Still Standing: The Rookies

Ed Thompson takes a look at the statistical disadvantage undrafted free agents face in trying to survive final roster cuts in the NFL -- especially the rookies. And he projects the fate of every undrafted free agent that is "still standing" on the Colts roster in this two-part series.

After the first round of cuts, the Colts active roster has 75 players instead of the mandated 65 -- thanks to ten NFL Europe exemptions. But that means that 22 players must be released in the final cuts, almost double the amount let go on Tuesday.

On Sunday, the players who had NFL Europe exemptions will no longer be protected in the cut process. Most of that group, along with a number of other Colts veterans and rookies, came into the league as undrafted free agents. And if you look at the statistics, the odds of them making the final cut is much more slim than the players who were drafted.

Most of the time these are players who may not have been one of the 300 invitees to the annual Combine, since there are typically close to 6,000 draft-eligible players coming out of colleges across the nation. And their odds of catching on with the first team that signs them are miniscule. Last year, only 39 rookie undrafted free agents made it through the final NFL roster cuts. That's an average of just one per team and only 2% of the total players in the league. The Colts matched that profile with defensive end Josh Thomas being the only undrafted rookie to make it through the final cuts.

But if they persevere, their odds of becoming a regular roster player increase over time as they are re-signed by the same team in subsequent years or land on the training camp rosters of new teams. Last September, almost 25% of the players on the 53-man roster originally came into the league as undrafted free agents -- more than ten times as many that make it as a rookie.

So typically, you would expect one rookie undrafted free agent to make the final cut, and roughly eleven veterans who came into the league as undrafted free agents to be on board. In part one of this article, we'll take a look at the undrafted rookies. And then tomorrow we'll review the undrafted veterans.

A player in light blue is projected to land on the final roster. While players in italics are projected to the practice squad.

Undrafted Rookie Free Agents

DE Justin Brown
The rookie out of East Central Oklahoma is one of the undrafted players the Colts had scored high enough to be considered as a lower round pick. But don't read too much into that as they had recently released CB Jerome Dennis, WR LeVon Thomas, and even RB Marcus Williams graded in similar fashion. Brown is buried on a depth chart of talented defensive ends with at least five above him at this point.

LB Nick Hannah
The undrafted rookie out of Eastern Oregon is a huge beneficiary of Kendyll Pope's suspension. And the fact that the Colts waived/injured veteran Thomas Houchin instead of him on Tuesday is a good vote of confidence for him as well. Those events solidify him as an active roster player as he will now be the second-string strongside backer behind David Thornton. He still could slide onto the practice if the Colts bring in another linebacker prior to the start of the season, but he has a good work ethic and should be one of those rare rookies who make the team on their first attempt.

LB Chris Laskowski
Laskowski has proven to be a valuable addition to the special teams unit and has an attitude the Colts love. If for some reason he doesn't make the final cut, he should be a priority for the practice squad. But the Colts just don't have enough bodies at linebacker right now and should carry at least seven on the roster. That means all the current linebackers with the exception of Andre Sommersell would make the roster.

RB Vashon Pearson
To his credit, Pearson outlasted 7th-round pick Anthony Davis even though he didn't join the team until after the supplemental draft. It speaks volumes that a back who wasn't selected until after the supplemental draft is still on the roster, especially when you consider that it was Clemson WR Roscoe Crosby that got all the attention for his signing that same weekend....and he's gone. Pearson would be a good addition to the practice squad.

DT Blake Lobel
He's already been released and re-signed once during the preseason by the Colts as an undrafted free agent. He's won't make the final cuts and may not even be practice squad material.

OT David Porter
Porter's had a solid run, but he's very unlikely to make the final cut. While the former Iowa Hawkeye is certainly a good candidate for the practice squad, the Colts could bump him if they see a waived player available from another team that intrigues them.

DT Darrel Reid
With Josh Williams opening the season on the PUP list and Sweet Pea Burns hobbled, Reid's chances of making the roster improved. He's had a nice preseason, but whether he is on the 53-man roster versus the practice squad will likely boil down to Burn's future status and the completion of the Corey Simon acquisition. For now, I'm going to project him as a practice squad player even though I really like what I've seen of him.

G Matt Ulrich
Ulrich was another player that the Colts thought highly of during the NFL Draft. He's another player that can switch to center if needed, but I don't think they'll have room for him on the practice squad.

Check back on Friday for part two of this article that will review every veteran undrafted free agent -- and Ed's projections for their roster status.

Colts Blitz Top Stories