Which NBA Players Would Have the Best Shot at Making It in the NFL? Top Candidates Include LeBron James, Anthony Edwards, Jalen Suggs, and Russell Westbrook

Austin Rivers sparked conversation about if NBA or NFL players are more capable of switching sports. Here are the NBA athletes with the best chance.

Let’s start with the obvious — what made the Bo Jacksons and Deion Sanders of the world special is that playing multiple professional sports is a borderline crazy thought. Performing at the top 1% of the human race in one sport is difficult to comprehend for those of us who peaked in high school, making the idea of walking into a new sport at that level beyond comprehension.

That said, these uber-athletes are, simply put, built different. The physical gifts are obvious, but the confidence is at such a level that there is no shortage of players who believe they are capable of playing professionally in a different sport. Today, I take a look at which NBA players would best translate to the NFL in building a hypothetical fantasy football lineup.

NBA Players on My Fantasy Football Roster

We were graced with the debate of NBA and NFL players transitioning to each other’s sport thanks to Austin Rivers’ comments on “The Pat McAfee Show.”

PFN’s Josiah Caswell made the case as to which NFL players would have the best shot at making it in the NBA, so it’s my turn to play the other side and build my fantasy football lineup of NBA players.

To narrow down the list, I’m only using players that have played in the 2024 postseason.

QB – Jalen Suggs

I’m not going to use the “he was awesome in high school” argument after diving into Suggs. Not because those on my team didn’t dominate as 16-year-olds, but because they all did. In any physical form of competition, I’m operating under the assumption that any of today’s professional athletes looked out of place in high school.

If Suggs wanted to strike out two of every three batters as a teenager, he probably could have. If LeBron James wanted to shatter Ohio’s scholastic long jump record, why not? Russell Westbrook, California’s swimming prodigy? If he wanted to, I wouldn’t be betting against it.

Suggs became the first athlete in Minnesota history to be awarded Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football within the same academic year. That alone shifts his name into a conversation like this, as does the fact that his size fits nicely into what an average NFL quarterback looks like.

From an intangibles standpoint, sign me up. If you watched 10 seconds of Orlando Magic basketball this season, you know that Suggs is a foxhole guy. He’ll do whatever it takes to put his team in position to win, even if it comes at the expense of his own glory.

Suggs was the fifth overall pick in 2021, and yet he averages fewer shots in the pros than he did at Gonzaga. The ball is going to be in his hands as my quarterback, and I trust him to get the rock to his playmakers. When he is needed to make the most of a moment, he can — 36.1% shooter as a rookie, 41.9% last season, and 47.1% this year.

RB – Josh Hart

I don’t think basketball fans will argue with this — when NBA players say they can play in the NFL, very few of them are signing up for the pounding that running backs take. That makes this portion of my fantasy roster difficult, but New York has a pair of grinders that I think have as good a shot at playing this demanding position as anyone.

Any NBA player is going to be bigger than your average NFL RB, and that leaves them open to injury concerns with low hits. Is there a single player in the playoffs this season that you’d bet on the stamina of over Hart? Didn’t think so.

Hart is essentially the same size as Eric Dickerson, the NFL’s single-season record holder for rushing yards (2,105 in 1984). That’s not to say that Hart is Dickerson 2.0, but his athletic profile is elite, and in watching him vacuum in rebounds despite giving away 6+ inches to the opposition, I’m confident in his vision and thus his potential to find holes.

This isn’t a dynasty exercise, so I’m not concerned about Hart being 29 years of age. His ability to accelerate grades well for when he gets into space on a sweep and his grit makes him a solid bet in short-yardage situations.

RB – Jalen Brunson

Any NBA player is going to be athletic, and I trust that is true with Brunson. While he doesn’t look like a stand-out from a physical perspective when compared to his NBA peers, he’s got plenty of tools to be successful in a backfield setting.

The wiggle that he has shown this postseason when defenses are loading up on him tells me that he has the creativity it takes to maximize his touches on the gridiron, but beyond that, I like his embracing of contact.

Teams are trying to beat him up and wear him down right now — it’s not working. Not only has he been able to stay on the court (77 games this regular season, 43.8 minutes per game in Round 1), but he’s thriving.

Instead of limping to the finish line, Brunson’s free-throw percentage is at a career-high. No one in the NBA has been able to stop Brunson from getting to his spot this postseason and his attack-at-all-times game profiles well as a versatile running back.

WR – Anthony Edwards

With a size profile and wingspan that isn’t much different than Calvin Johnson, it doesn’t take much to sell Edwards as an elite vertical receiver at a high level. The coordination he has showcased this postseason by way of Michael Jordan fadeaways gives me optimism in his potential to be an elite route runner (Davante Adams constantly refers to his crossover routes), and we know the physical tools are there.

Edwards set career highs in FG% and assist-to-turnover rate this season, a signal that he can improve his craft, even as the defensive attention ramps up. Stopping Edwards on an NBA court where contact is discouraged seems impossible at times — put this physical profile in a sport where contact is encouraged and watch him thrive.

WR – Russell Westbrook

If you want to talk about a player with a “football mentality,” it’s Westbrook and his relentless nature. Yes, his physical prime may be behind him, but with a rebound rate that mirrors his career average, the physical tools are still very much there.

The NBA is a league of the best athletes in the world, and they have a problem staying in front of Westbrook when he is forced to dribble — imagine what would happen if we got him a screen pass and simply asked him to run hard?

Westbrook’s size would give him the ability to make plays down the field, but I see his savvy best used in quick strike plays, racking up my PPR fantasy points and punishing cornerbacks as he gets running downhill.

WR – Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell will be my in-between receiver, one that can win at every level. His athleticism makes him a deepball threat while his point guard savvy (career-high 6.1 assists per game this season) points to the ability to be precise.

Could he be a taller version of DJ Moore? Tackling this monster in space is not for the faint of heart, but it does seem preferable to trying to meet him at the summit.

TE – LeBron James

The roster wouldn’t be complete without the GOAT, would it? The 6’9”, 250-pound frame is going to result in NFL teams wanting him tied to the line, but this athletic specimen is never going to be asked to block.

His mind has proven to be his greatest tool, and that makes him a great bet to reach double-digit touchdown receptions. I mean, tight ends routinely “box out” when in the red zone to give their signal caller a spot to throw the ball — I’ll go ahead and take my chances with James excelling in that regard if for whatever reason his offense doesn’t want to throw a fade.

Donald Parham Jr. is a supersized tight end that is at least in the realm of James — he has scored once every 6.1 catches for his career. With James in the twilight of his career, his NFL team in this scenario will want to squeeze as much value out of him as possible and funnel targets his way.

KEEP READING: Which NFL Players Have the Best Shot of Playing in the NBA?

We chase scoring equity at the tight end position, something that James falls out of bed with, not to mention his elite RAC potential that I’m comfortable in projecting given that we’ve seen him run through arm tackles on an NBA court for two decades.

What would you change? Do you think an NBA roster full of NFL players would have more success than an NFL roster full of NBA players? What if you just had to fill out a fantasy lineup, understanding that the “in the trenches” part of a football roster is difficult to project for NBA players?

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles