Commentary

The best available NFL players

These players, currently tucked away on practice squads, are intriguing talents

Originally Published: October 22, 2010
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesA fouth-rounder in the April draft, Al Woods is buried on the Steelers' practice squad.

Every Friday, Mel takes a look at the NFL through the prism of the draft.

Last week, when asked why the Patriots made the move to grab Danny Woodhead, head coach Bill Belichick told ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss, "Like Mel Kiper's best player available. At the start of the season, I think that's what each team has -- you have your best-players-available list. Here are the top 5, 6, 7 guys that aren't on an NFL roster that you would like to have -- whether you create a spot for them, or when you have a spot or a need. Then there is another list of guys that are just the next player -- our next tackle, our next center, our next quarterback, our next receiver, our next whatever."

Bill is right, and not just because of the "Best Player Available" moniker. Regardless of whether Woodhead has major success, or is merely a helpful player, there are countless guys who've spent time on practice squads. Some have become not just solid NFL players, but studs. And NFL personnel folks are always tracking these guys. You see it all over, cases big and small. Just last week, Danario Alexander was pulled off the practice squad for the Rams in the wake of Mark Clayton's injury. He caught a TD pass in his first game. James Harrison is a defensive league MVP, but in 2002-03 he was toiling away on and off the Pittsburgh practice squad.

Name a team, and you'll find a guy who incubated his talent as a member of the "opposition" -- practice squad members routinely act as the next opponent in practice -- before he found consistent reps. In that vein, I sifted through current practice squads to find players that I think have a shot to help teams. And remember, anybody can sign these guys.

Naaman Roosevelt | WR
Currently on the Bills practice squad, Roosevelt went undrafted out of Buffalo in 2010 with the big question mark being speed. He was a guy who disappointed in the forty with somewhere between a 4.65 and a 4.69, but I always liked his productivity and ability to get open. Here's a guy who caught 174 passes in his final two years at Buffalo. He may not be a deep threat, but I always liked his film, and his size (6-0, 187 lbs) isn't a problem.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst