256... That's the number of players who heard their names called during the 2014 NFL Draft. Immediately following the "cool kids" party at New York's Radio City Music Hall, NFL teams scrambled to sign players their scouting departments deemed worthy of a further look, but not a draft pick...
While the work to be done for drafted players is far from over, it's the undrafted young men who have the greatest mountain to climb. Did I say "mountain"? It's more like a sheer cliff, with little in the way of hand-holds other than their dream to one day play in the NFL. They arrive at NFL team facilities with a bit of expense money, and a duffle bag filled with items brought from home. It'll probably include some t-shirts with their college team logos printed across the front, though a bit faded from wear. They'll be given some new athletic gear when they arrive - crisp and clean with the name of their NFL team splashed in assorted positions across the chest. Donning the new, they'll ever so slightly long to wear what reminds them of a time when they were considered special; stars in college, and not a part of an unknown-s herd.
If there's one thing a undrafted free agent has to deal with, it's the hit to their egos. Spurned on draft day, they have to believe it was all some kind of a mistake? Belief in themselves has to be rock solid, or they don't stand a chance in the infinitely practical NFL world. They're walking into locker rooms where only the best of the best dwell, and the NFL draft has to be swept from their minds. Oh, some will use the NFL Draft to inspire them to prove how hundreds of coaches and scouts got it wrong, but at some point they need to shift to today, and not stay tethered to the past...
Every year, I pick a player to watch from the ranks of the undrafted. This season, I've chosen Jamaine Sherman, a wide receiver out of East Texas Baptist University. He's 6'2" or 3", depending on what measuring stick you want to believe, and weighs around 210-ish lbs. His biggest claims to fame: the first EVER 1000+ yard receiver for ETBU, and being named the Offensive MVP for "Red Nation", in the National Bowl. As college resumes go, it's not bad, but it wasn't enough to turn his journeyman college career into being drafted. The 24 year old started his college career in 2008, and ended at ETBU with 62 catches for 1084 yards and 7 touchdowns. Here's the rest of his college C.V.:
Alderson Broaddus University
2012 (club year)
- Played for first-year program that played as a club
- Played in four games with 30 catches for 500 yards receiving and six touchdowns
- Played in seven games starting three while grabbing 13 catches for 129 yards and one touchdown
- Averaged 9.9 yards per catch
- Caught six passes for 48 yards vs. Western Oregon (10/1)
- Longest catch of the year was 24 yards vs. North Alabama (9/17)
- Produced two catches vs. North Alabama, West Texas A&M (10/15), and Midwestern State (10/22)
- Only touchdown of the year was vs. West Texas A&M
Scottsdale Community College
- Caught 16 catches for 267 yards in five games for three touchdowns
- Voted onto the SoCal All-Combine first-team
Arizona Western Junior College (Yuma)
- Played in six games with 18 catches and 249 yards
Undrafted free agents like Jamiane Sherman have very little chance to make an NFL team. While the Rams really don't have a strong wide receiver corp, the quality of players vying for 5 or 6 possible roster slots at the position will be a challenge for Sherman to overcome. But what if he finds that unique spark, and makes the Rams roster? It would be a story I'd love to write about, so I'll wait, and watch. Time and Sherman's heart will tell, so join me in cheering for this unsung player, who dares to have an NFL dream...