6 NBA players who could actually play in NFL to settle Austin Rivers’ bold claim

The time-honored argument of cross sport athletes is rearing its head once more with Austin Rivers and J.J. Watt beefing over whether NBA players could compete in the NFL.

This week Rivers infamously said that as many as THIRTY (30) players in the association could make the jump right now, to which Watt clapped back — scoffing at the suggestion.

In the past we’ve heard plenty of “LeBron could play tight end,” but football is different now. Numerous offenses around the NFL are coveting quick-twitch athletes to either line up in the slot, or play as YAC receivers. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, speed is being praised more than even, rather than ideal weight measurables.

So, if Austin Rivers correct that as many as 30 current NBA players could make the jump? How many NFL players could step onto an NBA court if the shoe was on the other foot? We went around the room to make our cases for who we thought could actually become a cross-sport athlete between the biggest pro leagues in the nation.

NBA players who could play in the NFL: 6

Anthony Edwards

Ant is already a star, if not a superstar — and he’s on pace to be the next “great one.” At 6’4, 225 pounds he already has a receiver’s frame, and with a 6’9 wingspan he’d be a nightmare as a slot receiver.

If you’ve watched Edwards play you know the ludicrous quick speed he has, paired with incredible jumping ability. This is a guy who wouldn’t necessarily need to be taught how to run routes, you could just put him on a fly and toss it up. There are very few linebackers who could contest a high throw in the air, and he has a frame that would be tricky for DBs to deal with.

Zion Williamson

Williamson is probably the only “big man” in the NBA that could make the switch. As an undersized power forward at 6’6, but at around 265-285 pounds, he would be a perfect base end in a four down defense. Think along the lines of how the New Orleans Saints play their defensive ends, or the New York Jets. Williamson can use his burst and explosion upfield to cause havoc.

Jalen Suggs

If you’ve watched Jalen Suggs play you’ve undoubtably heard it mentioned that he used to play football. To be clear: Suggs didn’t just use to play football like it was fun, he was a legitimately elite football player — and a coveted recruit at that.

A dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class, Suggs received offers from Georgia, Iowa, and Iowa State among others. Ultimately he chose to go to Gonzaga on a basketball offer and the rest is history, but there’s no doubt he had the ability to be a major player.

Ja Morant

When on the court, Morant has incredible explosion and body control that he uses to go amongst the trees and finish layups in traffic. While a wiry 6’2, 174 pounds, Morant can be a vertical field stretcher in the NFL who can go up and get the ball if need be.

Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell is another guy who combines explosion with body control, but has a bit more of a stockier build than Morant. He could play receiver, but Mitchell would be a really good player in the secondary of an NFL team.

Luguentz Dort

Dort already plays basketball like a linebacker on the court, so why don’t we make him a run and chase WILL in football. He’s got a wide frame and has the lateral quickness to stay with slot receivers or tight ends in the passing game.

NFL players who could play in the NBA: 4

Myles Garrett

I don’t know how he’d fit in a rotation. I don’t know if he can shoot from range, but I know Garrett is athletic as hell and double-tough. At the very least I think he could be a rotational big man who could bruise in the middle and grab a few boards. The big holdup is that he’s only 6’4, but competitiveness goes a long way.

Kyle Pitts

At high school Kyle Pitts was a defensive big man for Lee Central in South Carolina. Eventually he made the correct switch to football, but he was a pretty good high school rebounder. Like Garrett he would be a rotational defensive player at best.

Anthony Richardson

Many players have said Anthony Richardson was a legit very good basketball player. Take Chicago Bears’ DT Gervon Dexter for example:

Richardson is incredibly athletic, with his high school coach telling stories about dunking basketballs off the backboard. There’s also this, pulling up to a pickup basketball game and dominating.

Daniel Jones

I know, I know. The same Daniel Jones who tripped over his own feet with nothing but the endzone in front of him, why is he on this list? Well, it’s because evidently he was a legit hooper in high school. He played on the same AAU team as Grant Williams, and Jay Bilas himself said he could’ve played in the Duke rotation when he was in college. I’ll take Bilas’ word for it, I guess.

When the dust settles it’s only natural that both Rivers and Watt are vastly overrating the abilities of their respective leagues. Even looking at these lists it feels like a massive stretch to suggest anyone could effectively jump leagues and do well.

These are examples of us stretching the possibility all the way to its breaking point, and still there isn’t much convincing to argue for. It’s best these guys just stick to their original sports.

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