While most of the talk on NFL blogs at this time of year focuses on a team’s recent draft picks, big name free agent acquisitions, perceived holes in the roster, and (at least in KC’s case) if their starting quarterback is the right man for the job and worthy of a big money contract extension, this is actually the time of year where teams are taking a close look at some of the “under the radar” guys on their roster. These players consist of undrafted free agents that they either signed or invited in for a try out, guys that made the practice squad last season but never got a chance to make the actual 53 man roster, and free agent signings that were largely ignored by the fans and media as roster filler.
While most of these players would accurately be described as “long shots” to become regular NFL contributors let alone stars, every year a handful of these players do make NFL rosters and some even go on to have respectable NFL careers. At this time of year each of the NFL’s 32 teams are allowed to have 90 players on their roster. By the time the regular season rolls around that number drops to 53. That means that in the next three months there will be close to 1,200 players cut by NFL teams. To say that competition for an NFL roster spot is stiff, would be a massive understatement. So for most of these undrafted free agents and camp tryouts training camp will be as far as their NFL dream goes.
So, of the dozens of players that are already fighting for a place on KC’s 53 man roster, which ones might actually have a chance of beating the odds and seeing the active roster when the regular season kicks off? Obviously no one can know that for sure so early in the process, but this week I’ve identified five candidates that I think have a fighting chance. These are players that I will be keeping a close eye on, especially once training camp starts. Some of these players you may already be familiar with and some you may not know anything about. My goal is that after reading this piece you at least have a little more knowledge of these players and can join me in tracking their progress as the build up to the coming season progresses.
I’ll start with the player that I think that most of you are already familiar with……
1. Demetrius Harris – TE – 2nd year – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Most die-hard KC fans are already aware of Demetrius Harris and his unconventional road to the NFL. Harris played football in high school but then opted to pursue basketball in college where he played power forward for Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The 6’7″ Harris was an intriguing prospect last year at this time as well. KC fans dreamed of Harris following the footsteps of other TEs with a basketball background like Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, and KC’s own Tony Gonzalez. However, the learning curve of trying to jump straight to the NFL without playing at all in college proved to be too much for Harris and despite major injuries at tight end he was unable to make the team. However, the Chiefs saw enough raw potential in Harris to keep him around on the practice squad.
So the question for Harris going into his second season is if he’s been able to show enough development to have a shot at making the roster this time around. Early reports from Chiefs rookie camp and OTAs have been mixed. There have reports of both drops and impressive catches. However, while reading this excellent piece by Terez Paylor from the Kansas City Star (highly recommended that you give it a read) there were two quotes that caught my attention. The first was from Harris himself:
“I was at 225 (pounds) when I first got here, now I’m at 257,” Harris said. “It’s big, because all offseason I was here working out with Barry (Rubin), our strength coach, and he’s been getting me right with my upper body strength and keeping my speed up at this weight. It’s been good — I feel a lot stronger.”
That’s 32 pounds of added weight. We’re not talking about weight he put on sitting around eating Oklahoma Joe’s and cheesecake. That’s 32 pounds that he’s put on in one year’s time while working hand in hand with KC’s strength coach. Which leads me to my next quote from the same Paylor article in the Star. This one is from head coach Andy Reid who has taken notice of the physical change in Harris.
“First of all, he did a great job in the weight room. He and Barry became one there. They joined hips there and started working that son-of-a-gun to where he felt strong, and so far he’s been able to transfer that on the field, which is a good thing.”
So not only was Harris willing to put in the work needed, but the Chiefs saw enough potential in him to have their strength coach basically make him a pet project over the past year. That’s a big commitment to a player. I’m guessing they haven’t put that much time into every undrafted free agent that they’ve brought to Kansas City. This tells me that KC is committed to Demetrius Harris. While he’s got a fight ahead of him with three other TEs on the roster that all have shown some value in Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce, and Sean McGrath, the Chiefs are clearly hoping to get something out of their investment in Harris.
That’s why I have Harris at the top of my list of “long shots” that may make the roster in 2014.
