I know that the last several weeks have been hard on all my loyal readers. Many nights were spent awake and on those few occasions where you did drift into a depressing, sports-deprived slumber, you awoke in a sweat-drenched panic. But fret not, for I have returned.
I am completely aware of the plentitude of rumors surrounding my unannounced disappearance. There was that kidnapping story circulating the Internet, but those in the know reassured my concerned fan base that such claims were untrue. Then there was the bank robbery rumor, but let me just put that one to rest once and for all: It was my twin brother Andy Weinberger who robbed the Bank of America at gunpoint. I can’t even imagine the other stories you all conjured up. In reality, I actually have been writing sports articles these past few weeks, just as a freelance writer for another company.
When Kanye West disappeared off the face of the earth in 2008, he returned with arguably his best studio album to date. When Quentin Tarantino vanished in the late 90s and early 2000s, he stormed back with the Kill Bill series. While I cannot promise as remarkable a post-hiatus composition, I will certainly do my best.
I thought long and hard about what should be my re-debut column. I considered writing a tardy NBA Postseason Prediction piece, but since I’ve been calling a Lakers vs. Heat final from day one, it would have been superfluous to take a thousand words to do so. I was going to do a Derek Jeter article, but ESPN beat me to it. So I decided to do something that I have never done before: bring back an old column.
Nearly two years ago I wrote The New NFL Offseason in which I stocked an NFL roster with professional athletes from other sports. It has remained among my all-time Late Night Thoughts favorites. Before I begin the second edition, here are the things I kept in mind while constructing this team:
1. Players from previous rosters cannot be re-used.
2. Weight, size, physical talents, and previously existing muscle memory were the most common reasons for selection. However, players will be able to bulk up if need be.
3. It is boring to fill an entire NFL roster with just NBA players, although one could easily do so. This list is meant to include some obvious selections as well as more creative choices.
4. There is an assumption that these players have been on an NFL path beginning relatively early in their athletic careers.
5. Age and nationality are, for all intensive purposes, irrelevant.
Practice Squad: Gerald Wallace, Edin Dzeko, Russel Westbrook, Chris Paul, Serena Williams
These players just missed out on making the roster for various reasons. Wallace, Westbrook, and Paul were all a bit tall for the positions for which I seriously considered them. Soccer player, Edin Dzeko, has impressive size, but is just a tad too slow. Serena Williams’ emotional outbursts proved most counterproductive.
QB: Justin Verlander*
Once again one of the world’s finest athletes is selected to play the quarterback position. Verlander, the offensive team captain, is a perfect fit. The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young is 6’ 5” and 225 pounds – a perfect frame for quarterback – and is clearly a capable thrower. Some quarterbacks struggle as a pro for seemingly exclusively mental issues. Verlander is a very confident player who should avoid such disappointment, evident through the fact that he has won 17 games and posted an ERA of under 3.7 in all but one season since 2006. 2010 Selection: Roger Federer
|The throwing mechanics would need an alteration, but the|
foundation is certainly in place.
RB: Ty Lawson and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Ty Lawson was one of the first players to make this team and the reason for that is simple; he has everything one looks for in a running back. Quick enough to play the point, but compact enough (5’11”, 195) to withstand contact, Lawson’s NFL stock has the potential of someone like LeSean McCoy or, if he bulks up, Marshawn Lynch. Mayweather, narrowly beat out CP3 for the second spot. My rationale: I need a Daren Sproles-esque runner and Mayweather’s additional strength makes him even more formidable. 2010 Selections: Deron Williams and Carlos Tevez
WR: Curtis Granderson, Kevin Durant, Robin Van Persie
Wide receiver is the default position for freakish athletes and I could have easily replaced this threesome with hundreds of other players. Granderson was the first player that came to mind. He’s lighting quick, Über athletic, has the body to be an effective all-purpose wide receiver, and has a great first step, evident by his solid play in center. Van Persie, the six-foot Arsenal forward, could be a Dutch Marques Colston. Super Tall? No. Super fast? No, again. But he has great sports sense and knows how to position his body. Durant is the no brainer of the group. He’s probably the second best athlete on the planet and, when you take into account his criminal wingspan, there is just no way you are going to convince me he couldn’t have thrived in the NFL if he decided to be a football player. 2010 Selections: LeBron James, Usain Bolt, Juan Pierre
TE: Kenneth Faried and Juan Martin del Potro
The rookie out of Morehead State, Faried has had an impressive first season. The 6’8”, 228-pound Faried could easily add another 20 pounds, but would probably get by without any such weight gain. His rebounding ability (nearly eight/game) would translate well on the gridiron as he could routinely rise up over defenders for receptions. Del Potro is a tennis player living in a tight end’s body. As such, he has great lateral agility and would be a tough matchup for any linebacker or safety. 2010 Selections: Josh Smith and Zlatan Ibrahimovic
O-Line: DeJuan Blair (LT), David Ortiz (LG), Holley Mangold (C), C.C. Sabathia (RG), Brandon Bass (RT)
The unit I have selected to protect Verlander features two NBA power forwards and two MLB heavy weights. DeJuan Blair protects the blind side and has the size and athleticism to pancake even fiercest pass rushers. However, the star and unquestioned leader of the line is weight-lighter and sister of all-pro center Nick Mangold, Holley Mangold. Standing at just 5’8”, Holley makes up for her height with 374(!) pounds of muscle. When brother, Nick, was out this past season with the Jets, Rex brought in Holley to take the reps. That last statement may or may not be true, but he definitely could have. 2010 Selections: Glen Davis, Carlos Boozer, Niklas Backstrom, Magnus Samuelsson, Adam Dunn
