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That's Some Next Level - Preseason Wk 1

A weekly recap of how former Bears are faring in the NFL. Spoiler: It's going to take a lot more locker room brawls for most of our rookies and free agents to stick.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What’s all this then?

Welcome to "That’s Some Next Level" - a weekly recap of how former Bears are faring in the NFL.   Think of this as a bizzaro-recruiting column. Rather than spilling ink over future Bears, kids who have never contributed, but one day might, it’ll cover former Bears, men that have contributed, but never will again.

And think of it as your mid-week diversion.  Since both former and future Bears will have the same impact on this season (which is to say, none), we’ll give the subject the same level of diligence, detail and perspective it warrants (which is to say, whatever I can muster at the moment).

So on with it!

Even prior the Briles Renaissance (2009-Present), Baylor put a respectable number of players in The League.  But since 2009, Baylor’s had 20 NLF draft picks, including 8 offensive skill position players.

Most of the names you know, but some you may have forgotten.  To set the table for this year, here’s a quick recap.

PLAYER POSITION TEAM Yrs at Baylor Entered - Draft Rd / Overall Yrs Pro
Matt Bryant Place kicker Atlanta Falcons 1997-1998 2002 UFA 14
J.D. Walton Center Miami Dolphins 2006-2009 2010 3/80 6
Jonathan Weeks Long Snapper Houston Texans 2004-2006 2010 UFA 6
Phil Taylor Defensive Lineman Cleveland Browns 2008-2010 2011 1/21 5
Robert Griffin Quarterback Washington Redskins 2008-2011 2012 1/2 4
Kendall Wright Wide Receiver Tennessee Titans 2008-2011 2012 1/20 4
Terrance Williams Wide Receiver Dallas Cowboys 2008-2012 2013 3/74 3
Chance Casey Cornerback Oakland Raiders 2009-2012 2013 UFA 3
Cyril Richardson Guard Buffalo Bills 2009-2013 2014 5/153 2
Lache Seastrunk Running Back Dallas Cowboys 2011-2013 2014 6/186 2
Demetri Goodson Cornerback Green Bay Packers 2011-2013 2014 6/197 2
Tevin Reese Wide Receiver Cincinnati Bengals 2010-2013 2014 7/240 2
Kelvin Palmer Offensive Tackle Pittsburgh Steelers 2009-2013 2014 UFA 2
Bryce Petty Quarterback New York Jets 2010-2014 2015 4/103 R
Bryce Hager Linebacker St. Louis Rams 2010-2014 2015 7/224 R
Antwan Goodley Wide Receiver Dallas Cowboys 2010-2014 2015 UFA R
Levi Norwood Wide Receiver Chicago Bears 2010-2014 2015 UFA R
Spencer Roth Punter Buffalo Bills 2011-2014 2015 UFA R

In this first edition, with the first NFL preseason games coming up this weekend, let’s focus in on rookies and free agents battling for spots on the final 53 man roster.  I’ve ranked them from least likely to most likely.

The Long Shots

Spencer Roth (FA) – Technically, Roth’s not in The League.  The Bills announced that they’d come to terms with Roth, and undrafted free agent, back in May, and he attended Bills minicamp in late May. Regrettably, he was cut on June 2.  No word of interest by any other teams, but the two-time All Big 12 punter would likely be on the short list of any team with a need.

Kelvin Palmer – (PIT) Palmer spent 2014 on Arizona’s practice squad, but was released earlier this year.  He joins Pittsburgh’s camp as one of three offensive tackles on the roster. If those sound like good odds, consider the fact that Pittsburg has 9 guards listed on its camp roster. SI ranked Pittsburgh as the 7th best offensive line in the NFL.   - Next Game: Aug. 14 @ JAC 9P CT.

Levi Norwood (CHI) – It’s tough to see Norwood breaking in here.  Chicago bring 12 receivers into camp this year (that sounds like a lot, but it’s actually pretty typical). Last year, they carried 6 on their final roster.  Three of those slots will go to returning starters; Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson.  A fourth will likely to go to Kevin White, whom the Bears drafted 7th overall.  The last two WR slots will likely go players who can make the biggest impact on special teams.  That may work in Norwood’s favor, considering how versatile he was at Baylor, but last November, Chicago signed Marc Mariani, a 6 yr. veteran returner.  Next game: Thur, Aug. 13 vs. MIA. 8:00P CT.

On the Bubble

Bryce Hager (STL) –In his 7th year, MLB James Laurinaitis is one of cornerstones of a Rams defense on the upswing. So Hager will be battling 2nd yr. player Daren Bates for the number 2 spot on the depth chart.  Bates has been a strong special teams contributor in STL, so, like Norwood, Hager will have to show some versatility to land a spot on the final roster. Next Game: Aug. 14 @ OAK 9P CT.

Lache Seastrunk (DAL) – Dallas will likely take 4 RBs into the season. But the injury situation in Dallas opens the door for Seastrunk.  Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar are almost certain to be 1-2 on the depth chart, though both are currently sidelined with (minor?) injuries. If the Cowboys keep a fullback on the roster again this year, Tyler Clutts will earn a spot. That leaves Seastrunk to compete with Darren McFadden and Gus Johnson for the last spot. McFadden, the former 1st rounder, is still rehabbing a hamstring injury he suffered prior to camp.  With all the injuries, it’s entirely possible that the Cowboys will carry 5 RBs on the roster.  All of this creates opportunities for Seastrunk to separate himself from Gus Johnson, a UFA out of Stephen F. Austin. They’re the only two backs likely to be in uniform in the Cowboys first preseason game vs. SD. Next Game: Aug. 14 @ SD 9P CT.

Antwan Goodley (DAL) – The Cowboys have a training camp-typical 11 WRs on the roster  This number includes 5 UFA’s.  Last year, they carried 5 WRs the roster. But Goodley, with his explosive first-step and large frame, can fill a need for the Cowboys; a slot receiver who can make plays in traffic and deliver YAC. I don’t think Goodley needs a "break out" performance to make this team.  If he can be reliable, I think he’ll be among the final 53.  Next Game: Aug. 14 @ SD 9P CT.

Sure Things

Bryce Petty (NYJ) – Here’s the funny thing about training camp and projecting who will make the roster and get playing time.  You just never know.

Here’s how this read at 12:45 yesterday (8/11/15):

Petty is the only Bear that’s almost certain to make a final roster.  But it’s unlikely he’ll see much action this season, barring injury to the returning starter, Geno Smith, or the veteran backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Set your DVR for Thur., Sept. 3 7:00PM,  when Petty is likely to see lots of playing time in the Jets final preseason game vs. Philadelphia.  That may be the longest look we get at Bryce for a while.

Here’s how it reads presently:

Given that Geno Smith’s broken jaw will require surgery and keep him out until at least October, expect to see lots of Bryce in the preseason.  2nd string backup Ryan Fitzpatrick is coming off a broken leg from last year, and is no sure thing.  If the Jets struggle, don’t be surprised to see Petty get extended playing time in the early regular season too.  New head coach Todd Bowles just got a license to experiment. I’m not sure this is the best news for Petty’s long-term development. But for a guy that waited patiently for years for his first start at Baylor, maybe it feels like great timing.  Next game: Aug. 13 @ DET 6:30P CT.

Finally, here are the important dates for players trying to stick:

Sept. 1: Teams trim their camp roster to 75 players.

Sept 5: Teams make their final cuts to the 53 man roster they’ll take into the season.

Stay tuned for updates.