2. Daniel Sorensen – Safety – Rookie – BYU
Daniel Sorensen was probably KC’s biggest “name” amongst the undrafted free agents that they signed this year. Not only was Sorensen predicted by many to get drafted, but he plays a position where KC obviously has some need. AA’s fearless leader Ben Nielsen already did a write up on Sorensen’s chances of making the roster. You can read it HERE. The two best points that Nielsen makes are that Sorensen can make the roster because he is a great special teams contributor and because the Chiefs need help at the safety position. I couldn’t agree more with these points and ultimately that’s why I think he’s got a very good chance to make the team.
I did a little more digging into Sorensen and thought I’d share some of the details of his scouting reports with you. I referenced both Dane Bruglar (CBS Sports) and Mike Loyko’s (nepatriotsdraft.com) Draft Guides. Both of these guides are excellent and I thoroughly recommend them next season for the draft enthusiasts out there. Dane Bruglar had Sorensen rated as his 19th best safety and a 6th round draft pick. This quote comes from his summary on Sorensen:
Sorensen started every game at FS the past three seasons with consistent production each year, finishing his career with 31 passes defended and 8 interceptions in his career. He is an alert player with the anticipation and recognition skills to break quickly on the ball with decisiveness and toughness. Sorensen, who is married, routinely made splash plays on defense and special teams the past three seasons, taking the field and practicing with a gamer mentality. He probably doesn’t have the deep speed to be a consistent NFL starter, but he’ll find the field, either in nickel situations or ST coverages, and do enough to earn his keep on a NFL roster.
Here’s one more quote on him from Mike Loyko’s guide. Loyko also had him rated as the 19th best safety and predicted him to be a 6th-7th round draft pick.
Daniel Sorensen is an intriguing player. He comes from a family that is absolutely loaded with football players and he might be the best one. He’s a smart, active, and aware presence on the backend. Despite not having top end speed, he makes up for it with quickness and change of direction. He posted incredible agility times at the NFL combine, including a 6.47 3-Cone which is the best for any Defensive player since at least 2005. Sorensen is a technically sound tackler and usually puts himself in a position to make a play. Team leader and captain. Often seen making play calls and adjusting alignments based on what the offense comes out in. Sorensen will be exposed a little bit at the NFL level by his physical limitations. But, his smarts, instincts, and effort will allow him to make an NFL team. Will have an impact on special teams units. Sorensen is worthy of a 6th round pick in the NFL Draft.
On a team that needs safety depth and puts an emphasis on special teams play, I like Sorensen’s chances of making the 53 man roster.
3. Jermelle Cudjo – DL – 5th year – Central Oklahoma
Jermelle Cudjo is a 27 year old 6’2″ 304 pound defensive lineman who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and spent the past four seasons as part of the St. Louis Rams organization. Cudjo signed with KC on May 20th, just four days after the Rams released him. While KC’s signing of former Patriot Kyle Love made much bigger headlines, Cudjo actually has more of a proven track record. He has played in 38 games with four starts. Keep in mind that the Rams are absolutely loaded along the defensive line, especially with the drafting of Aaron Donald and the Rams didn’t release Cudjo until after the draft.
I was fortunate enough to be part of the Verizon Fan’s Voices program this past fall and in the program I got to meet three excellent Rams bloggers. I reached out to them after KC signed Cudjo to get their opinion of him. I was expecting to hear that he was probably just a camp body or at best a career back up. I was pleasantly surprised by their responses.
@LyleGraversen Cudjo is more than just a camp body. He's a solid backup. Kind of quiet but good dude. Chiefs are lucky to have him.
— The Pigskin Arch (@ThePigskinArch) May 20, 2014
— RamsHerd (@RamsHerd) May 20, 2014
@LyleGraversen Adequate run stopper, but a tad undersized; some upside as a pass rusher; has a nose for getting in the backfield
— Nathan Kearns (@nkearns12) May 20, 2014
So it seems to me if people that closely follow a team with a dominant defensive line like the Rams think the guy belongs on a NFL roster then Cudjo at least has a chance of sticking with KC. After all, besides Dontari Poe there isn’t really a single defensive lineman that the Chiefs are committed to long term. Cudjo’s diversity could make him a candidate to both back up the base DL spots and potentially even rush the passer on the interior in the sub package. Those spots are up for grabs and don’t be surprised if Cudjo challenges for one of them.
