Friday, October 30, 2009

Feature: If They Played in the NFL

Again, I'm a little late on this one. Busy week off. Anyway, here's a guy who many might not be familiar with, as his sport isn't real popular in this neck of the woods, but he's a huge superstar in the rest of the world. I found it pretty interesting to try and fit him on an NFL field.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Forward, Real Madrid
6'1" 186 lbs

Position: Cornerback

This Portuguese mega-star is known as one of the best soccer players in the world, and his ball skills are a sight to behold. He's not the wizard that Ronaldinho is, but is much younger and has a ton of upside.

I chose Corner as his position for a variety of reasons. First, straight line speed is a valuable commodity for an NFL corner back, and Ronaldo's 4.34 40-yard-dash time is insane for a player his size. Corner backs over 6 feet tall are fairly rare, so that size/speed combination would cause any NFL scout to soil his pants instantly. He is tall enough at that position to match up against bigger receivers for jump balls, making him effective against the Randy Mosses, Andre Johnsons, and Larry Fitzgerald's of the world.

However, possibly the most prized attributes of corner backs are foot speed and hip fluidity. If you've ever watched Ronaldo play, it's quickly apparent that he excels at both. He has extremely quick feet and can change directions with frightening ability. As for flipping his hips to switch from a back pedal to a full run, again refer to that video. The man is freakishly gifted in his legs, which would be a huge boon covering fast receivers.

Ronaldo's straight-ahead speed would let him run step for step with burners like DeSean Jackson, Randy Moss, or Santana Moss. However, his foot speed and ability to move in traffic would also allow him to play slot receivers with equal effectiveness. Good luck with a 6'1" corner who's faster than you, Wes Welker. Ronaldo's sheer athletic freakishness would make him a brilliant cover corner.

The one are where he may be weak, oddly enough, is ball skills. Being a soccer player, he's used to never using his hands for anything. As a corner back, he would have to make great use of his hands to make plays on the ball all the time. Especially considering that he would be in very tight coverage and perfect position all the time, this would be hugely important. I imagine he would have far more passes-defensed than he would interceptions, so he would be a dominant cover corner, but not rack up the Hall of Fame stat of crazy interceptions. Taking away that little bit, he would probably be almost identical in his play to the great Deion Sanders. Their height, weight, and speed are basically the same, and anyone who watched football in the 90's remembers just how crazy fast Deion was, and how he was always right with a receiver and in position to make a play on the ball.

So where would Ronaldo play (other than Oakland)? I would say New England, not only because Bill Belichick loves great athletes with sports-smarts, but also because of the rest of the division. He would be going against Randy Moss in practice, then playing against big fast guys like TO and Braylon Edwards twice a year. He could also cover the smaller, faster guys in the division like Lee Evans, Ted Ginn, David Clowney, and Davone Bess. Also, the Patriots' corners aren't any good, and Ronaldo would completely change the complexion of that defensive backfield.

Whaddya think? Could a brilliant futbol player translate to a good football player?


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