2019 NFL Draft Sleepers and Triumphs Update: Athletes to Celebrate

Looking back at the NFL Draft

Day Three of the 2019 NFL Draft is in the books. After seven rounds, we can finally celebrate the UnAfraidShow favorites. Prior to the draft, our writers identified sleepers, hidden gems and adversity-driven athletes to watch for. Here are those players and where they were drafted or if they remain undrafted.

Stories of Triumph (Full stories here and here)

Kaleb McGary, OT

NFL Draft Status: Round 1, Pick 31, No. 31 Overall to Atlanta Falcons

At pick 31, the Falcons traded back into the first round to select McGary. They seem to like him enough to protect quarterback Matt Ryan. McGary landed himself on one of the better teams in the NFL. After living in an RV through high school, McGary can use his first-round paycheck to rent a nice apartment.

Christian Wilkins, DT

NFL Draft Status: Round 1, Pick 13, No. 13 Overall to Miami Dolphins

Wilkins, persevering through his grandfather’s death (accidentally by the hands of a SWAT team), earned a top-15 pick and is headed to Miami to play against the GOAT Tom Brady. Miami is in need of leadership. Scouts, coaches and fans are drawn to Wilkins’ character. Look for him to become the face of the franchise alongside Josh Rosen.

Chandler Brewer, OG

NFL Draft Status: UDFA to L.A. Rams

When it comes to adversity, Brewer knows it well. The Middle Tennessee State University lineman played through cancer in 2018. After undergoing radiation treatment, Chandler has been building back strength to win his NFL playing time. Signed by the Super Bowl-losing Rams, Brewer will add depth to an

Emanuel Hall, WR

NFL Draft Status: UDFA to Chicago Bears

Dubbed by many as a one-trick pony, Emanuel Hall still found his way onto the Chicago Bears roster because he is the best at that trick. Despite injuries and his father’s unexpected death in 2018, Hall displayed tremendous efficiency. His 4.39 (95th-percentile) 40-yard dash, 109.7 (89th-percentile) Speed Score and 144.5 (99th-percentile) Burst Score are good enough to earn a second look.

Will Grier, QB

NFL Draft Status: Round 3, Pick 37, No. 100 Overall to Carolina Panthers

Grier landed himself an offense led by Cam Newton. However, considering Newton’s injury history, Grier could have regular season snaps as early as 2019. With this draft pick, the Panthers believe that Grier is well beyond his PED-suspended past.

Gary Johnson, LB

NFL Draft Status: UDFA to Kansas City Chiefs

https://twitter.com/_GaryJohnson/status/1122307249056178176

Life has never been easy for Johnson. He’s had to scape, claw and earn everything he has. From foster-care to community college football to playing for Texas, Johnson showed grit. Johnson now found his way to a Super Bowl contending team in need of defenders.

Kahzin Daniels, EDGE

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1119397699881586689

NFL Draft Status: UDFA to Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Daniels may be the most interesting rookie in this class. He played without any vision in his right eye. Yes, Kahzin Daniels found success in college despite being completely blind in one eye. With that being said, he was able to total 31.5 sacks. Cross your fingers he can overcome this “disability” in the NFL.

Bonus: Josh Jacobs, RB

NFL Draft Status: Round 1, Pick 24, No. 24 Overall to Oakland Raiders

Coming from poverty, homelessness and even being chased by gunfire, Jacobs has come a long way. Because of his incredibly efficiency and highlight-reel production, Jacobs battled his way to the first round. After Marshawn Lynch retired, the Oakland Raiders were in need of another talented running back. They found a running back that will “run angry“.

Football is a Beautiful Game

In so many ways, football reminds us that anyone, no matter who they are, can make a big splash. Regardless of race, income, or neighborhood. This is what makes the NFL Draft and offseason so captivating.

NFL Draft 2019: Tears, Tragedy, and Triumph of Draft Picks Part 2

NFL Draft 2019: Tears, Tragedy, and Triumph of Draft Picks Part 2

Will Grier: Fleeing from PEDs

In 2014, after being declared a four-star recruit, Will Grier signed with Florida. After redshirting his first season, he took over the starting quarterback position in 2015. However, after starting just six games, Grier tested positive for Ligandrol and was suspended for one season. He then transferred to West Virginia, sat out the 2016 season, and lit the world on fire in 2017 and 2018. Grier accumulated over 7,300 passing yards and 71 passing touchdowns in 2017 and 2018. According to PlayerProfiler.com, his 9.7 yards-per-attempt is in the 92nd-percentile, while his 81.9 QBR is in the 79th-percentile. On the field, Grier played extremely well.

Off the field, Grier has to continue to prove he is past his Ligandrol impulses. As far as his West Virginia career is concerned, Grier reported no drug issues.

“Never had an issue,” he said. “It’s just not who I am. I would never let my teammates down again in any circumstance.”

