Matt Chester compiles his fantasy football team of NFL players who are have taken leadership, are advocates and innovators for energy and the environment. NFL photo.
NFL fantasy team the Gang Greenest
By Matt Chester
This article was published by the Chester Energy and Policy blog on August 29, 2018.
In the past few weeks, NFL players have returned to training camp, unknown players started fighting for roster spots in preseason games, and analysts are making their Super Bowl predictions.
While these are all welcome sights to football fans, to me this time of year really signals one thing: fantasy football is finally back! With draft weekend for a majority of fantasy leagues (including my own) having just passed and the remaining likely to come this upcoming weekend, I figured it appropriate to combine my passion for everything related to energy, climate, and the environment with my annual obsession over fantasy football (these combined interests seem appropriate, anyway, as I honestly couldn’t tell you if I create more graphs of data related to fantasy football or energy analysis during the NFL season).
Because many NFL players are role models, advocates for charities, and important members of their communities, the perfect marriage of fantasy football and these green sustainability topics is to create the optimal fantasy football lineup based on players who are in some way involved as leaders or innovators in the world of energy and the environment.
As with my MLB All-Star Team of Green Players, NFL players can demonstrate their leadership on these topics, their so-called green credentials, in several ways:
- NFL players who are actively involved in organizations that are advancing causes like energy efficiency, environmentalism, or similar causes receive the highest green credentials.
- Players who are vocal about these various issues are also certified green. By talking publicly about climate change or sustainability, players can affect change in their fans who might otherwise not have been concerned about these pressing issues.
- Setting positive examples when it comes to energy and the environment is also a critical way NFL players are able to earn green credentials. By being public about lifestyle choices that are good for the planet, these NFL players are normalizing this type of sustainable behavior. Even if players’ reasons for those decisions are not motivated by energy or the environment (e.g., driving a Tesla because it’s a cool car rather than to prevent CO2 emissions), such leading examples can still have profound effects.
With that out of the way, let’s draft our Green Fantasy Football Team (and since every fantasy team needs to be named based on a pun, I’llu call them ‘Gang Greenest,’ a play on the Jets’ nickname of Gang Green), starting with the players who are ranked the highest according to the August 18 FantasyPros Consensus Rankings:
Pick 1- Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (17th ranked WR, 37th ranked overall player according to FantasyPros)
With their top overall pick, Gang Greenest selects wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
At training camp last year, Thomas reported that he had dropped 14 pounds due to switching to a vegan diet. While Thomas made the lifestyle change for health reasons, as ensuring their bodies are at peak performance is of utmost importance to athletes whose livelihoods depend on it, that doesn’t diminish the sustainability of the choice to eat vegan and the effect that seeing an athlete perform while eating vegan might have on others considering such a switch.
Environmentalism has long been a reason some have chosen to eat vegetarian or vegan, citing facts such as the following:
- 15 per cent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions come from raising livestock
- One pound of vegetables requires just 100 gallons of water compared with 2,000 gallons of water for a pound of beef or 500 gallons for poultry
- One acre of land is capable of producing just 250 pounds of beef compared with 20,000 pounds of potatoes or 50,000 pounds of tomatoes.
So, while Thomas’s actions were not motivated by these environmental impacts, by publicly discussing his switch to a vegan diet he is setting an example for fans, fellow NFL players, and aspiring athletes to make the same change– such influence can go a long way towards providing environmental benefits, whether that’s the main motivation or not.
Pick 2- Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks (2nd ranked QB, 51st ranked overall player)
USA Today Sports photo by Tim Heitman.As detailed in this article by the GreenSportsBlog, Wilson made his first foray into the world of ‘eco-athletes’ last year when he promoted the ‘Strawless in Seattle September‘ program from the Lonely Whale Foundation, an effort to get people to minimize their unnecessary plastic usage and prevent the seemingly unending barrage of plastic polluting the ocean.
