From the Hardwood to the Hard-Hitting, Part 1
By Paul Benedict & Anthony Peretore
What if Ron Artest was allowed to display his ferocious tenacity and utter insanity…in the NFL?
About a year ago Anthony and I devoted one of our hour-long sports-talk radio shows to what I think is one of the more underrated sports arguments of this day– which NBA players would succeed in the NFL? It’s really an intruiging discussion and largely because NBA players are so athletic and agile, and come in so many shapes and sizes, that it’s actually not too difficult to find roles and positions on a football field that would suit them. And with the NFL draft less than 10 days away, now seems like a more appropriate time then ever to scout the NBA for players that would excel were we to fill an NFL roster with NBA players. We don’t expect everyone to agree on all of our selections, so as always, feel free to provide some of your own selections in the comments section below.
Some Things to Consider:
We listed each player with their current measurements according to NBA.com, but it’s worth noting that obviously some of these players would size out differently were they drafted to play in the NFL. For instance, a guy like Eddy Curry is listed at 6’11, 285 lbs. while playing for the Chicago Bulls. But say he was suiting up to play nose tackle for the Chicago Bears, and well, we could be looking at a 6’11”, 385 lb. Eddy Curry. With this in mind, we tried to consider players’ actual frame and build as well as their size. So someone like Jermaine O’Neal (6’11”, 242 lbs.) wouldn’t exactly make the cut because it’s difficult to see someone with JO’s build being able to put on the necessary amount of weight that would be required of him to play in the NFL.
Wide Receiver, Tight End, and Cornerback were the easiest positions to fill because from a size standpoint, the similarities between these positions and many players in the NBA are abundant. We could have named about 25 guys that would have made perfect sense as WRs, so we tried to be as careful and precise as possible when making our selections.
Conversely, quarterback was probably the toughest position to fill because you need someone who’s athletic and agile, displays various quarterbacking skills (i.e. playmaker, intelligent decision-maker, strong leadership abilities, precise accuracy), and also is able to throw over a line that probably has a mean height of 6’9″. Since there’s really no player that’s under 6’7″ and has a bulky build, all of the lineman we chose (both on offense and defense) were big guys in the NBA, and while it certainly wouldn’t hurt having 7-footers on the defensive line (imagine Tom Brady tossing over our defensive line), we tried to find O-linemen who were stouter and a QB that was able to see over them, or at least not have his vision totally blocked by them.
Because I know somebody is going to ask, we didn’t forget about Charlie Ward, we simply left him off. He’s too short to play QB and too old and worn-down to fit in anywhere else.
Defensive End: Elton Brand- 6’8″, NBA- 272 lbs., NFL- 290 lbs.
NFL Comparison- John Abraham
-Brand is athletic, strong, and has some size to throw around. He’d probably have to get up to 290 lbs. to give himself a steadier center of gravity, but he would still be quick enough to rush by guards on occasion. Brand also has tremendous footwork which he would undoubtedly use to his advantage as he so cleverly would work his way past the line and deliver a punishing blow to opponents’ quarterbacks.
Defensive End: Ben Wallace- 6’9″, NBA- 240 lbs., NFL- 265 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Jevon Kearse
-With Brand being the more finesse pass-rusher on the opposite end, we found it fitting to plug Big Ben into this slot where he could play a similar maniacal role on defense as he does in the NBA. With underrated strength and astounding instincts, Wallace would frustrate opposing offenses constantly with his ability to jump up and deflect passes and willingness to lay heave himself into packs to keep a fullback from gaining an important yard.
Defensive Tackle: Shaquille O’Neal- 7’1″, NBA- 325 lbs., NFL- 335 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Nobody
We considered throwing Shaq on offense, but realized he would just be too tall for the O-Line and too slow (at this point in his career) to be able to be much of a force as a tight end. But the big fella has to go somewhere, and I think he would be a defensive demon on the D-Line.
Opposing tackles would likely find it impossible to fend off Shaq as he charged through the line to take down a running back for a 2-yard loss with his unstoppable strength. What about trying to throw over the middle as Shaq’s enormous hands swat down every ball within reach of his ridiculous wingspan? And let’s not forget about the unmistakable look of fear in quarterbacks’ eyes when they see the Big Aristotle coming full steam ready to lay them out as though he were hucking down one of his bonafied power james.
Defensive Tackle: Zach Randolph- 6’9″, NBA- 253 lbs., NFL- 275 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Darrell Russell
I wasn’t initially down with this selection, instead trying to decide between Carlos Boozer and Kendrick Perkins, until Ant reminded me of Randolph’s high school coach once being quoted as saying, “I just don’t want the day to come where I pick up that paper and it says (Zach} shot someone, or that he was shot. Every day that goes by that I don’t see that, I feel good.” Now Boozer is just too nice of a guy and though Perkins does have a mean streak (the next Danny Fortson), neither of these guys holds anything on Randolph. Besides being insane, Zach also is as good at utilizing his size and strength as anyone in the league and this would be integral in filling in gaps on the line and pushing through linemen to make tackles.
Outside Linebacker: Eduardo Najera- 6’8″, NBA- 235 lbs., NFL- 245 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Dat Nguyen
With his no-hold-bar approach and tough-as-nails attitude, Najera would be a perfect run-stopper on his half of the field as an outside linebacker. All of the loose balls he mericlessly dives for and all of the hard fouls he commits on routine plays would certainly translate well in the NFL where coaches pine for a player with his toughness.
Every team needs a hard-nosed, blood-and-guts player like Eduardo Najera on their defense.