After going through countless drug tests and letting his Florida team down before, Grier appears to have grown in maturity. Look for an NFL team to take a risk on his upside.

Gary Johnson: Foster Care, Community College and Texas

Texas Linebacker Gary Johnson came from an unstable, to say the least, childhood. His mother gave birth to him when she was 14 and lost him to foster care when he was just 4 years old. Johnson was moved around for most of his childhood and adolescence. Shifting from family members, state-supported guardians and group homes. His youth brings stories of a poverty, hunger, abuse and academic issues.

Thankfully, Johnson found a way out of that life. In his senior year of high school, Johnson triple-lettered in football, basketball and track. He won the state championship for the 100-meter dash and found his way onto the Dodge City Community College Football Team. After amassing an incredible 133 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries and 3 defensive touchdowns, Johnson garnered interest from universities.

Ultimately, Johnson settled on Texas and quickly rose up the depth chart. In 2018, he led the Longhorns with 90 tackles, including 8.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. This earned him an invite to the prestigious NFL Combine, where he caught scouts’ attention with his 4.43 40-yard dash. Now, he is projected by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com to be drafted in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Johnson, though he passed around from house to house as a child, has found his home in football.

For more on Johnson’s story, read here.

Kahzin Daniels: Football’s Daredevil

In the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks drafted an athlete without a left hand, Shaquem Griffin. Day three of the NFL draft is generally when teams take chances on players. Hoping they might overcome a lack of production, unathletic measurables, injuries, or uncommon physical features like the lack of a hand, or in Kahzin Daniels case, the lack of sight in his right eye.

Daniels, the Charleston edge rusher, is completely blind in his right eye. Despite that, he totalled 31.5 sacks in his final three seasons for the Golden Eagles. He was a reliable source of pressure for Charleston. The fact that he is blind in his right eye is undoubtedly a cause of concern for NFL scouts. But, he still is ranked 61st by Sports Illustrated in this year’s draft class. That is a great feat for a Division II player, regardless of their eyesight.


“It did not limit his play at all. He played on both sides, left and right, and never used it as an excuse or crutch or anything like that.” –Coach Pat Kirkland

However, sight isn’t the largest concern for potential NFL suitors. Instead, his ability to move to linebacker will hold more value. Daniels, at 242 pounds, is a good 20 pounds less than other edge rushers like Nick Bosa or Josh Allen. Players in his size range either become linebackers or situational edge rushers. Both require the ability to cover receivers. But, Daniels didn’t do much coverage in college. His coaches didn’t ask him to. It remains to be seen if he can make the jump to the NFL. With that being said, he has already shown that he can overcome what would be detrimental to many. Look for a team to take a chance on him on day three of the NFL Draft.

“Even growing up, I never let anybody treat me different in any way,” he said. “I never used it as a disability, never got any checks for it or anything like that.

“I see through one eye and I live life to the best of my ability.”

For more on Daniels, read here.

Davion Taylor: A Player to Monitor for the 2020 NFL Draft

In the NFL, there are successful stories of athletes transitioning from one sport to another. Jimmy Graham is one of those players that comes to mind. A four-year Miami Hurricanes basketball player, he played only one year of collegiate football before making the jump to the NFL. But, Graham did play football in high school. Just like many other successful NFL athletes without the same collegiate experience. This is why Davion Taylor becomes so peculiar.

Shockingly, Taylor did not play any high school football. At all. He wasn’t allowed to. Because of his mother’s Seventh-Day Adventist faith, Taylor couldn’t perform in any sporting activities from Friday night until Sunday morning. Starting years behind other players, Taylor earned a walk-on spot at Coachoma Community College for both football and track. He then earned a scholarship to play football and run for Colorado. The linebacker racked up a modest 57 tackles (10 for a loss), 2 passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 defensive touchdown in 12 games. These aren’t mind-bending numbers, but looking at his journey to Colorado linebacker displays a unique player.

Although Davion Taylor may be a late-bloomer in football. If he shows more promise in his senior season, he will certainly gain the attention of NFL scouts for the 2020 NFL Draft.

For more on Taylor’s story, read here.

Is the Unafraid Show missing anyone?

If you know of anyone who should be on this list, please comment below. We would love to learn more about the stories and players that propel this game forward.

Read NFL Draft 2019: Tears, Tragedy, and Triumph of Draft Picks Part 1

NFL Draft 2019: Tears, Tragedy, and Triumph of Draft Picks Part 1

NFL Draft 2019 great stories of draftees Christian Wilkins Chandler Brewer Caleb Mcgary

In the wake of the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft, there are many heroic stories surfacing. Athletes coming out of poverty, disability, remorse or broken homes to find success on the gridiron. This is why we love sports. Anyone, regardless of where they grew up, has the chance to make their mark. In these two articles, the seven NFL draft hopefuls with the most inspiring stories will be discussed.

