Who is Marcus Santos-Silva? Meet the Texas Tech basketball player turned Browns TE

The 2022 NFL Draft has come and gone, and that means that most teams across the league have just about finalized their initial 90-man rosters for the 2022 offseason. Per usual, those signs contain within them some gambles.

NFL teams are often willing to take chances on potential-packed players after the draft wraps up. why? Simply put, because they have the roster space. Teams are only able to keep a maximum of 69 players from their 90-man roster on their final active roster and practice squad, so that makes taking a chance on a high-upside prospect worth it.

The Browns are the latest to sign a player who will raise some eyebrows. They agreed to terms with Marcus Santos-Silva, who hasn’t played football since his freshman year of high school.

Who is Santos-Silva, and what could the Browns get out of him? Here’s what to know about the latest basketball player to try his hand at professional football.

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Who is Marcus Santos-Silva?

Marcus Santos-Silva is a former Texas Tech and VCU basketball player who is going to be trying his hand at the NFL. The Browns signed him as an undrafted free agent on Monday, so Kevin Stefanski and Co. will look to develop him into a role player at the tight end position.

Santos-Silva was a three-star recruit coming out of Vermont Academy, per 247 Sports. The 6-7, 245-pound center received interest from Kansas State, Temple and VCU and received offers from the latter two schools. He ultimately enrolled at VCU and spent three years there, two as a starter.

After his time at VCU, Santos-Silva transferred to Texas Tech where he became a key part of their rotation. He started during the 2020-21 campaign and helped lead the Red Raiders to a No. 7 ranking in the AP poll.

Santos-Silva returned for an extra year of eligibility in 2021-22, which came due to the NCAA’s rules from the COVID-19 pandemic. He played off the bench, as transfers Bryson Williams and Kevin Obanor took on heftier roles with the team under new coach Mark Adams.

During his time at Texas Tech, Santos-Silva provided key energy and was an internal scoring threat. He also played strong defense in his allotted minutes and earned praise from Adams during his super-senior season.

“[He’s] just a great competitor,” Adams said of Santos-Silva after Texas Tech’s NCAA Tournament win over Notre Dame, by HeartlandCollegeSports.com. “He just plays with so much emotion. He didn’t have a good [first] half offensively or defensively but he’s made some huge defensive plays down the stretch. He plays with a lot of energy and emotion.

“And, again, Marcus is one of those guys who had a lot of offers to go other places and other chances to go play at other high D1 schools and wanted to be here at Texas Tech. Great young man. I was so happy for him.”

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Marcus Santos-Silva stats at Texas Tech, VCU

Santos-Silva’s best statistical seasons came at VCU when he was a starter. He averaged a career-high 12.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game during the 2019-20 season while also averaging 1.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.

The big man was always an efficient scorer in college, shooting better than 53 percent from the field during his career. He did most of his scoring near the hoop and only attempted one 3-point shot during his college basketball career.

Below is a look at Santos-Silva’s stats from his time at both VCU and Texas Tech.

Marcus Santos-Silva stats at VCU

Season minutes points GFR% Rebounds Assists Steals blocks
2017-18 9.8 3.1 53.5 3.0 0.3 0.1 0.5
2018-19 22.2 10 59.4 7.4 0.7 0.8 1.1
2019-20 27.2 12.8 56.9 8.9 0.9 1.1 1.3

Marcus Santos-Silva stats at Texas Tech

Season minutes points GFR% Rebounds Assists Steals blocks
2020-21 23.6 8.3 53.1 6.1 1.3 0.7 1.1
2021-22 14.7 4.7 57.8 4.1 0.9 0.7 0.8

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How Marcus Santos-Silva fits with the Browns

Santos-Silva is a good developmental project for Cleveland to take on. Kevin Stefanski’s offensive system heavily relies on two-tight-end sets to fuel the running game and passing game, and Santos-Silva has the type of upside that teams look for in tight end prospects.

Currently, it’s hard to find a fit for Santos-Silva on the Browns’ roster. They will likely carry three or four tight ends with David Njoku and Harrison Bryant serving as roster locks. After that, the race is a bit more wide open. Miller Forristall and Nick Guggemos both spent time in Cleveland last season, so they figure to do battle for the No. 3 tight end role; the loser may claim the final tight end spot.

As such, it seems far more likely that Santos-Silva will be battling with the likes of Malik Smith and Zaire Mitchell-Paden for a practice squad spot. Perhaps one could overtake Forristall or Guggemos, so consider this a five-man race for what is likely three or four spots on the roster and practice squad.

