Assessing Every Buccaneers UDFA's Chances of Making Final Roster
As obvious as it sounds, it is really hard to make an NFL roster.
Only 256 players are taken in the NFL draft. That's 256 out of over 1,000 eligible players.
It's typical for a team's undrafted free-agent class to outnumber its draft class. The 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no exception.
The life of an undrafted free agent is rife with uncertainty and disappointment, as former Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith learned when he was cut by the Bucs:
The dangers of leaving for the NFL early: Brett Smith left Wyoming with one year left, went undrafted, cut by Bucs after rookie camp— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 21, 2014
No job is guaranteed for guys who essentially amount to tryout players. Even if they prove worthy to make an NFL roster, that doesn't guarantee a spot if a team already committed those spots to drafted players and veterans.
By that same token, some players will have better shots at making the team than others, especially where there is a need for talent.
Here are the evaluations of the Bucs' 2014 undrafted free-agent class and their outlook for making the final roster for the 2014 season.
Wide Receiver Solomon Patton
Former Florida Gator Solomon Patton could have been drafted, and no one would have raised an eyebrow.
Small for an NFL player hoping to survive just an NFL training camp, Patton possesses great burst and quickness ideal for a slot receiver.
Patton did not benefit from an unproductive Florida offense. He led the Gators receivers in 2013 with only 44 receptions for 556 yards and six touchdowns. Patton also returned kickoffs while at Florida.
Much attention has been paid to the Bucs' emphasis on adding size to their receiving corps, but the Bucs are also looking for speed.
While the Bucs drafted speedy former Wyoming WR Robert Herron, Patton provides solid competition and depth for a position the Bucs have ignored for years.
Before the draft, the Bucs were looking at a bare cupboard at wide receiver. Now, Patton likely has too many competitors ahead of him on the depth chart to make the final roster.
However, given his quickness and special teams skills, Patton has a very good chance of making the Bucs' practice squad.
Outlook: not good but surefire practice-squad player
Linebacker Nate Askew
The Tampa 2 defense relies on speedy linebackers to drop into coverage and gang-tackle runners. Speed is one thing former Texas A&M linebacker Nate Askew has in spades.
Askew is a converted wide receiver who never started a full season at linebacker while at Texas A&M. He is freakishly fast for his 6'3", 241-pound frame, and he certainly has the speed and size to cover tight ends and running backs.
What Askew lacks is experience. With only part of a season under his belt, it is unlikely Askew would be ready to keep up with an NFL game at this point.
The former Aggie's best chance to make the Bucs roster is through special teams. His size and speed would make him an ideal gunner.
He is also fortunate that the Bucs are extremely thin at linebacker. While the starting positions are set, the only real depth to speak of is Dane Fletcher. Askew may make the roster on that virtue alone.
Outlook: decent if he does well on special teams
Guard Josh Allen
It's no secret the Bucs need offensive guards. Lovie Smith should be very concerned that his current starting guards are Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins:
No Carl Nicks, so Bucs' first-team offensive line had Jamon Meredith at right guard and Oniel Cousins at left guard at OTA practice today.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 20, 2014
Former Louisiana-Monroe G Josh Allen played mostly center in college, but he fits the mold of the athletic, quick-footed offensive linemen now installed on the Bucs' offensive line. His versatility and ability to play center and guard gives him a definite edge.
Allen is pretty raw, but so is fifth-round pick Kadeem Edwards. While Edwards has the benefit of his draft status to keep him on the roster for a little while, Allen has no such advantage and will have to show that he can be a solid contributor if Meredith or Cousins go down.
Given the depth issues on the offensive line, Allen's chances are better than most, but it could be his ability to play more than one position that earns him a roster spot.
Defensive Tackle Euclid Cummings
Defensive tackle is basically set simply by virtue of Gerald McCoy's presence, but even the most elite players need a backup.
Former Georgia Tech DT Euclid Cummings possesses measurables that could make him an ideal rotational 3-technique tackle. At 291 pounds, Cummings ran an absurd 40 time of 4.79 seconds.
The problem is, measurables don't make an NFL player.
