Esports

5 NFC East Players/Owners Involved with Esports

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

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 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.

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

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New Jersey Allows Esports Betting With massive restriction

When New Jersey became the first state to allow sports betting after the Supreme Court decision, they initially said there was no betting on "high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive video games." 

A few days later - after an outcry from the esports community - they amended the law saying that betting on

When New Jersey became the first state to allow sports betting after the Supreme Court decision, they initially said there was no betting on “high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive video games.” 

A few days later – after an outcry from the esports community – they amended the law saying that betting on esports events is allowed, so long as every participant in the tournament is 18 or older.

In traditional sports that isn’t a problem. Very few players in any sport have the ability to compete at the highest level before being able to vote. In esports, without a physical requirement, many people as young as 13 have been successful in their game. Players like Scrub Killa in Rocket League and Mongraal in Fortnite have been able to compete at that young age.

Still, they are the exception not the rule. But, because of players like them, the entry into the most popular esports leagues and events is often below that age threshold. For example, League of Legends’ LCS is 17, Rocket League’s RLCS is 15.

DOTA 2’s The International, which boasts the highest prize pool in esports, has no age requirement either. Epic Games hasn’t released competitive details for Fortnite but with the games massive popularity in teens, 18 would prevent a lot of the player base from competing.

Their are two main third-party tournament organizers in esports, Dreamhack and ESL. Dreamhack has no minimum age requirement, so it’s out.

So what does that leave? ESL is still in, so long as the game is rated for 18+. That means first person shooter’s like CS:GO and Rainbow Six: Siege should be good.

In terms of leagues that fit the age requirement, there are three big ones in America. The Overwatch League which boasts the highest franchise fees in esports at $20 million is good – just don’t bet on Shanghai. The Call of Duty World League which is a favorite of many NFL players and the NBA 2K League are both eligible as well.

Betting on esports is a huge business with people already wagering in-game items on games. There will be demand and betting could be the catalyst that raises the age requirement to become a pro in other titles.

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

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Check Out The New Madden 19 Trailer

The latest Madden trailer dropped at E3 and, while it doesn’t give a great idea of what gameplay feels like, it’s packed with moments.

The trailer primarily focuses on the first and second picks of the NFL Draft - Baker Mayfield for the Browns and Saquon Barkley for the Giants. (Here's how experts across

The latest Madden trailer dropped at E3 and, while it doesn’t give a great idea of what gameplay feels like, it’s packed with moments.

The trailer primarily focuses on the first and second picks of the NFL Draft – Baker Mayfield for the Browns and Saquon Barkley for the Giants. (Here’s how experts across the web felt about those picks.) Here’s the trailer:

It makes sense to focus on draftees because despite updating the graphics or player motion every year, the most significant change in each iteration of Madden is the updated rosters.

EA hasn’t released gameplay videos yet but those will be coming out this week. For now, all we have to go in is testimonials from people at the E3 demo.

One of those people was YouTuber EricRayweather who said, “The animations are pretty incredible, especially catching and hit sticks.”

The new animation style is called “Real Player Motion” and comes from the Frostbite game engine. Frostbite was first introduced into Madden 18 but only in some story modes. Now it appears the engine will be used throughout the game.

This is significant because some of EA’s more lifelike games – FIFA and Battlefield – have been using the engine for years. As EA tries to turn Madden into a true esport, they will need more realism and less easily abused glitches, hopefully the Frostbite engine helps with that.

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

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Five Players in the NFC West Who Play Esports

Richard Sherman – CB San Francisco 49ers

An avid Call of Duty player, Sherman attended the Call of Duty World Championships in 2016. He had plans to attend the DOTA 2 International – boasting the highest prize pool in esports at over 24 million in 2018 – and teased the possibility of investing in esports

Richard Sherman – CB San Francisco 49ers

An avid Call of Duty player, Sherman attended the Call of Duty World Championships in 2016. He had plans to attend the DOTA 2 International – boasting the highest prize pool in esports at over 24 million in 2018 – and teased the possibility of investing in esports in the future.

In an interview with ESPN’s Jacob Wolf, Sherman said “We’re competitors in every aspect of our lives and we’re always looking for another opportunity to compete, I think [Call of Duty] gives everybody a chance to be good at it.”

It’s that competitive nature that makes so many football players’ gamers and vice-versa, so many gamers football fans.

