Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How Would NFL Teams Borrow Players From Other Sports?

Before he was given the Napoleon-to-Elba treatment by ESPN, Bill Simmons touched on an interesting idea in his last few weeks with the Worldwide Leader. On a "B.S. Report" podcast at the end of April, guest Bill Barnwell asked Simmons, "Do you think the Patriots should approach Mookie Betts about playing wide receiver at some point this season?"

"Ooohh, is that possible?" Simmons responded. "I would also sign Jae Crowder because I think that guy could absolutely be a fourth tight end for us. And Isaiah Thomas could return kicks ... It would be cool if you were allowed to use three players from other teams in your city. I think the Patriots would be in good shape."

As we approach the NFL season, I decided we should follow through on Simmons' idea. Let's swing around the league and give each football team the option to steal three players from other sports teams in that city. It's a fun idea because diehard fans of one organization are usually big supporters of the other teams in the same city. Big cities obviously have a bit of an advantage here, but I don't mind because I'm from New York. Besides, as you'll see, there are plenty of options even in most smaller cities despite the fact that there are fewer players to choose from.

Before we get started, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

This exercise is meant to be more fun than serious.
Let's understand that, with very few exceptions, this probably wouldn't work. Most professional athletes -- hell, many high school athletes -- now specialize in one sport so only the rarest of freaks could pull off the Bo Jackson special. It's fun to think about, though.

These trades would affect one season only.

We're simply examining which individuals would help the NFL teams in their cities for the upcoming season. Don't worry about the future, because the future is scary anyways.

Don't get hung up on my "reasearch" methodology.

The extent of my research and fact-checking varied wildly from city to city. For some, I thought long and hard about which players could help a team get to the Super Bowl; for others, I just ran with the funniest hypothetical scenario that popped into my head. I also used Wikipedia* a lot; sorry I'm not sorry.

*As I noted in my comparison of MLB mascots to Simpsons characters, I do realize that academics would cringe at my lazy use of Wikipedia. Then again, since I actually spent thousands of words comparing MLB mascots to Simpsons characters, I'm clearly not too concerned with things like research methodology.

I might miss someone.
This is related to the previous point. Please let me know about any athlete who I might have missed, but try not to rake me over the coals if I omit a player who might perform well in the NFL. In other words, forgive me if I don't realize that some 25th man on a baseball roster played Division I football somewhere.

Okay, now let's take the NFL teams in alphabetical order...

Arizona Cardinals
Players to be shared: Paul Goldschmidt (from Diamondbacks), P.J. Tucker (from Suns), Eric Bledsoe (from Suns) 
How it would work:
Goldschmidt, who's fast and savvy enough to have stolen 21 bases already this season, is built like a solid outside linebacker. At 6-6, 240, Tucker has the body to play 'backer opposite Goldy. Off the field, Tucker's "super exteme" DUIs would fit right in with recent NFL culture. Bledsoe, one of the fastest players in the NBA, would make for a nice experiment in the Cardinals offensive or defensive backfield.

Atlanta Falcons
Players to be shared: Cameron Maybin (from Braves), Al Horford (from Hawks), Paul Millsap (from Hawks)
How it would work:
Nick Swisher, who was recently acquired by the Braves, was recruited as a safety before choosing baseball. But Swish is a bit old now, so we're giving the Falcons the much younger, more athletic Cameron Maybin; they'll find a position for him. Meanwhile, the crosstown Hawks don't exactly have a plethora of tremendous athletes to offer the Falcons. Since the Birds lacked much of a pass rush last year, we'll give them Al Horford and Paul Millsap, who could bulk up and hope their low-post footwork translated well to the defensive line. (I almost made a snarky comment about Hawks swingman Mike Scott's drug charges looking normal on the NFL's weekly blotter, but I already used a version of that joke in the Cardinals section. Instead, I'll just link to the story here.)

Baltimore Ravens
Players to be shared: Adam Jones (from Orioles), Chris Davis (from Orioles), Orange-and-black uniforms (from Orioles)
How it would work:
B-more's lack of an NBA team hurts in this exercise, but we'll make do. Jones is one of the best all-around athletes in baseball, so he'd be an asset on the gridiron. Davis grew up in a Texas town with a pervasive football culture and he played quarterback in high school; also, his "Crush" nickname would play well in the NFL. Finally, I'm replacing the Ravens' purple-and-gold duds with the Orioles' orange-and-black color scheme. I'm color-blind so I might not be an authority on this topic, but I think the O's look much sharper than their football counterparts. The Ravens should keep their Poe-inspired mascot, though.

