Still Standing: The Veterans

Ed Thompson continues his look at the tough odds undrafted free agents face when it comes to making the final 53-man roster. Every undrafted Colts veteran is reviewed in this article with a projection regarding his roster status after Sunday's cuts are announced.

As I mentioned in part one of this article, the average NFL team has 12 undrafted free agents on their roster, including just one rookie. I've already projected that the Colts will put two undrafted rookies on their roster this year -- Chris Laskowski and Nick Hannah -- so that means that if the Colts reflect the league average, about ten veterans should be on the 53-man roster when the dust settles on Sunday. But I think there will be 11 veterans in addition to those two rookies.

One update since yesterday's article was published is that defensive lineman Blake Lobel was released as I had projected. We'll see how well I do with the rest, but it certainly was nice to start out with a correct projection than a wrong one.

So let's move on to the veterans. Remember, a player in light blue is projected to land on the final roster, while players in italics are projected to the practice squad.

Veterans Who Entered the League Undrafted

QB Tom Arth
Originally signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent back in 2003, Arth has been involved in one of the big puzzlers of this preseason. The Colts' reluctance to give Arth more playing time hasn't made much sense. Arth should see more than the measly 1:23 of action that he has been afforded to date when the Colts play the Bengals this weekend. With more development time, he could supplant Jim Sorgi as Arth makes quick decisions and is more mobile than Sorgi when pressured. He's more of a Jim Harbaugh style of quarterback -- and that's not a bad thing compared to Sorgi who tends to overstay his welcome when the pocket is collapsing around him. A talented quarterback who knows the system, Arth should be on the 53-man roster. But because the Colts are likely to be strained for roster spots at other positions due to injuries, they could decide to start Arth on the practice squad instead.

LB Gary Brackett
Brackett is one of the Colts' huge success stories, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers back in 2003. Two years later he is entering the season as the Colts' starting middle linebacker.

RB Ran Carthon
Making his second attempt to survive the final cuts with the Colts, Carthon gained experience on the Dallas and Indianapolis practice squads last season. He's played well enough to see 7th-round pick Anthony Davis released before him, and is likely to beat out rookie Vashon Pearson as well. I like his odds of making the final roster this year behind Dominic Rhodes and James Mungro, but he is eligible for the practice squad and should do no worse than that.

S Daryl Dixon
Last year, after being signed by the Colts as a rookie undrafted free agent, Dixon was cut before training camp. While he spent this offseason in NFL Europe, he missed some time due to an injury, and that trend has continued during training camp. A talented player when healthy, he's just not likely to make the final cut, especially in light of the Colts adding former Patriots safety Dexter Reid into the mix. He is eligible for the practice squad, but I'm not sure the Colts' patience will persist and they have at least 7 more talented safeties.

CB Willie Ford
A true nomad, Ford has bounced around the league and NFL Europe gaining valuable experience since originally signing with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent back in 2002. Ford has worn the colors of five different NFL teams already, and while his talent level is improving, he's still not ready to make the final roster. And unfortunately for Ford, he has used up his practice squad eligibility during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. So don't expect to see him land there.

DE Sean Guthrie
An undrafted free agent by the Giants, Guthrie is making a comeback from knee surgery and showing good progress. But he's competing at a position that boasts one of the best areas of talent for the Colts. So don't expect him to survive the final cut. He could be a longshot for the practice squad.

CB Nick Harper
After a year in the CFL, Harper was an undrafted free agent signing back in 2001. He entered camp as the starting left corner, and if he can hold off the impressive rookie, Marlin Jackson, he could start there on opening day. But as the season rolls on, he could find himself as the nickel or dime back as Jackson and even fellow rookie Kelvin Hayden gain more experience.

C/G Trevor Hutton
Signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2004, Hutton has been progressing nicely. With the release of rookie Rob Hunt, Hutton is in position to claim a roster spot after being cut in the final cutdown last year. The Colts put him on the practice squad and moved him up to the active roster, providing him with the chance to play in four games in a reserve role. He could bounce on and off the regular roster this year as well as the Colts tweak their roster during the season to compensate for injuries, but I think he'll start the year on the practice squad since Ryan Lilja can backup Jeff Saturday at center.

G/C Ryan Lilja
No question you will see Lilja on the 53-man roster. Originally signed by the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent last year, the Colts claimed him off of waivers and he's at minimum the number two center. He'll likely claim the starter's role at RG for the beginning of the season. But he'll need to be wary of developing rookie Dylan Gandy, who didn't allow a sack or pressure in his preseason debut against the Broncos last weekend.

