NFL Veteran Combine Participants 2015: Players Who Will Make Rosters This Season

Sterling Xie@@sxie1281Correspondent IIMarch 21, 2015

St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam (96) warms up before a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

Football mania in America has made the NFL a true 365-day operation, even during the leaner parts of the league calendar.

In past years, this period would be one of those voids, leaving analysts to speculate over secondary free-agency waves and still-too-early draft projections.

But with the addition of the NFL Veteran Combine on March 22, the league has added an interesting wrinkle to spice up the dog days. At first blush, the combine might look like a glorified extension of the anonymous workouts that teams hold for street free agents all the time.

Apart from Michael Sam, there isn't much in the way of a mainstream storyline, especially with the likes of Tim Tebow, Ray Rice and Vince Young not on the invitees roster.

However, none of that is particularly relevant to winning games. Organizations are always searching for the extra 1 percent, and while any acquisitions from this combine will likely be for depth purposes, building a deep roster is indispensable to winning.

Just ask Malcolm Butler, Chris Matthews or anyone else from the two most recent Super Bowl participants.

Taking a look at the complete combine roster, let’s highlight a trio of veterans who currently deserve a place on someone’s teamand may receive that opportunity after their workouts in Tempe.

Armstrong, MattCGrand Valley State
Carter, ShermanCTennessee State
Foster, JasonCRhode Island
Gallington, DevericCTexas Tech
Golic, MikeCNotre Dame
Gottschalk, BenCSouthern Methodist
Pocic, GrahamCIllinois
Van Roten, GregCPennsylvania
Berry, AaronCBPittsburgh
Burton, BrandonCBUtah
Carr, DeveronCBArizona State
Edwards, KipCBMissouri
Lee, SaeedCBAlabama State
Love, JordanCBTowson
Lyn, KeonCBSyracuse
Patrick, JohnnyCBLouisville
Posey, JulianCBOhio
Reid, GregCBValdosta State
Sullen, JordanCBTulane
White, RyanCBAuburn
Anderson, JamaalDEArkansas
Brown, SammyDEHouston
Carriker, AdamDENebraska
Cox, RakimDEVillanova
Mims, TevinDESouth Florida
Paulhill, ShahidDETemple
Rayford, CaesarDEWashington
Roh, CraigDEMichigan
Sam, MichaelDEMissouri
Black, LarryDTIndiana
Collins, NateDTVirginia
Forston, MarcusDTMiami
Harris, DaJohnDTSouthern California
Jerideau, ByronDTSouth Carolina
Minter, ZachDTMontana State
Thompson, EverretteDTWashington
Troup, TorellDTCentral Florida
Moore, DanFBMontana
Pryor, LonnieFBFlorida State
Unga, HarveyFBBrigham Young
Dominguez, RayGArkansas
Goodin, StephenGNebraska-Kearney
Huey, MichaelGTexas
Morris, DariusGTemple
Wells, JustinGSt. Augustine's
White, IanGBoston College
Baker, ChrisLBEast Carolina
Copeland, BrandonLBPennsylvania
Divitto, SteeleLBBoston College
Doughty, JakeLBUtah State
Dowtin, MarcusLBNorth Alabama
Drakeford, DarinLBMaryland
Fox, DanLBNotre Dame
Glaud, Ka'LialLBRutgers
Keiser, ThomasLBStanford
Kimbrough, JeremyLBAppalachian State
Lutrus, ScottLBConnecticut
Rolle, BrianLBOhio State
So'oto, VicLBBrigham Young
Steward, PhillipLBHouston
Miller, JordanNTSouthern U.
Johnson, JerrodQBTexas A&M
Kafka, MikeQBNorthwestern
Kay, BrendonQBCincinnati
Price, KeithQBWashington
Robinson, ZacQBOklahoma State
Thomas, DarronQBOregon
Wilson, TylerQBArkansas
Bush, MichaelRBLouisville
Hampton, JewelRBSouthern Illinois
Hines, QuentinRBAkron
Jones, FelixRBArkansas
LeShoure, MikelRBIllinois
Scott, Da'RelRBMaryland
Wood, CierreRBNotre Dame
Mcmillian, JerronSMaine
Mitchell, CharlesSMississippi State
Owusu-Ansah, AkwasiSIndiana, Pa.
Sebetic, KyleSDayton
Silva, ManaSHawaii
Starling, JawanzaSSouthern California
Young, JoeSRutgers
Aladenoye, JoshTIllinois State
Breckner, JackTGustavus Adolphus
Foketi, ManaseTWest Texas A&M
Harris, RandallTTowson
Childers, JamieTECoastal Carolina
Momah, IfeanyiTEBoston College
Ogbuehi, EmmanuelTEGeorgia State
Veldman, MattTENorth Dakota State
Walker, DallasTEWestern Michigan
Waters, EricTEMissouri
Adams, JoeWRArkansas
Anderson, JoeWRTexas Southern
Gadsden, BenWRMiami
Jean, LestarWRFlorida Atlantic
Johnson, DariusWRSouthern Methodist
Kurihara, TukashiWRNo College
Mayo, ThomasWRCalifornia, Pa.
Mitchell, CarltonWRSouth Florida
Slaughter, NathanWRWest Texas A&M
Steelman, TrentWRArmy
Williams, LaQuanWRMaryland

Keith Price, QB

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

By their nature, combine workouts tend to favor the freakishly athletic marvels.

