As of now, there are currently 90 players on (almost) every roster across the NFL.
If you add it up that’s 2,880 players vying for a chance to make their respective team’s 53-man roster.
Nearly 3,000 players are competing for 1,696 final roster spots, which also means that more than 1,000 players will be without jobs in a month or two.
The household names will always have their security. But, what about the other players? The unknowns.
Sure, some will make a practice squad, and then there are others who will have to find a job outside of football.
But, there will also be a select few who beat the odds and land a spot on the team. These are the players who find their niche and fight to prove that nobody can do their job better.
These players sometimes fly under the radar of outside critics and the casual fan.
When Sundays roll around in September, though, they might be the ones who help your team come out on top by doing the little things that matter most.
Keeping that in mind, over the next couple of weeks Building the Herd will be highlighting a few players on Buffalo’s roster who could be ‘flying under the radar’ this summer.
First up is defensive lineman Justin Zimmer.
An undrafted rookie free agent out of Division II’s Ferris State, Justin Zimmer is one of the most intriguing players on the entire Bills’ roster heading into training camp. Not only for the simple fact that he comes from the smaller, lesser-known Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, but also because he just might be one of the most athletic defensive tackles to enter the league in the past 10 years.
That’s a lot of praise. But, the numbers don’t lie.
At 6’3”, 302 pounds, Zimmer posted incredible numbers at a regional scouting combine in Houston and at his pro day as he recorded a 4.85 in the 40-yard dash, a 33.5-inch vertical jump, a 7.01 in the 3-cone drill, a 9-foot-9-inch broad jump and 44 reps on the bench press.
Combining all of those factors, fellow football writer Kent Lee Platte’s RAS (Relative Athletic Score) chart shows that Zimmer’s perfect 10 out of 10 score is better than every defensive tackle that’s been drafted since 2005, including Buffalo’s very own Marcell Dareus.
Below is a chart showing how Zimmer’s RAS stacks up against defensive tackles drafted in the first round since 2005. Dareus scored a 6.88.
Add in the fact that Zimmer also dominated the competition —216 tackles, 48.5 tackles for loss, 26 sacks, 14 pass deflections, nine forced fumbles and one fumble recovery —during his four seasons at Ferris State, and it’s easy to see why the former high school middle linebacker turned defensive lineman is such an intriguing prospect.
Although he played 3-technique in a gap-penetrating 4-3 defense in college, Zimmer’s brute strength (615 lb. max squat/405 lb. max hang clean) and incredible athleticism could allow him to fill many roles in a defense like the one Rex Ryan is going to run this season.
The former Ferris State Bulldog was rotated in at both nose tackle and defensive end during OTAs and minicamp, performing admirably at both spots by all accounts.
If he can continue to show flashes during training camp and the preseason, then there might be a place for Zimmer on Buffalo’s 53-man roster this season. Prior to signing on to be Buffalo’s defensive line coach, John Blake worked with Zimmer while he was training for his pro day in McKinney, Texas, at Michael Johnson Performance.
That familiarity with Blake could give the undrafted rookie a leg up against fellow defensive linemen Leger Douzable, T.J. Barnes and Lavar Edwards, who will also be battling for one of the final roster spots along the defensive line this summer.
“(Coach Blake)’s mentioned that when he worked with me (in Texas) that he knew he would want to get me if he ever went somewhere, and before he even knew he had a job here he’d said that he was going to reach out to teams for me and tell them about me,” Zimmer said in an interview on the John Murphy Show earlier this offseason.
“So, obviously I made a good enough impression on him that he thought that I could play.”
It will take a near flawless training camp performance, but the rookie defensive tackle has a shot to stick with the Bills this upcoming season and even possibly beyond that.
At the very least, he’ll be a player that fans will need to keep an eye on when camp begins at St. John Fisher College at the end of the month.
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