Two and a half years after Jarryd Hayne's NFL dream hit the alarm bell, rugby league has a new star hoping to jump ship to American football.
With reports Valentine Holmes is set to leave the Sharks to attempt to crack the National Football League, fans and media were quick to draw comparisons between the 23-year-old and one-time 49er Hayne, including the position the Cronulla back would be best suited for.
Running back has long been touted the position easiest to translate to for inexperienced rugby league players, largely due to its limited route-running responsibilities and a "see gap, hit gap" approach for ball-runners. But for the 6'1" 200-pound Holmes, safety looms as a fascinating possible home.
Manning the deep half of the defence, the position demands strong instincts and game-reading skills, but is a touch more forgiving from a pure speed stand-point than cornerback or wide receiver. Additionally, it allows players to view the play in front of them, tapping into a translatable skill for NRL fullbacks like Holmes. Experience tackling ball carriers in the open-field only adds to the potential fit.
One reason I throw out safety as an interesting pursuit for a prospect like Holmes: supply and demand. A position like running back literally has too much serviceable talent for available roster spots to fill. And the market for RB talent is cheap. See; Phillip Lindsay, undrafted pic.twitter.com/SSRns3OPeb— Laurie Horesh (@LaurieHoresh) November 19, 2018
Route combinations, recognising play action fakes, reading leverage of cornerbacks and timing breaks on passes all present a monumental challenge for Australian converts like Holmes, as does a general mastery of the playbook. Jarryd Hayne notably commented on the complexity of incoming coach Chip Kelly's offense, which boasted one of the thinnest playbooks in the NFL.
But while fans are used to seeing Holmes streak in the open field with ball in hand, his youth, physical profile and defensive experience at fullback in the NRL present the opportunity for a different path to an NFL future.