HomecolumnPost-Draft Realities for Veteran NFL Players

Post-Draft Realities for Veteran NFL Players

When One Player’s Dream is Realized, Another Faces Uncertainty

The NFL Draft serves as an annual culmination of countless college players fulfilling their lifelong aspirations of gracing the grand stage of the NFL. Nevertheless, it represents only a partial narrative.

In this realm, transitions frequently entail someone acquiring a new opportunity at the expense of another.

Typically, when two individuals step into a locker room, it’s a matter of one departing as the other remains. Within the NFL, there exists an unspoken reality—a zero-sum game where one player’s ascent often corresponds with another’s decline.

Upon becoming a fourth-round pick for the Green Bay Packers in the 2005 NFL Draft, one of the immediate realizations was not only the pursuit of securing a roster position but the probability of supplanting a more seasoned and costlier veteran.

This revelation introduced an element of complexity into the relationships between the newcomer and the veteran linebackers.

Given the preciousness of draft picks and their lower base salaries, the veterans in such circumstances are invariably cast as the underdogs.

This age-old script continues to repeat itself as numerous veterans find themselves in a comparable position following the initial round of selections in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The ascension of quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the promising late-round draft selection of the Tennessee Titans in 2014, and the rise of Zac Stacy, a third-year running back for the St. Louis Rams, were witnessed as they were both chosen in the first round on Thursday’s draft.

With the selection of Marcus Mariota as the second overall pick by Tennessee and Todd Gurley as the eighth overall pick by St. Louis, both Mettenberger and Stacy expressed their desires for trades.

Mettenberger has since reconsidered his initial stance and embraced the situation. Still, Stacy’s request was granted, and he found himself traded to the New York Jets in exchange for a seventh-round pick, the 224th draft selection.

The underlying challenge remains constant, regardless of the player’s destination, as they compete for coveted roster positions and playing time.

Stacy’s transition from one formidable roster to another exemplifies this truth, as he now enters a crowded Jets backfield alongside notable competitors like Chris Ivory, Stevan Ridley, and Bilal Powell.

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson once provided insight after selecting Brian Brohm in the second round of the 2008 draft, just as Aaron Rodgers was poised to take over for Brett Favre.

Thompson expressed, “Aaron knows that in the NFL, you have to stand on your own two feet.”

This sentiment holds whether one occupies the 53rd slot on the roster or, in Rodgers’ case, stands as the reigning NFL MVP from the previous season.

In the NFL, the relentless competition to secure a roster spot persists, driving players to maintain their excellence and uphold the standards of their respective positions.

(L-R) New blood: Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, and running back Todd Gurley

In the realm of professional football, a fundamental truth emerges. When players find their roster positions in jeopardy, their worth can still ascend if they opt to confront the challenge head-on and demonstrate why they are not simply expendable.

This is the essence of life in the NFL—a constant arena of competition, perpetually propelling players toward more excellent performance and accomplishment.

Take Zach Mettenberger, for instance, who was once on the cusp of Heisman candidacy until an ACL injury disrupted his senior season at LSU.

Now restored to total health, he refuses to yield ground to anyone, embodying the ideal quarterback mentality, whether he serves as a starter or not.

His decision to remain and confront the competition head-on is a wise choice, likely to yield long-term dividends. In contrast, Stacy’s situation appears starkly different.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, veteran Cowboys player Brandon Carr found himself in the unenviable position of reevaluating his role within the team as Dallas selected Byron Jones in the first round, a newcomer to Carr’s cornerback position.

Carr adopted a grounded approach, acknowledging the arrival of the young prospect, saying, “I’m still here.

I’m here until told otherwise. That’s my philosophy. At the end of the day, if I’m playing football, then I’m going to give my all for whoever I’m playing for.”

Carr’s measured response can be attributed to his extensive seven-year tenure in the NFL, affording him a deeper understanding of the league’s inherent nature—a constant undercurrent of competition that transcends teams.

The undeniable reality is that competition remains an ever-present force.

Reflecting on the Green Bay Packers’ triumphant Super Bowl XLV win in 2010, this achievement was rendered possible despite losing 15 players to season-ending injuries.

The secret to their success lay in a culture of unrelenting competition. Almost every player in the two-deep roster had once held a starting role in their careers.

This culture kept two key advantages: it ensured that players who took the field knew they had to deliver or risk losing their positions. It also cultivated remarkable depth, which proved invaluable when the team encountered significant injuries.

It would serve younger veterans well to embrace the reality that NFL employment hinges on competition and struggle.

There will always be someone waiting for an opportunity to take their place. Acknowledging this truth marks the moment when they begin to evolve into impactful players whom their respective franchises will enthusiastically invest in.

This perpetual cycle, epitomizing the essence of the NFL, spotlights the constant presence of potential replacements.

This facet applies universally to every team. Success in the league hinges on the ability to fight for one’s job throughout one’s career. The sooner players grasp this reality, the greater their prospects of securing a lengthy and prosperous career in the NFL.

A dedicated individual currently in fourth year of pursuing a BBA degree. Love to spend my free time painting, drawing, and reading books.


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