8 AAF players with the best chances to make an NFL roster

first_imgAAF TRACKER: Follow which Alliance players have signed in the NFLObviously success in the AAF won’t necessarily translate to success in the NFL. Just because you shined against players who couldn’t even get a practice squad spot doesn’t mean you’re suddenly ready to start. But there are a few players who made a case to at least get an invite to training camp.Let’s take a look at some of them.AAF TIMELINE: Events that led to league’s demiseQB Garrett GilbertGilbert was likely going to be the AAF’s first MVP if the league made it that far. The quarterback, who turned down an NFL futures contract to play in the AAF, shined in his eight games. He completed 60.6% of his league-high 259 pass attempts for a league-high 2,152 yards and 13 passing touchdowns. He had just three interceptions, which is fewest among QBs with at least 80 pass attempts (or 10 attempts per game). He also ran for a score, and caught a touchdown. He also led the league in yards per attempt (8.3) and QB rating (102.0).He did have some struggles late in the season, but his bad games looked like other quarterback’s good games in the AAF. He didn’t tear teams apart, so he’s not getting a starting NFL job any time soon, but he played well enough I could see him earning a backup role somewhere. Update: Gilbert has signed with the Browns, per Cleveland.com.Position note: Gilbert is really the only QB who showed much promise. Luis Perez had some buzz early in the season, but really started to struggle and was even benched at one point. Zach Mettenberger played really well, but had a small sample size due to his injury. John Wolford was the second-best QB statistically, but wasn’t that impressive.WR Charles JohnsonGilbert and Johnson complimented each other well on the Apollos. Johnson earned Pro Football Focus’s highest grade for a receiver (85.5) in the league as he led the AAF in receiving yards (687) and receptions (45). PFF says Johnson quarterbacks had a 123.8 passer rating when throwing in his direction, which is pretty remarkable.Johnson was a seventh-round pick in 2013 and spent some time in the NFL before winding up in the AAF. He struggled with injuries during his short time in the NFL and could never quite stay on a roster. But maybe now that’s he’s finished as the AAF’s all-time leading receiver, teams might take another look at him.Update: Johnson has signed with the Eagles.Position note: Commanders WR Mekale McKay could draw some interest from teams as well. He earned the nickname “Big Play McKay” as he led the AAF (out of receivers with 10+ catches) in yards per catch (17). Stallions WR De’Mornay Pierson-El could be a nice slot receiver option as he finished with the fourth-most receptions. PFF says Pierson-El forced nine missed tackles after the catch, most in the AAF.WR Rashad RossRoss finished with PFF’s second-highest grade for a receiver (83.2) and wasn’t too far behind Johnson in terms of production. Ross caught a touchdown in all but two games, and in one of those games he was clearly dealing with a bad injury so he wasn’t quite his full self. He ended up leading the league in touchdown catches (7).Ross managed to finish with at least 50 receiving yards in every game this season, making him a very consistent threat. Similar to Johnson, Ross bounced around some NFL teams. He was on a different roster eight times before landing with the Hotshots. Update: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Ross has signed with the Panthers.RB D’Ernest JohnsonJohnson did a lot with very little. He wasn’t used in heavy rotation like other backs in the AAF, but he turned his 64 carries (7th in the league) into 372 rushing yards (2nd in the league) which comes out to 5.8 yards per carry. He also caught 22-of-30 targets for 220 yards (most for a running back) giving him 592 scrimmage yards on the year (2nd in the league).He finished with PFF’s highest grade for a running back (78.2) as he was pretty dominant with the ball in his hands. From PFF’s Cam Mellor: “[Johnson forced] 12 missed tackles on just 65 attempts while averaging 3.40 yards after contact per attempt and leading the league with 13 carries of at least 10-plus yards.”I’m not sure what role Johnson would have in the NFL, but he put on enough impressive tape to warrant a camp invite.Position note: Iron RB Trent Richardson finished with the most touchdowns in the league, but overall he wasn’t too impressive. He was a good goal-line runner, but is that valuable in the NFL? Jhurell Pressley led the league in rushing and