A look at Missouri’s 10 new players on NFL rosters

05/13/2014 6:08 PM

05/13/2014 6:08 PM

Missouri had four players drafted during last week’s NFL Draft, the most for the program since six Tigers were drafted in 2009.

And six more Missouri players signed free-agent contracts in the immediate aftermath of one of the deepest drafts in NFL history, giving at least 10 Tigers a crack at making an NFL roster next season.

Here is a look at where all 10 of those players landed and the situation at their position group on the team’s current roster.

DE Kony Ealy

Carolina Panthers (second round, No. 60 overall)

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Height/Weight:

6-4, 273

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Missouri stats:

Finished with eight sacks and 42 tackles, including 14 for a loss, with an interception, which he returned 49 yards for a touchdown, in 2013. Racked up 12 1/2 sacks and 95 tackles, including 27 for a loss, in three seasons.

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2014 outlook:

Ealy projects as the backup to Greg Hardy at right defensive end. Hardy, a fifth-year pro from Mississippi, finished third in the NFL last season with 15 sacks. He also had 59 tackles, including five tackles for a loss. With Charles Johnson, who had 11 sacks last season, entrenched at left defensive end,

Ealy likely was brought in to add depth to the Panthers’ pass rush and as a possible successor for Hardy or Johnson. Ealy left Missouri after his junior season.

T Justin Britt

Seattle Seahawks (second round, No. 64 overall)

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Height/Weight:

6-6, 325

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Missouri stats:

With Britt paving the way, the Tigers finished 16th in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 237.9 yards per game, and total offense, averaging 490.7 total yards. Missouri averaged 6.6 yards per play last season with Britt anchoring the line at left tackle.

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2014 outlook:

Britt is a mauler. One Chiefs executive said nobody should be surprised the Lebanon (Mo.) High School graduate was selected in the second round. Fifth-year pro Russell Okung is entrenched at the starter at left tackle, but Britt should challenge second-year right tackle Michael Bowie for the starting job. Britt also could slide inside, perhaps competing for playing time at left guard with James Carpenter.

CB E.J. Gaines

St. Louis Rams (sixth round, No. 188 overall)

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Height/Weight:

5-10, 190

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Missouri stats:

Picked off five passes and defended three more to go with 75 tackles, including four for a loss, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown as a senior. Finished with eight interceptions, 34 passes defended and 244 tackles, including 14 for a loss, in his career.

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2014 outlook:

Gaines, a Fort Osage graduate, joins a crowded secondary that already included starting cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson, who led the Rams with three interceptions, and Janoris Jenkins, who totaled a team-high 14 passes defended. St. Louis also spent a second-round pick on Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and has several veteran reserves. Still, Gaines figures to be in the mix for backup duty and could be in the mix for playing time in nickel and dime packages as he develops.

DE Michael Sam

St. Louis Rams (seventh round, No. 249 overall)

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Height/Weight:

6-2, 261

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Missouri stats:

Earned SEC defensive player of the year after totaling 11 1/2 sacks with 48 tackles, including 19 for a loss, as well as two forced fumbles and a 21-yard fumble recovery touchdown as a senior. Finished with 18 1/2 sacks and 111 tackles, including 32 1/2 for a loss, with forced fumbles in his career.

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2014 outlook:

Sam is listed third on the Rams’ depth chart at right defensive end. He’s unlikely to displace Robert Quinn, who led the NFC with 19 sacks last season, and probably won’t ever take snaps away from former No. 2 overall pick Chris Long at left defensive end. Of course, no NFL team ever has enough pass rushers.

Nonetheless, Quinn’s backup, Eugene Sims, has 47 tackles and five sacks in the last three seasons, while Long’s backup, seventh-year veteran Williams Hayes, has 50 tackles and seven sacks last season. Essentially, that makes Sam something of an insurance policy on a team deep with pass rushers. He doesn’t have the coverage skills to play outside linebacker, which means he’ll need to show special teams value to stay in St. Louis no term.

QB James Franklin

Detroit Lions (undrafted free agent)

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Height/Weight:

6-2, 230

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Missouri stats:

Despite missing four games, completed 198 of 319 passes (62.1 percent) for 2,429 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions in addition to 122 carries for 510 yards and four touchdowns rushing. Finished among the Tigers’ all-time best in total offense after passing for 6,962 yards with 51 touchdowns and 25 interceptions and rushing for 1,729 yards and 21 touchdowns in his college career.

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2014 outlook:

Matt Stafford is set as the Lions’ starting quarterback, but Franklin will get a chance to compete against third-year pro Kellen Moore from Boise State and veteran journeyman Dan Orlovsky for a backup spot in the Motor City.

