Carson Wentz at WR? AP at LB? What NFL Stars Could Play Alternate Positions?
You probably know Richard Sherman (pictured above) was a two-way receiver-cornerback in high school and started his college career as a wideout. You probably also know Sherman would be a pretty darn good receiver—albeit a feisty one who would spend half of his Sunday afternoons arguing about offensive pass interference—if he suddenly decided to change positions.
This rundown of new position ideas for NFL stars is not for the obvious choices like Sherman, Terrelle Pryor, Julian Edelman or Jerrick McKinnon. Instead, we're going off the beaten path to move offensive players to defense, defensive players to special teams, linemen into the backfield and venerable superstars to positions they have always dreamed of playing.
Many of these position switches are based on the players' high school experience. Some fill immediate needs for the players' teams. A few are meant to be taken a little less seriously than others. But all of them have some basis in reality and would be a hoot to watch.
So let's comb the high school highlight reels, stretch our imaginations and take a look at some of the NFL's most familiar stars—and perhaps football itself—in a totally different way.
Travis Kelce (Chiefs): Quarterback
The Chiefs are hoarding all of the NFL's good quarterbacks.
There's Alex Smith, former No. 1 overall pick and current MVP candidate. (Let's just gloss over everything that happened in between, OK?) There's Patrick Mahomes, whom the Draft Trekkies assure us will win four straight MVP awards once he emerges from Smith's shadow.
And there is Travis Kelce, former high school quarterback slumming as an All-Pro tight end.
Kelce threw for 21 touchdowns and rushed for 10 more as a senior at Cleveland Heights High School in Ohio, according to 247Sports. He played some Wildcat quarterback at University of Cincinnati before settling in at tight end. Kelce also threw some passes during a target practice drill in training camp this summer and displayed impressive accuracy, according to Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride.
The Chiefs already have one of the league's most innovative offenses. So, why not shake the two-game losing streak blues by bringing back the Single Wing? With Kelce and Smith in the same backfield, opponents wouldn't know who will run or throw to whom. Mix in some Kareem Hunt rumbles and Tyreek Hill screens/reverses/bombs, and the Chiefs can finally rid themselves of the need for traditional wide receivers.
But the most compelling reason for Kelce to switch positions is the potential for a huge payday from a desperate team. Kelce may not be a traditional pocket passer, but who would you rather see taking snaps, him or Brock Osweiler?
Carson Wentz (Eagles): Wide Receiver
After Monday night's four-touchdown masterpiece to improve the Eagles' record to 6-1, no one should want to see Carson Wentz play any position other than quarterback.
However, Wentz played wide receiver early in his high school career. And after watching him escape that pile of defenders like Wolverine clawing out of a heap of evil ninjas for a 17-yard miracle scramble on Monday night, it appears he could have been a yards-after-the-catch machine as a possession receiver had he never changed positions.
Followers of Wentz's saga know he grew from a 125-pound pipsqueak freshman at Century High School in North Dakota into the 6'5" specimen leading the Eagles today. Along the way, he moved from receiver to defensive back (because of a hand injury) and finally to quarterback. The injury, position change and late bloom kept Wentz off the recruiting radar, which led to FCS stardom.
Wentz's all-purpose athleticism was easy to understate when he was throwing and running for touchdowns against opponents like Weber State. Now that he's displaying his Cam Newton-meets-Ben Roethlisberger routine on Monday Night Football, there's no doubt he can make plays with his legs as well as his arm.
Wentz has already caught one NFL pass—a Bengals defender batted one of his throws right back to him last year, and he dashed for a seven-yard gain. In retrospect, he may have been his own best receiver last year.
Now that he has weapons and experience, the idea of moving Wentz from quarterback is preposterous. But only slightly more preposterous than some of the other things you read about Wentz on the internet.
Derrick Henry (Titans): Edge-Rusher
The Titans have too many quality running backs and not enough impact defenders. Luckily, there's an easy solution: give 247-pound athletic terror Derrick Henry a side hustle as a situational edge-rusher.
Anyone who has ever seen Henry do anything on a football field knows he has the goods to play on either side of the ball. Henry's coaches at Yulee High School in Florida found time to use him on defense when he wasn't rushing for 4,261 yards and 55 touchdowns in his senior season.
(Let's pause for a moment and let 4,261 rushing yards and 55 touchdowns in 13 games breathe for a moment. And...we're back.)
