It has been almost an epidemic covering local sports the past few weeks:
Our pro athletes saying some version of this teammate or that teammate is or could be the best in the league at his position.
Or, in the case of Dolphins linebacker Lawrence Timmons, he asserted last month that Ndamukong Suh is the “best d-tackle ever,” which I’m guessing would draw scoffs from admirers of the 15 defensive tackles in the Pro Football Hall of Fame - a group including Cortez Kennedy, Merlin Olsen and Joe Greene.
Among the best-at-their-position references and a reality check on each:
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• Tyler Johnson, on Hassan Whiteside: “Hassan has been putting in work [this summer]. If he picks up where he left off, he has the potential to be an All-Star. When he plays the way he's capable of playing, he's the best center in the league hands down.
“There is nobody who can do what he does on both ends of the floor. His stats went down in the later part of the season but he was more important to our team in that stretch than he was in the first 11-30.”
Truth meter: This isn’t an outlandish argument, though Whiteside wouldn’t rank No. 1 at this point. The All-NBA centers last season were Anthony Davis (first team), Rudy Gobert (second) and DeAndre Jordan (third).
But Davis is more of a power forward, with DeMarcus Cousins now playing center for New Orleans. Whiteside’s numbers last season (17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) were better than Gobert’s (14.0, 12.8, 2.6) and Jordan’s (12.7, 13.8, 1.7).
And though Cousins put up monster numbers, as usual (27.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks), his career has been sullied by lots of losing and immature behavior at times.
Karl Anthony Towns (25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists) deserve to be in the best-center discussion as well, and Towns could end up the best of the bunch.
So is Whiteside the best center in the league? No. Is he at times, when he’s playing at his best? A case could be made.
And could he be consistently? The potential is there, but it will be difficult to overtake Cousins and Towns on sheer numbers alone.
• Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard said of DeVante Parker: "I feel like he can be the best receiver in this league, and I want to go against the best every day."
Truth meter: If Parker fulfills his vast potential, he could enter the discussion of top 10 receivers in the league.
But best? Forget that, not with Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown, among others, still in their prime.
Let’s allow Parker to have his first 60 catch or 800 yard receiving season before we start talking about him being the best. That said, Dolphins people expect a breakout season.
• Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain said that in Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, the Dolphins have “got a ‘Big 3’ that’s like no other in the league. They’re probably the best ‘Big 3’ in the league.”
Truth meter: A strong case could be made that the Dolphins’ top three receivers rank among the league’s top five, if not top two. New England might have been No. 1 (Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola) before Edelman’s season-ending knee injury.
The view here is that Green Bay (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Devante Adams) belong at the top of that list, though Hall of Fame quarterbacks are throwing to them, which obviously makes a difference.
SportsOnEarth ranked all NFL receiving groups (not just the top three) in June and rated Miami fifth, behind the Patriots, Packers, Tampa Bay (Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and impressive Penn State rookie Chris Godwin are their top three) and Pittsburgh (Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers, Martavis Bryant).
• Dolphins defensive end William Hayes asserted that if Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James “keep working, they can be the two best [offensive] tackles in football, and I really do mean that. They’re very, very talented.”
Truth meter: That’s certainly possible with Tunsil in time; as I reported in the spring, a high-ranking Dolphins executive has told NFL people that he believes Miami has a future Hall of Fame left tackle in Tunsil.
But with James, the Dolphins would be happy if he’s merely a consistently good right tackle. They’ve been frustrated with his inconsistency in the past.
Let’s be real: At the moment, the closest we have to the best individuals at their positions are Suh (defensive tackles) and the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, and Landry if the subject is slot receivers only. But the list stops there. But that’s OK. Let’s just cool it on the best-of talk.