Gauging the NFL Opportunities for Departing Huskers
In addition to the three Nebraska players drafted by the NFL over the weekend, several were signed as undrafted free agents. Simply signing with a team or even being drafted is no assurance that you'll make a team's roster. Here's a closer look at the outlook for these rookies.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste (drafted 2nd round, 58th overall by New Orleans)
Jean-Baptiste will not only make the team but he will play this year. The real question is whether he'll displace a veteran to become a starter or if most of his play will come in relief and in packages to defend 3, 4, or 5 receivers. With guys like Champ Bailey getting long in the tooth, this might be considered an apprentice year as he develops into an NFL starter.
Spencer Long (drafted 3rd round, 78th overall by Washington)
Long is in a great position to make the roster. The Redskins tend not to spend many high draft picks on offensive linemen, so this pick represents a fairly big investment on their part. With a new coach and offense coming to DC, Long is not as far behind some of the players that have been in the league (or on the margins of the league) longer. He's not likely to be an opening day starter (an injury to an incumbent could change that), but you'd give him an excellent chance to make the team as a top reserve guard. The main concern might be his own health as he recovers from torn knee ligaments that may have cost him an All-American senior year.
Quincy Enunwa (drafted 6th round, 209th overall by the New York Jets)
Enunwa will have to show well to make the roster but he will have a chance. Most teams keep six receivers. Eric Decker is a lock and Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson seem entrenched as well. After that there is only modest production returning. Two fourth-rounders were taken by the Jets ahead of Enunwa. But what you really like for Enunwa is how well he could compliment the Jets quarterbacks who struggle with accuracy. Enunwa is very good at fighting for balls and winning the battle in tight spots. That's exactly what these quarterbacks need.
Brent Qvale (Undrafted Free Agent, New York Jets)
Qvale would seemingly have a very good chance of making the Jets roster as a reserve tackle. The Jets don't have many prototypically tackle-sized linemen on their bench so Qvale's length makes him stand out, provided he shows well at the position. With some older veterans currently starting, he could be ready to claim a starting spot in the next couple years.
Jason Ankrah (Undrafted Free Agent, Houston)
Ankrah has a surprisingly good opportunity given that he's joining a team that just selected Jadeveon Clowney first overall. The Texans are a 3-4 defensive team, so Ankrah could be in the mix as a top reserve at an outside linebacker spot (which seems to fit his size profile). He'll have to hit the books so that he can adapt to the change in responsibilities and playing a stand up spot.
Jeremiah Sirles (Undrafted Free Agent, San Diego)
The Chargers have a lot of options at tackle including both regular starters back from a year ago. So Sirles would have to show well even to make the team as a reserve. It's possible he could be placed on the practice squad for a year. That's where San Diego stashed a pair of tackles a year ago.
Mohammed Seisay (Undrafted Free Agent, Detroit)
It's hard to imagine a player like Seisay, who had trouble getting on the field for Nebraska. It would be fair to call the Detroit Lions secondary undistinguished, so in that sense there's some opportunity. Even then, the odds don't seem great for Seisay.
Taylor Martinez (Undrafted Free Agent, Philadelphia)
The best case for Martinez would be to make the practice squad. You'd wonder if he could hang around the NFL long enough to draw a pension like Scott Frost. The difference is that Frost had played some safety in college. Even mastering the position of safety in college is tough, but trying to grasp it at the NFL level seems a near impossible task for someone who's not accustomed to it. A "redshirt" year on the practice squad would be the best hope for Martinez to learn the position well enough to stay in the league. He needs to be healthy too.
Cole Pensick (Undrafted Free Agent, Kansas City)
Pensick just seems too small to be an NFL center. He might have to displace former Husker Ricky Henry to make the roster. The Chiefs have their starting center and so a reserve that can only play center is not that appealing. Even a practice squad spot seems like a stretch. He's likely just a practice player for the preseason.
Ciante Evans (Undrafted Free Agent, ???)
The fact that Evans is not yet signed with a team could be more a function of the demand for him creating a lot of options to consider than a lack of opportunity. He was placed on the All-Undrafted team at NFL.com. You'd hope that Evans can find a team with enough need that he'll make the roster. He was probably a better overall college player than Jean-Baptiste, though Baptiste probably became a better cover corner. It would have helped in the draft if Evans was bigger or faster, but he can play which is why you expect him to be on an NFL roster in the fall.