I used to love pro wrestling. As a kid in the late 80s, I watched the likes of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior on Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC. A few years on, and with cable finally available in rural South Dakota, TBS provided me with the NWA and their two biggest stars: Ric Flair and Sting.
As I got older, my affinity grew, morphing from a child’s wonderment to a young adult’s appreciation for what the performers put themselves through for my entertainment. Sure, it is a poorly acted, often tacky, always testosterone laden soap opera, but if The Young and the Restless was good enough for my grandmother, Monday Night Raw was good enough for me.
Now in my late-30s, I no longer follow the sports entertainment world. My wife and daughter get most of my attention, but work, fantasy football, social media, and video games are constantly tugging, begging for my time and energy. This doesn’t mean I don’t still have a soft spot for the silliness that is fake punches and middle-aged men in speedos, especially those I watched as a wide-eyed youngster. On the suggestion of DLF content czar Ken Kelly, I am here today to meld that old passion with a more current one.
It is with great excitement, and the disclaimer this article won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, I bring you a special edition of Mind of Miller, where I compare NFL players to 80s and 90s pro wrestlers. I’ll offer an actual, useful take on each player I cover, but consider yourself warned, there is plenty of nonsense ahead.
Frank Gore, RB IND – The Undertaker
Just like his wrestling counterpart, you can’t kill Frank Gore. Well, I suppose you could if you put him in a coffin and buried him alive like Stone Cold Steve Austin did to the WWE’s Deadman, but since Bill Romanowski retired, I don’t know of any NFL defensive players with that move in their arsenal.
Now 34 years of age, Gore once again finds himself in the catbird seat for carries in Indy. While that has generally proven to be an overrated place to be in the days since Edgerrin James moved to the Cardinals, there is still value to be had. Our friend John Paulsen over at 4for4 has the ageless one slated for 920 yards, and I recently booked a bet with DLF alum Karl Safchick where I have the over on 900. Should Gore reach that mark, he will post his 297 consecutive season of RB2 or better production. Just like the Undertaker at WrestleMania, where he won 21 consecutive matches, I wouldn’t bet against the NFL’s version of the Deadman.
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Demaryius Thomas, WR DEN – Dean Malenko
It’s likely many of you are unfamiliar with Malenko. Known as The Man of 1,000 Holds during his late-90s WCW run, Malenko is one of the most underrated, underappreciated wrestlers of the last thirty years. That same underrated label could now be very easily applied to Thomas, who hasn’t gotten much in the way of respect the past few seasons.
Coming off his fifth consecutive top-16 finish in PPR leagues, the Broncos’ stud has done nothing but produce the last half-decade. At 29-years-old, his stock has fallen further still this off-season, with his ADP pushing him into the fourth round of startup mocks.
It is easy to dismiss an older player with an unsettled quarterback situation, but Thomas has proven regardless who is throwing the ball, he is at least a borderline WR1. That his play style is the type that often ages gracefully gives us even more reason to find fantastic value in Thomas’ standing as the WR22 in ADP.
Derrick Henry, RB TEN – The Ultimate Warrior
DeMarco Murray, RB TEN – Hulk Hogan
Who could forget the Ultimate Warrior streaking down the aisle, careening towards the ring with enough energy to power New York City for a month? When he burst on to the scene, winning the Intercontinental belt from the Honkey Tonk Man, ending the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time’s record 64-week reign in a sub-30-second squash match, every kid in America fell in love. But there was one problem: Hulk Hogan. With Hulkamania at its height, a world title run seemed impossible for the Warrior, and for nearly two years, that proved true. But finally, in one of the most storied matches in WWF history, Hogan dropped the strap at WrestleMania VI.
With Murray being the NFL’s third leading rusher in 2016, the long-time alpha dog still has bite to go with his bark, and likely has enough in the tank to continue to hold off the up-and-coming youngster for another season. But as the Ultimate Warrior’s fans were rewarded, patience with Henry is likely to pay off as soon as 2018. Not only can we expect father time to start to catch up with the aging veteran, Murray carries zero dollars of dead cap hit if the Titans cut him after this year. He also has a $250,000 roster bonus due next summer. Unless Henry falls on his face, he should be holding that belt soon enough. Now if only we could get him to shake the ring ropes and snort like a boar with a sinus infection…
Bilal Powell, RB NYJ – Stone Cold Steve Austin
Before Austin was Stone Cold, he had many unmemorable gimmicks. From being Stunning Steve Austin in the WCW to the Ringmaster in the WWF, there was little to suggest Austin would become the biggest superstar of a generation. While I don’t expect Powell to single-handedly save the Jets the way Austin did the WWF, who was getting destroyed by the WCW in the Monday night wars of the 90s, and I certainly wouldn’t bet on him chugging beers and giving his boss the bird, I do think we will see a significant breakout in 2017.
It has been easy to dismiss Powell for years, what with his sub-par athleticism, fourth round draft status, and completely uninspiring career through 2014. But owners saw a different player in 2015, as he racked up 47 receptions, looking like a different player in the process. Savvy owners like me – I am a genius – snapped him up. Then the Jets went out and spent a boatload of money to lock him up last off-season, a decision that proved wise as the surging sixth year pro averaged 26 touches for 138 yards over the last four games of the 2016 season.
Matt Forte, who no longer fits what the Jets are doing, is still in town, but he tallied only 91 more yards than Powell on the ground last year despite seeing 87 more carries. The only reason Forte is even on the roster is his hefty $6 million dead cap hit. Powell is three times the player and should have no issue dominating touches. A low-end RB1 season isn’t out of the question.
Powell 3:16 says he just whooped Forte’s butt. (Hey, this is a family site.)
Before I leave you, here are some quick hitters:
Courtesy of fellow DLF scribe Bruce Matson.
Anquan Boldin, WR FA – Mae Young
Michael Floyd, WR MIN – Doink the Clown
This one is self-explanatory.
Martavis Bryant, WR PIT – Rob Van Dam
Tom Brady, QB NE – Ravishing Rick Rude
The only way Brady could be more handsome is if he had a mustache.
Jarvis Landry, WR MIA – Brett Hart
He is much greater than the sum of his parts.
Jordan Reed, TE WAS – Mick Foley
Reed is a head injury away from not knowing how to spell his last name.
Roger Goodell – Vince McMahon
Money hungry maniac who doesn’t care about anything other than the almighty dollar.
Rob Gronkowski, TE NE – Val Venis
You know what I’m going for here.
Coby Fleener, TE NO – Mr. Perfect.
They even have the same color hair!
Brian Quick, WR WAS – Ric Flair
The greatest of all time.
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