Jan 26, 2013; Mobile, AL, USA; Senior Bowl south squad linebacker Chase Thomas of Stanford (44) against the Senior Bowl north squad during the first half of the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
As usual, the New Orleans Saints were active in undrafted free agency this year, which we chronicled here. New Orleans officially announced the signing of 13 players, but some will have much a much better shot at making the roster than others.
For the 13, the struggle to make a roster with all of the odds stacked against them has begun.
Let’s take a look at each Saints undrafted free agent and determine the chances they have of making the final roster when the 2013 season kicks off.
Shawne Alston – Running Back, West Virginia:
Alston was the short-yardage specialst for West Virginia during his four years with the team, and he did it well with a 4.6 yards-per-carry average and scoring 19 touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Alston, the Saints don’t truly need a short-yardage back thanks to the presence of both Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram on the roster. He may have a chance of sticking on with the practice squad, but he won’t be making the main roster unless the injury bug goes around.
Odds: 15 percent
Glenn Foster – Defensive End, Illinois:
Foster had a productive career during his time with Illinois, acting as one of the team’s defensive tackles. At the NFL level he projects as a defensive end or outside linebacker thanks to his weight at just 285 pounds.
The problem for Foster is he not only has to undergo a position change, but has to adapt to the next level. He’s not known as a pass-rusher either, registering just 2.5 sacks last season.
Odds: 10 percent
Ryan Griffin – Quarterback, Tulane:
November 24, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Tulane Green Wave quarterback Ryan Griffin (11) attempts a pass in the first quarter against the Houston Cougars at Robertson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Griffin may be the most under-rated pickup for the Saints in undrafted free agency. He has prototypical size at 6’5″ and 206 pounds, a great arm and experience in an offense similar to what the Saints run.
While Griffin has some competition in camp such as Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace, there’s an outside shot he could beat them out with a strong preseason. For a player who set several team records in college, Griffin is well-equipped to win the backup role and learn from Drew Brees.
Odds: 50 percent
Josh Hill – Tight End, Idaho State:
At just 6’5″ and 229 pounds, Hill has an uphill battle to making any NFL roster. He’s too small to be an effective blocker at the next level and looks more like a wide receiver with his wiry frame.
It’s hard to see how and where Hill would fit into the Saints offense. If the coaching staff like what it sees, Hill could sneak onto the practice squad while they make him put on some mass.
Odds: 5 percent
Ryan Lacy – Cornerback, Utah:
Lacy was talented enough in college with the Utes to put up a strong fight with some of the current corners on the Saints’ roster, but he’s at a major disadvantage because of his height.
At the next level, Lacy would even struggle playing the slot. It’s not that he doesn’t have good cover skills, he just at some point he’d be a liability because the majority of NFL players are so big and opposing teams would gameplan for when he’s on the field.
Odds: 5 percent
Rod Sweeting – Cornerback, Georgia Tech (6-0, 187):
Sep 3, 2012; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets cornerback Rod Sweeting (6) against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire
Sweeting is a player who could push for a roster spot thanks to him impressive collegiate career that saw him rack up 160 tackles and 24 passes defensed in just two years.
At 6’0″ and 187 pounds, Sweeting could use some bulk if he wants to be more versatile as a backup safety as well, but his production speaks for itself. Expect him to put up a strong fight for the final roster this preseason.
Odds: 55 percent
Tim Lelito – Guard, Grand Valley State:
On film, Lelito really pops out, but that’s hard to gauge properly based on the level of competition he was playing against. He was stout running down field to pave the way for running backs and shows decent footwork in pass protection.
There’s an outside chance Lelito can put together a great preseason and sneak on as the last offensive lineman thanks to his natural ability.
Odds: 25 percent
Eric Martin – Linebacker, Nebraska:
Martin was a stud for the Nebraska defense last season as he racked up 8.5 sacks while flashing great technique in getting to the passer. At the NFL level he has to deal with learning a new position because he doesn’t have the size to play defensive end in the Saints’ 3-4.
While Martin isn’t the biggest name at linebacker in this undrafted class, he may be one to watch.
Odds: 30 percent
Elliot Mealer – Center, Michigan:
Mealer is a guy who could push Ryan Lee for the backup center job this offseason. He started 50 games with Michigan and was one of the team leaders while playing well in all phases. Keep an eye on the battle.
Odds: 40 percent
Keavon Milton – Tight End, Louisiana-Monroe:
Milton is a massive tight end (no, really—295 pounds) who lacked any consistent production at the college level. His season high for receptions is just 14. He’s a heck of a blocker (obviously), but doesn’t really fit anywhere on the Saints roster.
Odds: 5 percent
Kevin Reddick – Linebacker, North Carolina:
Oct 27, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Kevin Reddick (48) reacts after sacking North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon (8) (not pictured) in the fourth quarter at Kenan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Reddick is a man who has all the tools to make the Saints roster, especially with the team switching to a 3-4 and having two inside linebacker positions.
In 43 starts at North Carolina, Reddick racked up 275 tackles and was the clear leader of the unit. He’s solid in coverage but truly shines against the run. How Reddick went undrafted is hard to fathom.
Expect Reddick to claim a backup role this preseason.
Odds: 75 percent
Rayford Shipman – Linebacker, Central Florida:
Shipman was productive during his time at Central Florida but appeared in just over 20 games and is a bit of an unknown commodity, especially considering he didn’t play against the greatest competition.
Linebacker is one of the deepest spots on the Saints roster going into the preseason, and other undrafted free agents have an edge over Shipman, not to mention the players already on the roster.
Odds: 20 percent
Chase Thomas – Linebacker, Stanford (6-3, 241):
Nov 19, 2011; Stanford CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal linebacker Chase Thomas (44) lines up for a play against the California Golden Bears during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium. Stanford defeated California 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas was far and away the best undrafted free agent available, but don’t expect him to be a locker for the roster—there’s a reason he went undrafted.
While Thomas has an elite pass-rushing ability, racking up 27.5 sacks in 47 starts, he went undrafted because he has less-than-ideal-size, was wildly inconsistent and ran slow at the Scouting Combine.
Still, Thomas has unlimited potential and experience in a 3-4 defense. Based on potential alone, Thomas should make the final roster. How much he contributes is up for him to decide.
Odds: 95 percent