The Most Compelling Stories to Watch for in the 2019 NFL Draft

Kaleb McGary: Foreclosures, RV’s and House Fires

As Kaleb McGary stated himself, his life story is “basically a country song” (If you want to hear the short interview, listen here). During the 2008 recession, his family lost their farm to foreclosure. Following that, McGary’s father was involved in a work accident and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Without good credit or income, his family resorted to living out of an RV on his grandparents yard. Living in his grandparents house was not an option. McGary explained that 60 years of hoarding made the home unlivable. So, there he was, spending his final years of high school living out of an RV with his siblings and his parents.

However, McGary has made the most of his opportunities. The Washington right-tackle earned first team All-Pac-12 honors in three consecutive years. He also tested extremely well athletically. McGary recorded a 5.05 (84th-percentile) 40-yard dash, a 97.5 (86th-percentile) Speed Score, a 112.5 (93rd-percentile) Burst Score, and a 12.24 (70th-percentile) Agility Score. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com gave McGary a round one-two projection. Additionally, WalterFootball ranks Kaleb McGary as the sixth best offensive tackle entering the 2019 NFL Draft. Things have been looking up for McGary since his time living in an RV.

Unfortunately, there is more to his family’s living situation. After his parents had finally cleared out livable space for themselves in the house, one of the RVs caught fire, burned down, and took half of the house with it. Even with a GoFundMe to help pay for the costs, McGary said that labor and repairs are now at a stand still. Home projects are far more expensive than he would have thought. With McGary’s high draft odds, he could easily become another athlete that takes care of his parents and siblings. Look for him to raise his family out of poverty and into a stable home.

Chandler Brewer: Strength in the Face of Invasion

Cancer is nothing to mess with. Almost everyone either has gone through a battle with cancer or knows someone who has. Regardless of the treatment chosen, cancer has a way of taking the best parts away from the host. However, sometimes cancer uncovers warriors.

This is the case of Chandler Brewer, offensive lineman for Middle Tennessee State University. Just before his senior season, in July of 2018, Brewer was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancer surfaced in his left knee and he kept it secret, except from staff and family. Brewer was, according to ProFootballFocus, the University’s highest-graded returning player. His play would have been missed.

But, with permission from his doctor, he suited up to play. What’s impressive is that, despite six weeks of radiation mid-season, Brewer remained strong. He played all 14 games, averaged 67 snaps per game and only allowed two sacks on over 450 pass attempts. ProFootballFocus named Brewer on their Conference USA team of the week three times and their national team once. In addition, Brewer earned First-Team All Conference USA Honors.

After the season, Chandler came out to the public and he’s had to disclose his cancer to every NFL team or scout of interest.

Taking a chance on a player battling cancer is a bold move. But, the NFL’s offensive lines become depleted each and every season. Many teams look for depth by converting tight ends, defensive lineman or even athletes from other sports. So, taking a risk on a highly graded warrior like Brewer in the 2019 NFL Draft is a quality choice.

Christian Wilkins: Tragedy, Loss and Courage

The story of Christian Wilkins, Clemson defensive tackle, is one of great loss and greater courage. When Wilkins was just 15 years old, his grandfather, Eurie Stamps Sr. was tragically killed by a SWAT team on a raid. During the raid, in which SWAT were not after Stamps, he was killed by an accidental discharge of a weapon while he was lying face down on the ground. To all those opposing Colin Kaepernick’s ideals, remember that this is the kind of needless violence he is trying to prevent.

Anyway, Stamps was an incredible father-figure for Wilkins. He split time between his stepfather’s and Stamps’ house. Stamps was a local icon, involved in the community and beloved by many. For many, this would be an end to high aspirations. However, after a switch to Suffield Academy, Wilkins found joy and success in athletics and activities. He became well known for his affable and giving lifestyle at high school. Wilkins even acted as the junior-varsity’s “water guy”. It speaks volumes to his character.

Modeling his life around the example Stamps set for him, Wilkins chose the number 42 to honor Stamps at Clemson. Stamps was born in 1942 and Wilkins garnered plenty of honor to that number. Wilkins earned a degree from Clemson in two and a half years and was awarded the 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy for outstanding community, academic and on-field performance. Lance Zierlein from NFL.com gave Wilkins a round-one projection for the 2019 NFL Draft. Additionally, ProFootballFocus put their claim on his NFL success.

For more on Christian Wilkins and his life after Stamps, read here.

Emanuel Hall: Injuries, Death and Athleticism

2018 was not kind to Emanuel Hall. The Missouri wide receiver only played eight games in his senior season. A nagging groin injury sidelined him multiple times. For a “one-trick pony” speedster, a leg injury is quite serious. However, a much larger obstacle came on October 11th of 2018. While still rehabbing from his groin injury, Hall learned that his father had unexpectedly passed away.

