What If Major League Baseball was to Field an NFL Team? Part 2: The Defense

Bryce Harper brings a unique toughness and demeanor to the diamond, but could he bring the same grit to the gridiron and effectively be the leader of our defense?

Bryce Harper brings a unique toughness and demeanor to the diamond, but could he bring the same grit to the gridiron, and effectively be the leader of our defense?

With the NFL working its way into mid-season form and the MLB postseason on the horizon, we thought it would be fun to put together a two-piece series of what Major League Baseball’s All-Pro football team would look like. Last week, we released the offensive depth chart, and today in our follow-up piece, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you, the defense. Despite having what we believe to be a high-powered and explosive big league offense, you’ll quickly see that we pride ourselves on the traditional ‘defense wins championships’ mentality.

Defensive End

Jason Heyward, RF, Atlanta Braves
25 years old, 6’5” 245 lbs.

Heyward fits the mold of the athletic defensive end that’s a nightmare for offensive tackles to handle. He leads the Majors in defensive runs saved thanks to his above-average speed and good instincts in the outfield, which should allow him to get a great jump off the ball. His length and wingspan will play to his advantage in giving him the ability to control his opponent. Heyward has the potential to be a game-changing pass rusher off the edge. Slightly undersized for the position, with the quick hands and quick feet that he shows off in Atlanta, Heyward might be football’s most athletic defensive lineman.

CC Sabathia, P, New York Yankees
34 years old, 6’7” 285 lbs.

Sabathia was a phenomenal baseball, basketball and football player in high school. He was an All-Conference tight end and received scholarship offers to play on the offensive line at UCLA and Hawaii. He actually signed a letter of intent to attend Hawaii but chose a career in baseball instead. He can surely bang in the trenches given his size, but it’s the 30-pounds he dropped this past offseason that will allow him to excel at the end of the defensive line. His strong lower body will make him a force to be reckoned with on the outside, opposite of Heyward.

Defensive Tackle

Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers
30 years old, 5’11” 275 lbs.

As the anchor of our defense, Fielder, one of the strongest guys in the Majors, will play nose tackle in our 3-4 scheme. Somewhat small for the position—probably his first time ever hearing that—Prince has enough lower body strength and core power to command double teams. His wide frame should clog up the middle and keep the interior linemen from reaching the second level, freeing up the linebackers so they can attack the ball carrier. His 38.4 BMI and nearly 300-pound figure gives him enough leverage to be adequate against the run. Unnoticed by the common fan, Fielder is surprisingly athletic. He shows decent range at first base which points to him being able shed blockers and cause havoc on opposing quarterbacks. He’s also extremely durable. This season was the first time Fielder was placed on the disabled list in his 10-year career, and he holds the Brewers’ club record for consecutive games played at 327.

Inside Linebacker

Bryce Harper, LF, Washington Nationals
21 years old, 6’3” 230 lbs.

Harper actually quit playing little league at six years old to focus on football until he broke his wrist during his freshman year, then rededicated his future back to baseball. This offseason, Harper packed on a good 10 to 15 pounds of solid muscle. I mean, he was absolutely yoked when he reported to spring training. Denard Span was quoted saying “Right now he’s about 240. He looks like Brian Urlacher out there playing left field.” Not a bad comp at all, and Span wasn’t lying either, Harper weighed in at exactly 240 back in February. He may have dropped some of his mass since the start of the season but he still boasts the physique of a middle linebacker, not to mention he has a knack for leaving it all of the field every single play. He has off-the-chart makeup and his athleticism is undeniable, allowing him to be effective as a run stopper and in coverage. But it’s his intensity and desire to never take a play off that is so unfathomable. Harper steps on the ball field with such a reckless abandon for his own well-being, I can only imagine how that would translate onto the gridiron.

Yasiel Puig, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers
23 years old, 6’3” 235 lbs.

Possibly the most electric and dynamic player in the game, Puig’s explosiveness and swagger would shine on the football field. The five-tool ballplayer will be a Major League playmaker in our scheme. He’s got the burst to close in on plays and the strength to take on and shed blocks. He displays the same tenacity and toughness on the diamond as his partner in crime above, and compliments it with a unique set of fielding skills that would allow him to be excellent in pass coverage. His speed will take him sideline-to-sideline when chasing down the ball carrier. If we could quantify swag for any given position, Harper and Puig would knock that metric out of the ballpark.

Outside Linebacker

Carlos Quentin, LF, San Diego Padres
32 years old, 6’1” 235 lbs.

Quentin was a distinguished outside linebacker during his senior season of high school. After his highly praised football and baseball campaigns of 1999 and 2000, he was named the San Diego Male Athlete of the Year. Quentin was the MLB league leader in hit by pitches in 2011 and 2012, so his toughness is most definitely not in question. He doesn’t offer a ton of speed, but his grotesque upper body strength was on full display when he was hit by a Zack Greinke fastball last season that escalated into an unforgettable bench-clearing brawl. Subsequently, when he charged the mound, he broke Greinke’s collarbone in what looked like a linebacker blowing up a play in the backfield. Opposing quarterbacks should be expecting similar treatment.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
26 years old, 6’3” 245 lbs.

