At $5,700 a week, there are certainly worse ways to make a living than landing on an NFL team's practice squad.
Hundreds of NFL dreams have died over the last week and a half as the 32 teams have cut down their rosters from over 100 to 53 players. For a select few—up to eight per team—the dream stays alive in the form of a practice squad contract.
Practice squad players are exactly that: They practice with the team during the week and attend all meetings and film sessions, but they are not part of the active 53 man roster that suits up for games.
For practice squad players the NFL dream is just an injury or even a poor performance by a rostered player away from becoming a reality. Most practice players are just one or two years out of college and just haven't had enough of an opportunity to prove they belong. But what they have proved is that they have enough potential to intrigue teams to the point that they want to keep them around for further evaluation.
The Minnesota Vikings have signed eight players to their 2012 practice squad. Some of them might see some NFL action this year, and some might be gone in a week or two. Such is the life of a fringe NFL player.
Here, we take a look at the Vikings practice squad and evaluate what kind of future each member might have.
The Minnesota Vikings can only hope that Bobby Felder's NFL career continues to emulate that of his mentor at Nicholls State, Baltimore Ravens CB Lardarius Webb.
Going undrafted after two-time All Southland conference performances, Felder was one of the most sought after free agent corners following the draft. At 6'1", 200 pounds with good speed, Felder has ideal size and more than enough athletic ability to transition to the NFL after life at a small college.
With five picks his senior year, Felder shows a good nose for the ball and has shown glimpses of being a very good press corner. The problem for Felder has been reps—he didn't get enough of them in a crowded Vikings training camp, but he showed enough promise that Minnesota felt confident of his future that they released both the veteran corners they signed in free agency, Chris Carr and Zack Bowman.
Felder is a hard worker and a good character guy. He beat out Reggie Jones, who had a very good camp and probably only lost a spot on the roster because of his inexperience. He'll get that this year.
Felder has a very good shot at seeing NFL time this season and it would be a surprise if he didn't stick in the league for a few years.
Baker was an honorable mention All Mountain West performer his senior season at Boise State and won the team's Denny Erickson Award for valor.
At 6'1", 298 pounds, Baker is a bit undersized to play in the middle of an NFL defensive line, but he showed a high enough motor and just enough ability to stick on the Vikings practice roster.
Baker is the perfect type of player to keep around on the practice squad: A hard worker with a great attitude who will give the rostered players an honest look every day in practice.
With Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and Christian Ballard ahead of him on the roster, it's a long shot that Baker will have any shot of getting off the practice squad in 2012. Even in the case of injury, it's likely the team would go find someone off the waiver wire before rostering Baker.
At 24 years old, Baker is old for an NFL rookie and his odds of staying in the league aren't great. However, as a practice squad player, he's at least got a shot at showing the Vikings he belongs.
A lot like Baker in the previous slide, Tyler Holmes is a guy who will work his butt off in practice and do whatever is asked of him to try to stick around at Winter Park.
The 6'5", 300 pound offensive lineman was an honorable mention Conference USA player at Tulsa his senior season. Holmes was a three year starter at Tulsa and is regarded as very athletic for his size. The Ottawa, Ontario native was the seventh overall selection in the CFL draft, but he's not ready to give up on his NFL dreams just yet.
Holmes is a very intriguing prospect for the Vikings and showed enough in training camp to beat out Chris DeGeare. With the Vikings still having some question marks across the offensive line, it's not crazy to think that Holmes might have a future with the club. Holmes has proved to be a quick study and has value as someone who can play either guard or tackle.
He probably won't get enough reps to be considered for a roster spot during the 2012 season, but if he shows enough during the week, he just might be a part of the team's future.
We didn't see much of Jordan Todman during the Vikings preseason, but he sure looked good when we did get a look.
Todman missed most of camp with an ankle injury, but exploded in Minnesota's last preseason game, rushing for 114 yards on 10 carries including a highlight reel 76 yard jaunt. Todman also caught five passes, proving he could become a perfect third down option for the Vikings.
Todman has been relegated to the Vikings practice squad because he missed most of training camp. There is absolutely zero doubt he has more upside than rostered Matt Asiata, but Asiata played well for a month and a half and secured the spot. While Asiata is nothing more than a poor man's Toby Gerhart, Todman has the potential to be a very good NFL player.
