Though we are all biding our time, waiting for the NFL draft to commence on April 27, we should not ignore the post-draft flurry that follows it.
It seems like more players than ever who get skipped over in the draft are making it onto NFL rosters.
Last year at some time or other the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster featured nine undrafted rookies: Geronimo Allison, Kentrell Brice, Makinton Dorleant, Marvin Evans, Josh Hawkins, Don Jackson, Joe Kerridge, Brian Price, and Jermaine Whitehead.
In all, Green Bay’s 2016 roster included 21 players who went undrafted following their college careers. Sam Shields was by far the most notable of the group, which also includes Lane Taylor, Don Barclay Jake Schum, and Joe Thomas.
What immediately sticks out is that the Packers employed five undrafted rookie defensive backs in 2016. In addition, LaDarius Gunter was a second-year undrafted cornerback who saw almost no playing time in 2015. Of the five, only Kentrell Brice appeared to be ready to play at the NFL level – though several others did not get enough of an opportunity to arrive at a firm judgment. The only other undrafted rookie to distinguish himself was receiver Geronimo Allison.
In contrast to other years, only four undrafted rookies made the roster in 2015: John Crockett, LaDarius Gunter, Alonzo Harris, and Rick Lovato. The same number was true in 2014: Jayrone Elliott, Mike Pennel, Justin Perillo, and Luther Robinson. Of these eight, only Gunter has contributed significantly to the team.
With the announcement on Wednesday of the signing of guard Justin McCray, and of Ricky Jean Francois before him, I believe the Packers have 61 players under contract. With eight expected draftees coming on board in about a month, this still leaves 21 slots to be filled to reach 90 by the start of training camp. The majority of these will likely be players left undrafted when the draft concludes on April 29.
The two or three days following the draft are a wild time, with all NFL teams looking for talent – but also competing against 31 other teams in a wide-open market for players. Teams usually begin making phone calls to prospective undrafted players even before the seventh round of the draft has finished. Undrafted players generally try to pick the team of which they have the best opportunity for making the final roster.
I don’t think there’s been a time in the last decade that the Packers have had so many holes to fill in their roster at this stage of the year. It’s fair to say that few undrafted rookies are ready to contribute in the NFL
Ted Thompson and his crew this time around need to come up with a number of rookies who can defy the odds. Many of the team’s gaping roster holes are going to wind up being filled by the draft’s leftovers, most of whom will be signed up in a hectic one- or two-day post-draft period.