Rank 'Em: Best Potential Football Players

Created: May 22, 2009, 10:44 AM

Is LeBron James the best potential football player on our list?

LeBron James has once again demonstrated his physical freakishness in the first few rounds of the NBA playoffs. If things had gone a bit differently, however, James could have been catching touchdown passes rather than throwing down monstrous dunks.

Yes, even the face of the NBA had dreams of playing in the NFL one day. James was an all-state wide receiver in high school, utilizing his size, speed and vertical leap to great effect. He very well may have been able to make a career out of playing football, but would he be the best out of the players we've selected here?

There's no dearth of pure athletic talent outside the NFL. LeBron's traditional rivals -- Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard -- would be terrors on the gridiron. Players like Carl Crawford and Jose Reyes seem tailor-made to catch (or intercept) passes. Joe Mauer, Grady Sizemore and Adam Dunn all were talented quarterbacks, with Dunn even making the Texas Longhorns' squad. Allen Iverson did a little bit of everything in his high school football career, whether throwing bombs, intercepting them or delivering crushing hits.

We haven't even mentioned how Tiger Woods' competitiveness and focus, or Rafael Nadal's quickness, or Usain Bolt's speed would translate. Just because an athlete doesn't patrol center field or drive to the basket doesn't mean he lacks what it takes to play in the NFL.

Which of these players would make the best NFL pro? Cast your vote now!

  • Bolt's football experience is limited to the European kind, but the fastest man in human history might be able to stick at wide receiver.
  • Bryant doesn't have any true football experience, but his speed, cutting ability and ruthlessness are prized in football.
  • Crawford was recruited by Texas (as a wideout), Texas A&M (as a defensive back), Nebraska, Michigan, Oklahoma and TCU. He signed a letter of intent to play at Nebraska, but baseball came calling.
  • Dunn was a standout quarterback in high school, and was the University of Texas' backup quarterback for one season.
  • One of the most fit NASCAR drivers, Edwards' signature backflip indicates a level of athleticism that suggests he'd find success on the gridiron.
  • Hamilton's arm is legendary, as many a foolish baserunner has found out in the past few years. When Hamilton visited the ESPN campus in Bristol, we had him toss a few footballs just to get a measure of his arm strength. He didn't disappoint.
  • The tallest player on our list, Howard might be a bit TOO tall to play in the NFL. His speed, power and unstoppable nature might be able to balance that out, however.
  • To the best of our knowledge, Ichiro has never played football, but he'd have his pick of skill positions due to his blazing speed, cannon arm and overall athleticism.
  • Iverson, as quarterback of his high school football squad, led his team to a state championship. Clips of his play online also show him picking off passes and delivering hard hits.
  • James was an all-state wide receiver in his sophomore year of high school, and led his team to the all-state semifinals his senior year.
  • Mauer has perhaps the best football pedigree of all our listed players. He led his high school team to two championship appearances, winning it all in 2000. Mauer was selected as Gatorade's National Player of the Year, Parade and USA Today Player of the Year and named a Reebok/ESPN High School All-American. He signed a letter of intent to play for Florida State, but fortunately for the Twins, decided against it.
  • Relentless, quick and strong, Nadal's only real disadvantage in an NFL career is the fact that none of the games are played on clay.
  • Ovechkin is big, fast and sees the rink in a way few others do. How's his arm?
  • The 5-foot-6 Pacquiao might be a bit small for the NFL, but there's no doubt in our minds that he might be able to deliver some punishing hits, or become the next Darren Sproles on offense.
  • Phelps has a wingspan of 6 feet, 7 inches, which obviously helped him win eight golds in Beijing. We're thinking it might also help him pluck errant passes out of the air.
  • Reyes is a pure speed burner, and the fact that he can handle shortstop while leading the league in triples and stolen bases gives us cause to believe he'd be a star on the right NFL team.
  • Perhaps the best soccer player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo has sweet moves that would leave cornerbacks dizzy and frustrated. He might have to cut down on the flopping, however.
  • Sizemore signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Nebraska, and led his high school's all-time list in rushing yards and interceptions.
  • Could "Flash" translate his remarkable quickness onto the football field? He was an excellent wide receiver and cornerback in high school, so he's got the foundation.
  • Would you want to bet against him succeeding at something if he set his mind to it?