Another NFL draft has come and gone, and while only two former Wisconsin Badgers were selected this time around, seven more were signed to undrafted-free-agent contracts.
It's usually a long shot for these players to make rosters, but every year some stick, edging out drafted players and marking out nice careers in the NFL for themselves. One advantage that these undrafted players have is that in a limited capacity, they get to select which teams they play for. Let's analyze the former Badgers' situations.
Joel Stave, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Quarterbacks on the roster: Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Taylor Heinicke
With Bridgewater the clear starter, that's all he'll be discussed here. Hill is a 36-year-old career backup and likely doesn't have much time left in the league. Heinicke was an undrafted free agent last season, coming out of Old Dominion. This is an advantageous situation for Stave, who despite his flaws and shortcomings, presents much more upside at the pro level than Heinicke. Stave has a stronger arm, which can be beneficial in the harsh, winter weather in the NFC North. Norv Turner's offensive system also fits Stave's skill set.
Prognosis: It's hard to say for sure, but Stave has a definite shot at making the final 53, or at the very least making the practice squad. Look for him to replace Heinicke on the roster as the third quarterback.
Alex Erickson, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Wide receivers on the roster: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Brandon Tate, Mario Alford, Michael Bennett, James Wright, Jake Kumerow, Tyler Boyd, Cody Core
Green is a bonafide stud, and LaFell was a free-agent signing from New England. Boyd was a second-round selection and Core was selected in the six round. Tate is the team's return specialist. That leaves Erickson to compete with the speedster Alford and the others for the sixth, if available, roster spot at the position. Kumerow was brought in last season as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Wright hasn't materialized after being drafted from LSU in 2014.
Prognosis: Truthfully, without injuries, it might be tough for Erickson to crack this roster. Not to say that it can't or won't happen, but he's got a tough road ahead.
Austin Traylor, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Tight ends on the roster: Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers
Witten doesn't merit discussion past him being their longtime starter. Escobar is their second tight end, but from there things get interesting. Hanna and Swaim return from last year, but as a third tight end, there's no guarantee they'll stick. The Cowboys drafted Gathers, who they currently list as a tight end, but the 6'8, 290-pound former Baylor basketball star hasn't player football since he was 13. To say he's got some rust to shake off would be an understatement.
Prognosis: Traylor, like Erickson, might be depending on some injuries and other forms of attrition to find his way onto the roster, but at the very least he's auditioning for all 31 other teams in any film he can get on. Traylor may be the best blocker on the team, but sadly he's about 15 years late on that train.
Tyler Marz, OT/OG, Tennessee Titans
Tackles/Guards on the roster: Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin, Jeremiah Poutasi, Chance Warmack, Quinton Spain, Josue Matias, Byron Bell, William Poehls, Sebastion Tretola
Lewan, Poutasi, Warmack and Conklin will be the starters outside of center, so the depth is where we'll look. Spain andMatias both return from last year as undrafted free agents. Bell plays both guard and tackle, but likely shouldn't start. Tretola was drafted this year, and Poehls is a massive man from Montana.
Prognosis: Marz has picked a bit of a stacked group to join, but he's definitely got a shot. The offensive line always faces attrition throughout the season; it's simply the nature of the position. However, Marz's best shot initially might be on a practice squad. His positional versatility will help him, but he's a bit of a long shot.
Darius Hillary, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Cornerbacks on the roster: Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson III, Chykie Brown, Josh Shaw, Chris Lewis-Harris
With four current and former first-rounders, this is a position that the Bengals have invested in heavily. However, Jones isn't getting any younger and Brown is a journeyman. Lewis-Harris has also been around. Hillary has a chance here, but he's got some stiff competition to beat out. Hillary has an uphill battle ahead.
Tanner McEvoy, ATH, Seattle Seahawks
Safeties on the roster: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Steven Terrell, Kelcie McCray, Robert Smith
Aside from Thomas and Chancellor, arguably the top safety tandem in the NFL, McEvoy has a legitimate shot at making the roster here. Terrell, McCray and Smith are no better than depth safeties.
Prognosis: Truthfully, it's a mystery as to where Seattle will choose to play McEvoy, but his best bet to make the roster is as a safety. With Thomas and Chancellor there, he can sit and learn (to tackle, mostly) and eventually work his way into a more prominent role.
Michael Caputo, S, New Orleans Saints
Safeties on the roster: Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Vonn Bell, Jamarca Sanford, Alden Darby
Byrd and Vaccaro are big-money players for the Saints, and they're both established starters. Bell was a second-round pick, and should figure into the rotation fairly quickly. Sanford and Darby are both depth players at best.
Prognosis: Caputo is the typical "football player" who is likely only a special-teamer due to his lack of coverage prowess, but will bust his tail to make the final 53. This is a nice spot for Caputo, who, with a little help, could conceivably make this roster or a practice squad at worst.