While every NFL team has an undrafted free agent success story or two, few regularly keep as many every year as the Green Bay Packers. If history is any indication, one or two prospects that didn't hear their name called during the draft will find themselves on Green Bay's 53-man roster or practice squad. However, predicting which players will earn that status is a more challenging task.
Multiple factors come into play with projecting UDFA success, and the most important isn't necessarily playing ability. Certainly, the prospect must possess talent, but if he finds himself buried too far down the depth chart the coaches may not provide him enough opportunities to demonstrate his skillset.
Now that the Packers have more or less established their 90-man training camp roster, which undrafted players stand the best chance of making the 53 or practice squad? Let's evaluate.
John Crockett, RB, North Dakota State
In terms of true tailbacks, the Packers have only two roster locks, Eddie Lacy and James Starks. The rest of the depth chart is composed of undrafted free agents acquired last offseason (Rajion Neal) or this year (John Crockett and Alonzo Harris). Though Neal impressed the coaches before a preseason injury put him on the shelf, he'll receive tough competition from Crockett, North Dakota State's record-setting rusher. Crockett's 4.62 40 and small school pedigree probably kept him from getting drafted, but he's a much better athlete than advertised. More importantly, he's patient and durable. Behind a quality offensive line like the one in Green Bay, Crockett can be productive.
Matt Rotheram, OL, Pittsburgh
Unless injury intervenes, there are seven offensive linemen that appear to be locks for the final roster - the five starters (David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga), Don Barclay and JC Tretter. With few exceptions, the Packers usually carry eight on the roster. Though the remaining spot could go to Garth Gerhart or Lane Taylor, both of which spent 2014 on the 53, the team may instead retain an undrafted free agent with more versatility. At 6'5" and 340 pounds, Pittsburgh's Matt Rotheram has the size to handle tackle. Green Bay also considers him a viable guard prospect. With Barclay on a one-year deal, it makes sense to develop a swing blocker like Rotheram for use in future seasons.
James Vaughters, OLB, Stanford
Every year, it seems the Packers uncover a roster-worthy edge rusher in undrafted free agency. Though the return on investment varies by player, the team found a spot for Frank Zombo, Vic So'oto, Dezman Moses, Andy Mulumba and Jayrone Elliott. This year, that edge rusher could be Stanford's James Vaughters.
At 6'2", 258 pounds, Vaughters has decent size to go with his attractive skillset. He possesses a quick first step and can consistently convert speed to power. Vaughters also enters the league with 3-4 defensive familiarity having worked in the scheme during his college career.
Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami (Fla.)
Counting Micah Hyde, the Packers return four cornerbacks from last year's 53-man roster and added two prospects at the position on the first two days of the draft. In all likelihood, there isn't a roster spot for an undrafted free agent cover man in Green Bay.
The one exception might be Ladarius Gunter, a former Miami Hurricane who possesses something none of his competition does - size. Gunter measures in well over 6'1" and has long arms. As the Seattle Seahawks have proven over the last few seasons, those qualities can help overcome speed deficiencies, which Gunter certainly has. He ran a 4.69 40 at the combine and a 4.62 at his pro day, concerning for a cornerback vying for a job in the NFL. However, if Gunter learns to use his length to keep the football away from receivers, he'll at least earn serious consideration for the practice squad.