DJ Eberle is a student/athlete at Western New England University. He is an offensive tackle, built like his dad; a rugby Prop. Track him on Twitter @Ebstide52
RUGBY TOWN, USA – With the NFL Draft four days away, I thought we could dream a little and look at the best players entering the Draft and see which prospects would best form a Rugby Sevens squad. Here goes:
Prop: Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
Quinton Coples is one freak of an athlete. By the end of his season junior season, Coples was put in the same sentence as Chicago Bears Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers. After having a very good junior season, Coples’ stats dropped off a bit, which caused NFL scouts to question his passion for the game. But whether he has the full-time passion or not, he has the ability to play both defensive end and defensive tackle. Since Coples can play anywhere on the defensive line, this makes me think that he may be able to pick up rugby as well. Coples certainly has the size to play prop at 6’5″ 284 lbs, but he’s also quick enough to prop in 7s. Imagine him lumbering at Cecil Afrika. If Coples becomes a draft bust, he could give rugby a try.
Prop: Donatri Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis
Although Quinton Coples is one freak of an athlete, he doesn’t even compare to Donatri Poe. Poe is close to 350 lbs. but still managed to run a 4.98 sec. 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine back in March. Poe’s 40-yard time beat players that were 50+ lbs. lighter than him; that is incredible. Poe is a fast and aggressive football player and with his draft stock rising Poe will have the chance to be taken in the teens. But like Coples, if Poe struggles in the NFL he has the speed and durability to last in a game like rugby that has a lot more length of play than football. Granted, he’s more likely suited as a 15s tight-head prop, but we’re dreaming here…
Hooker: Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama
In Courtney Upshaw’s four year career in a Crimson Tide uniform, he collected two national championship rings, something not many players have had the opportunity to do. Upshaw plays on a star-studded defensive with three other possible first round selections, but is the true leader. Upshaw played light’s out in the National Championship game against LSU this season and earned the Defensive Player of Game award. Upshaw’s draft stock has dropped a little bit, from a top-10 pick to a late first round selection, but either way he will be an impact player. Upshaw’s size, speed, and ball skills ability also allows him to have the option to switch over to rugby if football doesn’t work out as well.
Scrum half: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
Andrew Luck will be the first pick in this year’s NFL Draft next week. Luck is said to be the most NFL ready quarterback to enter the NFL Draft since Peyton Manning in the 1999 draft. And would you look at that, Luck will be replacing Manning as well. Luck has all the intangibles to be a very successful quarterback at the next level. He may not have won a Heisman Trophy Award but he didn’t have the same quality players around him that some other quarterbacks had. Not only can Luck throw a great ball, but he can catch one too. Luck made a one handed catch tip-toeing the sideline in a game this season verse UCLA. Luck’s pure athleticism makes you think that he has the ability to make the switch to rugby as well.
Back: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
Robert Griffin III or “RG3” is not your average quarterback. RG3 is not only this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but is an Olympic hurdler as well. Griffin ran track at Baylor as well, where he qualified for the Olympics. Griffin is a very accurate passer when it comes to the deep ball. Personally I believeRG3 should be the number one overall selection, not Luck (but that is neither here nor there.) The fact that Griffin has such good breakaway speed would make him a coveted back in rugby sevens. So if Griffin pulls a Ryan Leaf he could have a good career in rugby ahead of him.
Back: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
Justin Blackmon is the top wide receiver in the draft this year. Draft analysts are very skeptical of Blackmon going into the draft, cause his stock to slightly drop. Analysts believe that Blackmon has trouble breaking away from defensive backs off the line of scrimmage. Lucky for Blackmon, that wouldn’t be a problem in rugby since he won’t be receiving any forward passes. But what Blackmon does have going for him is incredible upper body strength and the ability to catch a ball in the radius of a two car garage. In my opinion Blackmon will have a very successful career, but if he doesn’t… rugby could be a foreseeable option. He has the work ethic that he’d need to learn a new game.
Back: Chris Rainey, Running Back, Florida
Chris Rainey was one of the fastest players in college football this past season. As far as his draft status goes, he won’t be a first round pick and probably not even a second or third round pick either. Either way Rainey is a talented back that can not only bounce it to the outside successfully, but can catch the ball effectively as well. Rainey has drawn comparisons to New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, who was very successful for the Saints this season. Since Rainey is the most risky draft selection out of the group, he could have the greatest chance to switch sports. Rainey, like Griffin had blazing speed that could be put to good use.
Who would your starting seven be?