Great Eight: The No. 1 boxer in each of the original eight divisions

Great Eight: The No. 1 boxer in each of the original eight divisions.

Who are the best boxers in each of the original eight weight classes? Check out Boxing Junkie’s “Great Eight” feature.

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The proliferation of titles makes it difficult for all but the most astute fans to determine the cream of the boxing crop.

That’s why Boxing Junkie came up with its “Great Eight” feature, which names the best fighter in each of the original eight weight classes –heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, featherweight, bantamweight and flyweight.

Heavyweight includes cruiserweight (and the WBC’s bridgerweight), light heavyweight includes super middleweight and so on.

It was easy to make our selection in some divisions. For example, heavyweight, which will continue to be ruled by Tyson Fury until someone takes him down.

Other weight classes took more thought. And you’ll notice one change has been made since the last time we posted Great Eight.

Here are our current rankings.

 

HEAVYWEIGHT – Tyson Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs): Who else?

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT – Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs): The 175-pound champion delivered a break-through victory over Canelo Alvarez in May, giving him an edge in this weight class. A strong case could also be made for Artur Beterbiev. A fight between them would settle things.

MIDDLEWEIGHT – Junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) claimed this spot with his knockout victory over Brian Castano in their May rematch. The top middleweights – Jermall Charlo (Jermell’s twin brother), Demetrius Andrade and Gennadiy Golovkin – are a step behind.

WELTERWEIGHT – Terence Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs): Crawford edges out Errol Spence Jr., who are in talks to fight one another in the fall. No one else at 147 or 140 is close to the big two at the moment, although one should keep an eye on young welterweight Jaron Ennis.

LIGHTWEIGHT – Gervonta Davis (27-0, 25 KOs): The decision to go with Davis here – to replace George Kambosos Jr. – wasn’t an easy one. Haney outclassed Kambosos to become undisputed lightweight champ last month. However, this feature isn’t about titles; it’s about the best fighters. And no one at 135 or 130 is better than “Tank”, although Haney and Shakur Stevenson aren’t too far behind.

FEATHERWEIGHT – Unified junior featherweight titleholder Stephen Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs) supplanted Gary Russell Jr. after Russell lost his featherweight title to Mark Magsayo in January. Rey Vargas, who took Magsayo’s belt, might be closes to Fulton.

BANTAMWEIGHT – Bantamweight star Naoya Inoue (22-0, 19 KOs): The Japanese star arguably is the best at any weight. Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez are pound-for-pound beasts but still a significant step behind Inoue.

FLYWEIGHT – Junto Nakatani (23-0, 18 KOs): The 112-pound titleholder takes over from Julio Cesar Martinez after Martinez was outclassed by Roman Gonzalez in March.

Great Eight: The No. 1 boxer in each of the original eight divisions

Great Eight: The No. 1 boxer in each of the original eight divisions.

Who are the best boxers in each of the original eight weight classes? Check out Boxing Junkie’s “Great Eight” feature.

***

The proliferation of titles makes it difficult for all but the most astute fans to determine the cream of the boxing crop.

That’s why Boxing Junkie came up with its “Great Eight” feature, which names the best fighter in each of the original eight weight classes –heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, featherweight, bantamweight and flyweight.

Heavyweight includes cruiserweight (and the WBC’s bridgerweight), light heavyweight includes super middleweight and so on.

It was easy to make our selection in some divisions. For example, heavyweight, which will continue to be ruled by Tyson Fury until someone takes him down.

Other weight classes took more thought. And you’ll notice one change has been made since the last time we posted Great Eight.

Here are our current rankings.

 

HEAVYWEIGHT – Tyson Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs): Who else?

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT – Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs): The 175-pound champion delivered a break-through victory over Canelo Alvarez in May, giving him an edge in this weight class. A strong case could also be made for Artur Beterbiev. A fight between them would settle things.

MIDDLEWEIGHT – Junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) claimed this spot with his knockout victory over Brian Castano in their May rematch. The top middleweights – Jermall Charlo (Jermell’s twin brother), Demetrius Andrade and Gennadiy Golovkin – are a step behind.

WELTERWEIGHT – Terence Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs): Crawford edges out Errol Spence Jr., who are in talks to fight one another in the fall. No one else at 147 or 140 is close to the big two at the moment, although one should keep an eye on young welterweight Jaron Ennis.

LIGHTWEIGHT – Gervonta Davis (27-0, 25 KOs): The decision to go with Davis here – to replace George Kambosos Jr. – wasn’t an easy one. Haney outclassed Kambosos to become undisputed lightweight champ last month. However, this feature isn’t about titles; it’s about the best fighters. And no one at 135 or 130 is better than “Tank”, although Haney and Shakur Stevenson aren’t too far behind.

FEATHERWEIGHT – Unified junior featherweight titleholder Stephen Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs) supplanted Gary Russell Jr. after Russell lost his featherweight title to Mark Magsayo in January. Rey Vargas, who took Magsayo’s belt, might be closes to Fulton.

BANTAMWEIGHT – Bantamweight star Naoya Inoue (22-0, 19 KOs): The Japanese star arguably is the best at any weight. Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez are pound-for-pound beasts but still a significant step behind Inoue.