Cummings was not the most productive player at Georgia Tech. He lacks the necessary lower-body strength to bully offensive linemen and has no real pass-rush moves to speak of.
The former Yellow Jacket's only hope to make the roster is to soak up as much as he possibly can from the coaching staff and McCoy during OTAs and training camp.
Outlook: not good
Cornerback Keith Lewis
Who is CB Keith Lewis of the Virginia University of Lynchburg? Better yet, what is the Virginia University of Lynchburg?
Small-school products are always good at producing a lot of buzz. When a 5'11", 194-pound kid from a little-known college runs the 40 in 4.45 seconds, the ears of scouts, draftniks and rabid NFL fans tend to tingle.
Lewis' size and speed could make him an ideal matchup for the league's growing inventory of big receivers.
Lewis is obviously gifted athletically, but there's no getting around his collegiate experience. The Virginia University of Lynchburg plays in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, which is only affiliated with the NCAA.
Joining the big boys in the NFL is a big leap for Lewis. While Jerry Rice proved an elite player can come from anywhere, small-school prospects are still the exception.
Outlook: not good but possible practice-squad player
Tackle Matt Patchan
Former Boston College offensive tackle Matt Patchan fits the profile of the Bucs' new offensive line: athletic and tall.
That doesn't mean he will make the team.
Patchan played only one season for Boston College after transferring from the University of Florida. He started his collegiate career as a defensive tackle and switched to tackle after his freshman year.
Injuries plagued Patchan's career, save for his sole season at BC. He played well for the Philadelphia Eagles, but his game is rife with inconsistencies.
The Bucs have established starters at tackle in Anthony Collins and Demar Dotson. They also drafted former Purdue OT Kevin Pamphile, who possesses greater upside than Patchan.
Given the moves the Bucs made at offensive tackle, Patchan may be little more than a body for training camp.
Defensive End Chaz Sutton
The defensive end position in Tampa Bay is very much in flux. While the Bucs have a clear right end in former Cincinnati Bengal Michael Johnson, the left end is ripe for the taking.
Former University of South Carolina Gamecock Chaz Sutton was Jadeveon Clowney's bookend last season. He notched three sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss in 2013.
Sutton's numbers are lackluster when considering the sort of attention Clowney received in terms of offensive game-planning. Considering the glut the Bucs currently have at defensive end, Sutton is unlikely to make the final roster.
Safety Mycal Swaim
The Bucs' safety unit is among the most athletic in the league. Former Eastern Michigan safety Mycal Swaim would be an appropriate addition to the group.
Swaim is large and reasonably fast. Like Bucs safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, Swaim likes to lay the big hit, which may be his undoing.
As Goldson discovered last year, racking up $455,00 in fines during the season, hard-hitting safeties are an endangered species in the NFL.
What the Bucs really need is a coverage safety, a weakness for both Goldson and Barron. Swaim isn't likely to offer an upgrade playing deep. His athleticism should land him on the practice squad.
Outlook: not good but possible practice-squad player
WR Aaron Burks
Former Boise St. WR Aaron Burks has as many hurdles to clear in order to make the Bucs' final roster as any player in this year's undrafted free-agent class.
Having already added Mike Evans, Robert Herron, Louis Murphy and Lavelle Hawkins, the Bucs are far deeper at wide receiver than they were at the end of the 2013 season.
Burks will also be competing against fellow undrafted free agent WR Solomon Patton. While both are gifted athletes, Patton has the upper hand, as a much more polished and accomplished pass-catcher.
Unless Burks makes some flashy catches in training camp, he is likely to be buried under the weight of the Bucs' wide receiver depth chart.
G Andrew Miller
Former Virginia Tech G Andrew Miller is yet another athletic offensive lineman the Bucs signed as part of their offensive line reclamation projection.
Miller isn't the largest interior lineman, but he's quick, balanced and slips into the second level effectively. He also consistently finishes off blocks and appears enthusiastic throwing blocks downfield.
What Miller really has going for him is his versatility. Like Josh Allen, Miller has experience at center and could be moved around on the line if called upon.
The need for offensive linemen and Miller's athleticism and versatility could get him a spot on the final roster. Even if he doesn't make it, he should make the Bucs' practice squad.