The NFL has gone high-tech. New for the 2015 season, every player has a tracker embedded in his shoulder pads that collects data like velocity, distance traveled and proximity to opposing players. Zebra Technologies is the company behind the tech, and the insights they provide are letting fans see the game in a whole new light.
Week 13 produced more impressive data, and many of the players behind the numbers were STACK athletes. Let’s take a look at who popped off the spreadsheet and tell you about the workouts behind their performance.
All data courtesy of NFL.com
1. Sammy Watkins Will Run Right By You
Sammy Watkins has had a somewhat inconsistent season for the Buffalo Bills, but he has caught fire in the last two weeks. In Week 12, he piled up 158 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and he eclipsed the 100-yard mark again in Week 13. Thanks to his game-breaking speed, Watkins is at his best when playing the role of deep-ball threat. He hit 21.78 mph on this 53-yard reception, tied for the fastest of any receiver over the last three weeks.
Watkins later burned Johnathan Joseph for another big play, despite the fact that Joseph didn’t bite on his double-move. Watkins is just that fast.
Watkins makes burning DBs look easy, but his amazing acceleration and speed are the result of a dedication to hard training. His workouts include exercises like Sled Pulls, Barbell Box Lunges and Depth Drop Jumps to strengthen his lower body and build fast-twitch muscle fiber.
RELATED: The Sammy Watkins Speed Workout
2. Darren Sproles is Still Impossible to Tackle
Darren Sproles doesn’t look all that hard to tackle. The dude’s only 5-foot-6! But Sproles is a prime example of why you shouldn’t judge an RB by his size. His elite speed and shiftiness make him one of the toughest players to bring down in the NFL. He proved that once again in Week 13 when he returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown, helping the Eagles score a major upset over the Patriots.
When Sproles catches the punt, the Patriots look like they’re in good position to bring him down. But he just zooms right up the sideline, shakes a tackle and bursts into the end zone. Even though he was constantly making small cuts to avoid pursuers, Sproles still reached a top speed of 18.92 mph on the play.
Sproles builds his skills with high-intensity circuit training and an amazing work ethic. “I was just taught to always work hard. I’m not the biggest, you know what I’m saying, so I was taught to outwork whoever you’re going up against,” Sproles told STACK.
RELATED: Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks and Darren Sproles Get Better Together
3. A. J. Green is a Downfield Dynamo
A. J. Green is well on his way to his fifth straight Pro Bowl. In Week 13, he eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving for the season, becoming just the second player in NFL history to amass 1,000-plus receiving yards in each of his first five pro seasons. The other one? Randy Moss.
What makes Green so deadly is his ability to stretch the field. He has a knack for shaking free on vertical routes, and he’s great at picking up big chunks of yardage—which is exactly what he did against the Browns in Week 13. Green finished the game with 5 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown, much of the yards coming on vertical routes.
Green covered only 1.23 yards of distance per receiving yard gained, meaning many of his receptions came on routes where he was running straight—or nearly straight—downfield.
Green builds his speed and jumping ability with intense off-season workouts that include drills like Truck Pushes. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
RELATED: Watch A. J. Green and Justin Houston Push a Pick-Up Truck
Bonus Stat: How Fast is Tom Brady?
This article series is all about giving players props, but we’re going to poke a little fun at Tom Brady. We’re sure the four-time Super Bowl winner and future Hall of Famer can handle it. Brady’s passing skills might be the best in NFL history, but his rushing ability leaves a lot to be desired. Brady almost never runs with the football. He’s gained just 107 rushing yards over the last three seasons, and that video of him running the 40 looks like a three-legged dog chasing a tennis ball.
Brady’s lack of speed has never been more apparent than on this 36-yard reception in Week 13:
Brady topped out at 16.96mph on the play, while Carson Palmer (who is far behind Usain Bolt himself) notched a top speed of 18.88 mph just last week.
Brady’s arm, IQ and ability to navigate the pocket more than make-up for his lack of speed, but the thought of Brady as a dual-threat QB is terrifying. If you’re a young quarterback, make sure to spend time working on your speed and overall athleticism. A QB who can pass and run is the ultimate headache for a defense.
RELATED: Get Faster in Just 6 Weeks With STACK’s SPEED KILLS Workout Program