BBD Editor: Dan Hope
As is often the case, Thursday’s NFL Supplemental Draft came and went with little attention paid to it. Although there were four players eligible to be selected, each of them went undrafted, making 2014 the second consecutive year in which no NFL teams made a supplemental draft selection.
This news is not a surprise; the four eligible players—New Mexico wide receiver Chase Clayton, North Carolina edge defender Darius Lipford, Virginia-Lynchburg defensive tackle LaKendrick Ross and SMU running back Traylon Shead—should not have been expected to be drafted.
When a team uses a selection in the supplemental draft, it subsequently forfeits its pick corresponding to that round in the following year’s regular draft. It’s unlikely that any of the four players from this year’s supplemental draft would have been selected in the 2014 NFL Draft; therefore, none of them were worth giving up a pick in next year’s draft to select.
That’s not to say they won’t get chances to make NFL teams this summer. All of them are now eligible to be signed as undrafted free agents, and each of them has legitimate potential that makes them worthy of consideration.
Clayton showed some intriguing special teams potential as a sophomore in 2012, by averaging 30.4 yards per kickoff return including two touchdowns in that capacity, but he never established himself offensively. He finished his career with just 38 touches for 259 yards. Athleticism could get the 6’3″, 204-pound receiver a training camp tryout, but he’s a long shot.
Lipford, who was listed at 6’3″ and 245 pounds and as a “bandit” by North Carolina’s official athletics website, has experience playing both defensive end and linebacker but projects best as an outside linebacker for a 3-4 defensive scheme in the NFL. He is a fluid athlete who can both rush off the edge and drop back into coverage, but his skills are very raw and he is not much of a presence against the run. He didn’t have a great deal of production in 2013, with just 29 total tackles as a rotational player, and he missed the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL. He’s a project who might not have the skills to make an NFL roster, but he should get a shot this preseason.
The most intriguing prospect in this year’s supplemental draft class was Ross. According to Damond Talbot of NFL Draft Diamonds, Ross measured in at 6’4″ and 366 pounds, with a massive 83 1/2″ wingspan, at his pro day, which was attended by 12 NFL teams. He apparently moved very well at his pro day, and can dunk a basketball, which is an impressive athletic feat for a man of his size. But while players with measurables like his often garner hype, especially when one is looking to hype anyone with any potential prior to a supplemental draft, it’s no substitute for demonstrated football ability, which Ross has very little of. He played just 10 career college football games at Virginia-Lynchburg, a non-NCAA school, due to academic issues. His physical upside could make him a practice squad candidate, but he needs to develop rapidly to have any chance of sticking in the NFL.
Like the other three, Shead never lived up to his potential as a collegiate player. He started his career at Texas, but never made it on the field. He spent just one year at SMU, where he ran for just 197 yards and three touchdowns on 51 attempts. He is a big back who can run through contact between the tackles, but he doesn’t show much burst or pass-catching ability. Backs like Shead are a dime a dozen in the NFL; his bulk and ability to pass block give him a chance to make a roster as a third or fourth running back, and he should at least get a tryout or two during training camps, but there’s nothing about his game that sets him apart.
While any or all of these players might resurface in NFL training camps, none of them would have graded out among the top 256 players in a regular draft class. Each of them will have to take advantage of any opportunity he can get in order to gain any ground on being an NFL player.