If you're the Redskins, the nice thing about having a twelve player draft class is that not every player has to be a contributor. In most cases, it's not even expected that all of the players selected in a large draft class even make the final roster.
The team has given themselves plenty of chances of finding diamonds in the rough with such a large draft class that includes two fifth, two sixth, and four seventh round selections.
With the first round of cuts now over, and assuming the top four picks (minus the injured Jarvis Jenkins) are safe, let's take a look at some of the lower round rookies and their chances of making the 53 man roster after Saturday's cuts.
More after the jump.
DeJon Gomes (S, 5th round, Nebraska) - Before the preseason started, Mike Shanahan described Gomes' progress at safety succinctly when he stated that he has "a long way to go". Three preseason games later, it looks like Gomes may have helped his standing quite a bit. He's had 10 tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack in limited action so far. He's been effective in showing he's physical in the run game, that he's an effective blitzer, and he can contribute on special teams. He's certainly not a finished product, but certainly someone who could provide good depth at safety, especially given the injury situation at that position right now.
Where he ends up: On the 53 man roster. With Kareem Moore expected to remain on the PUP list to open the season, there's an extra roster spot available at safety. Reed Doughty is a lock as a reserve, but is Chris Horton? The answer to that could be no. If that's the case, Gomes could have his opportunity to make the roster.
Niles Paul (WR, 5th round, Nebraska) - The 6-foot-1, 224 pound Paul has had a strong camp, catching everything virtually everything that was thrown his way. Whether it was a short crossing route over the middle or a deep pattern down the sidelines, he's been making the most of his opportunities in camp.
That being said, Paul hasn't shown a lot in the preseason games so far, as he's only managed one reception through three games. However, what he's been able to show so far is that he's a physical as a blocker in the run game and that he'll contribute on special teams as both a kick and punt returner. The coaches love Paul and with one preseason game left, he'll have one more chance to impress them.
Where he ends up: This is probably the closest call of them all. The locks to make the team at receiver are Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong, and Leonard Hankerson. Terrence Austin seems to be in the lead for the fifth receiver spot after having another stellar performance against the Ravens. From there, it depends on how many receivers the team chooses to keep. If the team keeps six receivers, that would lessen Paul's chances. That's because Brandon Banks is looking healthier and is once again practicing. If Banks is remotely healthy, he'll make the roster as the return specialist. But if the team chooses to designate him as their special teamer, then Paul has a chance to make it as the seventh receiver. The problem for the team is that if they choose to release him, it's likely he won't clear waivers and go to the practice squad, so it'll be a matter of trying to find space for Paul.
Evan Royster (RB, 6th round, Penn State) - Royster ran well in his only opportunity against the Pittsburgh Steelers, rushing for 66 yards on 15 carries - a 4.4 yards per carry average. Since then he's seen little time as the coaching staff has given fellow rookie Roy Helu a chance to show what he can do with the ball. With Helu impressing the staff, it seems that the running back pecking order is all but set. Tim Hightower looks to be the starter, with Ryan Torain and Helu getting the remainder of the carries.
Where he ends up: On the practice squad. Royster is solid back, and the coaching staff likes him, but he simply couldn't beat out the competition ahead of him. He is a solid blocker in pass protection and someone who can contribute on special teams, but doesn't have as much burst as the likes of Hightower, Torain or Helu. That said, the coaching staff could still use someone like him on the practice squad just in case one of the top three backs go down.
Aldrick Robinson (WR, 6th round, SMU) - Coming into camp, Robinson was looked at as someone who could be a vertical threat and a dynamic return specialist. He showed some flashes in the early going of training camp with some solid practices, but it remained to be seen if he'd show up in the games. Three preseason games later, he's no longer in the conversation as far as making the 53 man roster. The only game he had any opportunity to contribute was against Pittsburgh, where he muffed two punts and didn't see much action on offense. In a receiver competition that's been fierce, Robinson has disappointed.
Where he ends up: The question for Robinson isn't whether or not he'll make the roster, it's whether or not he'll even make the practice squad. Perhaps he'll get a good look in the final preseason game against Tampa Bay, but it may not be enough to raise his standing.
Brandyn Thompson ( CB, 7th round, Boise State) - Thompson didn't stand out much during training camp nor in the first preseason game. But in the last two games he's flashed, most notably with his fourth quarter interception against Dan Orlovsky in Indianapolis, a play in which he ran with his receiver the whole way before making a diving catch along the sideline. The cornerback situation is clearly not solidified, with Phillip Buchanon dealing with a four game suspension to start the season and Josh Wilson dealing with a minor hamstring injury. That being said, Thompson hasn't been able to separate himself from his main competition, Byron Westbrook.
Where he ends up: Despite having a good showing the last two games, it's more likely that Thompson will start the season on the practice squad.
Maurice Hurt ( G, 7th round, Florida) - Hurt has lined up primarily as the backup left guard during the preseason, and has had some good and bad moments against second tier competition. It appears that the seventh rounder out of Florida continues to be a work in progress.
Where he ends up: Despite Hurt's inconsistent preseason, he may wind up making the roster anyway. As of now, the top four backup offensive lineman are tackle Sean Locklear, guard Artis Hicks, center Erik Cook and Hurt. If the team chooses to keep a total of nine lineman and if they don't scour the waiver wire for veteran guards, Hurt has a chance to survive.
Markus White ( LB, 7th round, Florida State) - White, a former defensive end at Florida State, came into camp having to learn to play outside linebacker. The coaching staff loves his effort and the fact that he's picked up both the Strongside (Sam) and Weakside (Will) positions very well. He's been able to generate solid pressure off the edge during preseason (albeit against backups), but may not have done enough to play himself onto the roster.
Where he ends up: White seems like a perfect practice squad candidate, as he's still learning how to transition from end to linebacker in the 3-4 front. That being said, he's another player who could be activated at some point as the season goes on as he becomes more comfortable in the scheme, or should there be injury to someone like backup outside linebacker Rob Jackson.
Chris Neild ( NT, 7th round, West Virginia) - The Stroudsburg, PA native saw increased playing time in the second and third preseason games, but showed he is still adjusting a new defensive scheme. Neild played the 3-4 nose tackle at West Virginia, but has mentioned that he is still adjusting to new terminology and responsibilities in Jim Haslett's version of the scheme.
Where he ends up: The common theme with these lower round rookies is the fact that it's likely they could start the season off on the practice squad, but could eventually be promoted to the 53 man roster. Given what we've seen so far, Neild seems to be another player who fits this mold. A hard-nosed, blue collar type of player, Neild could find a place on this roster eventually. His biggest hurdle right now is learning to play his position the way Haslett wants him to. Once he can do that, he has to show the coaching staff that he can be as capable of playing the nose as well, if not more so, than current backup Anthony Bryant. If he can do that, it wouldn't be surprising if the team finds a spot for him on the roster.