College football coaches are in a position to reassess young players as they arrive from high school. They may decide a player’s talent is better utilized in a new position. Other football players change positions to increase their NFL Draft appeal. Great athletes are versatile, after all. Here’s a look at seven NFL players who switched positions.
1. Ryan Tannehill: wide receiver to quarterback
During his final year at Texas A&M, Ryan Tannehill switched from being a wide receiver and backup quarterback to serving as starting quarterback. His move proved wise as the Dolphins drafted him as a quarterback in 2012. Tannehill played for Miami until he was traded to the Tennessee Titans in 2019.
2. Terrelle Pryor: quarterback to wide receiver
A star quarterback in high school, Terrelle Pryor won both the 2008 and 2009 Big Ten championships as Ohio State’s QB. He was also the 2008 Big Ten Freshman Quarterback of the Year. Despite his success at the position, Pryor occasionally served as a wide receiver for Ohio.
After Oakland drafted Pryor as a quarterback, he sat the bench and experienced several trades and cuts. Then, in 2015, he announced his switch to wide receiver. This gave him opportunities with the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, and Buffalo Bills. Pryor was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019.
3. Julian Edelman: quarterback to wide receiver/kick returner
Julian Edelman was mainly a quarterback at Kent State, but he was a rusher and receiver, too. Drafted in 2009 by the New England Patriots, Edelman has been a standout wide receiver and kick returner, serving as Tom Brady’s favorite target.
The Patriots have even utilized the 33-year-old’s quarterback skills. In 2014, in a divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, Edelman received a lateral pass from Brady and then threw a forward pass to Danny Amendola, who scored a 51-yard touchdown.
4. Richard Sherman: wide receiver to cornerback
During college, Richard Sherman made the switch from offense to defense as he played both wide receiver and cornerback in high school. In 2006, he served as Stanford University’s leading receiver and was also named a Freshman All-American. Then, Sherman suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2008. After returning in 2009, he requested a switch to cornerback.
The Seattle Seahawks picked him in the 2011 draft, and the 31-year-old has been named All-Pro four times. Sherman was a Super Bowl champion for the 2013 season and led the NFL in interceptions (eight) that year. He’s even suggested he may want to finish his career as a safety.
5. J.J. Watt: tight end to defensive end
After one season as a tight end at Central Michigan University, J.J. Watt was asked to switch to offensive tackle. Instead, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin as a walk-on, where he became a highly successful defensive end. Drafted by the Houston Texans in 2011, he’s been the NFL Defensive Player of the year three times and was named to the Pro Bowl five times.
6. Denard Robinson: quarterback to running back
In 2010, University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten Conference, winning the Chicago Tribune Silver Football. His 2012 season, however, didn’t go well at quarterback, and the Wolverines switched him to running back.
Robinson entered the 2013 draft knowing he wouldn’t be selected as a quarterback — his size and passing skills weren’t a fit for the NFL. The Jaguars drafted him in the fifth round, and he played in Jacksonville as a running back for three years. He retired from the NFL in 2017.
7. Dante Hall: running back to kick return specialist
Known as the “human joystick,” Dante Hall started as a running back for Texas A&M. He was drafted in 2000 as a kick/punt returner. After one year in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs and one year in NFL Europe with the Scottish Claymores, Hall returned as a record-setting kick returner. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2002 and 2003 and was first-team All-Pro in 2003. He ended his career with the St. Louis Rams and retired in 2008.