Goldschmidt’s combination of size and athleticism fits the outside linebacker role perfectly. The explosive first baseman should be able to bring pressure off the edge and close down the formation against the run. In 3.5 years of big league ball, he has 46 career stolen bases and 83 career home runs. He’s regularly known for his power, but what’s shocking is his efficiency on the base paths. He’s only been gunned down 13 times in his career, leaving him with a stolen base percentage of 78%. Built like a house, he’s not exactly a burner any sort, but his instincts will allow him to hold his own in pass coverage when called upon.

Cornerback

Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds
23 years old, 6’0” 160 lbs.

Hamilton will play the part of the shutdown corner in our defensive scheme. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed, quickness and acceleration. In high school, he was an All-State baseball, football and basketball player. And he surely could have been a track star if he wanted to. The multi-sport athlete was a top prospect at wide receiver and turned down a scholarship offer from Mississippi State to pursue baseball. As the fastest player in the game today, his speed has already drawn comparisons to that of eight-time Pro Bowler Deion Sanders. In 2012, Hamilton stole a record setting 155 bags in the minors, and he displayed his unordinary speed for the first time at the Major League level this season, logging 56 stolen bases. We’ve already started marketing the Billy Island campaign.

Carlos Gomez, CF, Milwaukee Brewers
28 years old, 6’3” 220 lbs.

With 204 career stolen bases and a rather large frame for a cornerback, Gomez has the ability to square up the NFL’s most threatening wide outs. He will lineup against big-bodied receivers that Hamilton realistically can’t handle, but he still has the speed to run with the best of them. Gomez’ size and power should allow him to disrupt their routes at the line of scrimmage, forcing opposing quarterbacks to go through their progressions. Gomez was one 2012 homer shy of posting back-to-back-to-back 20-20 seasons. But the attribute that relates most to the football field is his attitude. The in-your-face fearlessness that he brings to the table aligns impeccably with the elite cornerback mentality and should drive receivers bonkers.

Safety

Alex Gordon, LF, Kansas City Royals
30 years old, 6’1” 220 lbs.

Gordon was first-team All-State as a defensive back during his senior year of high school, and led the state of Nebraska with seven interceptions. At receiver, he averaged 20 yards per catch, as well as 35 yards on kick returns. He was selected as the Omaha World-Herald’s Male High School Athlete of the Year as a junior, the only non-senior to be honored with the award in its 50-plus years of existence. His quickness and great instincts make him one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, ranking fourth in the league in runs saved. He takes good angles on balls to the outfield which translates to him excelling in zone coverage at the free safety position. Gordon has the potential to be an absolute ball hawk roaming as the centerfielder of our defense.

Jeff Francoeur, RF, San Diego Padres
30 years old, 6’4” 220 lbs.

Given his experience playing defensive back in high school, Francoeur will stand out as a pass-defending specialist who regularly matches up against opposing tight ends. From the strong safety position, he’ll draw the daunting task of locking down the Gronk’s, Graham’s, and Julius Thomas’ of the league in man-to-man coverage. His versatility will play a huge role in the middle of our defense as we expect him to effectively stifle the run as well. Staring as a defensive back and wide receiver in high school, he signed a letter of intent to play football at Clemson before being drafted in the first round by the Braves. He was the centerpiece of a team that went undefeated in 2000 and 2001, and was the leader of their 2002 state championship winning squad. In his junior season, he caught 14 touchdowns at wide out and intercepted 15 balls at safety. As a five-star recruit and one of the nation’s top defensive backs some years ago, Francoeur will have a second chance at separating receivers from the ball and making highlight-reel interceptions.

Nickelback

Carl Crawford, LF, Los Angeles Dodgers
33 years old, 6’2” 225 lbs.

As our fifth defensive back, Crawford will most likely only see the field in passing down situations. The aging veteran has been one of baseball’s best athletes over the last decade or so. Back in 2009, Crawford tied the modern record of six stolen bags in a single game. The dude could flat out fly and we still think he’s got something left in the tank. At the very least, given his experience, football IQ and versatility, he’s earned himself a secondary role on this team. He was a multi-purpose quarterback in high school who was highly recruited by Nebraska, Florida, and Oklahoma before he ultimately decided to sign his letter of intent to attend Nebraska. Seeing that he’s not just a one trick pony, Crawford will also serve as our third-string emergency quarterback with designed packages utilizing his dual-threat abilities.

Defensive Scheme:

Our basic defensive formation will be the 3-4 defense. The intricacies of our scheme rely heavily on our defensive front’s ability to control the trenches and disrupt plays from the snap. Our line brings enough length and athleticism to occupy the interior lineman, which should free up our linebackers to take on major play-making roles. If the line can handle their end, our backers should be free to shoot the gaps and attack the pocket from the outside. Our two inside linebackers are among two of the best athletes in all of baseball and are wired like they were born to play on Sundays. Our outside linebackers will be the primary pass-rushers off the edge to aid our undersized defensive line in pressuring the quarterback, and we believe we have the speed in the middle to cover the entire field.

In the golden age of passing, our secondary should see plenty of opportunities to earn their stripes. The defensive instincts are there and we are hoping that our speed at cornerback can compensate for the lack of speed at safety. Our personnel flexibility is the key to our defensive scheme, and it should allow us to adjust to the different packages opposing offenses throw at us. Despite being a little undersized as a unit, we ultimately believe that the versatility and athleticism of our defenders gives this squad a chance to compete at an All-Pro level.

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One Response to What If Major League Baseball was to Field an NFL Team? Part 2: The Defense

  1. LAW 421 says:

    I could not resist commenting. Very well written!

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