Happy Halloween, everyone. The 2023 NFL season has been equally full of tricks and treats to this point. The tricks? Well, you might start with the rash of injuries to starting quarterbacks that’s plagued the league in recent weeks. The treats? Just turn on a Miami Dolphins game and watch those guys run. But now that it’s officially Oct. 31, it’s only appropriate to honor the NFL’s scariest.
We’re not talking ghosts or goblins, ghouls or gargoyles. Nor zombies, mummies, vampires. No, right here, we’re paying tribute to the most feared players in the NFL today. Debate their short- or long-term value, but there’s no denying other clubs are afraid to line up against these superstars as we enter the second half of the 2023 campaign:
Speed kills, and Hill showcases it better than anyone. Can he be slowed? Eh, maybe, on rare occasions. But he can’t really be covered. The way he flies, either in pre-snap motion or deep, downfield shots, you’d think he were 21 years old, not 29. But nope. Eight years in, the “Cheetah” is helping Tua Tagovailoa make a second straight MVP bid. He’s also on pace for his own career marks. A year after eclipsing 1,700 yards in his first season outside the Chiefs offense, it’s taken him all of eight games (!) to reach 1,000 yards this year, and he’s averaging a personal-high 16.6 yards per catch. He’s a home run waiting to happen.
If Tyreek Hill is uncoverable for his sheer electricity, Brown is quickly becoming just as, if not more, automatic for his unteachably imposing combo of physicality and explosiveness. While he’s got rock-solid size (6-1, 226), he plays even bigger with his toned frame, warranting undying trust from Jalen Hurts. He was always a No. 1 with the Titans from 2019-2021, but in Philadelphia, Brown’s profile and production have only elevated. Twenty-five games into his Eagles career, he’s up to 2,435 yards and 16 scores. And he backs up the remarkable numbers by always looking the part, forever winning tight-window and downfield passes.
This is how you know you’re a fearsome player: seven games into the season, 54 catches for 583 yards and four scores — easily tops among tight ends — registers as a relatively slow, even sluggish start. It’s true that Kelce’s been bruised a few times early in 2023, and the Chiefs’ general offensive hiccups are exacerbating his inability to single-handedly make up for an uneven wide receiver corps in Kansas City. But even at 34, after eight Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl rings, Kelce remains ultra-reliable as the safety valve for the game’s best QB in Patrick Mahomes. His 30 first downs rank ninth among all pass catchers, which is representative of the way he’s long terrorized defenses, inexplicably finding open grass when he’s needed most.
The Browns may be a polarizing team, but their defense ranks No. 1 in the NFL — even after back-to-back sloppy showings against the Colts and Seahawks — largely due to this man alone. Garrett’s been part of the elite pass-rusher club for years, but seven years in, fresh off back-to-back 16-sack seasons, he somehow might be hitting another level. Through seven games, he leads the league in forced fumbles (4) and ranks third in sacks (8.5) as well as second in QB hits (17). It doesn’t matter who’s blocking for your favorite team’s QB off the edge. If they’re up against No. 95, they’d better be getting extra help.
The Cowboys lost ballhawk Trevon Diggs early in 2023, but they still boast one of the game’s most suffocating defenses thanks largely to the do-it-all force that is Parsons. A 13.5-sack 2022 follow-up to his Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign felt “light” for an athlete of his caliber, but he’s on pace to at least match those marks again, with six sacks, nine tackles for loss and 14 QB hits in seven games. And the numbers don’t even do Parsons justice, for his raw athleticism impacts every level of the field. He’s listed at linebacker, but more than perhaps any other player, he’s more like a “play-maker,” capable of finding the ball at any moment.