The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
Regular readers of Hogs Haven will be very familiar with the annual Mason-Brennan Hype! Awards. A concept introduced by Hog Hunter in 2013, the Hype! award seeks to recognize the low round draft pick, UDFA or otherwise generally unheralded player who, in training camp and pre-season, manages to generate the most hype. The readership of Hogs Haven has made its collective voice heard several times each off-season for the past four years, and now, in 2017, the voting for the fifth consecutive off season has been entertaining again.
The Mason-Brennan award is very much a part of Hogs Haven tradition and culture. But it’s also more significant than mere entertainment; winning the vote in the Mason-Brennan Hype! Award is actually a pretty good predictor that the player in question will be able to establish a career playing professional football, and is likely to meet or exceed the expectations that come with his draft status.
Here’s how Hunter described the award in his inaugural Mason-Brennan Hype! Awards post:
Every season, a new class of draft picks and undrafted free agents are signed during the preseason. The majority of these players will never be on the roster for a regular season game, but the few diamond in the rough late round/UDFA players who do bring hope to players and fans. That racetrack betting slip that you find on the floor that someone didn't scout properly.
Hype is a very real, and very exciting part of football in the preseason. We all read the daily training camp reports and get excited at the prospect of a late round pass rusher getting sack after sack on 3rd string offensive lineman, or a wide receiver catching everything thrown his way, or a running back who's not injured.
The Mason/Brennan award has been given out unofficially by the fans for years to each preseason's most hyped players, but now we're going to make it official, and bring it to a vote. This week's vote will cover the draft and training camp. Place your vote for who you feel has been the most hyped player up to this point, whether the hype is deserved or not.
I noticed a brief article recently announcing that Bacarri Rambo, the first-ever Mason-Brennan winner, had just been re-signed by the Buffalo Bills. It made me wonder what had happened to the players who had won the award over the years. Are those guys playing in the NFL now? Have they had successful pro football careers, or did they follow the path expected of low round draft choices, UDFAs and practice squad players and end up stocking shelves at Sam’s Club?
I decided that it would be interesting (not to mention, enormously fun) to find out what has happened to the several players who have won the award over the past four off-seasons.
While I plan to look at each of the winners that we’ve have over the past four years, as a special treat, I thought it might be nice to look at what happened to each of the nominees for the first-ever Mason-Brennan Award back in early August 2013, whether those nominees won the award or not. It turns out that — 4 years later — the ten nominees have had a wide range of career outcomes.
The 10 first-ever Mason Brennan Nominees:
1. Sky Dawson - UDFA WR - Dawson has managed to squeeze out a living as a professional football player, but just barely. He was released by the Redskins at the end of the 2013 training camp, but spent time on the Tampa Bay practice squad that season before being elevated to the active roster. He appeared in 7 games for the Bucs, and was immortalized on the stats sheet with 2 receptions and 2 carries totaling 27 yards from scrimmage.
Dawson was under contract to the Detroit Lions during the ‘14 and ‘15 seasons, but never appeared in a regular season game for the silver & blue.
In 2015 Dawson was signed to a CFL contract, and saw playing time with the Edmonton Eskimos before being traded to Calgary in September. As far as I can tell, he is not currently on a pro football roster.
2. Chase Minnifield - UDFA CB - Chase was eligible for the Mason Brennan Hype! Award for each of the 3 pre-seasons he spent with the Redskins. He bounced on and off the practice squad, and made the 53-man roster a couple of times. His career, such as it was in 2013 & 14 saw him on the active roster for 7 games, and his career stat line reads: 4 tackles. Chase Minnifield is often thought of as the poster-child for the Mason-Brennan award; a player who generated excitement year after year, without ever quite breaking through and succeeding in the regular season. Interestingly, while Chase was frequently nominated for the award, he never actually won the vote. Based on what I saw on his Twitter account, his main focus at the moment seems to be something called the Minnefield Football Academy, and Next Up Fitness.
3. Aldrick Robinson - Rd 6, 2011 - WR - Robinson has actually put together a pretty successful NFL career, primarily by following Kyle Shanahan around the country. Aldrick played 4 years with the Redskins, then joined the Falcons (and Kyle) in 2016. He is currently on a 2-year/$4m contract with the 49ers (and Kyle). For his career so far, Robinson has 50 receptions, 931 yards (18.6 avg) and 7 TDs.
4. Marvin Burdette - UDFA ILB - Burdette didn’t make the Redskins squad in 2013. He played 3 games for Saskatchewan in the CFL in 2014, recording 4 tackles and a forced fumble. He was cut from the Roughriders in March 2015.