With Sherman’s move from Seattle to San Francisco, the key piece of the Legion of Boom will be in Silicon Valley – one of North America’s esports hubs.

In that same interview, Sherman said he might be interested in investing in esports one day.

“[Esports] has grown so rapidly over the last couple years, I think everyone is starting to [take] notice and pay attention,” he says. “These guys are out here competing for $2 million [at the Call of Duty World Championships]. That’s real money. That’s as real as it gets. I’m looking forward to seeing how that industry grows and maybe, maybe getting more involved.”

One organization he could consider investing in is NRG Esports. Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov founded the team based out of San Francisco in December of 2015. They have a slew of name-brand athlete investors already. Shaq, Alex Rodriquez, Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Howard, and Marshawn Lynch – just to name a few.

Sherman is fully focused on recovering from his Achilles tear and transitioning to a new team. As his recovery progresses and he becomes settled in the bay, look for him to make more appearances in the esports world.

Todd Gurley – RB Los Angeles Rams

Gurley runs through opposing defenses like a freight train and plays Call of Duty the same way.

“I’m aggressive, I don’t really care if I get killed… If I get killed 50 times so be it as long as I get to kill as many people as I can,” Gurley told GamerHub TV at the release party for Black Ops 4 the latest iteration of one of the longest running game series ever.

On professional gamers: “Those guys are beasts out there, I did a thing with Matt Forte and we had like two or three kills and those guys had 15, 20, 30 kills. Those guys are beasts, I totally respect what they do.”

“We had a Rams Call of Duty group chat my rookie year, it’s crazy popular in the league. It’s a game that’s been around for so long that we were all playing that in college and in high school,” Gurley said in the video.

While Gurley is an avid COD player, one of his primary blockers has taken a love for the game to a whole new level.

Rodger Saffold – G Los Angeles Rams

Saffold was one of the first NFL players to make a big push into the esports industry. In fact, he was one of the first traditional sports athletes across all sports to get in. In 2014 he helped to found Rise Nation, an esports organization competing in Call of Duty. Now he serves as CEO and under him, Rise has become one of the dominant teams in COD.

2018 has been good to Rise as the team went 13-1 in the first stage of the CWL Pro League before going undefeated in CWL Atlanta Open to establish themselves as one of the top teams in North America this season.

“When I started figuring out that esports was growing, and I saw they were all over the internet on Twitch — when I saw that there were these huge events — I was like, ‘OK, I need to get into this,” Saffold told ESPN’s Imad Khan in 2016.

In the locker room, his teammates are curious and Saffold does what he can to introduce them to esports.

“I always get questions like ‘Hey, how is our team doing?’ [and] like ‘Hey, what’s going on, what’s going down this weekend?'” he said in the ESPN interview.

Saffold started Rise Nation when the team was still in St. Louis. The move to Los Angeles was positive for his – and Stan Kroenke’s – esports business. LA is the home of major game developers Riot and Blizzard and the site of tournaments year round. His fellow Ram teammates – and now the Chargers as well – have all the opportunity in the world to be involved in esports, with Saffold as a model, that floodgate could open soon.

David Johnson – RB Arizona Cardinals

In addition to being a star running back and top fantasy pick, Johnson is also a huge fan of Call of Duty.

(I promise there are more esports than just COD, it just happens to be the favorite of many NFL players, along with Fortnite.)

There is no doubt that the man was gaming while he recovered from his injury last year. Especially now that he received a custom, portable Xbox system from fellow gamer and ex-NFL player Hank Baskett.

Baskett was at one point named a co-owner of Denial Esports but that company folded because of a history of not paying it’s employees. That’s all happened prior to Baskett’s involvement, he was just caught up in the cross-fire.

Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas – LB/S Seattle Seahawks

Wagner and Thomas both attended PAX in 2015, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world. While there they played a couple of games of Madden (Thomas won both by a small margin, 10-7, 7-0) and talked Destiny and Madden ratings with GeekWire reporter Taylor Soper.

“I think I’m a 99,” said Thomas who was rated 95 in that year’s game.

He also wanted to be clear on his geekiness, “I don’t think I’m a geek, I think I’m Earl Thomas.”

Wagner said he had a unique motivation – staying on top of the familial food chain. “I like to play with my nephews a bunch and I need to make sure I stay up with these games so they never beat me,” he told Soper.

Between Wagner, Sherman and Thomas, there were definitely some heated games of Madden in the Seahawks locker room. With 14 Pro Bowl appearances between the three defensive stars, I imagine the games were pretty low scoring.

