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Building a team of best current NFL players taken in past MLB drafts

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Who are the best NFL players taken in the MLB draft?
Who are the best NFL players taken in the MLB draft? (USATSI)

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The biggest buzz out of the entire 2014 MLB Draft? It came from a football player of course. The Padres selection of Johnny Manziel caught the world on fire and it got us thinking how a baseball team full of non-roundballers might look.

The goal was to construct an entire baseball starting roster (plus a closer) of NFL players. To be eligible, you need only qualify for the MLB Draft as well, which just means you just need to be breathing some modicum of baseball experience.

The resulting crew that takes the field? Well it's pretty impressive. Even more so when you're throwing it down RBI Baseball style.

(click to embiggen)

Let's run through the lineup, batting-order style.

1. Golden Tate, CF -- The Lions wide receiver actually attended Notre Dame as both a football and baseball player and was drafted twice (not an uncommon theme for some of these guys). The Diamondbacks initially took him in the 42nd round of the 2007 MLB Draft when he was coming out of high school (Tate chose to attend Notre Dame) and the Giants selected him in the 50th round of the 2010 MLB Draft (Tate chose to attend Seattle as a second-round pick). He's kind of perfect in terms of a leadoff guy and centerfielder; he has speed (4.42 40) to get on base and provide range in the outfield. Tate had 11 hits (three doubles), a .295 OBP and three stolen bases in 18 games for Notre Dame as a freshman.

2. Russell Wilson, SS -- The Seahawks quarterback and his former receiver provide plenty of pop at the top of this lineup. Wilson actually ended up getting run out of N.C. State because of baseball and pursued it professionally; he came closer to playing in the bigs than anyone else in our starting lineup. Putting him in at second base is the easy move but shortstop makes more sense given his prowess with the glove. After batting .282 with the Wolfpack in college, Wilson hit just .228 with the Asheville Tourists (Single A) though he did manage to steal 15 bases in 61 games and get on base at a .366 clip (35 walks). Wilson left the Rockies organization, transferred to Wisconsin (so Mike Glennon could play in Raleigh) got drafted by the Seahawks and the rest is history. He even managed to get drafted again, this time by the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. That was the third time Wilson got selected -- the Orioles took him originally in the 2007 MLB Draft.

3. Jake Locker, 3B -- Somehow third base was the toughest spot to fill in this lineup; I don't think there was a "traditional" third baseman available from the NFL ranks. In terms of athletes, though, Locker's a perfect fit, despite not playing baseball since high school, a la Manziel. At 6'3", 235 he profiles about the same size as Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, with an absolute cannon arm to boot.

4. Toby Gerhart, RF -- The most curious case on the list. Gerhart, Stanford standout running back turned Adrian Peterson's Vikings backup turned would-be Jaguars starter, was a really good baseball player in college ... and as far as I can tell, he never got drafted. How does that even happen? Someone will take a flier on Manziel for publicity but won't take a shot on a guy who batted .240 with eight doubles, a triple, 7 home runs and 21 RBI in 56 games for Stanford in 2008. He also had a .400 OBP with the Cardinal in his sophomore year and was willing to give up football for baseball if he got "something big" in a contract from an MLB team. I'm willing to gamble on him though and plugged Gerhart into right field (he played there in college) and bat him cleanup for this motley crew.

5. Eric Decker, LF -- Drafted twice (once in the 39th round by the Brewers in 2008 and again in the 27th round by the Twins in 2009) while in college at Minnesota, the Jets receiver played outfield for the Golden Gophers and provides a nice power/speed combo for the lineup. He batted .319 with four homers, 43 runs, 11 steals and 25 RBIs in 56 games during his second year of ball at Minnesota (following a .329 average during his first season with 47 runs and 28 RBIs in 161 at-bats).

6. Tom Brady, C -- It's almost deferential to keep the Patriots legend this high with him turning 37 in August. Not a whole lot of dudes crushing for power at his age and you know Brady isn't gonna beat out a bunch of singles. Not that you can blame him: dude was drafted by the Expos in the 18th round of the 1995 draft to play catcher. He's not supposed to be speedy. But he might've had a future in baseball, as his bat speed and power potential would've made him as high as a fifth-round pick if not for football at the University of Michigan. Brady probably made the right choice.

7. Michael Vick, 1B -- Does Vick even play first base? No idea. But the Jets quarterback is a lefty and that means he's playing first base for me. I'm old school like that. He might be the least likely to ever hit the diamond, having not played organized baseball since eighth grade when the Rockies took him in the 30th round of the 2000 MLB Draft. Even at his age, I'm pretty sure he could do some damage at the plate. And definitely on the basepaths.

8. Johnny Manziel, 2B -- The big name from the 2014 MLB Draft provides more pop at the plate than people expect (he was apparently hitting homers at Padres batting practice, even before they took the Browns quarterback) and clearly has plenty of speed. Manziel didn't play baseball in college -- but he did bat .412 as a sophomore and .416 as a junior before concentrating on football -- and I was too nervous putting him at short. I think his athleticism can handle second easy, though, and Russell's more recent experience makes it a smarter swap.

9. Colin Kaepernick, SP -- Chee-eeeeese. That's what Kaep brings to the mound. Kaepernick was a high-school ace for Pitman High School out of Turlock, California, posting a 1.54 ERA in his junior year while striking out 82 in 63.2 innings and giving up just 47 hits. (He also threw seven complete games.) In his senior year, Kaep was ridiculous, striking out 97 batters in 83 innings and posting a 1.27 ERA while tossing nine complete games and two no-hitters. The 49ers quarterback also hit .313 with 17 RBI his senior year, though he only had a single home run and two stolen bases. The 90 MPH fastball makes up for that.

Bench: Brandon Weeden, RP -- We gotta have a closer too right? Weeden's ERA was not ... great as he progressed through the Yankees farm system before eventually leaving baseball and returning to Oklahoma State for the 2007 season. (It's why he's turned 30 before his rookie contract ended.) He was the highest-selected player among all these players, going in the second round to New York in the 2002 MLB Draft. He was also once traded for Kevin Brown! Letting him close out games just feels right.

Bench: Matt Moore, UTIL -- The Dolphins backup quarterback was taken in the 22nd round of the 2004 MLB Draft by the Angels even though he didn't actually play in college. (It's also really annoying trying to Google information about his baseball career because, well, this guy.) Moore also played third base and shortstop in high school, giving me an excellent safety net if Locker or Manziel falter in the infield.

And if things get REALLY ugly, I'm hitting my arm and calling Peyton Manning.

 
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