5. Brandon Jenkins - Rd 5, 2013 - OLB - Jenkins appeared in 5 regular season games for the Redskins in 2013, but didn’t crack the stat line aside from 1 tackle assist. This Washington Post article was one of the last public mentions of Jenkins’ pro football career:
When they selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, Redskins coaches described Florida State pass rusher Brandon Jenkins as a steal of a pick.
Jenkins had great size and ability, and despite having played defensive end in college, coaches believed he had the skill set to make the transition to outside linebacker. Injury his senior year caused Jenkins to slip in the draft, but Mike Shanahan & Co. proclaimed that had Jenkins been healthy, he would’ve gone in the second or third round.
Well, last season came and went, and Jenkins never showed the great potential coaches believe he had to offer. He played only a handful of snaps on defense, and struggled mightily during special-teams practice, and because of that, the Redskins couldn’t dress him. There was no use for a non-starter incapable of contributing on special teams.
Basically, Jenkins never fulfilled his early promise, and was eventually replaced on the roster by Trent Murphy.
6. Chris Thompson - 5th Rd, 2013 - RB - If you don’t know who Chris Thompson is, you’re either not a Redskins fan, or you just woke up from a long coma. Thompson has turned out to be a fantastic 5th round pick who has lived up to the hype (and possibly exceeded it).
7. Jawan Jamison - 7th Rd, 2013 - RB - Thompson & Jamison came to the Redskins in 2013 looking like a matched set of speedy late round running backs. Thompson had been badly injured in college, but there was a feeling among the fan base that one (or maybe both) of these two players might break through. Personally, in 2013, I was expecting Jamison to be the one to successfully break through, and Thompson to break down. I was wrong. Jamison was on the Redskins Practice Squad for most of 2013, though he was elevated to the active squad in December when Evan Royster was injured. He spent 10 days in camp with the Steelers in 2014 before being cut. He played in the Champions Indoor Football earlier this year, but was suspended, then released after playing only one game for the team, which makes this advertisement seem especially ironic:
8. Tom Compton - 6th Rd, 2012 - OT - Compton actually played well as a backup tackle (and sometimes-tight end) for the Redskins. The comical highlight of his career may have come when Kirk Cousins actually threw a pass to him in 2015.
Or maybe that wasn’t actually the comical highlight.
After appearing in 44 games for the Redskins, Compton went to Atlanta last year to play with Kyle again, appearing in 16 regular season games, and then played in the Super Bowl just a few months ago. Tom Compton is currently in training camp with the Chicago Bears.
9. Xavier Nixon - UDFA - OT - In 2013-14 Nixon hung around the Redskins & Colts practice squads. His career stat line shows 8 regular season & 2 playoff games for the Colts. His playing career ended ignominiously when he was de-activated for the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots after missing the team plane. Thinking about it, though, that may not have been as embarrassing as playing for the Colts in the 45-7 drubbing that kicked off the ‘deflate-gate’ scandal would have been.
And the 2013 winner was...
10. Bacarri Rambo - 6th Rd, 2013 - Free Safety - Rambo was named the starting FS for the Redskins in 2014, but was quickly benched. He returned to the lineup briefly when Brandon Merriweather was suspended, but was waived by the Redskins in Sept 2014.
Rambo landed on his feet, signing with the Bills in November ‘14, and playing in 4 games to finish the season. He played in 15 games for the Bills in 2015, and was even named Defensive player of the week for week 10.
In 2016, Rambo signed with the Dolphins in free agency, appearing in 9 games. He recently signed a vet minimum contract to return to the Bills, where he is currently competing in training camp.
In his first four seasons in the league, Rambo has played for three teams, appeared in 41 games, amassed 151 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and 4 interceptions. Not too bad for a 6th rounder, but he’s developed a poor reputation; this is from Mike Garafolo:
Rambo is a playmaker, but extremely undisciplined. He'll occupy a spot at the back end of a secondary that just lost Reshad Jones. Tue, Oct 25, 2016 06:02:00 PM
Now, let’s take a look at all the winners of the Mason-Brennan award across the four years of its existence:
Two players from the list of 2013 nominees above went on to win the award; Brandon Jenkins was the third winner (in 2013), and Chris Thompson -- who was eligible for the award for several seasons based on his limited playing time -- was the first weekly winner in the 2015 off-season.
