Dancing with the Stars: Ranking the NFL contestants

Yes, it’s official. We’ve reached that point in the offseason where this constitutes a blog post. With the free agency frenzy simmering down, and the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars hitting ABC last night, we’re using our unlimited amount of cyber-ink to discuss the wildly popular dance show instead of pure football.

Last night, Baltimore Ravens star and Super Bowl XLVII hero Jacoby Jones became the eleventh NFL player to appear on the show. He danced the Cha Cha Cha with his partner Karina Smirnoff and earned a respectable score 20 out of 30 from the judges. We’ll have to stay tuned throughout the season to see how Jacoby fairs compared to the NFL pros that have danced before him.

NFL players have thrice taken the DWTS crown, with former Green Bay Packer Donald Driver winning last season.  In honor of their achievements, let’s take a trip down memory lane and recap the best NFL players on DWTS. To see how all ten of them stacked up, I went to the tape (translation: YouTube, as I’ve never seen a full episode of DWTS in my life).

Here’s my unofficial, yet highly scientific breakdown of the NFL players on DWTS… I’m sure you’re brimming with unbridled anticipation!

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10) Michael Irvin

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(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

An all-time great wide receiver, Irvin faltered a bit on DWTS. He finished seventh when he appeared on season 9.  If Jones studies the tape, however, he’ll see Irvin did have the right attitude to win, as he was willing to do anything to improve. Seriously, anything.

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9) Chad Johnson

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(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

A standout in terms of endzone celebrations, Ochocinco (as he was still called at the time) was only able to dance his way into a fourth place finish in season 10.  Perhaps if he’d been able to use more pylons as props he could have made it farther in the competition.

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8) Lawrence Taylor

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(ABC/KELSEY MCNEAL)

(ABC/KELSEY MCNEAL)

The sack-master had his share of struggles on the dance floor, but turned in a solid enough performance for a seventh place finish. Secretly, I was hoping LT would pull a Terry Tate office linebacker and dive over the judges table after a poor review. I’m sad to say this never happened, but LT was entertaining nonetheless.

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7) Kurt Warner

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(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

Warner became the first quarterback to appear on DWTS, and danced his way up to a fifth place finish. He seemed to be a crowd favorite from what I could assess, but his dancing evidently left some wanting more. It appears that charisma alone can only get you so far. You need to throw down on the dance floor to really win over the voters, and Warner lacked the chops (and flexibility) required.

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6) Jerry Rice

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(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

The G.O.A.T. was the first NFL star to appear on DWTS, and did not disappoint by finishing second. Rice turned his football skills into some fancy footwork, and put his tremendous work ethic to use in learning the many styles presented to him. It feels weird having Rice so low, but considering the next guy finished as well as Rice did in the competition, but with about 100 more pounds on his body, I had to give him the edge.

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5) Warren Sapp

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(ABC/KELSEY MCNEAL)

(ABC/KELSEY MCNEAL)

The big guy proved to be surprisingly shifty during his run to the finals of DWTS season 7. Look no further than his Paso Doble. That’s not an easy dance for any one to pull off, much less someone of Sapp’s stature. Sapp’s personality certainly helped get him to the finals as well, but unfortunately, when it comes down to it can you really blame America for picking Brooke Burke over Sapp? All those male viewers Sapp helped bring to the show likely voted against him in the finals.

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4) Jason Taylor

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(ABC/MICHAEL DESMOND)

(ABC/MICHAEL DESMOND)

The 4-time all-pro turned his strength, agility, and length into a successful run on DWTS season 6. Taylor was able to lift his partner Edyta all around the stage, but unfortunately he failed to lift the mirror ball trophy in the finals. Taylor looked like a natural in the dances I saw, which is why I have him as the top NFL player that didn’t win the competition.

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3) Hines Ward

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(ABC/ADAM TAYLOR)

(ABC/ADAM TAYLOR)

Ward helped distract Steelers fans from a rough offseason after their Super Bowl loss by blazing his way to a victory in season 12. Ward proved adept at picking up the different styles, and flashed his big smile just enough times to win the hearts of housewives all around the country.

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2) Emmitt Smith

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(ABC/ADAM TAYLOR)

(ABC/ADAM TAYLOR)

Choosing the top two gave me more trouble than I figured possible in a post about DWTS. Smith won season 3 thanks to his fleet feet and ability to master almost any dance style. The all-time leading rusher in NFL history clearly had a great time in every dance, which helped win over the judges and America. Smith was incredibly light on his feet, but still looked as strong as Warren Sapp on the dance floor, both of which likely attributed to his victory in the finals. Also, doing a freestyle dance to “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer doesn’t hurt.

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1) Donald Driver

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(ABC/ADAM TAYLOR)

(ABC/ADAM TAYLOR)

Driver was the third, most recent, and in my expert opinion, best DWTS contestant from the NFL. Driver improved as the season went along, and rocked the final round. It doesn’t hurt that he’s ultra-likeable, in phenomenal shape, and has a smile that makes dentists’ hearts flutter. With Driver going from seventh round pick to Super Bowl champion to DWTS champion, I had to give him the nod over Emmitt. For further proof, here’s the video that sealed the deal for me to give him the crown:

And with that, I conclude this lighthearted blog post and anxiously await the return of football as much as you. Don’t fret though, it’s less than six month away.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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