Every season, NFL teams pick their favorites out in the NFL draft and lock them up on salary-controlled rookie contracts that make it possible to build a contender. However, on a 53-player roster, an NFL team needs more than the influx of players it gets from the seven-round draft, taking short-term fliers on undrafted players in the hopes that they will play their way onto opening day rosters.
2014 is no exception. Coming into training camp, all 32 teams have signed at least a few undrafted picks, with some teams better positioned than others with players that could legitimately impact their 2014-2015 NFL odds by the time play kicks off September 4, 2014. And if they do, several of these undrafted players may well be in line for tidy paydays. Here is a look at three such players.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Minnesota Vikings
Offensive tackle Antonio Richardson’s teammate at Tennessee, Ju’Wuan James, was a first-rounder in the 2014 NFL Draft, but Richardson was, in terms of potential, a similar-level player.
The concerns for Richardson are injury-based. If he can stay healthy show the drive to succeed to match his physical strength as a 336 pound, 6’6” bruiser, Richardson could work his way onto the roster and the payroll for a Vikings team that had an excellent 2014 offseason.
Brett Smith, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The quarterback situation in Tampa may have appeared to be locked up when Josh McCown was signed in the offseason from the Bears, but half-season QBs have faltered in the past, and the Bucs are not yet beyond looking for back up options.
Brett Smith busted the record books at Wyoming this past season, but a lack of exposure outside the major conference held back Smith’s potential draft recognition. He is wily, a hard-worker, and has the potential to make plays in the NFL. It would be no surprise if Tampa kept him with the hopes of developing him long-term.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are keen to keep their options open at tight end after leaving Aaron Rodgers without much for options in 2013 when Jermichael Finley went out. With reasonably reliable starter Andrew Quarless locked up, the Packers have taken a chance on former Oregon Duck Colt Lyerla.
Lyerla has elite skills, and lined up all over the field under Chip Kelly in college, but his off-field issues have made him a risky proposition for any team.
Lyerla was suspended by the team before quitting the team (a decision he claims to regret), after which he was charged with a cocaine possession charge. There is no better place Lyerla could be than in a strong organization like Green Bay, and he’s fitting right in. If he can show that his head is in the right place, this troubled young man may be due to get paid in 2014.