However, the best of the seven quarterbacks in attendance may be the relatively unimposing 6-footer Keith Price. After three seasons as a starter at Washington, Price had a cup of coffee with the Seattle Seahawks last spring but was released when the Hawks embarked on the ill-fated Terrelle Pryor experiment.

Still, there’s clear talent here, as Price set UW records for touchdown passes (75), career completion percentage (64 percent) and career passer rating (143.2). Moreover, for all the fuss over Price’s lack of ideal measurables, his pro-day results, per NFL Draft Scout, would have placed him in the top 10 among combine quarterbacks in the broad jump, vertical jump and three-cone drill.

After Seattle cut him, Price languished in the CFL last season as the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ third-stringer, a development that was probably less optimal than landing on an NFL practice squad. But with three years under noted quarterback whisperer Steve Sarkisianplus the intangibles that made him a two-time captain in collegePrice’s leadership and strong work ethic will probably land him a more earnest tryout.

Price would fit best as a developmental prospect in a system with spread principles, which would allow him to take advantage of his mobility while also hiding his mediocre arm strength. Teams like the Eagles, Packers and Jaguars might benefit from Price’s skill set and provide him with a genuine opportunity to work his way onto the roster.

Ifeanyi Momah, TE/WR

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

No player is better built for this combine than the 6’7” hybrid receiver/tight end Ifeanyi Momah. After going undrafted and missing his 2012 rookie campaign, the former Boston College receiver was in the Eagles training camp the past two years, only to miss the final 53-man roster both times. Momah also spent time on the Cleveland and Detroit practice squads last year, but the Lions waived him on Feb. 3 after he failed to disclose a physical condition.

The fact that Momah is suiting up for this combine does suggest promising signs about his health, however. Eagles reporters were gushing about Momah—an ultra-raw prospect coming out of collegelast summer in his second training camp go-around. When Philly released Momah during the final cutdowns to the 53-man roster, some were even clamoring that the Birds retain him on the practice squad: 

Hopefully, Momah developed some capacity for special teams during his time on taxi squads last year. For all his physical tools, his inability to play anything aside from receiver made him an impractical selection for the final squad. Contributing to the third phase is indispensable for any bottom-of-the-roster candidate, and Momah’s athleticism certainly makes him a logical gunner on coverage units.

Ultimately, though, it’s not difficult to imagine a team taking another flier on Momah’s upside, especially given the monumental leaps forward he took last summer. The receiver-needy Eagles could take a third shot at him, but they likely won’t be the only suitors this time.

Michael Sam, DE/OLB

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 28:  Defensive end Michael Sam #96 of the St. Louis Rams reacts during pregame workouts before his team met the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Ultimately, this event’s most prominent player is also probably one of its best. Michael Sam’s talent doesn’t match the attention he garnersa fact that may irritate somebut regardless of his cultural significance, he probably belongs on a roster due to the league’s insatiable thirst for edge-rushers.

Sam’s prolific senior season at Missouri, in which he garnered 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss, isn't reflective of his NFL potential because of how he generated those big plays. As breakdowns like this one from SBNation’s Stephen White illustrate, Sam won in college almost exclusively by beating tackles around the corner but doesn't possess the speed to pull that off in the NFL.

Without secondary moves or functional strength to develop as a bull-rusher, Sam is stuck.

Nevertheless, no mid- to late-round prospect is a complete player, and Sam’s motor and arm length provide him with nice starting points to work from. It’s not surprising that Sam was drafted lower than expected, but his failure to make an active roster was a bit of a surprise.

Many 2014 edge-rushers projected as mid- to late-round picks by NFL Draft Scout and Walter Football last season were underdrafted, but most made it into the league:

NFL Draft Scout Projections
PlayerProj. RoundActual Round
James Gayle4UDFA
Ethan Westbrooks4-5UDFA
Ed Stinson55
Michael Sam57
Brent Urban5-64
Aaron Lynch5-65
Josh Mauro6UDFA
Cassius Marsh6-74
Zach Moore6-76
NFL Draft Scout
Walter Football Projections
PlayerProj. RoundActual Round
Jackson Jeffcoat4-6UDFA
Cassius Marsh4-65
Ben Gardner4-67
Morgan Breslin5-7UDFA
Trevor Reilly5-77
James Gayle5-7UDFA
Michael Sam5-77
Walter Football

Clearly, Sam wasn't the only one who failed to meet predraft prognostications. But apart from James Gayle and Morgan Breslin, everyone else was on an active roster last season. And neither Gayle nor Breslin was a consensus All-American like Sam was in his final year at Missouri.

Ignoring the noise, Sam is probably an edge-rushing specialist worth attempting to develop. For 3-4 teams with a dearth of young pass-rusherslike Pittsburgh or WashingtonSam may be worth a flier solely for his on-field merits.


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