Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the future for our non-draftees

Yesterday I predicted a bright and sunny future for those of our players that did get drafted, right after predicting a bright and sunny weekend for those of our players that were in the draft. As it turned out I overrated the draft chances of nearly every single one of the players I made any sort of prediction on. I'm a fan, go figure.

Anyway, today, I will tell you all about our undrafted free agents. If I missed any, sue me; either that or just tell me nicely and I'll fix it. I'm getting the list from this site right here, which seems pretty thorough. Also I am not going to bother with the players going in for tryouts before they get signed, including, say, Byron Glaspy. I like thoroughness, and the likelihood of me missing a number of such players, combined with the unlikelihood of said tryout culminating in an NFL career, is reason enough for me not to worry about it.

Interestingly, we had more players actually get drafted than sign as undrafted FA's.

Oh, before I start: consider all of these as coming with the obvious caveat that the vast, screaming majority of undrafted free agents typically fail to make so much as a practice squad. Therefore when I talk about someone's likelihood of making a roster, that should be taken as "relative to the likelihood of the average undrafted free agent making the same roster." Anyway.

Antonio Appleby - Patriots

One of the best pieces of news here is that the Pats play a 3-4, so Appleby won't have to learn his way around first. I think if a 4-3 team had signed him, there's no way he'd have made it with that team, considering the odds that undrafted FA's face plus the learning curve of a new defense.

That said, not only did Appleby end up in the right defense, he also ended up on the right depth chart. The tough part is that the Pats' starting ILB's are set in stone, so there's no chance for anyone ahead of him to move up causing openings below etc. etc. The nice part is that the players listed as backups on the Pats' depth chart aren't setting any worlds on fire. One was a UDFA his own self just last year and made his way right into the lineup as a rookie. The other has a very thin resume. New England didn't sign any other linebackers after the draft and didn't draft any inside 'backers during it. Appleby, if he stays signed by fall camp and if the Patriots don't sign anyone else (that is another caveat that applies to all three of these, should have a chance to compete for one of those precious final roster spots. I think he can stick with the Patriots at the very least as a practice squad guy.

Alex Field - Giants

The Giants did sign another DE after the draft, and furthermore, drafted a guy who could slide up to play DE in the right situation. You might remember him. Field, therefore, is in direct competition at the very least with Penn State's Maurice Evans. The problem here is not the depth chart or the competition though - it's that Field really was not even a standout college player. Steady and unspectacular is how you'd describe him. He is bigger than most of the Giants' current defensive ends, so he's got that going for him, but not so big that a move inside is a viable option. Unfortunately I don't think Field has an NFL future.

Kevin Ogletree - Cowboys

Hu boy. Ogletree is going to be unfortunately remembered by UVA fans for quite some time as the quintessential don't-leave-early cautionary tale. Ogletree was compared to Tavon Mason immediately upon making his decision and again after the draft passed him by; the next Cavalier to unwisely leave early will assuredly conjure up Ogletree's name. It's a shame too because with so many standout WR's leaving the ACC this year, Ogletree had a terrific shot at making a real name for himself in conference play. Many of the usual arguments in favor of leaving early (could have gotten hurt next year, scheme might have caused production to drop, etc. etc.) are now easily fended off with, "Yeah, that would suck, he might not get drafted then." Worse yet, Ogletree didn't make anyone's list of "best undrafted free agents." (That's ESPN's - he also didn't make Yahoo's, which if I could find, I would link. Grrr.)

Anyway, the flip side is that Ogletree got all sorts of feedback telling him he'd be drafted. Somewhere. By someone. And not just the seventh round, either. And it was from the NFL advisory board, not some slimy agent. Everyone thought his leaving was a bad idea, but not because he wouldn't get drafted; it was because he wouldn't get drafted high enough. Even the most pessimistic people about his chances probably didn't see that one coming.

But, Ogletree was one of the first UDFA's to find a landing spot. And he landed somewhere with a lot of uncertainty. Despite some skepticism among the fans, Jerry Jones stood by his wide receiver corps and stayed true to his word; the Cowboys used only their last of 12 picks on a wide receiver. Jones appears to mean what he says about his WRs; problem is, not many other people think his WRs can live up to his faith in them. They certainly crapped out last year.

We know Ogletree's talents, and his ability to play NFL ball is much less in question than Appleby and Field. There's probably room for one more receiver besides the six already listed on the roster; if so, Ogletree is currently in direct competition for it with fellow UDFA Julian Hawkins and 7th round pick Manuel Johnson. Any more space for a WR depends on how long the guys currently there remain Jones' boys. The speed at which Ogletree got picked up by the Cowboys suggests there's probably some amount of interest around the league for his services, and Ogletree will find a home on a practice squad if he's not on a roster.

Programming note: I'm entertaining family this week starting tomorrow. So daily posts all three days this week are so unlikely as to be considered nigh-impossible. I will try and get one out there on one of these days, and just to make it up to you I'll put something up on Sunday too.

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