Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday Feature: If They Played in the NFL

From some of the feedback I've gotten, this seems like a feature people are having some fun with. The suggestion I've gotten most often is:

Lebron James
Small Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
6'8" 250 lbs.

Position: Tight End

Lebron James has been a hot topic in football conversations for a few years. A world-class athlete with a good basketball IQ, generally good team player, great hands, and superior toughness, James is built to be an outstanding football player. The hard part is picking a position for him.

Following the mold of guys like Antonio Gates, James would likely be the next big basketball-player-turned-tight-end superstar. His height seems to lend itself best to the wide receiver position, but Lebron simply doesn't have the straight ahead speed or lateral quickness to match up with NFL cornerbacks. However, his height/weight combination would allow him to be a very effective tight end.

Imagine, if you will, a 6'2" linebacker having to cover Lebron James in space. Height advantage notwithstanding, there's no way any linebacker has the ups to beat LBJ to a jump ball. Safeties? Forget about tackling that 250 pound guy with the ball. And while James doesn't have the speed to be a real effective wide receiver, he has more than enough for the tight end position. Lebron James would be a great target over the middle and number one in the red zone. Everyone loves a tall receiver in the back of the end zone. The 6'8" James, who can jump better than even many in the NBA, would win almost every match up.

Of course, scoring touchdowns isn't all there is to being a tight end in the NFL. The real question about Lebron James as a tight end is simple: can he block? James has long arms and big hands, so he should be able to really get into the pads of defensive ends and linebackers in run blocking. Being an interior basketball player, he also has quick feet and can slide well, which would be especially helpful when he's asked to pass-block, then slip out for screen passes. Just looking at the guy, you have to think he has the strength to at least hold his own against good defenders. While I believe Lebron James would be a better pass-catcher than blocker, I think he would actually be a good, well-rounded tight end more in the form of Jeremy Shockey at his best, or a better-blocking Owen Daniels of the Texans.

Who would he play for, though? Given his freakish athleticism, I'm tempted to drop him on the Raiders (that's gonna come up a lot), but they already have a pass-catching tight end. Considering the balance of his ability, and his red zone capabilities, I think the Ravens would be a good fit. Imagine a two TE set with Todd Heap and Lebron James! The Browns are an obvious choice, as they're in Cleveland and have no TEs, but for Ohio teams, I'd have to side with the Bengals. Cincinnati doesn't have a standout at the position, so they could use his help. He would help Cedric Benson in the run game, and would be an ideal target for a smart, big-armed quarterback like Carson Palmer.

Any other thoughts on Lebron? Any more suggestions for players? Someone mentioned some MMA guys, and I could use some more names from that sport to look through. Keep the feedback coming, and remember to click the ads every once in a while!


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