The practice squad certainly seems like the best place for Santos-Silva. After all, he hasn’t played football since his freshman year of high school. It will take time for him to react to the football field, but it’s certainly possible for him to become a quality NFL-level tight end. After all, we’ve seen it before.

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Other notable basketball players turned TEs

The NFL has long attempted to take productive college basketball players and turn them into tight ends. Not all of them have worked out, but when they do, they tend to produce at a high level.

Below are some of the best at the position, starting with a couple of Hall of Fame talents.

Anthony Gates

Gates is the go-to example for any basketball player trying to become a tight end at the NFL level. Gates exclusively played basketball during his college days despite trying to play both football and basketball at Michigan State under Nick Saban and Tom Izzo. Instead, he played basketball at Eastern Michigan and Kent State and helped the Golden Flashes make the Elite Eight during his junior season.

Gates was considered too small to make it in the NBA as a 6-4 forward, so he transitioned back to football after college. He signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent and went on to be one of the most prolific tight ends in NFL history. He racked up 11,841 receiving yards, 116 receiving touchdowns, three All-Pro nods and eight Pro Bowls during his 16-year NFL career.

Tony Gonzalez

Gonzalez, unlike Gates, was allowed to play both football and basketball during his college days at Cal. He developed into a quality tight end prospect under then-coach Steve Mariucci while averaging 6.4 points and 4.3 rebounds during his three seasons on the Golden Bears basketball team.

Ultimately, Gonzalez chose to play football permanently after his junior year. He declared for the 1997 NFL Draft and was selected by the Chiefs with the 13th overall pick. He has recorded a whopping 15,127 receiving yards and 111 touchdowns during his 17-year pro career with the Chiefs and the Falcons. He was a six-time All-Pro, made 14 Pro Bowls and was enshrined into the Hall of Fame five years after his retirement from him following the 2013 season.

Jimmy Graham

Graham’s NFL success seems unlikely, looking back. He went to Miami for four years as an undergraduate and became a key role player for their basketball team. The 6-7, 259-pound forward averaged 4.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game during his career before opting to play a single year of football as a graduate at Miami.

During his lone season with the Hurricanes football team, Graham caught 17 passes for 213 yards and five touchdowns. Evaluators were impressed enough by his talent that the Saints selected him 95th overall in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Graham has played for four NFL teams so far during his 12-year career. He has generated 8,506 receiving yards and 85 touchdowns while making five Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. Not bad for a guy who barely played college football.

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julius thomas

Thomas took a similar path to Graham in terms of his NFL journey. I have played just one season of college football at Portland State while serving as a star on the basketball court. Thomas averaged 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds as a senior on 67.1 percent shooting after recording 29 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns with the football team.

Thomas’ 6-5, 252-pound frame intrigued talent evaluators enough that the Broncos made him a fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He played sparingly during his first two years in Denver before bursting onto the scene as one of Peyton Manning’s top weapons in 2013. He posted back-to-back 12-touchdown seasons with Manning and made the Pro Bowl during each campaign.

After those two seasons, Thomas fizzled out and his career ended in 2017. He finished it with 2,406 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns while playing for the Broncos, Jaguars and Dolphins.

Mo Alie-Cox

Alie-Cox is probably the best comparison for Santos-Silva. Like Santos-Silva, Alie-Cox hadn’t played football since his freshman year of high school when the Colts signed him to a contract. It took Alie-Cox some time to develop at the NFL level, but he has turned into a quality rotational piece at tight end.

Alie-Cox spent 2017 with the Colts’ practice squad but has since worked his way up the pecking order. He is now one of their top tight ends and he has totaled 936 yards and eight touchdowns over his four years on Indianapolis’ active roster. He is also a rock-solid blocker.

Santos-Silva should look toward Alie-Cox if he wants to carve out a role for himself with the Browns. They have similar body types, skill sets and they both played basketball at VCU. Cleveland would probably be thrilled if Santos-Silva can turn into a role player like Cox.

darren fells

Fells is another player that Santos-Silva can look to for inspiration. The former UC Irvine prospect played basketball overseas for a handful of years after college before trying to make it in the NFL.

The 6-7, 270-pound Fells eventually found a role as a blocker and a red-zone threat. He racked up 1,526 yards and 21 touchdowns during his NFL career while playing for five different teams. Santos-Silva compares well to Fells size-wise, so the Browns may hope that he develops in a similar capacity.

Of course, there’s always the chance Santos-Silva winds up being similar to Rico Gathers, who had NFL potential after playing college basketball at Baylor but never lived up to it. Still, it will be both interesting and entertaining to see what the Browns can do with their newest offensive weapon.

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