looked completely jacked throughout 2018. Those who know about Gordon are aware he’s been his own worst enemy during his career. If he has notched victories over those demons, he could again be an All-Pro while playing with Taylor or rookie Baker Mayfield. The Browns may be on the cusp of turning things around.
1 More time at the gym: Greg Robinson
In June 2017, Danny Kelly of The Ringer wrote about how offensive tackle Greg Robinson went from being a can’t-miss prospect to a bust who was traded by the Los Angeles Rams, the team that selected him, and who is currently a free agent. Concerns about Robinson’s weight issues were coupled with his poor play, and a brief stint with the Detroit Lions ended after he suffered an ankle injury. One would think some team out there would be willing to take a chance on a 25 year old who was once advertised to be a future great lineman. Maybe he could impress some would-be employers by improving his body and stamina in the gym.