“This has been the toughest year of my life,” Hall said.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “you’ve still got to take care of your business, because the world doesn’t stop.”

Hall’s words ring true to those that have lost a loved one and persevered through the pain. Through every battle and knockdown, every person had the chance to fight. Hall did just that. He returned to football after dealing with both his groin injury and his father’s funeral with four receptions, 77 yards and a touchdown. Through the pain and recoveries, Hall has shown that, when on the field, he makes splash plays.

Athletically, Emanuel Hall is special. According to PlayerProfiler.com, Hall’s profile includes:

  • 4.39 (95th-percentile) 40-yard dash
  • 109.7 (89th-percentile) Speed Score
  • 144.5 (99th-percentile) Burst Score
  • 35.7% (69th-percentile) College Dominator, 22.4 (97th-percentile) College YPR

In college, Hall used that elite athleticism to win on deep routes. In just 18 games his junior and senior season, Hall amassed 1,645 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on a mere 70 receptions. He has to overcome his perception as a “one-trick pony”, but Hall has a good chance to become an NFL starter. He showed perseverance and grit through his injury and tragedy-laden senior season. Now he must show that in gaining success in a league that is faster and more versatile.

For more, check out NFL Draft 2019: Tears, Tragedy, and Triumph of Draft Picks Part 2

LeBron James Impact Review 2018-2019: The Cleveland Cavaliers Fallout and the Los Angeles Lakers Future

LeBron James Impact Review 2018-2019: The Cleveland Cavaliers Fallout and the Los Angeles Lakers Future

With LeBron James, Four Straight NBA Finals. Without LeBron James, Nothing

The fallout from LeBron James’ departure from Cleveland is massive. After advancing to the NBA Finals four years in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers are at the bottom of the league. It is no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been in turmoil without James. After his departure, their 2018-2019 season has been nothing short of a disappointment. The 2018-2019 Cavaliers lowlights include:

A question remains: Just how different are the Cleveland Cavaliers with and without LeBron?

Strictly Looking at Wins and Losses

After compiling win/loss records from the last 20 seasons, there is a stark difference between the Cavaliers with and without LeBron James. The following two tables illustrate this chasm. In the first table, the Cleveland Cavaliers season are split into different eras to depict LeBron’s impact historically. Then, the second table looks strictly at the overall record of the Cavaliers during James’ NBA career, in seasons with and without him.

RecordWin Percentage
Pre-LeBron (1999-2002)108-22033%
First LeBron (2003-2009)349-22561%
Post LeBron (2010-2013)97-21531%
Second-Coming (2014-2017)211-11764%
Post LeBron II (2018)19-6323%
RecordWin Percentage
w/o LeBron (2003-2018) 116-27829%
w/ LeBron (2003-2018 )560-34262%

Following a look at those records, LeBron’s effect on the Cavalier’s is even larger than expected. In seasons with James on the roster, their win-percentage more than doubled. What other star’s departure can be seen in such a resounding way? Then, looking past regular season records illuminates LeBron’s Hand of Midas in playoff pushes. In 11 seasons with the Cavaliers, he led them to 9 playoff appearances, 5 NBA Finals and 1 NBA title over the prolific Golden State Warriors. With LeBron, the Cavaliers were a team of legend. Without him, they have been nothing but bottom-feeders.

Did the Los Angeles Lakers see the same LeBron bump?

Well, no. Here’s why:

Lack of an Efficient Supporting Cast

However, there are a few reasons to explain this. First off, the players surrounding LeBron James in Los Angeles did not have an efficient season. According to numberFire’s nERD Score, which measures a player’s efficiency and contribution to team wins, only LeBron James and JaVale McGee ranked in the top-100. The next closest was Johnathan Williams, who ranked 144th. The team around him needs further development and building.

LeBron is, in Fact, Human

Granted, LeBron has taken seemingly-untalented teams to the playoffs before. But this year was different. LeBron was plagued with injuries. Perhaps it was all of his extra playoff minutes that caused him to break down. In terms of playoffs, LeBron played the most minutes of any player in the NBA since 2010. Recently, in his four Cavalier seasons from 2014-2018, James played a total of 81 playoff games. He basically played an additional season. To top it all off, he averaged 41.1 minutes per game in those appearances. All of those extra minutes had to contribute to this poor outing.

Because of the nagging groin injury, James played just 55 games. Late in the season, the Lakers and LeBron reached an agreement to limit his minutes, with no more back to back games. Then, when playoff chances were infinitesimal, the team decided to sit James out the final six games of the season. This first year with LeBron was not pretty.

Hope for Lakers Fans To Cling To

Nonetheless, there still is hope of the Los Angeles Lakers return to glory. Obviously, the Lakers still have LeBron James, one of the greatest players of all time. That definitely helps. Even in his injury-riddled season, he still averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. Additionally, the Lakers record with James in the lineup was actually 28-27. Therefore, James still has yet to experience a losing record since his rookie season.

