4 College Basketball Players Who NFL Scouts Should Be Watching

It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure why NFL teams even try to play football players at tight end. Aside from Rob Gronkowski, who is fantastic, all the best bulky pass catchers of the last several years have been basketball players. Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, and Jimmy Graham are forces to be reckoned with. That’s not to mention other basketball players successful at other positions like the Eagles Connor Barwin.

When you’re looking for hoopers capable of heading to the gridiron, ┬áthere’s a few criteria. Obviously, size and strength are crucial, but there are limits. Too tall is a bad thing, as it begins to work as a disadvantage at some point. Being too good at basketball doesn’t help either. Sure, I’d love to throw a fade route to Montrezl Harrell, but he’ll be a first round pick in the NBA Draft for sure.

Our target is undersized power forwards who use strength and footwork to gain space in the post.

So who in today’s crop of college players could make the switch? I’ve got four guys in mind.

Devin Williams (West Virginia)

devin williams wvu

It’s been years since we’ve had a relevant NFL player in goggles. We need to bring this back into our lives. Devin Williams does not wear goggles that would look appropriate on a racquetball court. No, Devin’s specs would fit in nicely in a middle school biology class or World War I air battle.

Watch him display two crucial football skills on the left side of this GIF. First, he sets a screen so hard he might as well be run blocking. Then he flops for a call, which is huge in today’s PI-obsessed NFL.

devin will

He has the body to strike fear into NFL safeties, but the goggles of the sweaty guy from your local YMCA pick-up game.

Mo Alie Cox (VCU)

mo alie cox

Listed at 6’6, 250 lbs, Cox is a beast that no one wants to put their body in front of, let alone tackle.

As the anchor point of VCU’s “Havoc” defense, Cox would have no problem with some bump-and-run coverage or a no-huddle offense.

Jerrell Wright (LaSalle)


Staying in the A-10, Wright might be the strongest player in America. Listed at a generous 6’8, he has his way in the post with much bigger players on a regular basis.

Rico Gathers (Baylor)

Oklahoma v Baylor

Rico leads the nation in two related categories. First, he grabs the most rebounds of anyone in college basketball. Second, he is vying for Michigan tight end Jake Butt’s NCAA record for name-related puns. I have yet to watch a Baylor game this season without saying “Rico gathers another rebound!” out loud.

I need this to continue in my life. Kenneth Farried has proved that rebounding translates to the next level, but I am endlessly more excited by the possibility of changing the pun to: “Rico gathers a catch across the middle.” Look at him in the open court!


Gathers fits the profile so well, he’s been repeatedly asked if he’d consider playing at Baylor, even though he’s never played football. C’mon, Rico. Do it for the puns.

Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.

If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to palestraback@gmail.com

9 thoughts on “4 College Basketball Players Who NFL Scouts Should Be Watching

  1. “all the best bulky pass catchers of the last several years” you sure about that? what about greg olsen, vernon davis, jason witten, martellus bennet, heath miller! Hell, I’ll even toss out a healthy Dennis Pitta. Easy there Mr. Sweeping statements!!!


    1. Bennett played two years of college basketball! And the rest of them…(quick Google search)… all played hoops in high school! Jason Witten averaged 12 rebounds as a high school senior.


  2. Only a cynical man would call Jimmy Graham a tight end. Antonio Gates is pretty good but don’t let his 2014 stats fool you, he only had a few good games last year. Wait to see how good Julius is when he signs with the Raiders or Jaguars. I think it’s a little murky to say all those guys are top 6. If we are going last 5 years lets say, I’m putting Gronk, Vernon Davis in there, Witten, Graham and Gate probably. And, yes it is worth noting that basketball players can play tight end. I will give you that. I just found the use of the word ALL a little over the top


  3. I didn’t really mean last year. It’s more of a trend over the last 5-10 years. Ever since Gonzalez hit his peak and Gates became among the best in the league, it’s a trend worth exploring.

    i could go edit out the word “all”, but then this conversation would be useless and that’s no fun.


  4. i did last 5 years. and yes, without the word all there would be no debate and that would be no fun. and without debate why even have the internet?


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