FLYWEIGHT – Junto Nakatani (23-0, 18 KOs): The 112-pound titleholder takes over from Julio Cesar Martinez after Martinez was outclassed by Roman Gonzalez in March.

Kyler Murray lands outside top 10 in NFL’s top QBs

Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield ranks him No. 11 overall, just behind Dallas’ Dak Prescott.

The Arizona Cardinals just made quarterback Kyler Murray one of the highest-paid players in the NFL with a five-year extension with $230.5 million in new money. Through three seasons in the NFL, he has proven to be one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the league.

He is one of the best at his position.

But according to Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield, he doesn’t quite make the top 10. In his rankings of the top 12 quarterbacks in the NFL entering the 2022 season, he comes in at No. 11, ahead of the Raiders’ Derek Carr and just behind the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott.

Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals took a step forward last season. As a team, the Cardinals reached the postseason for the first time under Kliff Kingsbury, losing in the wild card round to the Los Angeles Rams.

As for Murray, his third season saw him complete 69.2% of his passes (a career-high) for 3,787 yards and 24 touchdowns, along with ten interceptions. He also posted an Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt of 6.90, ranking him 11th in the NFL and also setting a new career-high mark for him.

When one thinks of Murray, his ability to create outside the pocket and off-structure certainly comes to mind, and 2021 was filled with moments like this one against the Detroit Lions:

But where he showed growth last season was from the pocket. For athletic quarterbacks like Murray, their athleticism can be a double-edged sword, becoming at times a crutch for the QB. Last season, plays like this show Murray fighting the urge to bail from the pocket, and instead using his feet to evade points of pressure before striking downfield:

On this play from Week 14, you can see Murray start to slide to the right, but instead he resets his feet in the pocket and targets Christian Kirk on a deep crossing route, dropping in a perfect throw to move the chains on fourth down.

This play also illustrates another strength of his game: The deep ball. Last season, according to PFF, Murray posted an Adjusted Completion Percentage of 54.9% on throws over 20 yards, second only to Tua Tagovailoa.

The Cardinals gave Murray a new contract this week that makes him one of the NFL’s highest-paid players, so the pressure to corral his randomness and harness his explosive play ability is on.

In three seasons, he has been Offensive Rookie of the Year and selected to the Pro Bowl twice. He has led the Cardinals to win more games each season and took them to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Personally, I would rank Murray above Prescott and No. 9-ranked Lamar Jackson.

Jackson is a better playmaker with his legs but Murray is the superior quarterback in terms of throwing the ball.

Is Murray at this point in his career better than No. 8-ranked Russell Wilson? Maybe.

But people can bicker the rankings after around the top five.

With his new contract and still room to grow, what Cardinals fans hope is that he can elevate himself into the talk of the most elite players at the position.

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LOOK: The NFL’s top RBs entering 2022, per Touchdown Wire

Jonathan Taylor leads a talented group of running backs as the best in football.

The running back position, after years of seemingly being devalued, is again an important part of NFL offenses. Some of the best backs are devastating runners, while others are major weapons in the passing game.

Big names have faded and other players have emerged.

Entering 2022, who are the best running backs in the league?

Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar gives his top 11. Check them out below and read his full post for analysis and film breakdowns.

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James Conner doesn’t make cut for top RBs entering 2022

Conner’s 18-touchdown season and more than 1,100 yards from scrimmage weren’t enough to make the cut.

The Arizona Cardinals were very pleased with what they got out of running back James Conner last season in a shared role with Chase Edmonds. It is why they re-signed him to a three-year, $21 million contract this offseason.

His per-year contract average is tied for the 10th-highest among running backs. He is paid like a top-10 back in the league.

However, in Doug Farrar’s rankings of the top 11 running backs in the league entering 2022 for Touchdown Wire, Conner does not make the cut.

Conner ranked 27th in the league in rushing yards with 752, but he did have a total of 1,127 total yards from scrimmage because of his 37 catches for 375 yards. He was tired for second in the NFL with 15 rushing touchdowns.

Of course, he did that in a shared role with Edmonds, playing 58% of the team’s offensive snaps. He was selected to the Pro Bowl.

Entering 2022, he will see his role increase. His usage will probably match what Kenyan Drake had in 2020, who had 239 rushes and 25 receptions.

Conner had 206 total touchdowns last season. Playing a full season, he probably will see 250-plus touches in 2022.

Should he be in the top 11 running backs in the league?

Perhaps. Rashaad Penny of the Seattle Seahawks had a five-game stretch to end last season that was special. He led the NFL with 6.3 yards per attempt, but he has never done much over a full season. He easily could replace Damien Harris, who comes in at No. 11.

With an increased role in 2022, Conner could potentially end up with 1,300-1,500 total yards from scrimmage. Perhaps we can find him on next year’s list.

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DeAndre Hopkins only 7th in new WR rankings by Touchdown Wire

His age, injuries last season and suspension to start this season make it hard to rank him any higher.

If it were a year ago, people would be talking about Arizona Cardinals wide receiver as one of the top two or three receivers on the planet. He was coming off his first season with the Cardinals in which he set a franchise record in receptions.

