By Stone Harper
For the first time in seven years Nevada did not have a player selected in the NFL draft. All sadness aside, Nevada was not entirely shut out of the NFL. Quarterback Cody Fajardo signed with the Oakland Raiders, defensive end Brock Hekking signed with the San Diego Chargers and offensive lineman Kyle Roberts signed with the Denver Broncos as undrafted free agents.
With all three players headed to the AFC West it is only appropriate that I use my expert football knowledge to determine what kind of fit each player will be and more importantly if they actually make the final 53-man roster.
First things first: you always start with the most important position on the field, the quarterback. Fajardo is set up in a decent position, he returns to his home state and is only 212 miles away from Reno.
However, location is not the only reason this is a good fit for Fajardo. Usually an NFL team will carry three quarterbacks on its roster. As of this weekend, the Raiders have four quarterbacks signed — Fajardo, Derrick Carr, Christian Ponder and Matt McGloin.
Carr is the surefire starter at the quarterback position. The other two quarterbacks on the roster do have NFL game experience but I can’t even lie and say they were anything short of awful. Ponder only attempted 44 passes last season while throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns. The former first round pick had a 4.7 quarterback rating, which would easily be worst in the league if he attempted enough passes to qualify.
McGloin has only played in eight games in his entire career and has only managed to throw nine touchdowns. Last season he started one game and, with new management in place, they have no commitment to McGloin, who is more known for getting knocked out by his own teammates than he is for throwing footballs.
If Fajardo can beat out one of those two guys, he is more than likely guaranteed a roster spot.
Hekking’s fit in San Diego won’t be so seamless. Hekking will come into the NFL with the crown of best hair in the NFL, but on the field Hekking is still raw. Hekking played defensive end for all four years of his career. However, he will likely move to outside linebacker in the NFL, something he has never done before.
Obviously, being in the NFL is hard enough, but coming into the NFL playing a new position is brutal. Thankfully for Hekking, one of the Chargers’ weaknesses is rushing the passer. Last season the Chargers were 29th out of 32 teams in sacks. I think Hekking’s fit on the Bolts is that he will probably have to take this season to adjust to his new role. If he can do that he could spend the remainder of his career as a solid rotational player.
The true wild card in this situation is Roberts. Usually undrafted free agent offensive linemen don’t make it out of training camp, but Roberts’ situation is a little bit different. The Broncos only drafted two offensive lineman while also losing guard Manny Ramirez to a draft day trade. With such thin numbers at that critical position Roberts will get a fair chance to compete during the summer.
Another reason why Roberts’ situation seems less grim is his offensive line coach Alex Gibbs. According to sbnation.com, Gibbs is the “grandfather of modern zone blocking.” His run blocking scheme paved the way for two Super Bowls in the late 90s for the Broncos.
The reason that I bring this up is because Gibbs is a coaching legend. Roberts will come into training camp with several deficiencies after playing in a spread offense in college. Roberts will thankfully OK Gibbs to help him through all the bumps and bruises of adjusting to a new offense.
I’m not saying Roberts will be a day-one starter. There’s a good chance that Roberts will either be cut or sit on the practice squad. However, if Roberts can adjust to the NFL style he has a chance to make a real run in the NFL. If worst comes to worst he can always star in Papa John’s commercials with Peyton Manning.
At the end of the day, life as an undrafted free agent is no easier than Scott Steiner trying to shoot a promo; however, these guys have ideal situations and if they are willing to put in the effort and hard work they just may be able to make an impact at some point in their careers.
Stone Harper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @StoneHarperNVSB.