RB Henry Josey

Philadelphia Eagles (undrafted free agent)

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Height/Weight:

5-8, 194

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Missouri stats:

After missing the entire 2012 season following a gruesome knee injury, Josey returned and led the Tigers with 174 carries for 1,166 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2013. Finished with 395 carries for 2,771 yards — a 7.0-yard average — with 30 touchdowns as well as 175 yards and a touchdown receiving in his three-year career.

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2014 outlook:

The Eagles are fairly well set in terms of its feature backs with All-Pro LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, an Olathe North graduate acquired by trade with the Saints, already on the roster. Josey, who declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season, has a chance to compete for a spot on the roster with third-year pro Chris Polk, former practice squad player Matthew Tucker and Toledo’s David Fluellen, who also was an undrafted free-agent signing.

Wichita native Bryce Brown was traded to Buffalo, thinning the backfield stable a bit and giving Josey, whose surgically repaired knee was cleared by NFL doctors, a better shot to make Philadelphia’s roster. Josey has the ability to catch out of the backfield and the speed to be an intriguing fit in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense.

WR Marcus Lucas

Carolina Panthers (undrafted free agent)

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Height/Weight:

6-4, 218

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Missouri stats:

Caught 58 passes for 692 yards with three touchdowns in 2013. Snagged 130 receptions for 1,638 yards with 11 touchdowns in his career.

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2014 outlook:

Tight end Greg Olsen led the Panthers in receptions (73), receiving yards (816) and receiving touchdowns (six) last season, but the top three wide receivers are gone. Steve Smith signed with Baltimore after 13 seasons in Carolina, while Brandon LaFell went to New England and Ted Ginn Jr. wound up in Arizona via free agency.

The Panthers drafted Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin in the first round and also signed Jericho Cotchery and Jason Avant, but there appears to be plenty of passes for the catching for a player like Lucas, a Liberty graduate.

WR L’Damian Washington

Dallas Cowboys (undrafted free agent)

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Height/Weight:

6-4, 195

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Missouri stats:

Led the Tigers with 893 yards on 50 receptions with 10 touchdowns as a senior. Finished with 100 catches for 1,735 yards and 15 touchdowns in his career.

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2014 outlook:

Dallas returns its three most productive wide receivers from last season — Dez Bryant, who had 93 receptions for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns, along with Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley — but it’s a unit in need of an upgrade. Washington brings speed and should help stretch the field for Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo, giving tight end Jason Witten more room to work the middle.

Washington, a native of Shreveport, La., grew up as a Dallas fan and could prove to be a steal after he didn’t get drafted. The Cowboys cut veteran Miles Austin and lack depth with the likes of Jamar Newsome, Dwayne Harris and Devin Street, a fifth-round pick from Pittsburgh, rounding out the positional depth.

TE Eric Waters

Pittsburgh Steelers (undrafted free agent)

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Height/Weight:

6-3, 244

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Missouri stats:

A devastating blocker who caught eight passes for 72 yards with a touchdown as a senior. Finished a four-year career with only 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

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2014 outlook:

The Steelers have a ton of tight ends on the roster, but Waters’ athleticism and blocking prowess — in addition to the prospect of a club- and cap-friendly rookie contract — make him a strong possibility for Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster. That is especially true given the lack of playmakers behind starter Heath Miller.

Miller, a two-time Pro Bowler, is entering his 10th season, while the Steelers’ backups includes Matt Spaeth and David Paulson, a third-year pro from Oregon. Spaeth is a blocking specialist who is on his second tour in Pittsburgh and has caught more than nine passes in a season once in a seven-year NFL career, while Paulson has 13 catches in 32 career games. Waters will be in the mix for depth at tight end along with journeyman Michael Palmer, a fifth-year pro from Clemson, and seventh-round pick Rob Branchflower from Massachusetts.

LB Andrew Wilson

Miami Dolphins (undrafted free agent)

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Height/Weight:

6-3, 239

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Missouri stats:

Racked up a career-high 113 tackles, including 6 1/2 for a loss, with three passes defended in 2013. Finished 10th all-time in Tigers history with 333 tackles, including 19 1/2 for a loss, with 1 1/2 sacks and five forced fumbles in his career.

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2014 outlook:

Miami returns all three starters at linebacker. That includes middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who finished with 101 tackles last season, and weakside linebacker Phillip Wheeler, who led the Dolphins with 118 tackles in 2013, along with strongside linebacker Koa Misi, a fifth-year pro who only managed 54 tackles in 15 games.

Wilson, who developed a great relationship with Miami linebackers coach Mark Duffner prior to the NFL Draft, will be in the mix for linebacker depth with fifth-round pick Jordan Tripp from Montana. The Dolphins’ only have three other reserve linebackers — Jason Trusnik, Jelani Jenkins and Johnathan Freeny — on the current roster.

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