Furthermore, the disappointing season of the Lakers has a few benefits. The first comes with a lottery chance. Their overall record gives them a 2-percent chance to win the first pick and a 9.4-percent chance to win a top-four pick. The lowest spot the Lakers can pick in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft is spot 14. They have a chance to reload the roster with some young, fresh talent. The 27 games sans-LeBron also gave the other players on the Lakers a chance to develop more. Without LeBron being the focal point of the offense, the rest of the cast could gain vital experience. Magic Johnson also stepped down as team president. His tenure with the Lakers has been a failed dream for a Lakers legend. But, stepping down was the right thing to do and allows a genuine executive to step forth. Last, LeBron’s 2018-2019 campaign gave him rest. In the playoffs, his off-season is essentially extended. 2019-2020 LeBron James can start the season revived.

Rebuilding LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers

At the end of their seasons, both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers are in need of a better team. Fortunately for the Lakers, they have LeBron James for at least three more seasons. Their losing record also granted them a higher chance to hit in the 2019 NBA Draft. Lakers fans can have high hopes for playoffs next season.

On the other hand, the Cleveland Cavaliers are far behind. According to an article early in the NBA season by Scott Davis of Business Insider, the Cavaliers have severe, systemic issues.

“Issues within the organization were only thinly veiled in recent years, even with James on the roster. The Cavs went all-in to build around him, and the aftermath was always going to be ugly. But at least in recent years, the winning masked some issues.”

Building a team around LeBron with big contracts and again veterans was highly criticized. “GM LeBron” was a nickname offered up by many and both the Cavaliers and James were given negative reviews on cap spending. It worked well and didn’t matter as much when LeBron was on the team. Advancing a team to the NBA Finals four years in a row offset the penalties. But, those problems became maximized the second James left. As Davis put it, “Salary-cap relief could finally come in 2020, but that would essentially be the start of the rebuild”.

Last, we all need to reflect on the rarity of this LeBron James/Cavaliers relationship. It is absolutely incredible that one player can impact an entire franchise so significantly. The sudden quick uplifts and sudden drop-offs the Cavaliers experienced were very easy to see. How much credit/blame goes to LeBron or the Cavaliers organization is up for debate. Regardless, this story has been remarkable to witness. From NBA fanatic to a fan of mild interest, LeBron James made the Cleveland Cavaliers interesting. Let’s just hope that we can see an equally compelling storyline in the next two decades.

Will the NBA, MLB or NHL Overtake the NFL As America’s Favorite Sport?

Will the NBA, MLB or NHL Overtake the NFL As America's Favorite Sport?

America Loves Football

Football. It’s Goliath and America’s favorite sport. Since the 1970’s, America transitioned to loving football more than baseball and its fans haven’t turned back. According to polls in 2018 by Ranker and a Gallup, the NFL is the leading choice for favorite sport by fans. In addition to this, the NFL has led all sports leagues in America, and the world itself, in revenue. But, with declining viewership in 2016 and 2017, political issues, and the expansion of other professional sports, will football reign king in 2030?

In order to find out, this article will review America’s Big-Three:

  • The National Football League (NFL)
  • Major League Baseball (MLB)
  • The National Basketball Association (NBA)

This article will also discuss the rise of the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Major League Baseball (MLB)

Although baseball is no longer America’s Pastime, it has still done very well in recent years. Major League Baseball has seen 16 consecutive years of gross revenue records. “Since 1992, when Bud Selig took over as commissioner on a full-time basis, league gross revenues have grown 377% when accounting for inflation.” In 2018, Major League Baseball totaled 10.3 billion dollars in revenue. Baseball got paid. Even with a four-percent drop in attendance in 2018, its television revenues remained stable while sponsorship increased. In addition, Fox signed a new extension with Major League Baseball that runs from 2022 to 2028 and totals 5.1 billion dollars.

The problem with baseball’s overall popularity is it’s singular nature. Most baseball fans couldn’t care less about any league other than Major League Baseball. College baseball, Triple-A baseball have limited fandom attached. NCAA football and basketball are huge. Soccer has a plethora of different sports leagues spanning the entire globe in addition to the World Cup for both women and men. Basketball also has the NCAA tournament for women and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Baseball doesn’t have that. It is an isolated sports league in revenue, views and fans. So it makes sense that many American’s don’t choose baseball as their favorite sport.

However, as far as fans per league go, baseball is still mainstream. As of 2017 data, Major League Baseball, when compared to other American professional sports, had:

  • Highest attendance
  • Second-most active fans
  • Second-most Avid fans
  • Second-most fans of any interest
  • Second-most television views
  • Second-most purchased clothing/apparel with team logos

Will Major League Baseball outgrow the National Football League? It’s highly unlikely. Nonetheless, Major League Baseball revenue, attendance, and television viewership will keep it relevant for years to come.

