Every so often we come across an athlete so rare we allow ourselves to wonder. Could LeBron James have dominated the NFL the way he has the NBA? Who is the next Antonio Gates? Could Odell Beckham Jr. have been an elite soccer player?
Enter Zion Williamson. The projected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft has captured the attention and imagination of sports fans nationwide. With his otherworldly size and athleticism, seemingly limitless vertical and ferocity around the rim, the possibilities seem endless.
This begs the question where would Zion best fit as an NFL prospect? With his size and athleticism, the easy answer would be to compare him to basketball crossovers from the past and use him as a red zone wrecking tight end.
Not this writer.
With a blank slate of once in a generation talent standing 6-7 and weighing 280 pounds, I’m going to dare to think a little bigger.
Option #1 – LEFT TACKLE
Zion’s incredible body control, quick feet and long arms translate to one of the most important positions on the football field: left tackle.
With an athletic profile similar to the Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, this is where I would start. Zion has the frame to add positive weight without losing any lateral mobility and quickness. He could easily be seen as a 305-pound dancing bear protecting the QB’s blindside.
Potentially dominant Left Tackles are in very short supply. This is my first choice.
Option #2 – DEFENSIVE TACKLE
When I watch Zion, another premier player comes to mind immediately: 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
Buckner, who also stands 6-7 and weighs nearly 300 pounds, has been a damaging force along with the 49ers defensive line. With an emphasis being put on interior pressure, Williamson could find himself caving offensive gameplans similar to Buckner.
At 280 pounds, Williamson has the ability to move freely along the defensive line much like another outstanding, versatile left-handed pass rusher from the past, Giants standout Justin Tuck.
Option #3 – TIGHT END
If all else fails I would follow the already worn path from NCAA Basketball to the NFL: tight end.
Two of the NFL’s greatest tight ends of all-time, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, were standout basketball players at Kent State and the University of California, respectively. With soft hands and exceptional leaping ability, Zion could become an immediate red zone threat capable of double-digit touchdowns.
As attractive as the touchdowns would be, I can’t help but realize that a Tight End of that size has rarely stayed healthy long enough to make a consistent impact. The idea of a pass-rush-erasing cornerstone at the tackle position or a pocket-pushing, block-exploding defensive lineman is a way more exciting proposition.
Alas, this is an argument that will never have a resolution. We’ll have to settle for arena shaking dunks, mezzanine endangering blocked shots and Zion’s million dollar smile. On the basketball court.