Buffalo Bills
Players to be shared: John Scott (from Sabres), NASCAR number tradition (from Sabres), Kendell McFayden (from FC Buffalo)
How it would work:
Slim pickin's for Buffalo. The one player the Bills receive is 6-foot-8 "nuclear weapon"/enforcer John Scott, whose only purpose on the football team would be to protect coach Rex Ryan after one of Ryan's ill-advised rants. The Sabres also offer the Bills a cool tradition that I found on a fan message board. Commenter Moulson26 says that players are given "NASCAR numbers" when they join the Sabres before having the opportunity to earn the number of their choosing. It would be cool to see the Bills take it one step further and pass out numbers like "97A" to rookies who had yet to prove themselves. Lastly, since the Bills finished third-to-last in team punt distance last year, they'll take a flyer on McFayden, the local soccer team's best player. Like I said, slim pickin's up north.

Carolina Panthers
Players to be shared: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (from Hornets), Al Jefferson (from Hornets), Jeremy Lin (from Hornets)
How it would work:
Freak athlete MKG could provide Cam Newton with a nice receiving option, but his defensive instincts would probably make him better-suited to that side of the field. Jefferson, meanwhile, plays at nearly 300 pounds and wouldn't have to bulk up much to help out on Carolina's offensive line. Lin is just a throw-in here so the Panthers can sell millions of jerseys in Asia.

Chicago Bears
Players to be shared: Jeff Samardzija (from White Sox), Kyle Schwarber (from Cubs), Taj Gibson (from Bulls)

Via indystar.com
How it would work:
The Shark was a star wideout at Notre Dame and he'd definitely be able to at least step in as a third receiver, especially for the offensively-challenged Bears. Cubs rookie Schwarber is just a few years removed from his time as an all-state linebacker at his Ohio high school. The Bears could stick the long, athletic Gibson on the D-line.

Cincinnati Bengals
Players to be shared: Billy Hamilton (from Reds), Aroldis Chapman (from Reds), Jumbo Diaz (from Reds)
How it would work:
Whereas the big-city Bears have so many players and teams to choose from, the Bengals are confined to picking guys on the Reds roster. Hamilton has track-star speed so he'd be utilized as a DeSean Jackson-type big-play threat. The only problem is that, judging from his pathetic numbers at the plate, he probably won't like the hitting involved in football. We'll put Chapman at third-string quarterback just to see how well his absurd velocity translates to the gridiron. (Not very well, I bet, but it'd be interesting to find out.) I don't know if pitcher Jumbo Diaz ever played even high school football, but with that name, it's a mortal sin if he didn't.

Cleveland Browns
Players to be shared: LeBron James (from Cavaliers), J.R. Smith (from Cavaliers), Kyrie Irving (from Cavaliers)
How it would work:
LeBron-to-the-NFL is a common thought experiment that still makes me feel giddy every time I consider it. LeBron's teammate Smith, meanwhile, tweeted during the NBA lockout that he would go to the University of Miami to play football. He said he'd like to play receiver, but he's got a pretty impressive arm, too.

It would be wonderful to watch J.R. make Roger Goodell's head explode on a weekly basis.

The Browns could also poach someone like Michael Brantley from the Indians, but I think the hyper-athletic Irving could become a fantastic cornerback.

Dallas Cowboys
Players to be shared: Prince Fielder (from Rangers), Justin Anderson (from Mavericks), Tyler Seguin (from Stars)
How it would work:
Prince has lost a step since Tim Kurkjian wrote about Fielder's strength and athleticism in 2011, but I still think the big guy could make a good backup guard on the Cowboys' widely-praised offensive line. The Mavericks are short on outstanding athletes, but the recently-drafted Anderson has the size and youth to be a possible asset for the 'Boys. Finally, noted party animal Seguin would be around to boost locker room morale at Jerry World.