Outside Linebacker: Kenyon Martin- 6’9″, NBA- 234 lbs., NFL- 252 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Shawn Barber
Martin would bring more athleticism to the linebacker position and be relied on to pick up pass coverage more than Najera, who would assume a run-stopping role. Because of his frame, K-Mart would likely need to get up to at least 250 lbs., and there’s no doubting that an extra 20 pounds would only add to the punishing hits he would lay on running backs going out for screen passes. And let’s not forget about the patented scowl, which would fit right in with the NFL.
Kenyon Martin, already known for laying some of the nastiest fouls in the NBA, would surely lay some pain-inducing hits…
Middle Linebacker: Ron Artest- 6’7″, NBA- 246 lbs., NFL- 250 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Ray Lewis
Was there ever any doubt? Artest already is the NBA-equivalent to Ray Lewis, so just imagine what he could do in the NFL with pads on, where bone-crunching hits are not only legal, but strongly encouraged.
Artest’s nasty demeanor and never-say-die attitude would prove to be indispensable in the NFL and there’s no doubting that he would feel much more at home as part of a league that would utilize his insanity to its advantage.
Strong Safety: Andre Iguodala- 6’6″, NBA- 207 lbs., NFL- 232 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Sean Taylor
First of all, I weigh a tad over 200 lbs., so I find it hard to believe that “Iggy Hop” only has about 5 lbs. on me. I’d say he weighs somewhere close to the 220 lb. range, nevertheless he’d need to get up to at least 230 to be able to be as effective defensively in the NFL as he is in the NBA. We also have to consider that Iguodala is only a rookie at this point, and while he is already a defensive phenom, he’s still developing into his solid frame and will continue to learn how to use his physical attributes to his advantage.
Free Safety: Tony Allen- 6’4″, NBA- 213 lbs., NFL- 220 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Ken Hamlin
Mickael Pietrus was my initial selection here before realizing that he was just too similar to Iguodala for the combination to work as a unit in the secondary. Now Allen is listed at 6’4″, but he’s much closer to 6’2″ and can make up for any lack of quickness from Iguodala as well as bring even more athleticism and toughness to the secondary. I understand that our safeties our young, but they won’t be asked to do too much because of the dominant cornerbacks on the roster.
Cornerback: Allen Iverson- 6’0″, NBA- 165 lbs., NFL- 177 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Ty Law
Iverson was a stud quarterback in high school, but his height and size limit him as an option for us there. Who cares? Iverson would be the best cornerback in the league if you consider his quickness, pound-for-pound strength, agility, and mental toughness. His lack of size might hurt him against the likes of the TO’s and Randy Moss’ of the world, but when you’re surrounded by a secondary all at least 2-3 inches and 30 lbs. heavier than you, there’s very little to worry about.
Allen Iverson would find it as easy to break up passes in the NFL as in the NBA.
Cornerback: Larry Hughes- 6’5″, NBA- 184 lbs., NFL- 207 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Lito Sheppard
Another guy whose weight is micalculated; regardless, Hughes seems to be a fitting choice as our #2 cornerback. As the NBA leader in steals this season (by a hefty margin), Hughes has displayed an unteachable affinity for reading defenses and making quick decisions as he swipes close to 3 balls a game. Coupled with Iverson, Hughes would be expected to take on the taller WRs and occasionally break a game open with his ability to create turnovers and make big plays.
Nickelback: Bruce Bowen- 6’7″, NBA- 200 lbs., NFL- 212 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Aaron Glenn
He might be aging just a bit (33 years old), but Bowen still devotes himself to frustrating opponents with his smothering defense and we would expect the same of him as a shut-down nickelback. His defensive IQ is immeasurable and though he might not go for the flashy interception or the back-breaking hit, you know that Bowen would completely phase out any receiver.
Punter: Manu Ginobili- 6’6″, NBA- 205 lbs., NFL- 212 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Shane Lechler
Ginobili’s background playing soccer as an adolescent in Argentina led to our choosing him as the punter. He also brings some craftiness to the position which could be utilized for trick plays and such.
Manu Ginobili would utilize his Argentinian futbol skills to make his mark as a punter.
Punt Returner: Earl Boykins- 5’5″, NBA- 133 lbs., NFL- 140 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Dante Hall
Because of his awesome speed, incredible strength for his size, and of course his tiny stature, Boykins would wreak havoc on opposing special teams units. Teams in the NBA have a difficult enough time keeping track of him with the ball in a game where he’s required to dribble, pass, and shoot, so you can only imagine what it would be like chasing him when all he would have to do is carry the ball and scamper away from defenders.
Earl Boykins would be a threat to run one back every time he touched the ball, much like his NFL counterpart Dante Hall.
Long Snapper: Brian Cardinal- 6’8″, NBA- 245 lbs., NFL- 260 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Trey Junkin
“The Janitor” just looks like he could be a long snapper. I’m not really sure what else to say.
Special Teams “Specialist”: Ruben Patterson- 6’5″, NBA- 223 lbs.
NFL Comparison- Ike Reese
Ideal for this role because of his underrated speed and strength, and his utter recklessness. Couldn’t you just see this nut charging into a punt returner head-first like a steam train and clocking him back to yesteryear as he calls “fair catch”?
Ruben Patterson is fearless and partially nuts– what else more can you ask for on special teams?
Defensive Coordinator: Larry Brown
NFL Comparison- Bill Belichak
I thought about several guys including an X and O-type like Rick Carlisle, a motivator like Greg Popovich, and someone who could physically pass for a Defensive Coordinator like Paul Silas, but ultimately there was no way I could pass up Larry Brown. Brown’s basketball genius would undeniably translate into football as he concoted outlandish defensive schemes and developed a rapport with players that enabled him to get the most out of his personnel.
Offense coming Monday…