The National Basketball Association (NBA)

Basketball is attempting to make a major push as a contender. In an interview with CNBC, Washington Wizards majority-owner Ted Leonis compared the NBA to a growing stock. High speed cameras, data, and transparency have set up the NBA for gaming and gambling. Considering the supreme court recently declared sports gambling legal, this is an incredibly smart move by the NBA. The Wizards even broadcasted games on an alternate local channel that was designed for sports gamblers. Including real-time odds and contests may seem insignificant, but attracting a new and growing sports gambling market will set the NBA up quite nicely.

One argument against the growth of basketball is the ratings of the 2017-2018 NBA Finals. Just a few years prior, the 2015-2016 NBA Finals had the best ratings since Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had their second three-peat. The 31 million viewers put Game Seven of the 2015-2016 NBA Finals in elite company. Only two other NBA Finals games, both in different three-peat Championship games of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, had over 30 million viewers. But in the 2017-2018 NBA Finals, the average viewers dropped nearly 3 million from the previous season.

Perhaps this is due to fans seeing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers battle Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors for the fourth-consecutive season. Fans were bored. It was the same story each year. LeBron dragging a team to the NBA Finals only to lose to the Golden State Warriors wasn’t anything new. But lucky for the NBA, this will be the first post-season without LeBron James since the 2004-2005 season. The 2018-2019 NBA Finals will also be the first LeBron-less finals in nine seasons. This season is different and the parity will be refreshing for basketball followers.

NBA Global Expansion

Ratings aside, the NBA is evolving and pushing worldwide expansion. Striking international broadcast deals and making games/highlights more viewable for international audiences is the NBA’s newest target. The top-five markets for NBA basketball outside the US are China, Austrailia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. There are currently over 178 million Chinese followers of the NBA across social media channels in addition to over 300 million Chinese basketball players. More than 30-percent of the NBA league pass subscriptions are in Asia. Basketball is also the second-fastest growing sport in India and the league in running Junior NBA schemes across Asia and Australia.

This global expansion is welcomed and operated by owners and players alike. Ted Leonis described international games as business trips. Winning the game was only one part of the goal for players and management. Public appearances, sponsorship meetings and media deals were just as important to the league. Making NBA basketball global has a huge monetary incentive. Creating a larger market allows for a greater chance for sponsors, media deals and merchandise sales. It also increases the likelihood of talent. India and China alone combine for nearly 2.8 billion people. They make up 36-percent of the world’s population. Capitalizing on that market is the NBA’s best chance to compete with the NFL.

The NBA is a strong contender for 2030’s top American sports league. If they continue to press these three goals:

  • Capture Sports Gambling Market with Gambling-Friendly Broadcasts
  • Increase Talent Pool Worldwide
  • Grow International Revenue and Media Deals

The National Hockey League (NHL)

With the expansion to Seattle in 2021, the National Hockey League will have its 32nd franchise, equaling the NFL’s total. Hockey has been growing in the US and making its way across the states. This can be seen by its revenue jump in the past decade. Since the 2006-2007 season, the NHL’s revenue has doubled. Gathering in over 4 billion dollars in revenue in 2017-2018 pushed the NHL to become the fifth-highest sports league in the world in revenue. Expansion to more cities and national growth of fans has been great to the NHL.

Of note, hockey has also seem a substantial increase in youth popularity. While the percentage of 6-12 year olds playing youth football, basketball, baseball, and soccer has declined, youth hockey has seen a 64-percent rise in recent years. There are also roughly 45 thousand high school participants in ice hockey.

From the fans that have been paying attention, it’s no surprise that hockey is on the up and up. However, the idea the NHL will surpass the NFL by 2030 is short of a dream. The NFL brought in roughly three times the amount of revenue. With that being said, the NHL putting itself in the Big-Three by 2030 and edging out Major League Baseball does have a small chance.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

The dark horse of all American sports leagues is Major League Soccer (MLS). Many consider Major League Soccer the little brother (or distant relative) of European soccer. Yes, the Premier League does garner much success, ranking fourth in revenue in worldwide sports league. Yes the MLS has been in the shadow of other professional sports, but it has seen a hockey-like surge. Since 2008, Major League Soccer went from 14 teams to 24 and will have 27 teams by 2021. The league will also name its 28th team next season. Soccer is expanding across cities in the US.

Major League Soccer was also Yahoo Finance’s Business of the Year. Both ticket revenue and attendance were up in the 2018. Global stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic entering Major League Soccer have drawn support and increased followers of the league.

Most important, Major League Soccer’s 30th anniversary will coincide with the 2026 FIFA World Cup. This World Cup will take place in America. Due to a joint bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, games will be played in Mexico, Canada and the United States. In addition, the quarterfinals through the final will all be played in the United States. This will be monumental for Major League Soccer. Hosting the world’s most popular single-sport competition will certainly give Major League Soccer a major boost.