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

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Five Players in the NFC North Who Play Esports

Clay Matthews – LB Green Bay Packers

The former USC star interned for a day at Sledgehammer Games, one of the rotating developers of Call of Duty. While there, he donned the exoskeleton from Advanced Warfare a COD game from 2014.

Like any intern, he had to take his licks. The exoskeleton helps power him

Clay Matthews – LB Green Bay Packers

The former USC star interned for a day at Sledgehammer Games, one of the rotating developers of Call of Duty. While there, he donned the exoskeleton from Advanced Warfare a COD game from 2014.

Like any intern, he had to take his licks. The exoskeleton helps power him to do everything from package deliveries to coffee runs. He did caution the group before the job began.

“I want you all to treat me like any other intern, but, once these four hours are up, I’ll return to being Clay, and I’ll remember everybody’s faces so…”

If I was a developer at Sledgehammer, I wouldn’t be messing with the six-time pro bowl LB wearing an exoskeleton, but that’s just me.

Blake Martinez – LB Green Bay Packers

Martinez hasn’t been around to accumulate as many pro bowls as counterpart Matthews but in 2017 he finished tied for third in the NFL in solo tackles. That ferocity extends to the virtual arena where Martinez is a successful DOTA 2 player.

Typically NFL players prefer shooters like Call of Duty and Fortnite, or sports simulation games like Madden, NBA 2K and FIFA. Martinez opted for a different genre, one that makes up some of the most popular esports worldwide: MOBAs.

Multi-player Online Battle Arenas are generally PC-exclusive and the two most popular examples are League of Legends and DOTA 2. He’s no slouch, boasting a rating that puts him in the top 30% of players worldwide.

Martinez has become an outspoken proponent of esports in the Packers locker room; he has even stated his desire to get the Packers ownership group invested in an esports franchise. It’s a move that has been made by multiple NBA teams but no NFL team has put its weight behind an esports franchise – yet.

In an interview with Moonduck Studio’s Elimination Mode III (EM3), Martinez likens DOTA support players to NFL captains, talks about succeeding through teamwork and even – after a bit of deliberation – puts out his old, slightly inappropriate username. I’m not going to write it, but trust me; it’s worth the watch. (Username at 20 min)

Kyle Long – G Chicago Bears

The three-time pro bowl lineman and ex-Oregon star (Sco Ducks) is, like Martinez, an ambassador for esports in his locker room. He once jokingly said that a PED test was unnecessary because he got his arm muscles from “years of holding an Xbox controller.”

Long has been a gamer for years and has attended many esports events, he was a featured guest at MLG’s Columbus Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) Major in 2016.

He’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to games; there are people who have played with him in every game from Call of Duty to Rocket League.

As far as football families go, the Longs are royalty. Brother Chris is a star Defensive End for the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. With their competitive nature there were probably some heated video game moments growing up, the only question is if HOF father Howie joined in.

Tarik Cohen – RB Chicago Bears

The Bears elusive back streams games on Twitch under the username “Tarikcohen” and seems to prefer shooting games like Call of Duty and Fortnite. He doesn’t take any crap from Twitch comments either.

“[A Twitch comment] said ‘this the only place where Tarik can get some dubs.’ Boy you stupid, we beat the Steelers, we beat the Ravens, both of them playoff teams. Now what you want to talk about??”

Besides Twitch, where else can a fan talk directly to an NFL player? And get called stupid in return?

Golden Tate / Ameer Abdullah – WR / RB Detroit Lions

Tate and Abdullah are two key pieces on the Lions offense. Fans of video games may remember when the two broke out a gaming celebration after scoring a touchdown against the Packers on Monday Night Football.

The two were pretending to control two teammates who were boxing when Abdullah tried to push Tate while playing. It’s happened to anybody who has played a lot of games with friends, sometimes the competition is so intense, you gotta take drastic measures to get the win.

There is no indication who’s idea the celebration was, but Tate is a known esports aficionado, in college he used his Pell Grant check on Call of Duty.

He says COD is how he stays connected with former teammates like Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch. He’s even considering in investing in a franchise and said when Reggie Bush was in Detroit, it was something they had talked about.

Personally, I dream of the day NFL players run the majority of the Call of Duty Pro League. With LA Rams Guard Rodger Saffold’s Rise Nation being one of the top teams in 2018, it might be more realistic than it seems.

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

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