NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
Long-time ESPN contributor John Clayton, has often been perceived as somewhat of an eccentric personality and it’s tempting to say he’s gone full cuckoo. Never go full cuckoo. Tempting is it, to just say he’s lost touch or he’s not the smartest analyst in the bunch but that would be lazy and likely inaccurate. No, what Clayton published for his NFL midseason All-Pro team (ESPN insider required) is much worse than that.
At first glance, there’s many familiar names and a few surprising positional standouts like Tennessee offensive lineman and former Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin. But if you keep reading down the list…
Matt Ryan – QB, ATL
Ezekiel Elliott – RB, DAL
Patrick DiMarco – FB, ATL
Julio Jones – WR, ATL
A.J. Green – WR, CIN
Rob Gronkowski – TE, NE
Joe Thomas – OT, CLE
Kelechi Osemele – OG, OAK
Travis Frederick – C, DAL
Zack Martin – OG, DAL
Jack Conklin – OT, TEN
Calais Campbell – DE, ARZ
Aaron Donald – DT, LA
Fletcher Cox – DT, PHI
Cliff Avril – DE, SEA
Von Miller – OLB, DEN
Luke Kuechly – ILB, CAR
Bobby Wagner – ILB, SEA
Chandler Jones – OLB, ARZ
Marcus Peters – CB, KC
Aqib Talib – CB, DEN
Harrison Smith – S, MIN
Adam Vinatieri – K, IND
Johnny Hekker – P, LA
Andre Roberts – KR/PR, DET
One of these names is not like the others.
Returner: Andre Roberts, Detroit Lions
Roberts inclusion as an All-Pro is not just shocking, it’s insulting. It degrades an entire fanbase’s ability to think for themselves and worse yet, it is a crippling indictment of Clayton’s disregard for any sort of journalistic integrity. Expecting anyone to watch every NFL team every week is, of course, unrealistic but an “analyst” working for the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports should at least be vaguely familiar with the players he’s being paid well to express his opinion on.
It’s one thing to have a hot take that diverges from popular opinion but it is shameful to include someone whom you have clearly never watched. Andre Roberts as the best return man in the entire NFL? He might be the very worst!
But surely Clayton must have some concrete reasoning behind his repugnant assertion of Roberts’ greatness.
“Roberts is among the leaders on kickoff and punt returns in a position that isn’t getting as much work because the NFL is trying to minimize returns due to injuries.”
Oh, wait. He literally just picked the guy with the most return yardage deprived of any sort of context or logical analysis.
It must be incredibly difficult to amass the most return yardage while returning 25% more kickoffs than the nearest competitor. Let’s forget the part where 13 (!!!!!) players (minimum 10 attempts) average more yards per return than Roberts. Shoot, Roberts is basically the Lions’ MVP. Every time he takes a kick out of the end zone and gets popped at the 15-yard line (at least every other return), he’s fueling Detroit victories. Who needs that 10 yards anyways?
Oh, but he returned that punt 85 yards for a touchdown against the Bears! As any other NFL player that runs a sub 4.5 forty could have. Chicago essentially took an early hibernation and let Roberts hit the outside and sprint away untouched. Outside of that gift, he’s averaging a paltry, 6.2 yards per punt return.
Roberts costs the Lions more yardage than he contributes. It is borderline astounding that he is still returning kicks for the Lions but his ineptitude is matched only by his head coach’s mind-boggling decision-making.
To even consider him in the same breath as return men like Devin Hester, Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Lockett, Jakeem Grant, and Tyreek Hill is deplorable. To elevate Roberts above them as the best return man in the NFL? Reprehensible.
John Clayton didn’t just have a hot take. He openly showed the NFL world and Lions fans in particular that not only does he not pay attention to what happens on the field, he can’t even be bothered to do menial research. And he has access to ESPN’s massive catalog of information from their stats and info department! It’s an embarrassment and a slap in the face to hard-working aspiring writers everywhere.
And just as bad, it’s a mockery of Lions fans. As if we weren’t picked on and let down enough, the only Detroit player Clayton deemed worthy of his praise is one many would love to see replaced.