Pro Bowl Projection

Lance Zierlein: Could LeBron James be a Pro Bowler in the NFL?

LeBron would certainly have a size advantage in the NFL.

I’m easily distracted, and I am easily led off the path of my initial train of thought. Anyone who has ever listened to me on the radio knows this about me. While I was supposed to be finishing my final seven draft profiles before leaving to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, I somehow found myself in an Antonio Gates rabbit hole which included a trip to to check out the level of brilliance in a career that will one day be recognized by the NFL Hall of Fame.

It might surprise you to know that Antonio Gates was originally headed to Michigan State to play football for Nick Saban and basketball for Tom Izzo, but Saban wanted Gates to play football only, so he decided against going to Michigan State. So before we go any further, it is worth noting that Antonio Gates did have a football background before going on to his basketball run in college that took him to a Final Four with Kent State.

Julius Peppers played basketball and football. He’s a future Hall of Famer. Tony Gonzalez played both sports and he is a future Hall of Famer. Jimmy Graham was a basketball player who took graduate classes while playing a single season of college football before coming into the league and becoming a Pro Bowler. There are several former college basketball players who never played college football who are currently playing tight end on NFL rosters.

What about LeBron?

Which brings us to LeBron James. LeBron James will go down in history as not only one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but possibly the greatest athlete of all time. While he never played college football (or basketball for that matter), he was an All-State wide receiver as a sophomore in high school. In fact, he was being recruited by Notre Dame before it became obvious that football was not going to be in his future.

So I pondered this question. Could LeBron James go to the NFL right now—at age 33—and become a Pro Bowl tight end by his second season in the league?  Keep in mind that LeBron would immediately be one of the older tight ends in the league, and last I checked, the NFL is much more physical than high school football. With that said, would LeBron even be in the middle of all that physicality?

Translatable Traits

Any team who LeBron James played for would not require him to play in-line as a blocker. Is he big enough and tough enough to do it? I think so, but that would be irrelevant in this hypothetical. LeBron has leaned down over the last few years but could easily get back to 6’8 / 270 pounds while maintaining his speed and explosiveness out of breaks and as a leaper. Teams desire elite traits and LeBron has elite size, speed and explosiveness.

But LeBron isn’t just a physical freak. LeBron has instincts, vision, body control, balance and great hands. LeBron obviously has tremendous hand-eye coordination but also very strong hands which is important for securing through contact. In space, LeBron would be the ultimate “post up” option underneath. He could put defenders on his hip and they couldn’t get around him. Near the end-zone, he’s the ultimate jump-ball option and would immediately force a hard double team that would open the field for other targets.

From a route running standpoint, LeBron has tremendous agility and fluidity so there wouldn’t be many limitations in becoming effective at it. So LeBron could get open, body guys up and then has the hands to make it happen as a pass catcher. Could he catch through contact? His body type would tell you yes, but you never know until players start having to focus through anticipated contact. My guess is that LeBron’s elite size, athletic talent, play traits, and competitive nature would make him a Pro Bowler very quickly—even if he stepped into the NFL at the age of 33 or 34.

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After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

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