In 2021, he only played in 10 games and posted career-lows in receptions and receiving yards, although he did score eight touchdowns in 10 games.

Now, in Touchdown Wire’s rankings of the top 16 receivers in the league by Mark Schofield, Hopkins only ranks seventh.

It is never a good thing when the phrases “when healthy” or “when available” appear in a write-up like this one.

However, that is where we find ourselves with DeAndre Hopkins heading into the 2022 campaign.

Last season saw his streak of four-straight years with over 1,000 receiving yards cut short when Hopkins suffered a torn MCL in December, cutting his season short. It was the first time he played less than 15 games in a season, and it limited him to just 42 receptions for 572 yards and eight touchdowns.

Then there is the suspension, which will see Hopkins on the sidelines for the first six games of the 2022 season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Hopkins maintains his innocence and is hoping for a reduction in the suspension, but the six games remain in place as of now.

What can the Arizona Cardinals expect when he comes back? A ball-winner on the outside. Whether making tough adjustments like this one against the San Francisco 49ers:

Or working himself free late in the down for this touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings:

Hopkins’ ability in scramble-drill situations is a huge plus for Arizona, given what Kyler Murray does at the quarterback position.

It feels like a snub, but the players who are ranked above Hopkins are Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, Justin Jefferson, Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams. It is tough to argue that, right now, Hopkins is better than those guys.

Hopkins was hurt last year, he is now in his 30s and has to deal with a PED suspension.

After his returns in Week 7, if he stays healthy and the Arizona offense goes the way it should with the weapons they have, Hopkins could find himself higher on this list next year.

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LOOK: The NFL’s best TEs in 2022, per Touchdown Wire

There are some great ones in the NFL. Arizona’s Zach Ertz doesn’t crack the top 12.

The tight end position is difficult to be great at. Some players are good blockers. Some are fantastic receivers. Few are able to do everything well that they can be asked to do, whether it is playing inline or flexing out wide, in the slot or going in the backfield.

The Arizona Cardinals have a very talented tight end room this room with Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams and second-round rookie Trey McBride. However, in Mark Schofield’s rankings of the top 12 tight ends in the league in 2022 for Touchdown Wire, none of the Cardinals’ tight end make the cut.

Who does make the list? Check out below and be sure to read Schofield’s full post for complete analysis.

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Zach Ertz snubbed from NFL top tight end list, getting only honorable mention

Ertz does not make Touchdown Wire’s top 12 tight ends but does get honorable mention.

The Arizona Cardinals acquired tight end Zach Ertz in a trade last season after Maxx Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury. Ertz played in 11 games for the Cardinals and caught 56 passes, tying the single-season franchise record for number of receptions by a tight end. He did that in 11 games.

They re-signed him to a three-year deal.

He is bound to have a record-setting season and he has been one of the league’s best tight ends in the past, but while he is still a solid player, he did not make the cut in Mark Schofield’s rankings of the top 12 tight ends in the NFL for Touchdown Wire.

He just misses the cut and gets honorable mention.

The top of the list includes the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and the 49ers’ George Kittle. Schofield has Kelce at No. 1 over Kittle, which is certainly debatable.

Should Ertz make the list?

He is now in his 30s but his ability to impact the passing game probably should put him ahead of two of the final three guys on Schofield’s list — the Steelers’ Pat Freiermuth, ranked at No. 10, and the Bills’ Dawson Knox, coming in at No. 12.

One could argue Ertz could come in ahead of the Lions’ T.J. Hockenson.

Ertz caught more passes than all three players last season. He can line up as an ‘X’ receiver. He can play in the slot. Ertz is not the blocker the other guys are but he is capable.

And with receiver DeAndre Hopkins suspended the first six games of the season, Ertz is likely going to be a focal point of the offense. He built a nice rapport with quarterback Kyler Murray almost immediately and now has had a full offseason to work in the offensive system.

Ertz tied the Cardinals’ record for catches for a tight end. If he is healthy this season, he should obliterate that record of 56 in 2022.

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LOOK: The NFL’s best tackles entering 2022, per Touchdown Wire

Trent Williams of the 49ers tops the list. Neither of the Cardinals’ starting tackles makes the cut.

The Arizona Cardinals have two offensive tackles they trust to protect the edge for quarterback Kyler Murray. D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum have been more than competent.

However, neither makes the list of the 12 best tackles entering the 2022 season by Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar.

Who makes the list? Check out below and read Farrar’s full post for complete analysis.

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LOOK: The NFL’s best guards in 2022, per Touchdown Wire

Cleveland’s Joel Bitonio tops the list. See who else makes the cut.

While tackles get the most money and notoriety among offensive linemen, guards are still very important. They have to guard the big guys in the middle of the defense.

The Arizona Cardinals have a new right guard in Will Hernandez and have Justin Pugh at left guard for his fifth season with the team.

Neither is considered one of the best in the league, although Pugh has played pretty well for the Cardinals.

Who are the best guards in the league?

Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar gives us his top 11 guards entering 2022. Check them out below and read his full post for complete analysis.

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