The odds are very low for any NFL team for a player that went undrafted in their mission to make an NFL 53 man roster. It of course does happen, and some of them even turn into Pro Bowlers. Arian Foster went undrafted, as did many other fantastic professional football players. But that is the definitely the exception to the rule. For the sheer amount of undrafted free agents that try out on NFL teams, it’s a miniscule percent that actually make it on the practice squad, much less make the jump all the way up to the active 53 man roster.
Although it’s highly unlikely, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The Falcons have shown to be a team more than willing to take a chance on players that weren’t heralded, but came in and put their nose to grindstone, worked, and willed themselves on the team. The Falcons have had several examples of undrafted free agents making the squad. Quarterbacks John Parker Wilson and Dominique Davis made the leap to the active roster. As have tight end Michael Palmer, long snapper Josh Harris, and even OG Phillipkeith Manley made the jump before being designated back to the practice squad at some point during the season.
Although there’s a chance that one or two of the undrafted free agents could make the jump, the much more likely route is for them to catch onto the 8 man practice squad, hone their skills, get stronger, and get a better feel for life in the NFL. There has been a ton of players that have spent time on the practice squad before making the leap into a permanent spot on the 53 man active roster. Both wide receivers Kevin Cone and Drew Davis spent a year on the practice squad before making the jump. Defensive end Cliff Matthews spent some time there and could be in line for a major spot. CB Robert McClain spent time on the practice squad and could be in line for a starting CB position. Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Robert James, Tommy Gallarda, Antone Smith, Shann Schillinger, and many others have spent time on the squad and moved up to claim an active spot at one time or another.
This year is no different with LB Pat Schiller, DT Micanor Regis, WR’s James Rodgers and Tim Toone, CB’s Peyton Thompson and Terrence Johnson, as well as OG’s Phillipkeith Manley, Harland Gunn, and Jacques McClendon looking to make the leap as well. Another reason the challenge is so great is due to the high stability of being an annual contender. The Falcons are now to a point where even draft picks are no longer guaranteed a roster spot. In the early days, it was almost a lock, but not anymore. And that in and of itself is a credit to the competitiveness up and down the roster. It’s not impossible, but squeezing their way onto a squad that is the 2nd most winning franchise over the last five years won’t be easy.
***Thanks to Jay Adams, Managing Editor of AtlantaFalcons.com for doing outstanding research***
Seth Doege – 6’1, 197 lbs – Texas Tech
He ranks third in Red Raider history with 8,646 passing yards, 69 touchdowns, 1187 pass attempts, and 819 completions. Doege looks to be another arm in camp at this point. If the Falcons didn’t take Sean Renfree with their last pick, it might be different.
Analysis – Obviously, Ryan and Dominique Davis are locks with the first two. Doege will likely be fighting with Renfree for one spot on the practice squad.
Donald Russell – 5’11, 212 lbs – Georgia State
The former Panther was an all-conference running back at Georgia State University. He totaled 1,412 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns while at Georgia State. Russell will have a major uphill battle not only in not being drafted or ranked by virtually any scouting sites, but also the fact that Georgia State has only been in football for a few years.
Ronnie Wingo – 6’3, 231 lbs – Arkansas
Wingo is a big man that rushed 206 times for 1,089 yards with 8 touchdowns during his career with the Razorbacks. He was in a crowded backfield with Knile Davis among others, but could be a gem and a superb complementary “big back” to Jacquizz Rodgers. He also had a good pro day, running a 4.46 forty, and 18 reps on the bench.
Analysis – Russell and Wingo will likely be competing for a practice squad spot since Steven Jackson, Rodgers, Jason Snelling, Antone Smith, and Bradie Ewing seem locked in the top 5 spots. They also will be competing against 2012 undrafted free agent and current practice squad member Josh Vaughn as well. On the surface, it appears that Wingo has the better chance, but they invited two fullbacks to camp as well.
Rashad Evans – 5’9, 187 lbs – Fresno State
Evans is known for his speed and potential game-breaking ability. He hauled in 138 passes for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns in 44 games at Fresno State. The former Bulldog was known for his punt return skills as well, breaking off two for touchdowns, one being a 78 yard return. Even though wide receiver has been one of the best positions for UDFA’s to make it, they have a ton of talent already in house, and that’s after the big three of Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas.
Darius Johnson – 5’10, 175 lbs – SMU
Johnson is another small and quick receiver who is specifically designated to the slot. The former Mustang had a huge year in 2011, catching 79 balls for 1,118 yards with 8 touchdowns. Johnson was one of the few UDFA’s that was invited to the combine. Like both Evans and Moore, Johnson has a ton of competition, and he could be fighting for one spot on the practice squad.
