There are generally considered to be fewer athletes playing multiple sports than there used to be, but the ties between football and baseball remain strong.
The NFL draft in recent years has featured plenty of players who were also standouts on the diamond, including top picks Kyler Murray, A.J. Brown, Hayden Hurst, Cole Kmet and Justin Fields.
While there are no football/baseball standouts on the level of a Murray or Brown this year, there are multiple NFL draft prospects who were either drafted in baseball, earned accolades on the diamond or have other ties to the game.
With the 2022 NFL Draft set to begin tonight, here is a look at some potential picks who also have ties to baseball.
Jerrion Ealy, RB, Mississippi
Ealy was one of the top high school outfielders in the 2019 draft class and was selected by the D-backs in the 31st round. He would have been a top-three rounds pick if not for his strong commitment to play both baseball and football at Ole Miss. The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and shoulder surgery in 2021 limited Ealy to just 13 career games on the diamond for the Rebels, but he excelled on the gridiron. He racked up 2,235 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns over three seasons in addition to 545 receiving yards and four touchdowns and two kick return touchdowns. He is one of the top 20 running backs in the draft class and projects to be selected in the fifth or sixth round.
Below is Ealy’s BA draft report from 2019:
“One of the top athletes in the 2019 draft class, Ealy is also an elite, five-star running back who is committed to Mississippi for both baseball and football. 247Sports rates him as one of the country’s top 30 football recruits, which should surprise no one who has seen him on either playing surface. When it comes to baseball, Ealy is overflowing with plus tools. He packs plenty of strength into his well-built, 5-foot-10, 192-pound frame, and he has plus raw power thanks to his strength and above-average bat speed. Unsurprisingly, Ealy is also one of the fastest players in the class. In addition to his speed and raw power, Ealy is a gifted defender thanks to his closing speed, athleticism and easy plus arm strength. He could play all three outfield positions and is one of the better, natural defenders in the class. For all of Ealy’s tools and athleticism, however, the industry has soured on him this spring as he’s struggled offensively against below-average Mississippi competition. While Ealy does have impressive hand-eye coordination and solid pure bat-to-ball skills, he has long needed refinement in his plate discipline, approach and mechanical setup at the plate, which is mostly to be expected from a two-sport athlete at his level. However, scouts thought he would hit much better this spring and have been disappointed with the lack of progress he has shown in the batter’s box. Given Ealy’s upside on the gridiron and underwhelming performance this spring, he figures to be a tough sign out of Mississippi. He no longer projects as a first-round talent like he did last summer but still has tremendous upside if he ever focuses exclusively on baseball.”
Lucas Krull, TE, Pittsburgh
Krull reached the mid 90s with his fastball as a hard-throwing lefthanded pitcher and was drafted by the Giants in the 34th round out of Jefferson (Mo.) JC in 2018. He transferred to Florida to play football instead and spent two seasons with the Gators before finishing his career at Pittsburgh. He made 38 catches for 451 yards and six touchdowns in 2021 and was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl, although he was not invited to the NFL combine.
Below is Krull’s BA scouting report from 2018:
“To call Krull a risky pick is to downplay the risk. It’s very possible a team could draft Krull and watch him walk batter after batter, year after year. But Krull also has the kind of arm that’s hard to find. He’s a 6-foot-7 lefthander with a 91-96 mph fastball and a hard, 12-to-6 plus curveball that he locates better than his fastball. Krull struck out 14 batters per nine innings this year, but he also walked 38 in 16 innings. His control of his fastball is bottom-of-the-scale bad, but it’s a pitch that’s hard to square up and he did show modest improvement in his control as the season wore on.”
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Howell was an all-state pitcher and third baseman at Sun Valley (Monroe, N.C.) High and was ranked as the state’s No. 2 prospect by Perfect Game USA. He did not play baseball as a senior because he enrolled early at UNC. Howell started three years for the Tar Heels and broke the school records for career passing yards and touchdowns. He projects to be a second-round pick.
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Burks was a star center fielder at Warren (Ark.) High and was named all-state his sophomore and junior seasons. He did not play baseball as a senior after tearing his ACL playing football in the fall. He went on to become one of the most decorated wide receivers in Arkansas history and set a program record with six 100-yard games last season. He is one of the top receivers available and projects to be a first-round pick.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Linderbaum was a three-year varsity player as a righthanded pitcher and first baseman at Solon (Iowa) High and led the Spartans to the 3A state tournament as a senior, hitting .300 and posting a sub-2.00 ERA on the mound. He focused exclusively on football in college and blossomed into one of the top offensive linemen in the nation, winning the Rimington Trophy as the best center in the country in 2021. He projects to be an early first-round pick.
Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
McBride hit .452 with 23 home runs and 117 RBIs in a decorated four-year career as a catcher and outfielder at Fort Morgan (Colo.) High. He told NBC Sports he received Division I scholarship offers for baseball but instead elected to pursue football. He is regarded as the top tight end in the draft and projects to be selected in the second round.
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Willis played one season on varsity as an outfielder at Roswell (Ga.) High and hit .487 with 12 stolen bases in 14 games. He dropped baseball to focus on football full time as a senior and went on to become one of the top quarterbacks in his class. He began his football career at Auburn before transferring to Liberty and led all quarterbacks in the nation in rushing yards last year. He projects to be a first-round pick.
Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
Robinson played baseball his freshman and sophomore years as an outfielder at Western Hills (Frankfort, Ky.) High. He stopped playing baseball to focus on football as an upperclassman and began his college career at Nebraska before transferring to Kentucky. He set school records with 104 catches and 1,334 receiving yards last season and projects to be selected in the third round.
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Dean briefly played baseball as an outfielder for Horn Lake (Miss.) High before focusing on football full-time. He won the Butkus Award last fall as the nation’s top linebacker at Georgia and projects to be a first-round pick.
Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State
Purdy played one season as a third baseman and righthanded pitcher at Perry (Gilbert, Ariz.) High before dedicating himself to football. He led the Big 12 Conference in both completion percentage (71.7%) and passing yards per game (245.2) last season and is a potential late-round pick.
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, Louisiana State
Stingley did not play baseball, but his father, Derek Sr., was drafted by the Phillies in the 26th round in 1993. Stingley Sr. played three seasons in the Phillies organization as a minor league outfielder and topped out in Low-A. Stingley Jr. is the top cornerback in the draft and is projected to be a top-10 overall pick.