We’re currently in that dull phase of the NFL offseason between the end of summer organized team activities and minicamps and the beginning of training camp. For players on the fringe of making an NFL roster (as teams will cut their rosters from 90 to 53 players during the first week of September), this can be a particularly painful several weeks.
Aside from busting their butts in the weight room, there’s not really much these players can do to show that they deserve a roster spot over an established player. Of the nine UNC rookies that got picked up by an NFL team in April, how many of them fall into this category? And of those players, what are the odds they see the field in September? For some, it’s an easy question to answer. For others, not so much.
This will be the first in a three part series that will update these odds after training camp concludes and again after the preseason concludes.
- Mitch(ell) Trubisky, Chicago Bears, 1st round (2nd overall) - 100%
The Bears heavily mortgaged their future in order to select Trubisky with the second pick. It would take an act of God for him to not still be with the Bears in September.
- Nazair Jones, Seattle Seahawks, 3rd round (102nd overall) - 99.9%
One hundred picks later, the Seahawks surprised many by selecting Jones. As an early entrant into the draft, Jones took a big risk by declaring, and that risk paid off with another risk: the Seahawks taking Jones on Day 2. In the weeks leading up to the draft, the big talking point about Jones was his lack of NFL-level pass rushing skill. Seattle will be a very good place to learn that skill. The Seahawks drafted Jones to be a part of their defensive line rotation from week one. Unless he flames out during the preseason (which I don’t expect to happen), he’s good.
- Mack Hollins, Philadelphia Eagles, 4th round (118th overall) - 90%
Hollins also went earlier then selected, although the reason why was injury history and not necessarily on-field performance. Hollins enters a crowded WR corps in Philly, populated by established names like Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews, and Alshon Jeffery. Two of those names are free agents after this season, which means Hollins might be groomed to replace one of them. Still, Hollins will have an uphill battle to climb.
- Ryan Switzer, Dallas Cowboys, 4th round (133rd overall) - 85%
For Jones, the knock was pass-rush. For Hollins, it was injuries. Switzer’s flaw is his athleticism. His size leaves much to be desired in the NFL, but his speed makes up for that in leaps and bounds. Still, in the early days he will likely only have an opportunity to make a big impact in special teams and the return game. If you’re interested in Switzer’s NFL success, be sure to watch Cowboys preseason games very closely, and hope Switzer breaks one just like he did in Kenan Stadium time and time again.
- T.J. Logan, Arizona Cardinals, 5th round (179th overall) - 90%
Logan’s high percentage is by virtue of the situation he landed in, which by most measures is a pretty good one. Although the Cards’ #1 RB, David Johnson, was good enough to be part of the MVP discussion last season (and rightfully so), one of the reasons for Johnson’s prolificness was because of the lack of depth behind him. Logan’s speed and reliability are not elite, but they were enough for the Cards to spend a draft pick on him, so even though he went off the board relatively late, I don’t think there are much better situations he could have chosen.
- Elijah Hood, Oakland Raiders, 7th round (242nd overall) - 75%
I can’t think of a gig that would be more fun than coming into the league as a rookie and being Marshawn Lynch’s backup during his first season in Oakland. That’s not to say he’s definitely going to be spelling Lynch on 3rd downs in October; but by using a draft pick on him, even though it was a 7th rounder, the Raiders saw enough in Hood that they wanted to guarantee they had the rights to him. He will still have to impress more than names like Jalen Richard, but I would say he’s at least guaranteed a spot on the Raiders practice squad.
- Lucas Crowley, Arizona Cardinals, undrafted - 60%
Every undrafted free agent is fighting the odds to make the final roster, and Crowley is no different. However, there is a reason the Cardinals signed him. Their starting center at the moment is A.Q. Shipley, who had a very consistent 2016 but missed almost all of OTAs after undergoing surgery on his core. His backup last year is set to be the starting right guard this year. On the official Cardinals team website, Crowley and Shipley are the only two true centers. If Crowley does well during the preseason, he could earn a spot as Shipley’s backup,
- Des Lawrence, Detroit Lions, undrafted - 20%
It’s not generally a great thing when the local newspaper mentions you getting burned during minicamp, especially when the team you’re playing for signed you as an undrafted free agent even though they drafted two other players who play your same position. As it stands, Lawrence will have to show out during the preseason to even earn a spot on the practice squad, but in order to do that, he’ll have to be absolutely mistake-free during training camp.
- Bug Howard, Indianapolis Colts, undrafted - 50%
For the Colts last season, the lack of depth and production at the wide receiver position behind T.Y. Hilton was a recurring theme. Their approach to it this offseason? Get a bunch of players through free agency, the draft, and UDFAs, let them battle it out in training camp and the preseason, and let the cream rise to the top. It’s a team building tactic as old as time, and through it Howard finds himself with a chance to show that he can continue his remarkably consistent collegiate production at the next level. I put his chances of still playing in September right now as a coin flip, but I’d wager his number is the one most likely to change significantly by the time the preseason is over.