Denver Broncos
Players to be shared: Nolan Arenado (from Rockies), Kenneth Faried (from Nuggets), Jusuf Nurkic (from Nuggets)
How it would work:
Arenado went from defensive liability to Gold Glove third baseman in one minor-league season, so I'm sure the Broncos could turn him into a defensive back with some proper coaching. He's definitely got the mindset of a great defensive player. Faried, the Manimal, might make a beast of a defensive end. And while I'm sure Nurkic has never set foot on a football field, he's got the combative attitude necessary for the game. Nobody would want to match up with the Bosnian on either side of the line of scrimmage.

Detroit Lions
Players to be shared: Andre Drummond (from Pistons), Stanley Johnson (from Pistons), Anthony Gose (from Tigers)
How it would work:
Despite the Motor City's representation in all four major sports leagues, I don't see much help for the Lions here. I suppose Drummond could play defensive line, Johnson could suit up at linebacker, and the speedy Gose might be useful as a returner or slot receiver.

Green Bay Packers
Players to be shared: Jabari Parker (from Bucks), Khris Middleton (from Bucks), Ryan Braun (from Brewers), 
How it would work:
The Bucks boast a bunch of rangy, athletic young dudes, and Parker and Middleton would bring a ton of potential north to Green Bay. Braun's inclusion is more for his benefit than the team's. He would fit well in the NFL because PED use is tacitly allowed, so he wouldn't have to worry about being caught again.

Houston Texans
Players to be shared: Dwight Howard (from Rockets), Patrick Beverley (from Rockets) Carlos Correa (from Astros)
How it would work:
Even as he ages, Howard's athleticism is still astounding and I think he'd acquit himself well on a defensive line. The pesky, defensive-minded Beverley has the skill-set of a shutdown cornerback. Finally, even though I'd love to pick a few other Astros, I couldn't resist transferring Gattis's bear-like strength to the Texans.
Via gifsmile.com
Indianapolis Colts
Players to be shared: Paul George (from Pacers), Joseph Young (from Pacers), Monta Ellis (from Pacers)
How it would work:
If George is recovered from his gruesome leg injury, he'd make a nice possession receiver for Andrew Luck. George's newly-discovered cousin Young and NBA veteran Ellis can likewise try to chip in as receivers.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Players to be shared: Victor Oladipo (from Magic), Aaron Gordon (from Magic), Tobias Harris (from Magic)
How it would work:
There are no other pro teams in Jacksonville, so we'll pair the Jags with the Magic. It's a little unnatural, like Colin Farrell dating Britney Spears, but it'll work. Luckily for Jacksonville, Oladipo, Gordon, and Harris all provide much-needed athleticism to a team that went 3-13 last season.

Kansas City Chiefs
Players to be shared: Alex Gordon (from Royals), Lorenzo Cain (from Royals), Terrance Gore (from Royals)
How it would work:
Despite the small market, the Chiefs clean up in this inter-sport draft. Gordon was a first-team all-state defensive back at his Nebraska high school, and he just seems like one of those athletes who would've excelled no matter which sport he chose. Cain and Gore, meanwhile, bring plenty of speed to Arrowhead Stadium.

Miami Dolphins
Players to be shared: Pat Riley (from Heat), Giancarlo Stanton (from Marlins), Dee Gordon (from Marlins)
How it would work:
Once upon a time, Riley was a star wide receiver at Kentucky and was drafted by the Cowboys. He built multiple champions with the Heat, and he could try his hand at running the Dolphins, who haven't been to the Super Bowl in three decades. Riles would command respect simply by flashing those ringzzz. The 6-foot-6 Stanton would make a hard-hitting safety, making helmets fly off at extreme exit velocities. We already know he's tough enough to play a smashmouth style. Gordon could be a jitterbug returner and change-of-pace back in the mold of Darren Sproles.

Minnesota Vikings
Players to be shared: Nikola Pekovic (from Timberwolves), Arinze Onuaku (from Timberwolves), Joe Mauer (from Twins)
How it would work:
Pekovic and Onuaku could transform into a pair of monster offensive linemen. Mauer, meanwhile, chose the Twins over the chance to play quarterback at Florida State. Could the homegrown Mauer make it a competition with Teddy Bridgewater if he headed to Vikings camp tomorrow? Probably not, but at least Pek and Onuaku could help keep him propped up behind a line that thoroughly disappointed last season.

