This year's draft could produce the Falcons' next great tight end. No, not the NFL Draft back in April but the NBA draft on June 28th. It is no surprise that basketball players have had a great deal of success in the NFL and have been able to adapt rather quickly (usually as a tight end) . Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham are two great examples of freakish athletes that were primarily basketball players during their college years and switched over to football when the hoop dream died out. Now it is commonplace for NFL scouts to try and find the next great tight end and this year’s draft might have that player.
Jae Crowder is an impressive specimen who played forward at Marquette University. He currently stands at 6'6 240 pounds and could easily add on more weight. A website called DraftExpress has him projected as the 11th pick of the second round and considers Jae a shorter, saner version of Ron Artest. The second part to that last sentence has zero meaning to this article, I just thought it was hysterical.
Here is where this article gets interesting: Marquette’s head basketball coach Buzz Williams admitted that he was contacted by NFL teams about Jae Crowder. Not only that but Jae Crowder, who is from Villa Rica, stated he would prefer to play for the Atlanta Falcons if he had a choice. Growing up only 30 miles east of the Georgia Dome it is natural that he would like to return home and play for his childhood team. So up to this point we know two things: football scouts are interested in Jae Crowder and Jae Crowder is interested in the Atlanta Falcons. Then you add in the fact that the Falcons have a first ballot Hall of Famer on his way out the door and we might have a perfect storm brewing. This could be a perfect mentor/protégé between two former basketball players that realized their ultimate potential is football.
The reasons why basketball players (to be more specific forwards) become mismatches on the football field are simple. For starters, they are generally 6’6 to 6’9 and can jump out of the building. Those two attributes give them a tremendous advantage against the vast majority of defensive backs in the NFL. Also, due to their backgrounds they are trained to pick balls out of the air and can contort their huge frames to shield the defensive back from breaking up the pass. Most of these guys have made a living on grabbing rebounds over guys that are two or 3 inches taller than they are. Imagine the transition to the NFL where guys are three to four inches shorter. It's like a PGA player playing in the club championship. They are extremely agile for their size and can change directions on a dime, qualities they picked up working on their defensive skills in basketball. Hence why it is easy for them to adapt to running NFL routes on such a short notice.
There is definitely a possibility here. All we need is for the NBA to turn their nose up to Jae which in turn could give him even more reason to work harder than any other rookie this offseason. Now it is up to the front office to convince Jae that his potential in the NFL far surpasses his limited potential in the NBA.
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