CB Jermaine Mays
Originally signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2003, Mays has spent time in NFL Europe and fortunately hasn't used up his practice squad eligibility. He's not likely to make the final roster, and I think the Colts are pressed at too many other positions to make him an immediate choice for the practice squad.

WR Aaron Moorehead
Was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent back in 2003 and has been on the roster either as an active or inactive player since joining the team. He will be claiming a roster spot again this season.

RB James Mungro
He's likely to see more short-yardage action this season in the fullback role. Originally signed by the Lions as an undrafted free agent, he's been a reliable back for the Colts as a #3 back.

OT Jim Newton
It appears that Newton has used up his practice squad eligibility in his first two seasons with the Colts and the Cardinals, so he has to make the roster or he'll be gone. A late addition to the roster, he's unlikely to bump one of the other linemen who have been in camp despite his past game experience with the Colts. He'd need to have a whale of a game against the Bengals or the beneficiary of some injuries to be around after Sunday.

WR Brad Pyatt
If the Colts are certain that Dominic Rhodes will be healthy for opening day, they may not keep Pyatt around. Originally drafted as a free agent by the Colts in 2003, Pyatt's injuries have been a concern, and he's not as dominating at his specialist position as he was early in his career prior to his injury. In the preseason he's averaged 21.2 yards per return, which is less than Jerome Dennis' average -- and Dennis was released on Tuesday. To boot, Jason David has a slightly better punt return average (7.4 versus 6.2 for Pyatt) in the preseason and could lay claim to the backup spot behind Troy Walters. So keep an eye on the returns this week against the Bengals. If someone else sees significant action on kickoffs and does well, Pyatt could be expendable since he hasn't really been a factor as a receiver. I'm going to go out on a limb a bit on this one and project that Pyatt falls short and doesn't make the cut.

RB Dominic Rhodes
I won't even waste your time with discussion about Rhodes. He's back for another year as Edge's backup.

C Jeff Saturday
He's been on the Colts line for so long you might not remember that he was originally an undrafted free agent by the Ravens back in 1998. Saturday appears to be ready for action again and will play a key role in the Colts' success this season.

LS Justin Snow
Up until last weekend's game, I would have been questioning if the Colts would hold onto him. But his replacement, Ben Utecht, wasn't as reliable as Snow with his longsnapping execution.. Barring significant improvement by Utecht, I think Snow is safe for another season in his specialist role. He was an undrafted free agent pickup by the Colts back in 2000.

WR John Standeford
Originally an undrafted free agent signing by the Redskins, Standeford ended up on the Colts practice squad last season -- and that's where I expect him to land at least for the start of this season. He has shown himself to be a reliable receiver with good hands, and I think he's only a year away from being a regular roster player for the Colts. The danger of putting him on the practice squad though is that he's probably good enough to be the #5 receiver for a number of teams around the league. But the only way he's likely to make the roster is if the Colts release Pyatt and use 6 roster spots for receivers.

DT Jason Stewart
He's been a nice surprise in the preseason and has had a terrific battle with newcomer Darrel Reid. Stewart already spent a year on and off the Colts' practice squad, and I had originally projected him to make the final roster. But with the addition of Corey Simon, I think the only way Stewart avoids another year on the practice squad is if the Colts put Sweet Pea Burns on the PUP list, making him inactive for the first 6 games.

DE Josh Thomas
He was the only undrafted rookie to make the roster last year with the Colts. And he'll see significant action this year as well.

TE Ben Utecht
This won't be a popular pick with some folks, as his preseason performance should secure a roster spot for him. But he's got two years of practice squad eligibility and may not have distinguished himself enough from Bryan Fletcher, who already has a year on the practice squad under his belt. One of those two guys will have to go to the practice squad and I think it's a 50-50 situation. With Utecht having two seasons of eligibility for the practice squad, he might draw the short end of the stick unless the Colts have soured on Fletcher.  Originally signed as an undrafted free agent last season, Utecht spent his first season on the PUP list.

K Mike Vanderjagt
Signed as an undrafted free agent who was playing in the CFL, Vanderjagt's position on the team is secure -- at least for field goal attempts and extra points.

FB J.T. Wall
He's been adequate, but not spectacular in the preseason. And unless I've miscalculated, he used up his practice squad eligibility over the past two seasons in Pittsburgh. The Colts may see enough special teams and blocking ability to use a spot on him, but I think he will need to have a very good game against the Bengals to convince them to keep him for those roles. Walls was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Steelers.

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