By featuring Wilson in a PSA where he told fans that “single-use straws suck…plastic pollution is choking our ocean, harming sea life, and putting our own health at risk,” the Lonely Whale Foundation says they were able to eliminate two million plastic straws from use in just one month. This type of environmental advocacy makes Wilson a deserving pick.
Pick 3- Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (6th ranked QB, 66th ranked player overall)
Much as I wouldn’t typically advocating taking two quarterbacks in the first three rounds of an actual fantasy football draft, Drew Brees has undeniably elite skills on the football field and his choice in car is undeniably green. Brees was driving the all-electric Tesla Model S as far back as 2014.
The 2014 Tesla Model S gets up to 97 miles per gallon equivalent, enormously better than the typical luxury car other athletes might drive.
Accounting for the carbon intensity of the electric grid in New Orleans, Brees’ 2014 Tesla Model S likely accounts for 176 grams of CO2 per mile driven, less than half of the equivalent emissions from a gasoline-only car.
While Brees is famously humble and doesn’t make a big deal about his fancy and eco-friendly ride, the people of New Orleans deify this man who brought them their only Super Bowl victory– so it would not be surprising if Brees driving a Tesla influenced a sizable chunk of Louisianians to purchase their own electric vehicles, too.
Pick 4- Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans (7th ranked TE, 74th ranked player overall)
The website for Chris Long’s charity, Waterboys (more on that soon), lists a number of NFL players as fellow Waterboys, Superfans, and Alumni who have dedicated their time, resources, and public platforms to raise awareness and funds for the cause of bringing safe and sustainable drinking water to East Africa.
Walker is listed as one such alum, giving him some green credentials to join Gang Greenest.
Pick 5- Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (46th ranked RB, 131st ranked player overall)
SonLight Power is an organization that designs and installs solar power solutions for community venues (such as schools, medical clinics, orphanages, and more) in remote locations.
Such under-served locations can especially benefit from solar power, as on-site generation is more affordable and reliable than power from the grid, with some of them not always having established electric grids and transmission systems in place.
In honor of his late mother, running back Giovani Bernard teamed with SonLight Power to equip a school in Haiti with a rooftop solar system. This charitable act that embraces the ways renewable energy can help the planet and impoverished communities gives Bernard more than enough green credentials to be the fifth pick of Gang Greenest.
Pick 6- Philadelphia Eagles Defense and Special Teams, DST, (3rd ranked DST, 161st ranked player overall)
NBC Sports photo.Picking a defense this early in an actual fantasy draft would be enough to get your league-mates to mock you relentlessly, but the green credentials of the Eagles are enough to overlook that:
- Chris Long, defensive end for the Eagles, founded his charity Waterboys in 2015 with the goal of “providing clean, accessible drinking water to rural communities in East Africa.” After winning the Super Bowl this past February, Long didn’t go to Disney World but rather assembled a team of 12 (including another NFL player and a professional MMA fighter) to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise awareness for the East Africa water crisis and his efforts to make a difference.
- As an organization, the Eagles have also been leaders for sustainability efforts among NFL teams, with the first NFL stadium to be LEED Silver certified, the innovative installation of a food waste digester, their success in becoming 100% landfill free, and more.
With all these efforts and as DST is the only fantasy position that allows you to select an entire NFL team, the green credentials of the Philadelphia Eagles make this an easy choice.
Pick 7- Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions (55th ranked RB, 163rd ranked player overall)
With their seventh pick, Gang Greenest adds a second running back to the roster. Like Thomas, Riddick’s green credentials come from his decision to change to a vegan diet in the 2017 offseason.
Riddick also appears to have made his choice based on his health, but as before the reasons don’t matter because the environmental benefits are the same. Not only does Riddick’s personal carbon footprint diminish, but he’s making it more visibly acceptable for those in his community who look up to him to consider taking the same steps.
Pick 8- Danny Amendola, WR, Miami Dolphins (78th ranked WR, 210th ranked player overall)
Wide receiver Amendola, like Walker, is listed as an alum for Waterboys. As such, he becomes Gang Greenest’s eighth-round pick.