At just 5'9" but a solid and muscular 195 pounds, Todman looks a lot like another Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles. He has elusive moves and breakaway speed, and could be found gold for the purple.
Todman was spectacular in three seasons at UConn, highlighted by a 222 yard game against Pittsburgh on ESPN. He was a unanimous choice as Big East Offensive Player of the Year in 2011 and bypassed his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Todman is a tantalizing talent and could very well see playing time in 2012. He's by far the most accomplished player on the Vikings practice squad and could have a bright future with the team.
At 6'5", 295 pounds and with a Harvard degree on his resume, Kevin Murphy is an ideal choice for the Vikings practice squad.
Other than leaving the field with heat exhaustion in early August, Murphy flew under the radar in Mankato but obviously did enough to convince the Vikings coaches that he would be worth having around on the practice squad.
Coming out of Harvard, Murphy obviously didn't face the kind of competition that most players in the NFL have faced in college. Conversely, coming out of Harvard is also a pretty good indication that Murphy will be a fast learner and quicker to pick up the complicated schemes that come with playing football at the highest level.
Murphy is pretty much an unknown at this point. He obviously showed enough to make it on to the practice squad and he fits the mold of a high character guy, which is what you want out of a practice squad player.
Murphy is a long shot to ever be an impact player in the NFL. He'll have a chance to show what he can do in practice and at this point, that's all he can ask for.
Let there be no mistake: The Minnesota Vikings are fully aware that they need to add some talent at wide receiver.
One of the weakest spots on the roster in 2011, the Vikings signed free agent Jerome Simpson in the offseason and drafted two wideouts out of Arkansas to try to bolster their depth at the position.
Simpson has looked very good, but will miss the first three weeks with a suspension. Promising rookie Greg Childs will miss the season after surgery on both knees and Jarius Wright missed a lot of training camp time with injuries.
So off to the waiver wire the Vikings went, grabbing both Gurley and Chris Summers, who were last day cuts of division rivals Green Bay and Chicago.
Gurley is a huge target at 6'4", 232 pounds. He was the second leading receiver at South Carolina behind Bears rookie Alshon Jeffery in 2010 and spent last season on the Packer's practice squad. The Vikings flirted with signing him away from Green Bay last season, but the Packers bumped his pay to keep him.
At this point Gurley is a ton of potential in a big body. With the Packers being so deep at wideout, he wasn't given as much opportunity as he'll get with the Vikings. He's certainly not explosive, but with his size he can make himself a valuable NFL player.
Gurley is inexperienced and raw, but he has a lot of potential and could be a steal for the Vikings.
The Vikings went after another big target to fill out their practice squad when they signed Chris Summers, a 6'5", 215 undrafted rookie out of Liberty. Summers was a late cut of the Chicago Bears and the Vikings didn't hesitate to pounce on the tall receiver with good speed.
Summers is certainly a work in progress. He's tall and skinny, so he has trouble getting off the line of scrimmage, but he has a basketball background, which serves him well when he goes up for the ball.
Summers is probably not NFL ready at this point in his career. He's going to need to learn how to get himself free of defensive backs, both off the line of scrimmage and coming out of his routes. He's a gifted athlete so he has plenty of potential—he'll just need to work at it during practice.
Summers is probably further away from being an NFL contributor than Gurley, but his potential is still worth keeping around for a closer look.
Defensive end Ernest Owusu is dripping with potential.
Uninvited to the NFL Combine, Owusu dropped a lot of jaws at the Cal Pro Day when he bench pressed 225 pounds 39 times, and posted in the low 4.7's in the 40. Those numbers would have made him easily the strongest and among the fastest defensive ends at the combine.
At 6'4", 277 pounds, Owusu has very good size to become a force as a speed rusher in the NFL. Not as heralded at Cal teammate Trevor Guyton coming out of college, Owusu is a perfect example of a guy who has a ways to go before he reaches his ceiling, but has the potential to be an impact player one day.
He didn't dominate in college, but he kept growing and getting stronger and faster along the way. Owusu now has the opportunity to compete against the best football players in the world, and he can certainly pick up a thing or two watching Jared Allen every day.
The odds of Owusu touching an NFL field are slim to none in 2012. But the odds of him having an NFL career are a lot higher than that.