NFL spooky season: Who is league’s scariest player?
Trick-or-treat! Costumes, candy and a slate of NFL games? While the Cincinnati Bengals’ visit to the Cleveland Browns is the only game that occurs on Halloween, which is Monday, spooky season means we can have some pigskin-sized fun now. (Week 8 starts with the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.) When it comes to teams, the scariest in the league could be the 6-0 Philadelphia Eagles or the league-worst 1-5 Detroit Lions, depending on your definition.
But we’ll reverse it for this exercise. With Halloween lurking in the shadows of Week 8, USA TODAY Sports asked its NFL experts: Who is the scariest player in the NFL right now?
Follow every game: Live NFL Scores
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs QB; Josh Allen, Bills QB
I’ve got two scary options, and I’m not sure which one is scarier. Honestly, do you really want to go up against Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen? We’ve seen them leave so many other teams in destruction on their path to being the two best teams in the NFL. They’re in the heart of their primes, on a collision course to meet in the playoffs again this season. And one of them will likely be a Super Bowl champion by the end of this season. Mahomes and Allen are the two best quarterbacks in the league, and could remain so, for what, the next five seasons at least? Maybe 10 years? Maybe even more? They strike fear in defenders. They give you a pit in your stomach if you’re a fan of an opposing team. And for the rest of us, they’re the main characters in everyone else’s horror story we get to enjoy every game they play. — Safid Deen
Aaron Donald, Rams DT
I mean, hands down, it’s got to be Aaron Donald, right? Meeting him in a dark alley would be only slightly more discomforting than meeting him in the A-gap or twisting off the edge. Donald, who’s in the mix to win a record fourth Defensive Player of the Year award this season, can rag-doll guards, bull rush tackles, evade backs or just out-quick any blocker in space. And we’ve seen what can happen when he loses his temper … frightening. — Nate Davis
Derrick Henry, Titans RB
Of course, this is a scary-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder theme. You wouldn’t want to be the scatback who has to pick up a block as Von Miller charges your quarterback. Or the cornerback that a scrambling Patrick Mahomes is about to embarrass with a laser throw. But just think about the prospect of squaring up on the (alleged) 247-pound Derrick Henry, the powerful Titans running back, as he comes at you with a full head of steam. Not pretty. Ask Josh Norman, the former Pro Bowl cornerback who has a permanent place on YouTube for being the recipient of a vicious stiff-arm from Henry — this generation’s version of Earl Campbell, only faster and more nimble. Speaking of yesteryear, another scary fella comes to mind from the Broncos’ “Orange Crush” defense in the ‘70s: Rich “Tombstone” Jackson. With a nickname like that, he had to be hella-horrific. — Jarrett Bell
Aaron Donald, Rams DT
Just ask offensive linemen. Aaron Donald is constantly double-teamed because nobody can block him one-on-one. He’s the fastest defensive tackle in NFL history to reach 100 career sacks. His technique, power, combative hands and first step are as good as we’ve ever seen from the position. There is no NFL player more dominant at their individual position than Donald. Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp told USA TODAY Sports this season that he thinks Donald is the best defensive player of all time. — Tyler Dragon
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs QB
How could this answer be anybody but the player they call the Grim Reaper? After Patrick Mahomes engineered the iconic, 13-second, game-winning drive in the divisional round classic against the Bills in last season’s playoffs, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said during his postgame press conference: “When it looks grim, be the grim reaper.”
The nickname is perfect for Mahomes, who — by all accounts — is super nice and invested in his community. He is the most talented passer in the NFL. He’s wildly intelligent. He improvises with arm angles and launch points and footwork that is typically indefensible. He elevates the players around him. Kansas City, as long as Mahomes is under center, has the ability to score on any given play. He’s dominating the NFL record book, and opposing defenses aren’t safe, either. — Lorenzo Reyes