Pick 9- Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona Cardinals (35th ranked QB, 278th ranked player overall)
We’re now at the part of the fantasy football draft where we may have to take late-round flyers on sleeper picks, a depressing sign that many of the major NFL stars are not advocating for green causes (like the sad conclusion that you couldn’t fill an MLB All-Star roster with just environmentally-focused players).
That said, Josh Rosen is a highly touted rookie quarterback prospect that the Cardinals took with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
While Rosen is unlikely to be the starting quarterback when Arizona takes the field in week 1, his high potential and green credentials make him an interesting selection in the ninth round.
In a pre-draft interview with ESPN, Allen was asked which causes he would advocate as an NFL player, to which he answered the following:
I think it’ll evolve, but one cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.
Such awareness of how climate change can affect the environment and create human conflict in the world’s most vulnerable regions is unfortunately uncommon for professional athletes, so using his platform thusly surely sets Rosen apart when it comes to energy and the environment.
Pick 10- Bennie Fowler, WR, Chicago Bears (Unranked)
Like his former teammate Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver Fowler adopted a vegan diet in the 2017 offseason and is thus eligible for Gang Greenest’s tenth pick.
Pick 11- Gary Barnidge, TE, Free Agent (Unranked)
Tight end Gary Barnidge came out of nowhere to set the fantasy football world ablaze in 2015 with his breakout season.
Unfortunately, Barnidge was released by the Cleveland Browns prior to the 2017 season and remains a free agent (but is not yet retired). So, Barnidge would be a very deep sleeper in the fantasy football world, but after his rise to prominence he was recruited to join the Players for the Planet team.
Players for the Planet organizes professional athletes to “support its mission to educate all involved in youth, amateur, and professional sports on how to best adopt environmental practices that preserve the playing fields and stadiums where we all enjoy playing and watching sports together.” I’d call that green credentials enough to join Gang Greenest as the backup tight end while he looks for an NFL team.
Pick 12- Sam Martin, K, Detroit Lions
Now before you correct me, I know Martin is actually the punter for the Lions and not the kicker. However, I could find no active kickers with green credentials, but Martin’s skills as a punter could be most transferable as Gang Greenest’s kicker.
So, what are his green credentials? Power Home Solar partners with Martin and his Sam Martin Foundation for various renewable energy efforts, such as educating students about renewable energy on Earth Day and installing solar power at Ford Field and their training facility. This dedication to spreading renewable energy should be enough to help Martin overcome his handicap as a punter instead of a kicker.
After 12 rounds of fantasy drafting, Gang Greenest has the following final roster:
While this roster is not a team that is likely to propel you to a fantasy football championship (indeed, FantasyPros grades it as an F even when replacing Sam Martin with the Lions’ actual kicker), I am sure it’s likely the greenest fantasy roster you could assemble.
Many professional athletes only come into their own as advocates and champions of certain causes once their playing days are over, and when it comes to retired NFL players the NFL players the energy industry provides a second career for many.
While the following retired players are ineligible for fantasy rosters, a tip of the hat is still due to them for their efforts– so we’ll give them a node to a Gang Greenest Hall of Fame:
Will Allen: Formed a company focused on business ventures related to energy services, energy technology, and engineering consulting
Bernard Caralho Jr.: Advocates for climate change solutions as mayor of Kauai, Hawaii
Tim Dwight: Solar energy advocate
Arian Foster: Was among the earliest and most prominent NFL players advocating for a vegan diet
Syd Kitson: Housing developer for America’s first solar city
Dan Marino: Electric vehicle advocate
Ovie Mughelli: Outspoken environmental spokesperson, advocate, and author
Mark Tauscher: Solar energy advocate
Sean Tufts: Development manager pitching utilities on wind energy projects
Julian Vandervelde: President of a solar energy company
Are there any other NFL players who are experts in energy, champions for the environment, or fighters of climate change that I missed? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!
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To see other posts at the intersection of sports and energy, see this article on the most energy-conscious players in the MLB, this article finding the energy-efficient March Madness winner, and this article on crowning a sustainable NFL champion.
About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Washington DC, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.