It has been a long off-season for football fans.
The 2021 NFL Season is finally here as fans are welcomed by teams back to all stadiums. Each NFL team will look to make their case for the pursuit of appearing in Super Bowl LVI. The state of Arkansas has several great representatives in the NFL.
This season, there are five players that look to bring an All-Pro level impact for their team. Here are the five best current NFL players from the state of Arkansas:
- Tight End Hunter Henry (New England Patriots)
Of all the players in the NFL born in the state of Arkansas, former Arkansas Razorback Hunter Henry is one of the most successful players.
Henry was born and raised in Little Rock, where he played for the Pulaski Academy Bruins. After being a three-time All-SEC selection (2013, 2014 and 2015), Henry was selected by the Los Angeles Chargers in the second round (35th overall pick). He had a fantastic rookie season in 2016 when he caught 36 receptions for 478 yards and eight touchdowns. That season, Henry was named to the Pro Football Writer's Association All-Rookie Team.
Since that season, Henry has been one of the most reliable pass-catching tight ends for the Chargers. Even after three significant knee injuries from late 2017 to early 2019, including missing all of 2018 with a torn ACL, Henry has been a reliable pass-catching tight end for the Chargers.
Henry is looking to get back to a Pro Bowl-caliber level for a new team after spending the past five seasons with the Chargers. So far in his career, Henry has caught 254 receptions for 3,019 yards and 21 touchdowns in four healthy seasons. He was an instant target in this past free agency for the New England Patriots as he signed a three-year, $37.5 contract. Henry is a reliable tight end that fits the scheme of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Henry will be in an offensive scheme with New England where they will utilize a multiple tight end set with Jonnu Smith. Despite sharing the field with Smith, Henry is expected to have a huge season for New England, similar to his career in Los Angeles. He will also help the Patriots attempt to get back into Super Bowl contention.
- Linebacker Dre Greenlaw (San Francisco 49ers)
The defense of the San Francisco 49ers is loaded with elite and high-caliber talent. Former Arkansas Razorback Dre Greenlaw is a player analysts and experts didn't expected to be a part of the success of the 49ers. Born in Conway, Greenlaw is a player who grinds on and off the field to become the highly efficient player he is today.
Greenlaw had a stellar collegiate career with the Razorbacks, where he started in 39 of the 41 games played. He was named a Freshman All-American by FWAA and Sporting News after accounting for 95 total tackles, 46 solo tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Greenlaw finished his collegiate career at Arkansas with 321 total tackles, 159 solo tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks, three pass breakups and four forced fumbles.
Greenlaw was selected in the fifth round (148th overall pick) by the 49ers in the 2019 NFL Draft. This was the same draft where the 49ers took 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year defensive end Nick Bosa. Greenlaw became a surprisingly quick impact at the weakside linebacker for the 49ers as he is highly consistent in reading the plays in the backfield.
Greenlaw was named to the All-Rookie team in 2019 by the Pro Football Writer's Association and Pro Football Focus. In the past two seasons in the league, Greenlaw accumulated 178 total tackles, 125 solo tackles, ten tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, three pass deflections and an interception. He looks to make an impact again for the defense for a third consecutive season as San Francisco looks to get back into Super Bowl contention this 2021 season.
- Quarterback Nick Mullens (Cleveland Browns)
After four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, former Southern Miss Golden Eagles star quarterback Nick Mullens is looking to get back into the spotlight of the NFL. Mullens was born in Little Rock, where he would eventually play high school football in Spain Park High School in Hoover, Alabama. He would eventually commit and play for the Golden Eagles from 2013 to 2016. Despite being undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, he would eventually sign with the San Francisco 49ers.
It wasn't long ago that Nick Mullens was one of the trending topics of the NFL and the San Francisco 49ers. Mullens was a backup quarterback for the past four seasons with the 49ers, where he would take over for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2018 and 2020 seasons. In 2018, Mullens took over the team after an injury to Garoppolo by starting eight games. Mullens passed for 2,277 yards, 13 touchdowns, ten interceptions and a quarterback rating of 90.8 on 176 completions (out of 274 passing attempts).
This past season, Mullens played in ten games (starting in eight of them) and passing for 2,437 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on 211 completions (out of 326 passing attempts). Mullens is currently on the practice roster of the Cleveland Browns, who are a serious competitor for their first-ever Super Bowl title.
- Tight End Demetrius Harris (Arizona Cardinals)
Long-time role player Demetrius Harris looks to make an impact on his new team in the Arizona Cardinals this 2021 season. Harris, the former Jacksonville Titans standout, will be entering his eighth season in the NFL. He will be entering his fourth team in four seasons. He spent the first five years with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2014 to 2018. In 2019, Harris was with the Cleveland Browns. Finally, this past season, Harris played for the Chicago Bears.
Harris has played in 101 regular-season games, starting in 44 of them. His most impactful season with the Chiefs was in the 2018 season, where he caught 12 receptions for 164 yards and three touchdowns. The following season for the Browns, Harris caught 15 receptions for 149 yards and touchdowns. He will look to help the Cardinals get into the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
- Quarterback Brandon Allen (Cincinnati Bengals)
Rounding out the list of the top NFL players from the state of Arkansas is a former Razorback great in quarterback Brandon Allen. Born and raised in Fayetteville, Allen was destined to play for the Razorbacks. In his four seasons with Arkansas, Allen passed for 7,436 yards, 64 touchdowns and 26 interceptions on 538 completions (out of 1,016 passing attempts) from 2012 to 2015.
Allen was drafted in the sixth round (201st overall pick) in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. After one season in Jacksonville and two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 and 2018, Allen got his first NFL action with the Denver Broncos in the 2019 NFL season.
Allen started in three games for the Broncos, where he passed for 515 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions on 39 completions (out of 84 passing attempts). The following season, Allen was named the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals after the injury to quarterback Joe Burrow. Allen passed for 925 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions on 90 completions (out of 142 passing attempts). He currently backs up Burrow going into this 2021 NFL season for the Bengals.