Ten-Point Stance: Mike Freeman's NFL Notebook Heading into Week 8

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 23, 2013

1. "LeBron James would dominate the NFL"

After reading that tweet from LeBron James, and this article from Bleacher Report's Ethan Grant, I decided to ask three NFL scouts their opinion on James as an NFL prospect. The scouts have decades of experience projecting NFL players. The answers, well, surprised me.

My question was simple: How would James fare in the NFL? Not from five years ago, but now. How would he do right now?

/Getty Images

Scout One: "I really believe that in a matter of a few months, after some serious practice and contact, he'd be the best non-quarterback player in football. He'd play tight end, and he'd be better than [Rob Gronkowski] or any other tight end. He'd be better than Megatron. LeBron James would dominate the NFL."

I thought: Wait, what? James could come into the NFL and after a month of practices dominate the hardest sport in the world? Thought my scout friend had one too many margaritas. Then came the following from a second NFL scout.

Scout Two: "My question would be, what would happen once the hitting started? I also don't think he'd be able to block, which would be a liability to some degree—but there have been great tight ends who couldn't block. In today's game, blocking by the tight end isn't as huge a deal as it once was.

"He'd be an impossible matchup. He'd draw a pass inference penalty every play. You couldn't cover him with one guy. The Megatron comparison is a good one. Megaton is what [6'5"], and LeBron is [6'8"] and can run probably faster. He's young, still (28). He'd be in that Megatron mold, only bigger, stronger, faster. Think about a [receiver] that would be better than Megatron, better than [Gronkowski]. A lot better. That would be LeBron."

Oh. Snap.

The third scout had a different take: "He wouldn't be able to take the physical abuse. A guy that tall crossing the middle of the field would get killed. I don't think he would last a single game."

Then the scout made an interesting point.

"He would be a huge target, because every player would want to knock the piss out of LeBron James."

There is some middle ground here.

James' physical gifts would make him one of the more unique players in NFL history. Yet it is also true that James' body would be shell-shocked by the violence of professional football. He's not posting up Kevin Garnett. He'd be going up against some of the most vicious athletes in all of sports. His frame just isn't ready for that type of punishment.

But if James were ever serious and ended up spending an entire training camp with a team, he'd be formidable. He'd be beyond formidable. He'd be Jim Brown formidable. That's how good he could be.

2. A nasty day in the NFL

Oct 20, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley (88) is taken off the field on a stretcher during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This story from ESPN's Jason Wilde details the frightening moments in the immediate aftermath of Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley's violent collision. It was a collision that left some of Finley's teammates wondering if he'd walk again.

Said teammate Andrew Quarless:

He couldn't move at the time. So I just told him, "Just stay here, just lay here, don’t move." That look he had in his eyes, that was something that stuck with me. It really hurt me just to see him like that. My brother was out there on the ground.

I was the first one there, I tried to help him up, and he just couldn't get up. That was tough to see, for me to see my brother out there on the ground and I couldn't do anything about it.

This weekend was one of the more brutal in recent NFL history. Finley's spinal cord injury topped the list.

From Sam Bradford to Brian Cushing to Jay Cutler to Reggie Wayne, it was a bloodbath in which seasons ended and lives were almost scarily altered.

There are two main messages to take from the rash of serious injuries.

First is that while football is just a game, to the players that are on the field actually playing it, it's not just that. It can be nasty business. We set our fantasy rosters and then set our asses on the couch to watch, but this past Sunday was a reminder that those are actual human beings out there, playing that so-called game.

Despite an at-times-indestructible appearance, players aren't really that way. We sometimes forget that.

Second, the next time you rip a player for holding out, that is your prerogative. Fans can call them greedy or insult them. But most players hold out because their careers—and, in some ways, their physical health—can end at any time. 

One moment, you can be playing, and the next you're on the ground, wondering if you'll ever walk again.

3. Chiefs' odds to make playoffs, Super Bowl

Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (82) celebrate after Smith's touchdown during the first half of the game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: De
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics. This statistic, however, says a great deal. It goes like this:

In the Super Bowl era, just 31 teams have started 7-0. All made the playoffs.

And of those 31, 15 advanced to the Super Bowl, and nine won it.

