Last week we took a look at the three Mountain West players who were drafted by NFL teams and examined what their roles with the team could look like in their rookie season. This week, we turn to the undrafted free agents of the Mountain West. This year, there are 13 such players, with another player hoping to get signed. How likely is each player to make a team? We break each player into different categories and discuss them below in today’s post.
Admittedly, I don't know the ins and outs of every roster situation, so take everything with a grain of salt and feel free to add to the discussion.
A Safe Bet
WR Warren Jackson (Colorado State) signed with the Denver Broncos
- The Rams produce NFL wide receivers as well as anyone and the league knows this. Jackson was hurt by opting-out and no NFL Combime. However, once he’s on the field in front of Denver’s coaches, he should emerge as one of the better wide receivers out there.
DB Tariq Thompson (San Diego State) signed with the Buffalo Bills
- It was a surprise Thompson went undrafted, but it would be a shock if he went without making the team for Buffalo. His versatility and value in the defensive backs unit, as well as special teams, should be enough to give him the edge over other players.
Could Go Either Way
WR Rico Bussey (Hawaii) signed with the Pittsburg Steelers
- Bussey really flew onto the radar after his all-star bowl showing and isn’t in a bad spot here. He was light on snaps in college due to some issues, so it’s fair to say his best days are still ahead of him if he can stick around. The ability to play special teams will also be a necessity.
DB Dwayne Johnson Jr (San Diego State) signed with the Atlanta Falcons
- If it were most other teams, Johnson Jr would be in a higher category, and a good bet to stick as an UDFA. However, because the Falcons drafted two other defensive backs from the Mountain West (and one of his teammates), the roster will become harder to crack.
OL Syrus Tuitele (Fresno State) signed with the Buffalo Bills
- Tuitele seems like the kind of player who will shine once he’s out in practice going live. Will it be enough to stick with Buffalo? It could go either way at this point. Reserve lineman have to be versatile and that will be the top thing to show on his priority list, along with the skills he was known for at Fresno State.
WR Tre Walker (San Jose State) signed with the Buffalo Bills
- With Walker, it will really be how well does he fit in with Jose Allen. If he can become a trusted target in the off-season, that would go a long way towards keeping him. His future is as a slot receiver, but it’s easy to see him with the potential to be a really good one if he can find the right fit and opportunity. Like Bussey, and really almost everyone on this list, being able to show some ability to play on special teams will go a long way.
A Long Shot
LS Turner Bernard (San Diego State) signed with the Minnesota Vikings
- Bernard is an interesting case as a long-snapper. Each team only takes one and the other one currently on the Vikings roster is 33. On one hand, all he has to do is beat out one other player. On the other hand, that won’t be easy to beat out someone entrenched at the spot.
OL Jacob Capra (San Diego State) signed with the Green Bay Packers
- With the Packers drafting 3 OL players in this year’s draft, as well as last year’s draft, Capra has quite the uphill battle to stick in Green Bay. He may be able to stick on the practice squad, depending on how he shows.
WR Bailey Gaither (San Jose State) signed with the Green Bay Packers
- The Packers struck gold with a previous former Spartan wide receiver, can they do it again? Gaither put up great numbers at SJSU and we know Green Bay will need some receivers. If he does well, it wouldn’t be surprising for GB to try to stash him away on the practice squad to see if he can develop for when their WRs hit free agency next year.
DT George Silvanic (Air Force) signed with the LA Rams
- Silvanic was a surprise to get signed as an UDFA and he would be a surprise to stick with the Rams. Stranger things have happened but the odds aren’t great.
OL Kyle Spalding (San Diego State) signed with the LA Chargers
- Ditto for Spalding with Chargers. Never say never but odds are slim.
Too Early to Tell
OL Nolan Laufenberg (Air Force): signed with the Denver Broncos
OL Parker Ferguson (Air Force) signed with New York Jets
- Grouping Laufenberg and Ferguson together since they are similar(ish) players in similar situations. I was surprised neither of these AFA linemen were drafted but what do I know. It’s fair to assume the Broncos and Jets both want to evaluate the players in their pass-protection, which was limited. Everyone knows about their outstanding run-blocking skills. The jury is still out on Nolan and Parker, but I have a feeling one or both of them can stick in some way.
Former QB Josh Love (San Jose State) received a mini-camp invite Cleveland Browns
- It will be curious to see what kind of shape Love is in after a year and a half removed from playing in a game. It’s great he is getting a look and hopefully can stick around through the summer.
On top of their drafted players, the Mountain West Conference has turned out strong UDFAs this year, with some that will have great chances at making their team’s final roster. It will be tough for many players to truly show their worth as teammates and coaches cannot practice together due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we still have high hopes for our former MWC standouts.