Free Agent Breakdown

It's early. The first snaps of the first mini-camp are still to come, but it's not too early to take a peek at what West Virginia's free agent football signees are facing in their attempts to make an NFL roster.

Brandon Myles: Myles signed a contract with the New York Giants, and at first glance it looks like he has a tough row to hoe. New York features Plaxico Burress, Sinorice Moss and Amani Toomer in its top three, and also has a wealth of young pass catchers as well. Moss, second round draft pick Steve Smith, Michael Jennings and Anthony Smith all have two years or less of experience. Add in David Tyree and Darius Watts, and there's certainly a logjam at the position. Burress, Moss, Toomer and Smith certainly aren't going anywhere, barring a trade, so

Of course, youth cuts two ways. Most younger players (the entire group outside of Moss, in this instance) haven't had the chance to establish themselves, and are thus certainly vulnerable to someone who comes in and shows immediate ability. However, with only one wideout on the north side of 30 (Toomer), Myles will have to make a splash early on in order to earn a chance to make the squad.

Dan Mozes: While Denver would seem to have been the most logical pick for Mozes, who excelled in the pulling, cutting and technical style taught by the Broncos, Mozes ended up signing a deal with the Vikings, which was reportedly the preference of his agent. Minnesota did not take an offensive lineman in the draft, and has a relatively thin depth chart at the position, but Mozes will still have some battles to fight if he is to wear the purple and gold in 2007.

Matt Birk and Ryan Cook are the only two centers currently listed on the Vikes' active roster, but a third, Norm Katnik, was on the practice squad a year ago. Teams may carry either two or three centers on their roster, but certainly not four, so Mozes will have to beat out at least one of these contenders in order to earn a roster spot. There's certainly no question that he has the talent to do so, but the question is whether or not he gets a legitimate shot to do so in the Vikings' summer camps. He will also have to adapt his style somewhat to fit Minnesota's scheme, which is more power-based than that of the Broncos.

Mozes, who began his WVU career as a guard, could help himself if he is versatile enough to slide over to that position as well. In an NFL that looks for 310-plus pound guards that can maul and mash inside, however, that will be a difficult challenge for the Rimington Award winner, whose game is built on execution. However, as Mountaineer fans have seen repeatedly on the basketball court over the last few years, the game isn't totally decided on measurables and raw athletic ability. There's room for the guy who out-executes the opponent, and if there's someone that can do that, it is certainly Mozes.

Kevin McLee: Boo will have to beat out an incumbent to make the Rams and join fellow alumnus Marc Bulger on the squad, but he is adamant that he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder in order to achieve that goal.

The Rams have five outside backers on their current roster. On the strong side, where McLee would likely play, Raonall Smith, Brandon Chillar and Chris Draft hold down the depth chart. On the weak side, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Jon Alston patrol the field. McLee, who has played both positions at West Virginia, could help himself if he shows enough versatility to swing between both spots. There's no question that he has the speed and toughness to do so, but his pass coverage skills will be put to the test early on to see if he has the ability to cover as an NFL linebacker must.

Although he has never played the position, McLee might also be a middle linebacker candidate. He has the size, frame and aggressiveness to support against the run, and the speed to go sideline-to-sideline and chase down ballcarriers. The Rams are well-stocked at that position, however, with four players, and none over 30 years old.

Like most linebackers and safeties, McLee could make a mark as a special teams player, which, combined with enough potential as a linebacker, could earn him a roster spot. He can't just make the team on hustle, however. He will have to be productive early on, and show the ability to assimilate new defenses quickly, in order to make his NFL dreams a reality.

Jeremy Sheffey: Like most of West Virginia's free agent signees, Sheffey doesn't have to battle a draft pick at his position. That situation makes it all the more difficult to be noticed, as a draftee will get every chance to show his ability, and often take reps away from those fighting to make the team. Fortunately, the Kentucky native isn't in those shoes, but he still has some obstacles to overcome.

Chief among those is that fact that Sheffey, a guard in college, will not only face players at the guard position, but also those tackles that might be a step slow or not have the range necessary to play outside. That move is similar to a cornerback who gets moved to safety in the NFL, because he is just short of the measurables or ability to play man to man coverage. At guard, though, there's nowhere else to go, so it's something of a do-or-die situation.

The Chargers have a number of linemen that play more than one position, including Shane Olivea, who is listed at both guard and tackle, Scott Mruczkowksi (center and guard) and Cory Withrow (also a center guard combo). Kris Dielman and Mike Goff are set at the guard positions only. This mix of five players allows San Diego to keep an extra player or two at another spot, but it also means that if Sheffey impresses, there is room for him to nab a roster spot without moving someone else out.

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The free agent world is a fluid one at best. New signees can change the outlook at any position in the time it takes to scrawl a name at the bottom of a contract. Any or all of these Mountaineers could make a roster, either with their current teams or somewhere else in the league. In a way, NFL free agency is much like a walk-on in college. Players in those situations simply yearn for the chance to show their abilities – but when the time comes, they have to take advantage of it, because there are often no second chances.

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