The other 2013 winner:
Technically, Pat White wasn’t eligible under the rules, as originally promulgated by Hog Hunter, but Pat White had never really looked like an NFL quarterback, or — once in the league -- given anyone any reason to believe he could succeed as an NFL signal caller. This led to the promulgation of the “Pat White Rule”. Hunter explained in his 9 August 2013 post:
[Pat White is a] former 2nd round draft pick who has been out of the league for a few years. Came to the team as a beacon of hope to the Anti-Sexy crowd. 5/8 for 31 yards and a 9 yard TD run against the Titans in Week 1 of the preseason. The hype is going to be overwhelming by Week 2. Magician.
The Pat White Rule: High draft picks (busts/out of the league) from other teams who have never completed an NFL pass, but can run the read option/wildcat are now eligible.
To many people’s amazement, Pat White was named to the Redskins roster at the end of 2013 pre-season. There were those who cynically suggested that Pat was retained on the roster so that he could play the role of Mike Vick (a mobile left-handed quarterback) in preparation for the season opener vs. the Eagles. In any event, Pat’s tenure on the Redskins roster was short-lived. He was waived on 14 September.
White signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL on March 27, 2014. In his first and only season in the CFL White completed 5-of-9 passes for 54 yards with a TD. He also carried the ball for 159 yards on 35 carries (4.54-yard average) with 4 touchdowns.
On March 20, 2015, White announced his retirement from professional football.
The 2014 Weekly Winners
One of the many Redskins to suffer from Papier-mâché pectoral disorder, Robinson lost the last four games of his rookie (2012) season and all of his 2013 season to pectoral muscle tears. However, Robinson became a starting inside linebacker in 2014 following the retirement of London Fletcher, and played in 11 games for the Redskins in 2015. In all, Keenan the Barbarian played in 36 games for Washington before he was allowed to walk at the end of his rookie contract.
Last year Keenan played for division rival New York Giants, appearing in all 16 regular season games, tallying 83 tackles and 7 passes defended. He’s currently in Giants training camp on a 1-year, $3m contract. The 4th round pick has put together a pretty good career so far, and he seems to still have some football left in him.
Grant, drafted in the 5th round of the 2014 draft, is still playing for the Redskins on his rookie contract. While there are some who predict that Grant will not make the team’s roster this season, he is a favorite with coaches, who praise him for his “crisp route running”. Many fans have noted his tendency to fall down a lot, and drop passes in actual games, but that doesn’t seem to faze the coaches, who are aware that he is a hard-working technician who practices well. To be fair, he caught what was thrown to him against the Ravens this week.
The jury is still out on Grant, but this is his final year on his rookie contract. With Jackson and Garcon gone, Grant should get increased opportunities in camp, in preseason games, and — if he is on the roster — in regular season games to show that he has the skills to produce across a 16-game schedule. If he doesn’t produce this season, the Redskins may be happy to let him ‘test the free agent market’ in 2018.
The 2015 Weekly Winners
As previously mentioned, Chris Thompson won the Hype! award in 2015. The other winner was Rashad Ross.
From 2013 to 2016 Ross made a living as a ‘professional practice squad player’. It seems like he’s been on nearly every practice squad in the NFL, never sticking for long. His actual list of teams is: Titans, Chiefs, Redskins (twice), Bears, Lions, 49ers, Bills. He is in training camp with Buffalo at the moment.
Ross has actually appeared in 20 NFL regular season games (and one playoff game). His career stats include 9 receptions for 192 yards and a touchdown, though he had only one reception as a receiver for the Redskins last season.
Ross has primarily been used as a kick returner; he has 34 kickoff returns for 812 yards (including a 101-yard touchdown) in his career. OverTheCap lists career earnings for “the Rocket” at $964,000 from 2014 to 2016, which probably makes it worth the effort to stay in the league as a marginal player.
The 2016 Weekly Winners
While none of last year’s winners have really distinguished themselves yet, none of them is out of the league, either. In fact, all four of last year’s Mason-Brennan weekly winners came to training camp with the Redskins this season, and those who are still healthy all have a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster.
In his first appearance in a pre-season game as a professional last year, Marshall was injured and lost for the season.
This year, he didn’t wait for the pre-season games -- tearing his patellar tendon on the third day of camp. Once again, he is out for the season.
This 7th round draft pick was injured for much of his college career as well, and was always considered a long shot to make the Redskins roster. His NFL career may already be over before it ever really got started.
Taken in the 5th round of the 2015 draft, Spaight lasted slightly longer than Keith Marshall did as a rookie -- Spaight suffered a concussion in his first regular season game. He never got back on the field in 2015. The Redskins eventually put him on Injured Reserve, ending his rookie season, and opening a roster spot for Mason Foster.
