Starting XI of non-soccer players: NFL edition. With the NFL kicking off their first week, our Back Sports Page Soccer Team decided to pick a starting XI of NFL athletes. Players like Odell Beckham have a history of playing soccer, while Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow have the athletic ability to play any sport, including soccer.
JJ Watt-Retired NFL Player, DE
JJ Watt was one of the best defensive ends in the NFL during his playing career. At 6’5, he was strong, athletic and quick to stop players. He would be a perfect role for a goalkeeper due to his height and athleticism, like Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois.
Watt’s also a soccer fan himself, being a long-time Chelsea fan while also married to former NWSL player Kealia Watt. The couple are also a minority investor in Premier League side Burnley F.C.
Sauce Gardner-New York Jets, CB
Reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner broke out last season during his freshman season with the Jets. His vision and speed had landed him as one of the top defensive players to watch out for this season.
In soccer, Gardner would be a perfect fit for a left back position, like Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies. He is also another soccer fan, as he was seen with PSG stars Kylian Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi earlier in the year.
Patrick Surtain II-Denver Broncos, CB
Surtain will be entering his junior year in the NFL after being drafted in 2021. He was a first-time pro bowler last season, while also making the first-team All-Pro. The cornerback has been the center of the Denver Broncos defense’s success, with the team averaging just 21.1 points per game.
He can be a perfect fit to play center back, with his ability to create tackles and force pass deflections. At 6’2, he can be compared to Barcelona’s Ronald Araujo.
Micah Parsons- Dallas Cowboys, LB
Micah Parsons has been unbelievable for the Cowboys since 2021, changing the whole dynamic of the defensive line since his presence. He is a two-time Pro Bowler, two-time first team All-pro, and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2021.
The linebacker is tough, as he ended the season with 14.5 sacks. Both him and Arsenal’s William Saliba are about the same size, which is why Parsons would be a perfect fit for a center back position in soccer. In March, Parsons tweeted about the environment in a soccer stadium and how it is the best in the world.
Jalen Ramsey-Miami Dolphins, CB
Ramsey will begin his first season with the Dolphins after spending four seasons with the Rams. He’s becoming a veteran in the NFL as he enters his eighth season as a cornerback. Ramsey is a six-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-team All-Pro.
The right back position would be a perfect Ramsey, with similar ability to Joao Cancelo and Giovanni Di Lorenzo. Back in 2018, Ramsey was compared to a “flopping” soccer player after a theatrical dive after a minor tackle from OT Taylor Lewman.
Justin Jefferson-Minnesota Vikings, WR
Jefferson is the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year while breaking the NFL record for most receiving yards per game in his career with 96.5. His speed, movement, and agility make it hard for defenders to stop, which is why he has been the number one picked player for this year’s fantasy teams.
Jefferson’s vision on the football could be compared to Munich’s Leroy Sane’s style of play, which is why the left midfield would suit Jefferson well, while also transitioning to a left winger in a 4-3-3 situation. He also has experience playing on the pitch as he was seen playing pick up at a local park by teammate Dalvin Cook in 2021.
Patrick Mahomes-Kansas City Chiefs, QB
The two-time MVP and Super Bowl winner is one of the most athletic players out there. Not only could he play football, but he was also a baseball player in college. He is also no rookie to playing in the center of the field and distributing the ball, like a center midfielder. His world-class status in the NFL is like Luka Modric’s world-class status in soccer.
Mahomes is also a big soccer fan. He and his wife Brittney Mahomes are part-owners of NWSL side Kansas City Current. Brittney also played DII soccer in college. He supported the USMNT during their run at the World Cup in Qatar and expressed his support to the team in their journey of growing soccer in America.
Joe Burrow-Cincinnati Bengals, QB
Joe Burrow is another great athlete that can fit into any sport. Since joining the league in 2021, he transformed the Bengals organization into a winning team. Burrow took them to a Super Bowl in 2022 and to the AFC Championship in 2023. He made an incredible comeback after tearing his ACL at the end of his rookie season, bringing them to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989.
With his height and athleticism, his ability to search for plays is similar to that of Jude Bellingham and Paul Pogba. Burrow, along with other teammates, supported FC Cincinnati during the U.S Open Cup semifinals against Lionel Messi and Inter Miami last month.
Nick Chubb- Cleveland Browns, RB
Nick Chubb is on the shorter side compared to other NFL players at 5’11. However, he has still been able to be one of the best running backs in the game. He totaled 1,525 rushing yards with 12 rushing touchdowns last season.
Since he can run up the football field, there wouldn’t be issues with him doing it on a soccer pitch. Just like Toni Kroos and Illkay Gundogan.
Odell Beckham Jr-Baltimore Ravens, WR
Beckham is one of the most famous NFL players who has the most experience playing soccer. Growing up, he also played soccer and was offered a chance to play for the junior national team, but decided to decline it so he could focus on football in the states.
His dynamic athleticism has been unbelievable since starting with the Giants, including his insane one-handed catch during his rookie season. If he were to play soccer, he could easily be a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Robert Lewandowski type of player.
Lamar Jackson- Baltimore Ravens, QB
Jackson is not the best for passing yards, but his ability to run through defenses makes him one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. He won NFL MVP in 2019 while breaking a handful of NFL records, including most single-season rushing yards and attempted yards by a quarterback.
He can be a perfect replica of an Erling Haaland: fast, strong with incredible finishing. His influence on the sport has also landed him in FIFA 21 as a Volta player.