History isn't just on Kansas City's side to make the playoffs; the data shows a nearly 50-50 shot they make it to the Super Bowl. Now, they'd have to go through Peyton Manning to do it, but you have to love those odds.

If you're a Chiefs fan, and at the beginning of the season you were told you had a 50 percent chance to make the Super Bowl, you'd have laughed.

Now that doesn't seem so funny, does it?

4. Devin Hester or Deion Sanders?

Oct 20, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester (23) is congratulated by Chicago Bears safety Craig Steltz (20) after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedEX Field. Mandatory Credit: Bra
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

There was no more devastating player that I covered than Deion Sanders. I covered Lawrence Taylor, but he was in his last season in the NFL. I covered Reggie White, too, and Jerry Rice and Steve Young and other greats. None scared teams more than Sanders.

One reason was Sanders' versatility. He played in every phase of the game, and what many forget was how good a returner he was. Sanders held the NFL record for career return touchdowns with 19. Until Devin Hester just broke it.

Hester's 81-yard return in Week 7 gave him 20 (postseason included). He was already the career leader in punt-return touchdowns (now 13).

This was my dilemma: Who is a better returner, Hester or Sanders?

The edge barely goes to Hester, and this is why. Sanders played in an era when there weren't as many athletes playing on special teams. Special teams were still the dumping grounds for the fat and non-athletic (mostly). There were exceptions, but this was generally the case.

No longer. Now special teams are stacked with premium athletes and fast people. Hester is setting records against better talent.

So Hester wins this battle. Barely.

5. The future of Champ Bailey

Oct 13, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey (24) before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Denver defensive back Champ Bailey missed the first five games of this season with a foot injury. Then in the first half of his game against Indianapolis, he was ruled out with a foot injury again. Bailey slowed noticeably last season and has barely played this season.

Everyone ages. Bailey is 35, which is, like, 80 in normal human years. Bailey is a Hall of Famer. Maybe one of the top five to seven corners of all time. His legacy is fixed in time. He's great and will always be considered great.

But is it time for Bailey to retire?  

6. O.J. Brigance

This rarely happens and in fact likely never will again, but here goes: read Strength of a Champion by O.J. Brigance. It will change how you view the world. I read it last night, and it makes you appreciate your own life while admiring the courage of Brigance, a former Baltimore Raven who is fighting ALS.

7. Don't give up...

On Ryan Tannehill. Just don't. Not yet. He can still be a good quarterback. It looks bleak. He looks lost, but not yet. Don't give up on him. That is all.

8. Put him under the jail

This guy needs to be in prison. That is a given.

I would also like the Jets to make some sort of statement to their fans. A letter to all season ticket holders or ads on TV making it clear to fans that fighting won't be tolerated. Use this ugly situation as a teachable moment.

Teams also need to seriously curb beer sales, because alcohol is the fuel for so much of the ugly fan behavior. Since teams make so much cash from beer sales, there will be no curbing, but there should be.

9. Browns trade coming?

Oct 13, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) takes the field against the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

I continue to hear that the Browns have received trade offers for receiver Josh Gordon, as do others. What I also hear is that they aren't set against trading him. They're holding out for better picks. If the Browns do make this trade—and I think they might—the franchise would continue to accumulate draft picks. They would dominate the upcoming draft. They'd need to, since after trading Trent Richardson and maybe Josh Gordon, they'd be losing some top talent that would need to be replaced.

10. Geno

Oct 20, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) throws a pass during the first half of their game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Wanted to end with something that I found fascinating. But I'm a dork. I like Star Trek. And Battlestar Galactica. And movies about zombies. (And did any of you see After Earth? Any good? Asking for a friend.) So I find all of this stuff interesting, especially this about quarterback Geno Smith.

The general perception of Smith is that he's error-prone. There's some truth to that, but another truth is emerging. Smith is kind of clutch.

Smith led the Jets to their overtime win over the Patriots. He is the only quarterback since the 1970 merger with four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or OT in his first seven career starts.

A lot to digest there. While Smith makes a lot of bonehead plays early in the game, something clicks late and he becomes measured and effective.

If the Jets can harness the late Geno and destroy the early Geno, he'll be one of the best young throwers in football. He's almost already there, anyway. 

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. His Ten-Point Stance column appears on Wednesdays. All stats and historical info via the NFL, unless noted.


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