could also get some looks, although his play wasn’t too eye-popping.S Derron SmithSmith earned PFF’s “Player of the Year” honors as he finished with the highest overall grade of all players (93.1). The Commanders safety is better in coverage than run defense, as he finished with three interceptions and eight pass deflections.Smith was a fifth-round pick by the Bengals in 2015 and lasted two seasons with them. He’s only 27 years old, so it’d seem silly for a team to not give him an opportunity considering the production he had in the AAF. He’s not quite starter material right now, but he’d provide solid depth for a club in need.Update: The Vikings announced they signed Smith.CB Keith ReaserSo this is sort of cheating as the Chiefs have already reportedly signed Reaser. But I promise he was going on this list anyways. Reaser was No. 1 on my defensive MVP awards list at the midway point of the season and he played just as well in the three games that followed.Reaser had PFF’s second-highest overall grade (92.7) finishing with three interceptions, seven pass breakups and no touchdowns allowed.Update: Commanders CB De’Vante Bausby signed a deal with the Broncos, per The Athletic. Commanders CB Duke Thomas signed with the Vikings.Position note: Iron CB Jamar Summers started off the season really well, but fell off a little bit towards the end. He still played well enough to likely pique the interest of some teams. EDGE Damontre MooreThe former third-round draft pick by the Giants didn’t last in the NFL mostly due to off-field issues. He put those aside and absolutely dominated in the AAF as a pass rusher. He earned a 90.8 overall grade from PFF as he tallied 7 sacks with 25 quarterback hits (league-leading). He also forced two fumbles and had four pass deflections.He had 41 pressures on 220 pass rushes, per PFF, which is a high rate for an edge defender. Assuming his off-field issues are past him, there’s no reason not to take a chance on 26-year-old pass rusher. Update: Moore has signed with the 49ers, the team announced.Position note: Stallions edge defender Karter Schult played really well, but he’s a bit undersized for his position. I imagine there’d be interest in him due to just how well he played, but it’ll be interesting to see if his production keeps up in the NFL.EDGE Jayrone ElliottElliott was almost as dominant as Moore was, earning an 87.7 grade from PFF. He led the league in sacks (7.5) and forced four fumbles. From PFF’s Mellor: “Elliott led the league with his 91.9 pass-rushing grade and finished with 13 of his 28 total pressures resulting in sacks or hits on the quarterback.”Elliott spent some time on the Packers after going undrafted in 2014. Packers beat writer Mike Clemens said Elliott “had a tremendous training camp in 2014, had some good games in 2015. The rest is a mystery.” Elliott is just 27 years old and after putting up 7.5 sacks in 8 games it seems like he should at least get a camp invite.Update: Elliott has signed with the Dolphins.Kickers/PuntersIf you didn’t follow the AAF you may not know the rules didn’t exactly favor kickers. There were no kickoffs or extra points in this league, so seeing kickers was a pretty rare occasion. Nevertheless, a few of them shined in limited action.There were three kickers who were perfect this season:Nick Rose: 14-of-14, 54 longYounghoe Koo: 14-of-14, 38 longElliott Fry: 14-of-14, 47 longI’m not saying all of these guys will get a look at an NFL roster, but teams might want to look at them if there’s an injury or they just want some competition. Rose is a good candidate as he was on the Chargers’ roster in the playoffs for his kickoff ability.  The Alliance of American Football has suspended its football operations, and announced Thursday players from its league are now eligible to sign with NFL teams.Players in the AAF didn’t get a full opportunity to impress NFL clubs. The league ended just after its eighth week out of 10 in the regular season. But some players clearly shined more than others and if an NFL team watched any of the games, they no doubt saw potential in some of the players. As for punting, Colton Schmidt seems like he’d be a lock for a roster spot. He led the league with 44 punts, booting them for 2,024 yards (46 yard average) with a 42 net average. For reference, that net average would rank seventh among NFL punters last season.Not only did Schmidt boom it deep, but he often pinned teams inside the 20-yard line.Update: Rose and Koo have reportedly scheduled workouts with the Bears.last_img

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