Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are the three players who have received the most attention ahead of Super Bowl LI, but which player will be the best on the field Sunday?
On Wednesday's episode of "Undisputed," Super Bowl champion Greg Jennings explained why 39-year-old Tom Brady is still the best player in the game, while Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless also identified their picks.
Greg Jennings: The Patriots cannot win without Tom Brady
“So, the obvious pick would be for me to go with a receiver, but I’m not. I’m actually going to jump on the other side and go with Tom Brady.
"I’m going to minimize the statistics because I know [Skip] has the stats for us. When it comes to ‘best player,’ and yes, Julio impacts the game without having to catch the ball, without having to score touchdowns.
"Tom impacts the game on offense [and] on defense because what he does is puts pressure on your defense, he puts pressure on your offense.
"He puts pressure on your defenders to make sure they’re trying to get pressure on him. If you don’t disrupt what he’s doing, you have no shot at slowing them down. You talk about all the weapons that the Falcons have. Now I’ve selected the Falcons to win, but when we talk about best player, if you take Tom Brady off of that field on Sunday, the Patriots have NO shot. No shot.
"That’s what the best player does. Regardless of how they impact the game, whether they play well or not - if they’re removed, can [their team] still have a chance of winning?
"If you remove Julio, do the Atlanta Falcons still have a chance at winning? Yes.”
Michael MadridMichael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Jennings: Tom Brady is an unparalleled leader
“Tom Brady is Mr. Super Bowl. Do you know any other player that’s been there as many times as him? Do you know any other player that gets the MVP almost every time they step on the field? Do you know any other player that can impact the game with just the way he emotionally lifts his team? Do you know any other leader that’s doing what he does?
"We don’t talk about Tom Brady in a negative light when it comes to his passion. I’m a receiver. When I see what Tom Brady does, when I see him animated and getting on his guys, I don’t have a problem with that.
"Why? Because he does it all the time. When you look at other quarterbacks, they pick and choose when they want to do it. Outside of Matt Ryan, he’s very subtle in that respect. But when you look at Tom Brady, whether they’re performing high, whether they’re performing low, he is on his guys. He doesn’t need a coach [to say] ‘Tom I need you to step in, I need you to get them going.’ He doesn’t need that because the have a Tom Brady. They have a guy who understands what it takes, both on the field and off the field. The guy is special.”
Geoff BurkeGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Shannon Sharpe: Julio Jones, and it's not close
"Julio Jones. You said the best player -- not the most valuable player, not the most important player.
"You’re talking about a guy that’s 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, running [a] 4.3 40.
"He can make every catch. Huge catch radius. Can run the route tree. Great runner after the catch.
"You know who he reminds me of? He’s [Terrell Owens], without the antics. Big, physical, can run through contact. Can do everything.
"Skip, the dude is special. And people say ‘he misses games …’ He’s always going to be nicked. He’s like Calvin Johnson, because a man that size, at that weight, shouldn’t be able to run that fast. That’s a lot of torque. That’s a lot of tension on muscles and tendons.
"… The best player? There’s no question in my mind … because the way I look at a player: Can you impact the game without scoring or catching the ball? They’ve scored 40-plus points when he has one catch, no touchdowns. Because he lifts coverage.
" 'OK, you don’t want to put that eighth guy in the box? [Devonta] Freeman, [Tevin] Coleman, run wild. Oh, you want to roll coverage my way? [Mohamed] Sanu, [Taylor] Gabriel, do your thing.' That’s what he does."
Cary EdmondsonCary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Skip: Both Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are better than Julio Jones
"Here’s what blows my mind about my partner across the table. I love my partner, he’s in the Hall of Fame, but he continues to undervalue this position called quarterback in the National Football League. And I don’t get it, because there are two players who will step on to the football field Sunday who will be better than Julio just because of the very nature of the position: Tom Brady and Matt Ryan.
"They’re just better than Julio. Whether you want to say more valuable, they’re just better. Because Julio can be this good, because he’s what you guys were - he’s a receiver. He is completely dependent upon [the QB] to make him what he’s going to be in the game. If the quarterback doesn’t make the right decision, or throw him an accurate pass, he is rendered impact-less. Right? He can’t have any impact on the game. He is completely dependent on the play call, the decision made by the quarterback, the quarterback’s ability to dodge the rush, and then throw him a ball that is catchable.
"By the very nature and definition of that position, it’s not even close. It’s Brady, it’s Ryan, and then it’s Julio."