Stanford's undrafted free agents

If you thought that Stanford did well at last weekend's NFL Draft, you'd be wrong. Yes, the Cardinal had four picks in the first two rounds, including the first overall pick, Andrew Luck. Looking beyond Luck, though, the picture wasn't too pretty.

David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin both went well below their projected positions, while Coby Fleener—graded as a potential first round pick—had to wait for the second round to hear his name called. Even worse, Stanford didn't have any players selected after Martin came off the board with the 42nd overall pick.

However, it's not all bad news, as seven Stanford players were able to sign undrafted free agent contracts shortly after the draft ended. Some of these guys have a legitimate shot at a roster spot; others will simply serve as training camp bodies before being cut in August, or will end up on a practice squad. Since I never pass up a chance to make predictions (many of which end up being wildly inaccurate), here's my take on each undrafted player's chance of being on a roster in Week 1 of the NFL season.

Delano Howell, Buffalo Bills: Cornerbacks and safeties were popular in this year's draft; as NFL offenses become more and more pass-happy, defenses are carrying more defensive backs on their roster and frequently using five, six and seven-DB looks. By virtue of the position he plays, Howell has a decent shot of making the Bills' roster, especially since the team drafted two cornerbacks, but no safeties. However, Howell will have to be impressive in training camp to secure a roster spot—including their two picks, the Bills currently have 12 defensive backs on their roster, and safety isn't considered a position of need. Chances: Decent.

Griff Whalen, Indianapolis Colts: The Colts' roster has holes everywhere you look, and wide receiver is no exception. The only two solid veteran receivers left on the team are Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne, so there are a lot of opportunities for players like Whalen to step in and make an impression on the coaching staff. The Andrew Luck factor also works in Whalen's favor, as his familiarity with the Colts' new franchise quarterback (they were roommates at Stanford, after all) gives him a good shot at earning a roster spot. However, Whalen doesn't project very well as a receiver at the next level. Though he's a tough, hard-working player, Whalen is smaller than your prototypical NFL wide receiver, and probably won't be anything more than a slot receiver for the Colts. Chances: Decent.

Jeremy Stewart, Philadelphia Eagles: With most teams, Stewart would have a very small chance of making the roster, but the Eagles' current situation presents a sliver of opportunity. Before the draft, the Eagles had two running backs on the roster, Dion Bailey and LeSean McCoy, and were in desperate need of some extra depth at the position. If Stewart impresses the coaching staff, he could carve out a niche as a short-yardage specialist, similar to the role he played at Stanford. However, with the Eagles drafting Kansas State's Bryce Brown and picking up Washington's Chris Polk as an undrafted free agent, Stewart's most likely fate is getting cut in training camp or ending up on the practice squad. Chances: Slim.

Johnson Bademosi, Cleveland Browns: I really don't know what to make of Bademosi's shot at landing a roster spot in Cleveland. The Browns are one of those teams with needs at every position, and Bademosi has the size to make a contribution in the secondary and on special teams. Though he played cornerback at Stanford, Bademosi projects as a safety in the NFL, especially with the Browns drafting cornerback Trevin Wade in the seventh round. However, it's just as likely that Bademosi fails to make an impression on the coaching staff and gets cut or relegated to the practice squad. Chances: Decent.

Matt Masifilo, San Francisco 49ers: Masifilo was widely expected to be drafted, so I'm not really going out on a limb by saying that he has a great shot at a roster spot in San Francisco. Masifilo had an excellent career as a hole-clogging defensive tackle with the Cardinal, and his Pro Day workout and measurables make it clear that he's got an NFL build. Though Masifilo won't start for the 49ers, he could definitely see a fair amount of playing time right away, and he would have to really disappoint to be cut from the final roster. Chances: Excellent.

Chris Owusu, San Francisco 49ers: It has never been a question of whether Chris Owusu was talented enough to play in the NFL. His draft stock slid mainly due to injury concerns after his 2011 campaign, when he sustained a series of concussions that kept him off the field for the end of his Stanford career. (His last game was Nov. 5 at Oregon State.) With the NFL becoming very concerned about head injuries, fears about the impact of Owusu's concussions outweighed his considerable upside on draft weekend. Nevertheless, Owusu probably landed in the best spot he could hope for, since no one knows his ability better than current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Though the 49ers already have a wealth of wide receivers on the roster, including first-round pick A.J. Jenkins out of Illinois, Owusu definitely has a chance of securing a spot as another weapon for quarterback Alex Smith. Chances: Great.

Michael Thomas, San Francisco 49ers: As with Bademosi, I have little intuition as to Thomas' chances of sticking. It really depends on how many safeties Harbaugh chooses to carry on the team. If the 49ers go with five safeties, Thomas will be the odd man out, with four players currently on roster in addition to recent draftee Trenton Robinson of Michigan State. However, if the 49ers choose to keep six safeties on the roster, Thomas has a great chance of grabbing that final spot, and will probably be used mainly as a special-teamer unless injuries hit the secondary. Predicting what Harbaugh will do is always a difficult art, but my guess is that he'll follow the NFL trend of loading up on defensive backs and keep Thomas as his sixth safety. Chances: Decent.


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