Martel Moore – 6’0, 183 lbs – Northern Illinois
Moore has impressive career stats from NIU, with 2,544 yards receiving and 24 TDs. Although he’s not a blazer (4.56), he had a good vertical jump and broad jump at his pro day.
Analysis - As mentioned earlier, wide receiver is one of the best spots to earn a place on the practice squad and maybe even the roster. Both Kevin Cone and Drew Davis made the leap after working for a year on the practice squad. However, the cupboard is stacked with both Davis and Cone earning a roster spot last year, but also Tim Toone (who made the team before injury), James Rodgers, and Marcus Jackson already occupying the practice squad.
It appears that Evans, Johnson, and Moore would be looking to fill a slot type role, and in that case, will be competing directly with both Toone and Rodgers for practice squad spots.
Terren Jones – 6’7, 341 lbs – Alabama State
Jones is a monster of a man and hails from an extremely productive Alabama State team that produced over 400 yards of offense per game. Jones is almost the same size at likely starting right tackle Lamar Holmes. He started every game at left tackle as a senior. If he get in excellent shape and fitness, Jones might have the best chance of any UDFA to make it.
Alec Savoie – 6’7, 322 lbs – McNeese State
The McNeese State product is another massive player that could make a dent on a team in need of quality depth at the tackle position with the release of Tyson Clabo and failure to re-sign Will Svitek.
Ryan Schraeder – 6’7, 300 lbs – Valdosta State
Schrader played two years at famed Butler Community College before moving to Valdosta State. While at Butler he started on an OL that helped them win the Jr College National Championship. The Valdosta State product was also named as an All-American in 2011. A good bit smaller in size than the other two OT UDFA’s.
Analysis – Along with linebacker and defensive tackle, this may be one of the best spots for either Jones, Savoie, or Schraeder to make a move. While both Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson can play tackle and Johnson is in the competition to compete for a RT spot, they are still dangerously thin at OT depth. It is almost a certainty that one of these guys can make the practice squad and be a good player to take on as a project.
Matt Smith – 6’4, 296 lbs – Kentucky
Smith was the starting center for the Wildcats for 3 straight years. Smith has a high motor and put up 28 reps on the bench, but pulled his hamstring while running the forty. The Falcons obviously have Peter Konz and Joe Hawley, but there might be a chance for Smith if he can heal quickly from his injury.
Theo Goins – 6’4, 317 lbs – Central Florida
Goins was an honorable mention for the All-Conference USA team. Goins was a four year starter at left guard, but he has the hardest rows to hoe in that there are a ton of current practice squad members already in front of him and with at least a year under his belt.
Analysis – On the surface, it seems that it’s a pretty long shot for both Smith and Goins. It will be especially challenging for Goins since Phillipkeith Manley, Harland Gunn, and Jacques McClendon have all had a year or more on the practice squad. And that’s not even including Garrett Reynolds, Joe Hawley, and Mike Johnson as well.
Devonte Campbell – 6’2, 255 lbs – Maryland
Campbell only started 4 games while at Maryland. He did catch 10 passes for 84 yards with 2 TDs. Even though he didn’t have much production or starts in his career, he did run the forty in 4.65 and do 22 reps on the bench.
Deon Goggins – 6’1, 272 lbs – Syracuse
The former Orangeman had 16 TFL, , 2.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble in two seasons at Syracuse after coming from two community colleges before that. The Falcons have him listed to compete at fullback. Goggins ran the 40 in 4.86 and did 31 reps on the bench. The Falcons must feel that Goggins has enough skill to warrant a look at fullback.
Analysis – It seems that these two players will have a long way to go just to get on the practice squad. They may simply be insurance for Bradie Ewing, for it’s hard to imagine the Falcons using a practice squad spot on a project fullback. However, perhaps they feel the need to develop one on their own after having to pull veteran Mike Cox in multiple times over the years. But, these two will also have to compete against the RB undrafted free agents, especially Wingo, who could project to FB as well.
Neal Huynh – 6’4, 315 lbs – Ohio
Huynh had pretty good production while at Ohio, pulling down 29 tackles, 8 TFL, and 2 sacks in 2012. Hunyh is a short-area defender, but is the biggest DT the Falcons have brought into camp in a while. Definitely has an advantage in his size and the fact that DT is one of the thinnest positions on the entire roster.