Nevertheless, just like the NHL, Major League Soccer will not be able to compete with the NFL. If it can grow to the revenue currently experienced by the NHL, that would be a large success. But don’t set expectations high for MLS soccer.

The National Football League: The King Stay the King

Following 2017, many thought that the NFL was losing its grip on America. It experienced a drop in ratings in back to back years. But that didn’t last long. TV viewership in 2018 had resurged five-percent from 2017. Sunday Night Football also was the top primetime show seven years in a row. Viewers are no longer an argument against the NFL.

Views aside, its best to review money. If money talks, the NFL is shouting. In 2018, the NFL brought in 13.68 billion dollars in revenue, averaging 427 million dollars per franchise. The 2018 purchase of the Carolina Panthers should also be noted. David Pepper’s 2.2 billion dollar purchase was an 800 million dollar increase from the price paid for the Buffalo Bills in 2014. This revenue increase and demand is associated with commissioner Roger Goodell.

Since taking over as league commissioner in 2005, Goodell has led a revenue increase from 6.5 billion to 13.68 billion dollars. He aims for 25 billion dollars by 2027. Changing league rules, negotiating media contracts and expanding global reach to London and Mexico keeps the NFL at the top.

The introduction of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) and the reintroduction of the XFL will also raise football’s fandom. These leagues will make games more affordable to attend as a gateway to NFL game attendance. They also will act as development leagues for players, schemes, coaches, rules and business. Utilizing them in such a way will provide the NFL exactly what it needs to remain king.

Final Rankings for 2030

As much as some would love the NFL’s top spot to be taken over by 2030, it just won’t happen. Football has a firm grasp on America. Fantasy football was large enough to support “The League” for seven seasons on FX. The Super Bowl is America’s most-watched game. And roughly a third of Americans polled by Gallup picked football as their favorite sport. Football just has too much. Roger Goodell has also proved that he is willing to alter the game each season and push revenue forward for league owners. Ever evolving and popular, the NFL will still be at the top.

With that being said, the NBA will close the gap significantly with the NFL by 2030. International expansion, rising young stars and LeBron’s development with the Los Angeles Lakers will bring the NBA to sports royalty. Two giants competing with one another. Football and basketball will be the Big-Two.

In conclusion, here are my 2030 rankings for America’s sports leagues by revenue with one bold prediction for hockey:

  • Big-Two: The NFL (No.1) and the NBA (No. 2)
  • Next Up: The NHL (No. 3) and the MLB (No. 4)
  • Keep Climbing: The MLS (No. 5)

NBA rises to meet NFL.

MLB falls below the rising NHL.

Soccer still has ground to cover.

Ten Stats That Prove Rob Gronkowski is the Greatest Tight End of All-Time

Ten stats show that gronkowski is the greatest nfl tight end of all time

Rob Gronkowski: Greatest Tight End to Ever Play

On March 24th, 2019, following another Super Bowl-winning season, Rob Gronkowski finally decided to call it quits. Through nine NFL seasons, Gronkowski has been the most dominant tight end in the league. Whether blocking or running routes, Gronk has been the best. Now that he is officially retired, it is time to review his status as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) tight end and Hall of Fame player with these ten stats.

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The Gronk Stats

Gronk-Stat No. 1: 133.52

Since 2000, Rob Gronkowski has the highest recorded Total NEP (Net Expected Points recorded by numberFire) for a tight end season. His 2011 season was unworldly. In fact, Gronkowski has four of the thirteen highest totals at the position since 2000. As a receiving weapon, Gronk was a major contributor for his team. His ceiling and dominance as a player was unmatched.

Stat No. 2: 535.89

When we compare Rob Gronkowski to other pinnacle NFL tight ends like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, Gronkowski’s efficiency stands out even more. Compile each of their top-five seasons in Total NEP and you get a chart that looks like this:

SeasonsGamesTotal NEPNEP per Game
Rob Gronkowski2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 201771535.897.55
Antonio Gates2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 201478511.296.55
Tony Gonzalez2000, 2004, 2008, 2009, 201280514.76.43
Jimmy Graham2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 201679463.015.86

What is incredible is that Gronk compiled more NEP than all of the others in only 71 games. He averaged an entire point more per game than the next man up, Antonio Gates. Gates, Gonzalez and many other tight ends may have given us longevity. But Rob Gronkowski provided more for his team on a per-game basis than any other tight end. When he was on the field, he changed the game.