Henry recorded five sacks and blocked a punt in high school, and scouts were concerned enough about his upright rushing style to rank him as an all-purpose "athlete" instead of a running back. Nick Saban was having none of that, and with plenty of tenacious uber-athletes in his pass-rushing queue, he kept Henry on the running back assembly line
Henry shouldn't switch to outside linebacker permanently, of course. But he could rotate with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan on defense while rotating with DeMarco Murray on offense.
The Titans get a diverse pass-rush package. The fans get a double dose of Henry. It's a win-win.
Landon Collins (Giants): Running Back
At times during the Giants' 1-6 start, Landon Collins has looked like the only Giants player who belongs on an NFL field. Collins is smart, intense, athletic and aggressive—a perfect combination for an All-Pro safety. Or, come to think of it, an all-purpose running back.
Collins played both ways as a senior at Dutchtown High School in Louisiana, rushing for 1,218 yards and 21 touchdowns while doing the amazing things you would expect from a future Crimson Tide and NFL safety on defense. Collins averaged 13.7 yards per rush as a senior, according to BamaInsider.com; for the sake of contrast, Odell Beckham averaged just 12.1 yards per catch this season before getting hurt. We've seen enough Collins interceptions and fumble returns to know he can catch the ball and be a factor in the open field.
With all of their receivers injured and an EZ Pass offensive line, the Giants have already surrendered and started using jumbo three-tight end formations to get through games. Why not go full wishbone? A backfield of Collins, Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman would at least give opponents something to think about.
Adrian Peterson (Cardinals): Middle Linebacker
"I definitely enjoyed playing in high school," Adrian Peterson told Joseph Santoliquito of MaxPreps in 2013. "... I didn't want to come off the field. I wanted to play defense, too, but my high school coaches knew better. They wanted to save me for offense."
Poor AP is a surefire Hall of Famer, yet he's been reduced to riding the bench for the Saints and playing out the string for the Arizona Old-Timers Fantasy Camp. A player of Peterson's stature should be living the dream in his golden years. The Cardinals may not be able to help him earn a Super Bowl ring, but they could at least fulfill Peterson's teenage desire to do some tackling when not barreling through tackles.
It's easy to picture Peterson bulking up to middle linebacker size by pushing tractors up hills or something. He could then use his combination of experience and physicality to be the ultimate thumping run-stuffer between the tackles. Adrian Peterson meeting Todd Gurley or Leonard Fournette in the hole? That's a battle of the generations any fan would pay to see.
Run-stuffing middle linebackers may be going out of style, but so are 20-carry workhorse running backs. Peterson would still spend more time on the bench than he likes. But when he did take the field on defense, he would at least get to work out his frustrations on all of the youngins.
Vernon Davis (Redskins): Wide Receiver, Defensive Back, Punt Returner
It's great to see Vernon Davis playing well again after his years in the wilderness when the Jim Harbaugh 49ers blew up. But Davis is a square peg as No. 2 tight end. Backup tight ends are supposed to be lumbering, hard-blocking glorified right tackles, not former Pro Bowlers who average 19.5 yards per catch and barely cross the Jimmy Graham threshold as blockers.
While Davis exploits mismatches as Jordan Reed's understudy, the Redskins are dealing with an injury rash in the secondary, Terrelle Pryor has been benched at wide receiver, and return man Jamison Crowder has developed fumblitis. So why not move the NFL's most unusual tight end to every other position except tight end?
Davis was a combination tight end, wide receiver, defensive back and returner at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. He was recruited as a tight end, but this blurry highlight reel starts with a pair of interceptions and a return touchdown, a strong indication that Davis was as valuable on defense as he was on offense.
So, here's the plan. On defense, Davis can be a sub-package cornerback who covers bigger wide receivers like Dez Bryant and whoever isn't on crutches for the Giants. On offense, he gets extra reps split wide in place of the struggling Pryor. Mix in some punt returns, and Davis can solve three Redskins problems at once. And yes, he can play a little tight end, so he can outrun those strong-side linebackers, too.
The only way the versatile Davis could help the team that resurrected his career more is if he had some experience negotiating quarterback contracts.
Sheldon Richardson (Seahawks): Left Tackle
Sheldon Richardson was a monstrous big-play machine as a two-way player at Gateway Institute of Technology in Missouri. He was a disruptive force of nature on the defensive line, but he was also a wrecking ball of a tight end on offense.
