Comparisons are always a throw of the dice.
You never know if people will embrace or toss them to the side like moldy cheese. Part of the fascination is in making that connection to either a person or place in the past. Whether for nostalgia or just because it’s what we know, you see it a lot in sports.
Heck, just this week Carson Wentz was compared to both Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers by NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger. After three games, that’s a bit of a reach. But you get the point. In the wide of world sports, people love them some comparisons. They get fans fired up - in more ways than one.
I made one a few weeks ago on social media, and for the most part, people got it. After yet another spectacular week, I had to write about it.
Matt Paradis is proving himself as one of the best centers in the NFL. Whether you base that on your eye test, Pro Football Focus grades or both, you cannot deny that fact the first three weeks of the season. Two of those first three weeks Paradis was PFF’s highest graded center, and he was right behind Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick this week.
Paradis, along with Russell Okung and even (gasp) Michael Schofield, is a huge reason why the Denver Broncos offensive line is light years ahead of where it was a season ago. There are some issues with run blocking the last two weeks that must improve. What will help loosen up the run game is the air attack the Broncos put forth against the Cincinnati Bengals. On the list of issues for Denver right now, the running game isn’t one of them - at least not right now.
That brings us back to Paradis. There’s something about his game that should connect Broncos fans to a player of the past. It doesn’t stop there. They work in the same system with the same coaches (for the most part), they have a similar build (both are 6-foot-3 and about 300 pounds) and they even look alike. Not to mention both have a penchant to not groom themselves.
That player is, of course, one of the most underrated centers in the history of the NFL, Tom Nalen. How he is not in the Pro Football of Hall of Fame, or even considered a viable contender ... isn’t all that surprising when you look at the history. Broncos fans know that all too well at this point.
We’re to the point now that when Paradis takes the field, your mind travels back to when Nalen did so. When Paradis dominates the interior of the offensive line as he has, one is of reminded of Nalen. Throw in the red bushy air and scraggly beard to the mix and it stops one in their tracks.
Paradis still has a lot to prove. The most difficult aspect is to remain as consistent as Nalen was over the course of his career in Denver. That’s the toughest challenge of all in the NFL. That’s on top of staying healthy, which is completely out of a player’s control.
But a season and three games into his career, Paradis is off to a great start. And that might be an understatement. He’s become one of the best in the NFL and he can get even better. In this system, there’s no limit to how good Paradis can become. Just as we saw with Nalen. One thing is clear: Paradis wants to get better. His success is not enough. He wants even more. The same is true for his teammates on the offensive line and the Broncos as a whole.
That shows the character Paradis possesses. In his second year as a starter, he’s a team leader. As former Denver teammate Tyler Polumbus has pointed out numerous times, it’s only a matter of a time before Paradis is a captain.
That was on full display in training camp when he was given veteran days off and still coached up his teammates. That impressed me more than anything that Paradis has done on the field because those moments showed it wasn’t about him. It was about the Broncos. That selflessness shows a lot to not only teammates but coaches. It demonstrates Paradis will do whatever it takes to help Denver win.
That’s also the type of player John Elway needs to keep. As if Paradis’ play hasn’t warranted a new contract in the near future by itself, that leadership sealed it. He is set to become a restricted free agent in 2017 since he was an ERFA this past offseason.
Comparisons are always a throw of the dice. That is especially true when it comes to Denver. Fans are serious about this stuff.
But right now, the Broncos have the modern-day Nalen at center. If Paradis stops talking to the media, it’s sealed.