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Stat No. 3: 88.7

Per PFF grading, Rob Gronkowski has a career run-blocking grade of 88.7. He also holds a career pass-blocking grade of 72.6. Gronkowski was “one of the few modern-day tight ends that [was] as formidable as a run-block as he [was] a receiving weapon”. At the NFL Combine, the University of Arizona product had the following measurements:

  • 6-foot 6-inches
  • 264 pounds
  • 10 ¾-inch hands
  • 34 ¼-inch arm length

As a blocker, Gronk used every inch and pound he had. Utilizing his 88th-percentile arm length, large frame and 84th-percentile Speed Score, Rob Gronkowski was an impressive blocker. He was “a monster” on the field, according to New England Patriots’ teammate Rex Burkhead. Jason McCourty called him “a beast” and Tom Brady referred to Gronkowski as one of “the most dominant blocking tight ends in the league.

Stat No. 4: +0.6

When it comes to scoring touchdowns, not even the Patriots could match Gronk’s prowess. When Rob Gronkowski was out of the lineup, the Patriots scored 0.6 less touchdowns per game. As Mike Clay’s numbers show, Gronkowski’s impact extended to more completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, overall touchdowns, completion percentage and yards per attempt. All that with less pass attempts per game. Gronk made the entire Patriots offense more efficient whenever he was in the game. Of note, the 7.0 YPA would have ranked 22nd in the NFL over that time span, while 7.9 YPA would have ranked 1st. Gronkowski’s impact on an already prolific offense is unbelievable.


Stat No. 5: 5

In the NFL’s history, a tight end has recorded a ten-plus touchdown season only 38 times. Tony Gonzalez owns two of those seasons. Antonio Gates has three. Jimmy Graham notched an impressive four. However, Gronk sits atop at his position with five. Rob Gronkowski was a touchdown machine. His spikes were a regular occurrence when he was active. In fact, Gronkowski turned 10.4-percent of his targets from Tom Brady into touchdowns. Unreal.

Stat No. 6: 9.9

As Graham Barfield noted on Twitter, Rob Gronkowski’s efficiency was better than any other tight end in yards, touchdowns and yards per target (since 1992). While Gronk was adept at catching first downs, making diving catches or securing the football in the endzone, he was also a YAC (yards after the catch) monster. Gronkowski compiled YAC with stiff arms, broken tackles, spins or just outrunning the defense. As seen in this 79-yard catch and run, The colossal tight end made NFL secondaries look like featherweights.

Stat No. 7: 90.2

Through his nine-season career, Rob Gronkowski graced the NFL with 16 playoff games. Accumulating his PFF grades for each of those games results in a PFF grade of 90.2. Per Sam Monson at PFF, this grade would have ranked number-one overall in 2018 for tight ends. It would rank top-ten among all tight end seasons PFF has graded. Gronk already was listed on PFF’s Top 101 six separate times for his regular season performances, but in the playoffs he exceeded the highest expectations. Everyone talks about Playoff Edelman, but Playoff Gronkowski was on another level.

Stat No. 8: 330.9

In 2011, Rob Gronkowski put together the greatest single-season for a tight end. 90 receptions, 1,327 receiving yards, and 18 total touchdowns. His 330.9 PPR Points are the most ever scored by a tight end. Gronkowski’s career 15.52 PPR (Points Per Game) would also rank first all-time for tight ends.

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Stat No. 9: 13.9

As PFF’s Twitter account mentioned, Rob Gronkowski ranks higher than tight end Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, and Antonio Gates. Yet again, Gronkowski puts distance between himself and other tight end legends.

Stat No. 10: 129.6

When Tom Brady targeted Rob Gronkowski, he had a passer rating of 129.6. Through nine seasons, holding a passer rating that high is remarkable. Brady and Gronkowski turned 753 attempts into:

  • 516 Receptions
  • 7,786 yards
  • 78 Touchdowns
  • 13 Interceptions

Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady were the best quarterback to receiver duo in the 21st-century.

Rob Gronkowski is a First-Ballot Hall of Famer and the GOAT Tight End

The sheer dominance that Rob Gronkowski possessed when he played football is unlike any other. With that being said, there are still doubters that Gronkowski is the greatest tight end. One argument against him is that he was plagued with injuries. However, his injuries should be an argument for his greatness. Gronkowski overcame a forearm fracture, multiple herniated discs, a torn ACL and MCL, in addition to other back, ankle, thigh, knee, hamstring, hip and lung injuries. If he didn’t have those injuries, Gronkowski would have made his 2011 season a regular occurrence. Nevertheless, he still managed to create an NFL resume that is the best of all time for tight ends.

Another criticism of Gronkowski is his shorter NFL career. Gronkowski only played nine seasons, whereas Tony Gonzalez had 17 seasons and Shannon Sharpe played for 14 years. Antonio Gates just played in his 16th season and Jason Witten will have his 16th in 2019. Admitted, Gronkowski’s career doesn’t have the longevity of others. But Barry Sanders also retired early, after just ten seasons played. That didn’t stop him from being a first ballot Hall of Famer. Neither should Gronkowski’s nine season.

Bottom line, Rob Gronkowski is without a doubt the GOAT tight end and should be an easy first-ballot Hall of Fame vote.