New England Patriots
Players to be shared: Mookie Betts (from Red Sox), Isaiah Thomas Jared Sullinger (from Celtics), Marcus Smart
How it would work:
During the digression that inspired this post, Simmons named Betts, Jae Crowder, and Isaiah Thomas as his targets if he were running the Pats. While tongue-in-cheek, his comments were pretty spot-on, especially in the case of Betts. The Sox rookie switched seamlessly from the infield to the outfield, and he'd have a good chance to apply his athleticism on the football field. Similarly, Thomas would need very little coaching to help the Pats in special teams. I chose Smart over Crowder because I think he might be more valuable on defense for New England than Crowder would be on offense.

New Orleans Saints
Players to be shared: Anthony Davis (from Pelicans), Jrue Holiday (from Pelicans), Tyreke Evans (from Pelicans)
How it would work:
It's a shame the Saints couldn't just siphon players directly from the LSU program. As it stands, they have the Pelicans as their only partner. We'd trust Sean Payton & Co. to find a spot for Davis, a once-in-a-generation athlete. Holiday and Evans are both fast for their size, so maybe they too could make the Superdome their home.

New York Giants
Players to be shared: Jacoby Ellsbury (from Yankees), Sasha Vujacic (from Knicks), Kevin Seraphin (from Knicks)
How it would work:
For the New York teams, I allotted players based on the traditional Giants-Yankees-Rangers-Knicks and Jets-Mets-Islanders-Nets rooting interests. It's not perfect, but it was the fairest way I could come up with in the 43 milliseconds I thought about it. A decade ago, A-Rod would've been an easy choice to step in as the Giants' back-up quarterback. But since he's less athletic than a late-career Morten Andersen now, we'll go with Ellsbury -- who excelled at multiple high school sports -- instead. The pesky Vjacic can help the Giants by chirping from the sidelines and helping the team draw 15-yard penalties on their opponents. Seraphin, at 6-foot-10 and almost 300 pounds, can be groomed to help out on Big Blue's porous offensive line.

New York Jets
Players to be shared: Yoenis Cespedes (from Mets), Michael Conforto (from Mets), Anders Lee (from Islanders)
How it would work:
I'm sure he's never played a game of organized football, but Cespedes is a spindly package of muscles that seems built for the gridiron. Conforto was recruited by Ivy League schools as a football player, so he's clearly smart; maybe he could help draw up trick plays like "The Annexation of Puerto Rico." As a high school quarterback, Lee was named the Minnesota Gatorade Football Player of the Year before choosing to focus on hockey. He's only 25 so maybe he can still switch back to football; I hear the Jets might have an opening under center.

Oakland Raiders
Players to be shared: Willie Cauley-Stein (from Kings), DeMarcus Cousins (from Kings), Billy Burns (from A's)
How it would work:
The Bay Area and its environs posed a bit of a challenge for this exercise. I decided to pair the Raiders with the Kings (dysfunction reigns) and the 49ers with the Warriors (recent success). Cauley-Stein was a standout receiver in high school, but I'd convert him into a pass rusher. With Cousins' size and footwork, he might make for an interesting tight end. If not, the Raiders could ask him to bulk up and play on the O-line. The speedy Burns has the size of a typical cornerback and the wheels to give it a go.

Philadelphia Eagles
Players to be shared: Domonic Brown (from Phillies), Sam Hinkie (from 76ers), Tony Wroten (from 76ers)
How it would work:
Brown was set to suit up at receiver for the University of Miami before signing with the Phils. The 27-year-old is one of the guys in this exercise that could actually work out for the NFL team. Hinkie comes over to the Eagles because it would be interesting to see his unorthodox methods mesh with those of Chip Kelly. Wroten can try his luck at safety for the Iggles.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Players to be shared: Andrew McCutchen (from Pirates), Pedro Alvarez (from Pirates), Gregory Polanco (from Pirates)
How it would work:
Cutch was one of Florida's top football recruits as a high schooler, and his athletic gifts make this one a no-brainer. I think he'd make a phenomenal running back.

Via sbnation.com
Like Cespedes, Alvarez and Polanco hail from countries with little interest in football. But we can still dream about what these super-strong dudes would do between the hash marks. Because isn't dreaming what this is all about, anyway?

St. Louis Rams
Players to be shared: Matt Holliday (from Cardinals), Jason Heyward (from Cardinals), Peter Bourjos (from Cardinals)
How it would work:
If the Rams moved back to L.A.,* they'd be able to choose from among tremendous athletes like Yasiel Puig, Mike Trout, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, and Blake Griffin. For now, though, they'll have to settle for this trio of Cardinals. Holliday was a high school quartereback who was recruited by Oklahoma State. Could he solve the Rams' recent issues under center? Heyward would rely on his size, strength, and speed with the Rams, whereas Bourjos would depend mostly on the last of those traits to outrun NFL defenders.