4. Albert Wilson – WR – Rookie – Georgia State
Many KC fans were shocked last month when the Chiefs failed to draft a pure WR in the draft (obviously De’Anthony Thomas has a chance to play WR, but the point still stands). However, KC did manage to scoop up one of the better undrafted WR prospects available in Georgia Southern’s Albert Wilson. Wilson is 5’9″ 202 pounds and ran a 4.43 forty at the NFL combine. He is actually a slightly larger, small school version of De’Anthony Thomas. Check out this summary on Wilson from Mike Loyko’s draft guide:
Albert Wilson was the heart and soul of Georgia State’s offensive attack the last two seasons. Wilson is an all-purpose weapon that makes an impact in all phases of the offenses and is a demon on return units. Georgia State manufactured ways to get him the ball and allowed him to create plays with his speed. Wilson is compact, but has a sturdy, durable frame. Great straight line speed and acceleration. Not limited to an underneath route runner like most slot WR, he can stretch the field and win vertically. Impressive body control and adjustments at the catch point. Wilson needs a lot of coaching, but has all the tools to become a diverse and dynamic route runner. Will be limited by his physical traits and needs to get much stronger to deal with physicality of NFL Game. Footwork and route breaks are unpolished. Wilson is worth a 6th round selection in the NFL Draft and has a future in the NFL, at worst he’s a core special teams player.
Randy Covitz had a nice right up on Wilson in the Kansas City Star. I highly recommend giving it a read as well. Here is a section that caught my attention:
Wilson, a compactly built, 5-9, 200-pound dynamo, recorded 6,235 all-purpose yards in his career, which would have ranked in the top 30 in NCAA history had Georgia State been a full-fledged NCAA member for that period.
He had eight scoring plays of 70 yards or longer — five receiving, two kickoff returns and one rushing, and 21 plays of 50-plus yards. The average length of his 23 career touchdown receptions was 44.6 yards.
Granted, a lot of that production came against inferior competition, but that clearly shows some big play upside. On a team that outside of Dwayne Bowe has ZERO WRs with a real dependable track record leaves the door open for a player like Wilson to earn himself a spot on the roster. The fact that he has special teams upside is also huge for players trying to earn the final few positions on the roster. As training camp plays out later this summer keep yours eyes on Wilson and see if he can contribute enough as a WR to earn himself that final WR spot.
5. Charcandrick West – RB – Rookie – Abilene Christian
Charcandrick West is probably the biggest long shot on this list. The 5’10″ and 205 pound RB out of tiny Abilene Christian didn’t even appear in either of Dane Bruglar or Mike Loyko’s draft guides (and Bruglar listed 136 RBs in his guide). So either West was not viewed as a possible NFL prospect or he was simply overlooked by draft pundits and nobody really knew anything about him. I would have presumed that West just wasn’t a legit prospect until two things changed my mind.
The first was a report about West’s pro day. There was reportedly a strong 20-25 mph wind that day and after West ran a solid 4.47 forty running into the wind, they decided to try one with the wind at his back. That time he ran a smoking 4.27 forty. Granted that is wind aided, but there were a lot of RBs that didn’t match West’s 4.47 forty at the combine and West ran that one into the wind.
That alone wouldn’t have landed West on this list. It was that information combined with the following highlight video that have me excited about West. While Cyrus Gray is an adequate 3rd string RB, I certainly wouldn’t say that his spot on the roster is locked in. If a player like West can show enough upside or (like Wilson) can show some special teams upside it could be enough to earn a roster spot. Take a moment and check out the video below. It’s pretty impressive, even given the poor quality of competition.
So what do you think Addicts? Do you think I’m right that these five guys have a legit shot to make the roster this year? Is there one particular guy you think I might be wrong about? Is there another under the radar guy that you like even better? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Follow me on Twitter: @LyleGraversen