Watch the teenage Richardson in action in this sizzle reel. He looks like someone invited the bouncer from their dad's saloon to come play with the varsity squad.
Most teams see a defensive lineman who also has Tasmanian devil potential on offense and think, "Cool, goal-line trick-play possibilities." But the Seahawks see the Offensive Tackle Prospect of Tom Cable's Dreams.
Richardson may be a little undersized for a left tackle at 6'3" and 295 pounds. But he is powerful, quick-footed and ornery enough to make any defender think twice about getting in an extra lick on Russell Wilson. After a year of Cable's careful molding and tutelage, Richardson could at least be as capable a pass protector as any of the Seahawks' many, many other offensive line projects.
And if a competent offensive line coach ever got hold of Richardson, he could actually convert the defender into a quality blocker.
Sean Lee (Cowboys): Kicker
Safety Jeff Heath delivered a gutsy performance as the Cowboys' placekicker in relief of Dan Bailey against the 49ers. Sure, he sprayed his extra-point attempts in the general direction of the uprights (he went 2-of-3 with the help of some fortunate caroms). But Heath also drilled some touchbacks on kickoffs, and at least the former high school kicker (who once nailed a 49-yard game-winner, according to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News) raised his hand when Jason Garrett called for emergency special teams volunteers.
With Bailey out several weeks, the Cowboys should groom another emergency field-goal specialist. Sean Lee did just about everything in high school except kick field goals, per SportsDayDFW.com. He rushed for 1,240 yards and 21 touchdowns as a running back while bulking up from safety to linebacker, and he averaged 21.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as a senior for Upper St. Clair in Pennsylvania.
But when the Lee family needed a figgy, they turned to Sean's older brother. Conor Lee was the placekicker for Pitt for three years, going 50-of-60 on field goals and never missing an extra point. So field goals are in the Lee genes, and the younger brother of a FBS-caliber kicker certainly has plenty of kicking experience, right?
Actually, the younger brother of a kicker is more likely to have lots of holding experience. And fetching experience. Maybe the Cowboys are better off with Lee leading the defense and Heath retaining his pinch-kicker role if anything happens to new arrival Mike Nugent.
But if an unprecedented injury plague claims the entire Cowboys special teams (and secondary), Lee knows who he can call for pointers before nailing that game-winning extra point.
Mike Daniels (Packers): Fullback
You are likely aware Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb was a pretty good option quarterback at Kentucky before moving to wide receiver. You may also be aware that carefully groomed Aaron Rodgers successor Brett Hundley threw the football on Sunday like he, not Rodgers, was the one who just underwent collarbone surgery last week.
So it would be easy to write about moving Cobb to quarterback. But Cobb won't help the Packers. The Packers need to re-imagine themselves as a run-oriented slobber-knocker operation—like the Bears, but without the sinking feeling that John Fox is smothering his rookie quarterback in blankets.
And if the Packers really want to run the football, they should turn to the best healthy player on the roster: defensive lineman Mike Daniels.
Daniels was both a lineman and a bruising fullback at Highland High School in beautiful south Jersey. Fast-forward to the 6:30 mark of this highlight reel to see Daniels stomping all over defenders as a ball-carrier.
Mike McCarthy's playbook used to include lots of full-house backfields and T-formations before he simplified his game-planning to "Go get 'em, Aaron." B.J. Raji, a 330-pound nose tackle, used to see regular action as a goal-line fullback. So there is precedent for a big man like Daniels earning an offensive role.
Picture Daniels, Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery in the same backfield. Opponents won't know what to expect. And by the time they figure it out, Rodgers will be back and the current state of the Packers offense will begin to fade away like a bad dream.
Jay Cutler (Dolphins): Free Safety
Jay Cutler is not motivated by fame, money or his team's success, as far as we can tell. He sure as heck is not motivated by the respect of admiration of peers or fans.
No, Jay Cutler is motivated by revenge.
Before he became Smokin' Jay, Cutler was a two-way star at Heritage Hills High School in Indiana. He intercepted nine passes as a senior safety while throwing 31 touchdowns at quarterback. Nine picks would make Cutler an All-Pro defensive back, folks. While this high school sizzle reel looks like it was shot by Kurosawa, Cutler was quite the cherry picker in the secondary.