DE: James Harden and Eric Staal
I absolutely love Harden at the D-End spot. His ability to lower his head and attack the hoop is exactly how great pass rushers get after the quarterback. But most importantly, Harden has demonstrated an ability to withstand blows to the head, which is often the only thing lineman can attempt when trying to slow down someone coming off the edge. Eric Stall is my first attempt to appease hockey fans, who we all know are a bunch of self-conscious nobody-cares-about-my-sport hostiles. Regardless, Staal is big, fast, and physical. He kind of reminds me of, say, arbitrarily selected Brian Urlacher. If you think that’s racist, you should know Mel Kiper said the exact same thing after the Panthers drafted Luke Kuechly in last weekend’s draft. 2010 Selections: Ron Artest and Milan Lucic
DT: Danny Granger and Ryan Howard
Defensive tackle is kind of a tricky position to assign. There’s really a wide variety of guys who play this position. Granger, who might be a little too tall to play, was selected because he plays both the 3 and 4 position and that versatility will translate well in a position where one needs to be able to pass rush, wrap up, and run stuff. He will probably need to pack on the pounds more than anyone else on the team. Howard is a more natural fit, although he could probably add another 30 pounds too. Strength is certainly his best attribute, although it is easy to overlook his overall athleticism. 2010 Selections: Zach Randolph and Zdeno Chara
ILB: Albert Pujols, Matt Martin, and Joe Thornton
In my 2010 addition, someone commented that Pujols needed to be on the team. I agree. In fact, perhaps his early-season struggles are a sign that its time for him to change professions. He’s a beast. The front seven feels the hockey influence. Martin was perhaps the most obvious choice of them all. He finished the 2011-2012 season with 81 more hits than the next closest player. Thorton, who’s so old he played back when I cared about hockey, is big enough to play forward but also a fantastic skater. He fills the void left by 2010 ILB, Dustin Byfuglien. 2010 Selections: Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Hamilton
OLB: Paul Millsap and Evgeni Malkin
Question: What do you do when a 6’8”, 250-pound behemoth comes rushing at you? I have absolutely no clue, which is why NFL personnel across the league are anticipating a 15+ sack season from Paul Millsap. Millsap epitomizes the small-market, no-love super talent. He’s averaged 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds over the last two seasons. Malkin was the best player in the NHL this past season and deserved a spot on the team. This is where he will thrive. 2010 Selections: Jason Heyward and Carmelo Anthony
S: Cristiano Ronaldo and Matt Kemp
For the second time, a premier soccer talent has earned a spot at safety. Honestly, I can’t believe I excluded Ronaldo in 2010. He is by far the fastest soccer player in the world and those thighs of his that he so famously shows nowadays leave no doubt as to whether or not he has the closing speed it takes to succeed at safety. On the pitch (that’s what foot fairies call a field), Ronaldo is often left free to roam about as he pleases, acting on instant. These are the things that make Adrian Wilson, Ed Reed, and Troy Polamalu so effective. Kemp was nearly left off the team. I struggled to find a spot where he had the appropriate amount of speed and size. He was too much of a tweener for linebacker or wide out, but I think safety actually works pretty well. At 6’2”, 225 he might be a tad big, but there simply hasn’t been a better athlete in this country over the last year who plays outside of Green Bay. He had to make the cut. 2010 Selections: Mike Green and Didier Drogba
CB: Michael Bourn*, Kyrie Irving, and Clint Dempsey
Defensive captain, Michael Bourn, has earned the distinction by being the projected 2013 NFL DPOY. With another 15 pounds, Michael Bourn would immediately have a perfect body for cornerback. He has dazzling speed and finished will 12 more steals than the next best player last season. A consecutive Gold Glove winner at center in the ‘09 and ‘10 seasons, Bourne, like Granderson, has shown the quick first step and instincts that are a must at the cornerback position. My boy, Kyrie Irving, fills the shoes left by fellow point guards Rose and Rondo. Don’t be surpassed if he fills their shoes on the basketball court over the next two years as well. Then there’s Clint Dempsey, who is officially the best American to ever play soccer in Europe. Dempsey is our nickelback for the same reasons that have led to his success. He has great agility and is fearless in the face of larger players. 2010: Rafael Nadal, Derrick Rose, and Rajon Rondo
In 2010, I excluded kickers and punters from the team because, “No matter who plays the position, they’d all be inconsistent, streaky (in a bad way), and exist only to let the fans down.” Shame on me for being so pessimistic! Then again, world-class athletes are probably not really required.
I have absolutely no knowledge with regards to his kicking abilities. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they were pretty poor; he spent his childhood in Degrassi. The only reason he’s on the team is for his pre-game speeches. Some favorites include, “We gonna score; crackhead,” “It’s gonna be a throw down; Bobby Flay,” “We gonna murder them; Dexter,” and “I’m going down the middle; Scott Norwood.”
P: Skip Bayless
Much like ESPN quarantines him to their least valuable time-slot, I will send him to our least valuable position. Don’t worry though, he’ll find some way to make his position seem more important – probably by adopting an approach he feels he needs have in order to be relevant (submarine kicker, frequent fake-punter, ect.). Too bad nobody cares.
As I did in the first edition, I will wrap up this column with the starting roster contributions from each sport.
NBA: 9 players
MLB: 8 players
NHL: 4 players
Soccer: 3 players
Entertainment/Media: 2 players
Tennis: 1 player
Track and Field: 1 player
Boxing: 1 player