Adam Replogle – 6’3, 294 lb – Indiana
Was a four year starter for the Hoosiers, and set a record for most starts. He had 184 tackles, 28.5 TFL, 15 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles while at Indiana. The former Hoosier also put up 38 reps on the bench and had a pretty good forty (5.08) as well. Like Hunyh, they’re both in a good position, as DT Micanor Regis is the only other player after the big four of Babineaux, Peters, Jerry, and Robertson.
Analysis – Many fans may not realize the Falcons only initially carried 4 DTs on their final 53 man roster. Once Corey Peters became healthy, was pulled back up to the active squad. With the Falcons not taking a DT in the draft, it appears that practice squad player Micanor Regis (who had a good career at Miami) is in line to move up to the active roster. In that case, it would seem an almost certainty that either Huynh or Replogle could earn a practice squad spot.
Cam Henderson – 6-5, 245 lbs – Central Florida
Henderson had decent, if unspectacular numbers in his limited time at Central Florida: 61 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 sacks. He ran the forty in 4.74 and did 22 reps on the bench. It will be tough for Cam Henderson to make it after drafting two defensive ends in the draft and having two already on the roster.
Brandon Thurmond – 6’2, 260 lbs – Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Thurmond had pretty solid numbers while at Arkansas-Pine Bluff: 70 tackles, 25 TFL, and 17.5 sacks in 2012. As well as good stats, he also ran forty in 4.65. Like Henderson, it will be hard for Thurmond just to earn a practice squad spot, much less a roster spot.
Analysis - If this is a year ago, both Henderson and / or Thurmond may have a pretty good shot at the practice squad. But that was before the Falcons drafted two defensive ends (Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga) to go with their other defensive ends competing for jobs (Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi). If not all the current DE’s will make the roster, how can UDFA’s expect to?
Joplo Bartu – 6’2, 230 lbs – Texas State
Bartu posted good numbers with 95 tackles, 12 TFL, and 5.5 sacks. Ran a slower forty @ 4.85, but was one of the better 3 cone drill compared to other inside linebackers. Although it’s a good position to make a dent, Bartu’s got some competition.
Nick Clancy – 6’3, 232 lbs – Boston College
In his career, Clancy made 187 tackles, 12 passes defensed, and seven tackles for loss at Boston College. The former Eagle was named First Team All-ACC and led the conference in tackles. Clancy had a very good 3 cone drill, but did pretty poorly in the 40 (4.92).
Paul Worrilow – 6’0, 230 lbs – Delaware
The Blue Hen was a four year starter at linebacker, where he made 107 tackles, 9 TFL, and 3 sacks. This is a guy to keep an eye on. He ran the forty in 4.59, did 30 reps on the bench, and had an outstanding 3 cone drill (6.50).
Analysis – This appears to be the best bet for one of the players to at least make the practice squad. As it stands now, Pat Schiller and Brian Banks look to be favorites to take the 2 backup LB spots behind Weatherspoon, Dent, and Nicholas. Although traditional LB’s aren’t essential to Mike Nolan’s scheme, one of these three will likely make the practice squad.
Troy Sanders – 6’0 , 214 lbs – Appalachian State
Sanders was a three year starter for the Mountaineers made 79 tackles and two interceptions. Like defensive end, safety seems like the longest of shots. They already have two Pro Bowl starters, Charles Mitchell, and just drafted two safeties. Sanders will need a huge camp to stay in consideration for even a practice squad spot.
Momo Thomas – 5’9, 185 lbs – Colorado State
The Ram started 35 games at cornerback for Colorado State. He had good career numbers: 151 tackles, with 15 passes defensed, 5 TFL, and 5 INT’s while playing for Colorado State. Injured his shoulder early in the season and doesn’t have the best of 40 times (4.56).
Analysis - While both UDFA defensive backs appear to have a really unlikely chance, Sanders seems the least possible of players to make it, not having much to do with him, but the fact that they are so loaded at safety already. As it stands, one of the draft picks (Motta or Ishmael) won’t make it if they carry 4 safeties as they usually do. Thomas could follow in a long line of CBs to come through the practice squad (Grimes, McClain, possibly Peyton Thompson), but his speed is pretty slow for a CB.
Casey Barth – 5’11, 188 lbs – North Carolina
The younger brother of Connor Barth set school records at UNC for consecutive extra points and career field goals made during his career.
Sean Sellwood – 6’3, 203 lbs – Utah
Played in all 51 games from 2009-12 at Utah, serving as the punter and holder.
Analysis - Barring the second coming of Morten Anderson or Ray Guy, this seems like camp bodies, especially Sellwood since they’re set with Matt Bosher. Barth theoretically could make a practice squad spot since Bryant is aging, but don’t count on it.