*Good thing this exercise is completely hypothetical, just like the possibility of the Rams leaving St. Louis. Right?

San Diego Chargers
Players to be shared: A.J. Preller (from Padres), Justin Upton (from Padres), Melvin Upton, Jr. (Padres)
How it would work:
As general manager, Preller's desire to shake up everything in the off-season would fit much better with the constant roster turnover of the NFL. The Upton brothers were both talented football players growing up, so they'll try their luck with the Chargers. (Melvin is probably on his way out of MLB anyways.) As an added bonus, maybe the Uptons will bring their "sister" Kate along to become a Charger Girl.

San Francisco 49ers
Players to be shared: Andre Iguodala (from Warriors), Klay Thompson (from Warriors), Hunter Pence (from Giants)
How it would work:
The reigning Finals MVP could play safety for the Niners, and Thompson and Pence could give it a go at linebacker. At the very least, you probably won't see any of these three new 49ers on the team's growing list of legal transgressions.

Seattle Seahawks
Players to be shared: Austin Jackson (from Mariners), Seth Smith (from Mariners), Russell Westbrook (from SuperSonics)
How it would work:
Jackson committed to play both basketball and baseball at Georgia Tech, so the Hawks can hope the speedster has a hidden talent for football as well. Smith backed up Eli Manning at Ole Miss, and he'll do the same for Russell Wilson. (GTFOH, anyone who's bringing up Tarvaris Jackson right now.) In memory of the Sonics -- and since Oklahoma City doesn't have an NFL team -- the Seahawks get to take Westbrook aboard as a freak of nature to add to their other freaks of nature in the defensive backfield. Sure, I'm cheating a little here, but who wouldn't want to see Westbrook flying around on the gridiron?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Players to be shared: Grady Sizemore (from Rays), Kevin Kiermaier (from Rays), Steven Souza (from Rays), (from Lightning)
How it would work:
Sizemore was recruited to be a power-conference running back, but his speed is no longer what it was back then. Still, it couldn't hurt to take a flyer on him. The Bucs would be even more excited to acquire the two younger Rays outfielders. Kiermaier almost went to Purdue to play football, and after watching him rocket around the outfield all season, I'd snap him up if I ran the Bucs. Souza committed to play baseball and football at Washington State so he might be an even better acquisition than Kiermaier. Good pull for Tampa Bay here.

Tennessee Titans
Players to be shared: Zach Randolph (from Grizzlies), Matt Barnes (from Grizzlies), Tony Allen (from Grizzlies)
How it would work:
With his light feet and considerable strength, Randolph would make a solid offensive lineman. Barnes was an awesome high school wide receiver who's been offered tryouts with several NFL teams. He's getting up there in age, but the Titans would give him a look. Like the Rockets' Beverley, Allen could be counted on to harass receivers the same way he does NBA ball-handlers.

Washington Redskins
Players to be shared: John Wall (from Wizards), Bryce Harper (from Nationals), Ted Leonsis (from Wizards/Capitals)
How it would work:
One of the fastest guys in the NBA, Wall would be a natural-born receiver or defensive back. Harper eats, drinks, and breathes baseball, but I'm confident that he'd excel at football too. (By the way, he's still only 22.) Instead of giving the Skins a third player, we'll lend them Leonsis, who owns the Wizards, Caps, Mystics, and the Verizon Center. At the very least, he won't be nearly as tone-deaf and destructive as Daniel Snyder.


So how many of these hypothetical acquisitions would actually benefit an NFL team? There are a few guys who'd be NFL stars (e.g., LeBron James); a few who'd be near-locks to contribute (Westbrook); a bunch of intriguing prospects (McCutchen); several interesting longshots (Mauer); and oodles of almost-certain busts. I'd guess that somewhere between 20 and 30 of these players would make NFL rosters this season, with about a half-dozen actually playing well on meaningful downs.

Please let me know what you think. Who did I miss? Am I overestimating the ability of pro athletes to transfer from one league to another? Am I underestimating it? Did you even make it far enough to read these questions? I'd love to hear from you.

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