No UCLA Bruins took part in any of the 2012 NFL draft festivities because, well, none were 2012 NFL draftees. Although that’s disappointing, we didn’t completely get shut out of the NFL.
In fact, six Bruins were signed as undrafted free agents. We’ll be rooting for them like hell, here at GJB.They were Bruins for four years, and we’re lucky that they’ll get a shot at proving themselves on some NFL team’s practice squads and during practices.
Let’s try and breakdown the odds of each player’s success at the next level.
Nelson Rosario, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Rosario was the Bruins’ primary target last season, and as a result, led the Bruins with 64 haul-ins — including some really acrobatic catches — for over 1100 yards and five touchdowns. Rosario was primarily our deep threat that helped to stretch the field, but often underachieved considering his potential, a likely result of not having quarterbacks who can get the ball in his hands consistently, and further enhanced by his work ethic. That’s not to say he had a poor work ethic; instead, if he had worked harder, he might’ve been drafted, although we’re prone to believe Rosario did work his ass off in Westwood.
The Jaguars’ situation? Jacksonville doesn’t have much of an offense, and after losing Mike Sims-Walker to the St. Louis Rams this year, they’re super dry on wide-outs who can stretch the field. Of course, this was alleviated by picking up Justin Blackmon, out of Oklahoma State, in the draft.
Their passing game might not be improved by improving the receiving corps, however, because Blaine Gabbert is still the QB and, if we’re honest, he’s really, really terrible. This could be a result of transitioning into a next-level role and being thrown to the wolves early in his career, but hey, Cam Newton had a hell of a season, so why didn’t Gabbert?
Rosario will find himself competing for a spot at wide-out on a team that’s incredibly thin at the position, with the only obvious starter being Blackmon. I like his chances, so long as he makes a legit attempt at proving himself, while also staying healthy.
Taylor Embree, WR, San Diego Chargers
Embree only had 20 receptions for 228 yards in his final year in Westwood, but it’s fair to say this kid has had serious potential for quite awhile.
In San Diego, which happens to lie a team that yours truly holds very dearly, their receiving corps is waning. After losing elite WR Vincent Jackson to free agency, the Chargers are left with Malcom Floyd as their top target. And while Floyd’s not a bad player and he has the size to offset some of his deficiencies, he’s a second- to third-option at best. Antonio Gates is already on the tail-end of his career, too.
What makes Embree’s situation better than Rosario’s is the QB. Philip Rivers has complete autonomy over Norv Turner’s air-oriented offense and with his accuracy, it shouldn’t be hard for wide-outs to do so well.
So Embree needs to make an impact immediately, because not only is the position pretty dry and open, but there’s also a great QB who could make Embree a hell of a lot better.
Derrick Coleman, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Derrick Coleman was the real heart of our offense last season, and a total stud, considering our offense was entirely built upon hard running from both him and Johnathan Franklin (who’s shaping up to have a breakout year in Westwood). In fact, Coleman had just 14 less carries than Franklin did (166 vs. 152) and 765 yards with 11 touchdowns. The dude’s a total bruiser.
The Vikings don’t have a ton of options behind Adrian Peterson, who is set to start the downside of his career, but the issue is that running backs tend to be a lot more disposable and replaceable than nearly any other position in the NFL. Coleman will have some serious competition regardless for that reason.
Of course, Coleman’s a hard worker and absolutely professional. We’ll be hoping his chances improve dramatically.
Nate Chandler, DT, Carolina Panthers
In all honesty, I can’t remember too much from Nate Chandler, because when the football season started, I was an idiot and refused to stop looking at the ball. (This was before I decided to start blogging about UCLA, when I was a little baby blogger.)
Either way, Chandler was part of a front seven that was … well, to be politically correct, they were “effectiveness deficient.” Chandler’s numbers suggest he had an impact and might’ve been one of the better Bruins on the defensive line, which wasn’t good all season.
In Carolina, competition’s going to be stiff; their front seven wasn’t all that bad and their defense was pretty good most times. Ron Rivera, Carolina head coach and defensive mastermind in San Diego, would be a hell of a coach for him to learn under, assuming he does make it past cuts after cuts.
Hopefully, Chandler makes it, though.
Tony Dye, S, Cincinnati Bengals
Dye was on the draft radar for much of the 2011 season, and injuries just so happened to ruin his chances at getting drafted. Dye only played in five games last season but had 23 total (solo and assisted) tackles in his short time on the field. He had a nearly-season-ending injury (although he came back to play vs. Colorado and U$C, but just wasn’t the same, while also injuring an ankle). The dude was a legit talent and, in his last full season which came in 2010, he was the Bruins’ best tackler.
The Bengals? Well, they’re hoping they have a diamond in the rough (and they may) and they’ll add a safety to their already-vaunted secondary, which helped the Bengals to a top-10 defense and a playoff appearance.
Dye has all the talent in the world, and if the dude can recover 100 percent and stay healthy, we’re sure he’s going to be a formidable player somewhere at the next level.
Cory Harkey, TE, St. Louis Rams
Harkey was rarely targeted in his time as a Bruin, mainly because he has terrible hands and also because Joe Fauria, the top TE in 2013, lined up ahead of him.
Harkey is a big dude who is more of a blocking tight-end than anything else. The St. Louis Rams have had offensive line troubles, while they’ve failed to protect their star QB in Sam Bradford. We don’t know if Harkey has enough to become some sort of sixth linemen — as NFL.com had said he could be, albeit very negatively — but we’re hopeful that he can somehow improve enough to avoid getting cut.
Hopefully, these UCLA Bruins don’t get cut before the 2012 NFL season starts, and we’re hopeful that half of these guys have legit shots at making a 53-man roster. If we missed anyone, let us know in the comments or on Twitter: @GoJoeBruinUCLA