Given the chance to roam center field on defense when he returns from his rib injury, Cutler can use his knowledge and experience to get payback on the NFL's more lovable quarterbacks. (All of them, in other words.) He can even settle some personal scores with a well-timed safety blitz. Did you upstage Cutler in Chicago by being just as effective for a fraction of the cost? WHAM. Take that, Josh McCown! And Aaron Rodgers better just stay on IR.
As for downfield tackling by the guy who refused to take his hands out of his pockets during a Wildcat play this year...eh, (shrug), business decision, whatevs. But if the Dolphins insist on employing a guy with the enthusiasm of an overnight gas station attendant, it's better to put him 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage than at quarterback.
Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle (Ravens): Wildcat Backfield
The last two decades of NFL history have conditioned us to hate the Ravens offense with an all-consuming passion while fearing, respecting and cherishing their defense.
So why not just get rid of the offending offense and let the defense play both ways?
Terrell Suggs was a star running back at Hamilton High School, setting an Arizona Class 5A record with a 367-yard game.
And Eric Weddle, longtime "quarterback of the defense" for the Chargers and Ravens, was once just a plain-old quarterback, throwing for 965 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for 22 more as the two-time offensive and defensive MVP of Alta Loma High School in California.
So long, Joe Flacco! Farewell, droves of anonymous running backs! No more dull off-tackle runs or errant sideline passes to the ho-hum backups or injured wide receivers! The Ravens are running the Wildcat now, baby.
What an offense it would be. Wily Weddle taking direct snaps, Suggs running motion sweeps and stiff-arming defenders a decade younger than him into oblivion, Mike Wallace running decoy routes and Justin Tucker cleaning up all of the messes with 55-yard field goals.
Wait, that doesn't sound any more effective than the regular Ravens offense. But it would be a lot more entertaining. And it would give two aging defenders on a fading team a chance to go out with a little bit of style.
Antonio Brown (Steelers): Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger is getting old. Why not cut out the middle man and just let Brown (a high school quarterback) and Le'Veon Bell play a two-man game? Moving the crafty southpaw Brown to quarterback might anger Martavis Bryant, but so does everything else these days.
Shane Lechler (Texans): Backup quarterback and kicker
Lechler, an old-fashioned punter-kicker-quarterback in high school and at the start of his college career, could do more than just impersonate George Blanda in his early 40s. As a three-position player, he can market himself to the Browns as the ultimate Moneyball cap-space saver.
Jabrill Peppers (Browns): Any position but free safety
Speaking of the Browns, they took a dynamic box safety/nickel linebacker/situational blitzer/Wildcat quarterback and decided he was best suited to play 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Mitchell Trubisky (Bears): Punter
Trubisky punted a little in high school. Punting on fourth down would give him something to do after he hands off on the first three downs.
Zach Martin and Travis Frederick (Cowboys): Quarterback and Wide Receiver
I was going to suggest that the great Cowboys offensive linemen would be better defensive linemen than most of the guys who have started for the team for the last three years. But then I saw this and it changed my life.
Colin Kaepernick (Free Agent): Punter
He did it in high school. He practiced it for the 49ers. He can provide backup value at two positions. But he probably doesn't fit your team's "punting system" or something.
Sean McVay (Rams): Special Teams Ace
Rams head coach Sean McVay isn't just some dude who looks young enough to get carded while buying an energy drink at a convenience store. McVay was a pretty good football player in his own right. A varsity quarterback and defensive back at Marist High School in Georgia all the way back in (good Lord) 2004, McVay became a slot receiver and return man for Miami of Ohio.
With his experience at multiple positions, McVay has the perfect resume for a career special teamer and emergency return man. In fact, he is one year younger than Matthew Slater, the Patriots' designated special teams stalwart. Why settle for a veteran kick gunner and punt protector who acts like a coach on the field when the coach can literally be on the field?
The Rams also need a hook to attract fans in Los Angeles, because being 5-2 with an exciting young quarterback isn't enough. Maybe employing the first NFL player-coach since Dan Reeves for the 1970s Cowboys will put some fannies in seats.
If you don't believe McVay could play the role of an off-brand Julian Edelman (whom he is just four months older than), check out that old Miami of Ohio bio page. The stats pass the sniff test, barely. And that photo...yeah, I'm setting the parental controls before I even let that kid watch Netflix.