Take it from an American: Valentine Holmes has the ability to make it in the NFL.
At least, he does if his talents are channelled correctly.
The former NRL star ran an impressive 4.45-second 40-yard dash in front of NFL scouts. To put this time in perspective, Jarryd Hayne – the last high-profile NRL player to attempt a career in the NFL – ran 4.53, and the fastest ever time to come out of the NFL was 4.22 seconds set by current Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross.
This demonstration of Holmes’ speed and acceleration, coupled with his strength and ability to break tackles which are evident from his time in the NRL, proves he has the potential to compete at a high level among the brutal competition in the NFL.
But potential can only take you so far.
Holmes has been listed as a running back/wide receiver/kick returner but has reportedly not received any training at the receiving spot yet. His best shot at becoming a weekly player is definitely on the special teams squad.
This is largely due to the newest addition to the Jets’ line-up, two-time All-Pro selection and three-time Pro Bowl pick Le’Veon Bell. After sitting out the 2018 season, the former Michigan State star returned to the league to sign a $USD52.5 million deal with New York.
Given the team just upgraded their backfield with one of the greatest talents in football, it’s a risky move for Holmes to be placing all of his eggs in that highly competitive basket.
Instead, his best opportunity to make a name for himself in the league would be striving for a spot as the kick returner.
Anyone who has seen him play knows Holmes is most threatening when he gets into the open field. This attribute, combined with his lack of football experience, makes him ideal as a kick returner, rather than as a halfback or wide receiver.
Both of those positions require an extensive understanding of the sport.
Wide receiver has to learn how to run routes, a complex aspect of the sport Holmes is completely unfamiliar with. The running back position also demands a considerable amount of technique and mastery to read and penetrate the defensive line in order to reach the open field.
Kick returner requires extreme athleticism, acceleration, and strength without the necessity of as much in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of the sport.
Playing there, Holmes wouldn’t need to read a foreign defence, learn a whole new textbook of plays and footwork techniques. It would put him in a position where his speed and physicality could shine without being hindered by his inexperience.
A positional transition isn’t out of the question later in his career after he acquires a greater understanding of American football, especially with Bell to learn from. But initially, Holmes has the best chance to get a spot on the game squad, and ultimately be a dominant force for the Jets, on special teams.