In honor of the inaugural, upcoming MLR draft and tomorrow night’s NFL Draft All Day Rugby decided to have a little fun. Even theoretically, doing an NFL player to 15s rugby draft would be fruitless; the transition from sport to sport is too tough for most to truly be successful.
But a 7s draft, where raw athleticism can shine? Look no further than football crossover and two-time World Player of the Year Perry Baker to see how that can pan out. Onto the draft.
- Juju Smith-Schuster— Considering his fame, and that pundits loved to roll out every Haloti Ngata rugby highlight that seemingly ever existed, it’s a relatively little-known fact that Juju’s first love was rugby. So let’s trade the helmet for some short shorts and get the Pittsburgh Steelers’ star receiver back on the pitch as an uber-athletic prop. The NFL Draft report on Smith-Schuster was that he had a thicker, running back-type build. And also that he didn’t have “gamebreaking” speed. The former lends itself beautifully to rugby, while the latter has been answered with a pair of 97-yard touchdowns. In short, the dude’s a gamer. And he’s not afraid of contact.
- Saquon Barkley— At 6-feet even, Barkley would fit in nicely in the scrum between two taller props. His natural moves in the open field would make him a nightmare for defenders to track and take down. Not your typical hooker in the loose, even for 7s.
- Derrick Henry— Where to start? At 6’4′, 240 pounds and 4.54 40 time, put this man in the short channel and let him punish defenders, a la Danny “Boom Boom” Barrett in U.S. Head Coach Mike Friday’s system. An inch taller and 10 pounds bigger than Barrett, it’s fun to imagine the destruction he could cause on a 7s pitch.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick— It’s much easier to envision offensive players transition to rugby because we’re used to seeing them with the ball in their hands. But the up-and-coming, all-pro safety had the ball in his hands more than any defender last season, with five interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick’s sideline to sideline range would make a natural transition to getting across the pitch as a scrum half. And would there be a better sweeper in World Rugby?
- Christian McCaffrey— McCaffrey might transition to the most natural stepper of the bunch. With his pass-catching ability and experience running gadget plays, he’d make a smooth playmaker next to the the fella outside of him.
- Lamar Jackson— The NFL’s most dynamic player, in the key playmaking spot on the pitch? Yes, please. With his usage of the option offense and raw athleticism, Jackson might make the easiest transition to rugby of all the players on this list.
- Tyreek Hill— If he’s not the NFL’s fastest player, he’s got the best game speed. Get him the ball in space out wide, and enjoy the show as he makes defenders look silly.
Travis Kelce— He’s more fluid of an athlete than Rob Gronkowski, even in his prime. He would be this team’s Matai Leuta— a physical banger off the bench that can finish the last three to five minutes of the game for you.
Julio Jones— At 6’3″, 220 pounds and with a 4.39 40 to his name, Jones could give you time as a field-stretching prop, or a finisher at wing. It was between him and Henry as the starting prop but Henry was too much fun to envision punishing defenders.
Ezekiel Elliott— Pretty much everything I said about Barkley could apply to Elliott. A stout playmaker at the hooker position.
Odell Beckham, Jr.— Beckham would give you a heck of a target radius to corral any errant passes on the wing, and still have the burners to finish.
Russell Wilson— He might not be the “freak” athlete of his ‘mates, but he can move around, and is an excellent decision maker. Let him do what he does best— play mistake-free and find open teammates to make plays.
I know what most of you are thinking at this point. “Where’s Ebner?” Well, seeing as how he played for USA Rugby’s Olympic 7s team, that wouldn’t be any fun at all. So All Day Rugby selects the former Ohio State star to coach and bring the rest of the lads up to speed.
Is there anyone I missed? Feel free to ping me on Twitter @alexanderdiegel and let me know what you think.
In Case you Missed It
A recap of what’s been going on in American Rugby since we all took a little hiatus from chasing egg-shaped balls.
USA Rugby Files for Bankruptcy
Major League Rugby Announces Collegiate Draft
Colorado Raptors Dropping out of Major League Rugby
Major League Rugby Raises over $10K for Feeding America via Virtual Rugby Competition