Last year he appeared in 14 games, recording 28 tackles and securing one interception. Spaight plays special teams, but he has the opportunity to earn his way into the rotation at inside linebacker. A bit like Ryan Grant, the jury is still out on Spaight, although, with two years left on his rookie contract, he’s not under any serious pressure... yet.
After going unselected in the 2016 NFL Draft, Harris signed with the Washington Redskins on May 2, 2016. On September 3, 2016, he was waived by the Redskins, but re-signed with their practice squad a day later. On October 21, 2016, he was activated from the practice squad to the active roster after wide receiver Josh Doctson was placed on the injured reserve list. Harris had his first career NFL reception in a game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10 of the 2016 season, finishing the game with three receptions for 28 yards.
While that biography may not sound impressive, Mo Harris managed to stick around -- then get a game — on one of the most talented Wide Receiver rosters in the NFL. Harris looked good in his limited action last year, and more than a few analysts and fans are expecting big things from this 6’3”, 200 pound receiver in the future. Don’t sleep on Big Mo.
A 2015 UDFA, in the 2016 preseason, Brown led the league in rushing with 227 yards. He was signed to the practice squad after final cuts last year, but was promoted to the active roster on October 28, 2016. Having only played special teams in previous games, Brown recorded his first career carries at running back in a Week 16 win against the Chicago Bears. He recorded 82 yards off of eight carries, which included a 61-yard touchdown run, his first career touchdown.
He may have looked the best of all the 'Skins running backs versus the Ravens this week. Brown is a fan favorite, and — if he doesn’t actually make the 53-man roster to start the season — is likely to hang around the Redskins practice squad for a while, looking for a chance to get back on the active roster.
It should be clear that the Mason-Brennan award is more than just some filler for a fan blog. We all know that the likelihood of UDFAs and late round draft picks in general establishing a career in the NFL is pretty slender. But, when looking at the ‘long shot’ players in camp, the Hype! award demonstrates some reasonable predictive ability.
Let me just take a moment to put the list of winners into tiers, based on what they’ve done since being named as weekly winners. And since we have 4 years of history on them, I’ll include all 10 nominees from the first-ever Mason-Brennan award as well.
Tier 1 - very good players
Tier 2 - building a decent NFL career
Aldrick Robinson, Tom Compton, Bacarri Rambo, Keenan Robinson, Ryan Grant
Tier 3 - Marginal players who’ve stuck around a bit
Tier 4 - Too early to tell, but looks good
Martrell Spaight, Maurice Harris, Mack Brown
Tier 5 - Too early to tell, but looks baad
Tier 6 - Disappointments and Busts
Skye Dawson, Chase Minnifield, Marvin Burdette, Brandon Jenkins, Jawan Jamison, Xavier Nixon, Pat White
The first thing I see is seven names in the “Disappointments & Busts” category, but then I notice that only two of those seven names are Hype! award winners.
The other five were among the nominees in the first Mason-Brenna Hype! Award vote, but the discerning voters of Hogs Haven were typically able to tell the “players” from the “pretenders”.
The players who have actually won the award have demonstrated a tendency to achieve beyond their draft status, while the players on the list who eventually turned out to be “busts” mostly didn’t get past nominee status.
Given the population that the award draws from, the winners have a pretty impressive list of accomplishments in the NFL. Looking down the top four tiers, I see:
- Chris Thompson - 5th round
- Aldrick Robinson - 6th round
- Tom Compton - 6th round
- Bacarri Rambo - 6th round
- Keenan Robinson - 4th round
- Ryan Grant - 5th round
- Rashad Ross - undrafted
- Martrell Spaight - 5th round
- Maurice Harris - undrafted
- Mack Brown - undrafted
The only real predictive ‘fails’ among the Mason-Brennan Hype! Award winners have been Pat White, who was a 2nd round draft pick of the Dolphins, and not really the kind of player that this award was designed to recognize, and our own draft 5th round pick, Brandon Jenkins.
In other words, the Hype! Is real.
So, keep your eye out for the winners from this off-season and remember them; you’ll likely be seeing them around the league for a while yet.
Watch for the next Mason-Brennan Award post, and be sure to vote and set a young Redskin player off on his pro football career in style.
Based on the Ravens game, my nominations for the next vote:
- Nico Marley
- Nate Sudfeld
Which players on the Redkins roster do you think deserve nomination?
Will Keith Marshall ever play in an NFL regular season game?
This poll is closed