Odell Beckham Jr. – WR New York Giants
The star wide out made a sizable investment in Vision Esports back in February. Kevin Durant and the St. Louis Cardinals joined him in a $38 million cap raise for the ownership group that is behind esports organization Echo Fox, (owned and operated by former NBA player Rick Fox) video game record keeper Twin Galaxies and media company Vision Entertainment.
It isn’t clear what games ODB plays himself, but if he’s invested in esports, he’s likely a gamer as well. He could, however just be a shrewd businessman who knows opportunity when he sees it.
If he is a gamer, it’s likely that he is playing Fortnite – along with the rest of the world. One of the purchasable in-game skins called “Brite Gunner” bears a striking resemblance to the star receiver. As such, he’s become the subject of a lot of clickbait videos that claim to be playing with the receiver, when in actuality, they are just playing with the skin. (See screenshot below.)
Jerry Jones – Owner Dallas Cowboys
He’s not a player, but as owners go, Jones is one of the most recognizable in the league. In 2017 he bought – along with real estate mogul John Goff – one of the longest running esports organizations, CompLexity Gaming.
He moved the organization to Texas where he also had a hand in developing the largest esports arena in North America. Technically in Arlington, the stadium is 100,000 square feet and is only about a mile from AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys.
Founded in 2003, CompLexity is ancient in the esports world. It fields teams in CS:GO, Call of Duty, Rocket League and Fortnite, to name a few.
However, it is not present in the two largest franchise-based esports leagues in North America. Riot’s North America League Championship Series (NALCS) and Blizzard’s Overwatch League (OWL.) The buy-ins for those leagues are $10 million and $20 million respectively. The majority of teams in both the NALCS and the OWL are backed either fully or in-part by traditional sports owners. Those include NFL owners Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles Rams) and Robert Kraft (New England Patriots) as well as NBA owners Andy Miller (Sacramento Kings) and Wesley Edens (Milwaukee Bucks).
Derrius Guice – RB Washington Redskins
The rookie running back is projected to be the starter for Washington this season. He was drafted in the second round, 59th overall, but many thought the LSU star would go in the first round.
So why’d he slide?
There were rumors about his professionalism and maturity, but they didn’t come from LSU, which assured he would pass every test of character. The other, more inexplicable reason is that he is “addicted to video games.”
I've been following the #NFLDraft for a long time. NFL teams being worried about a prospect playing too many video games is a new one for me. Former #LSU Tiger Derrius Guice sounds off on the rumors dogging his draft day. pic.twitter.com/o4fqywsVbc
— Garland Gillen (@garlandgillen) April 26, 2018
“I never saw a concern with that until I started seeing reports that said I probably game too much,” Guice told Fox Sports reporter Garland Gillen before the draft. “I was still getting my workouts in, I was still ready for pro day, I don’t see what the problem is. A lot of people in pro sports play video games, so I don’t see why you would be worried to draft someone who does.”
Honestly, if I was a coach, I would much rather my players be dropping into Fortnite games than dropping Jägerbombs. You can’t workout 24/7, and if the rest of the time is spent being competitive online, seems good to me. That sentiment was echoed by fellow gamer and teammate in the backfield Chris Thompson.
For a player who outrushed Jacksonville Jaguars’ star back Leonard Fournette in 2016 at LSU, Washington may have come out like bandits with the seventh back taken in the NFL Draft.
Oh, and for fantasy players, he’s projected as a 4th/5th rounder. Like former teammate Fournette, he could be a steal as an RB2.
Dez Bryant – WR Free Agent
While not technically in the division anymore, the former Cowboys star is a huge Madden fan. In 2017, he played against Dave Grunfeld from NFL.com. It was a close game with Grunfeld taking an early lead but eventually losing to Bryant.
“It’s the best simulation of the game out there,” Bryant said when asked about how it compares to an actual game.
In the third quarter, in true Dez fashion he looked past the wide-open check down and threw a corner route to his virtual persona in triple coverage. And, in true Dez fashion, he caught it.
Xbox one?RT @ch43era: @DezBryant responding to all his fans but scared to play me in madden
— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) May 3, 2015
As he waits to find his next team destination, he probably is playing a lot of Xbox. A huge fan of DragonBall Z, it’s likely Dez has checked out the new fighting game Dragon Ball FighterZ, which recently announced the formation of an official tournament circuit after becoming a favorite title in the fighting game community.
Zach Ertz – TE Philadelphia Eagles
Before the Eagles took down the Pats in the Super Bowl, Ertz and some of his teammates took on a different challenge — playing troops stationed overseas in a variety of esports.
It came from the non-profit Joint Forces Initiative, which helps connect athletes and celebrities with military members all over the world.
“It builds up the morale,” said airman Jonathan Cunningham to FOX29 photojournalist Bill Rohrer. “If you’re able to be happy when you’re out there. I’ve been there. Little things like this just bring up the morale and perform better for the Air Force, the Army, what have you.”
Receiver Mark Hollins played Overwatch and defensive end Steve Means played Madden. Means ended up throwing a touchdown to the virtual Ertz, while the real one stood over his shoulder, watching the action.
Joint Forces founder Greg Zinone told Rohrer how gaming can help bring people together.
“What that controller does in their hand, with just playing a video game for that long. It breaks down barriers and it is like you are almost playing your best friend in the basement,” Zinone said.
This is the part three of our division by division look at esports in the NFL. For future reading here’s Clay Matthews, Kyle Long and the NFC North. And here’s Richard Sherman, Todd Gurley and the NFC West.
Mitch Reames – The intersection of the NFL and esports
After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing about esports for SportTechie.
He identified the potential for content serving fans of both sports and esports, and will be focusing on that fan sector in his writing for NFP.
When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.
Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames