With the New Orleans Saints now just slightly over 2 weeks away from the beginning of their 2018 Training Camp and the subsequent start of the Pre-Season a few weeks afterwards, many sites that cover the team exclusively are making predictions as to which players have the best chance at making the team's Final 53-man Roster in early September.
But this morning, we thought it would be interesting to 'flip the script' so to speak, and take a quick look at 5 Saints players that actually might just be the biggest "underdogs" to make it, instead.
So with that very thought in mind, here are 5 current Saints on the current 90-man off-season roster who we believe have the 'longest of long shots' in the next several weeks ahead, of seeing the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 9th.
And we start with this young man......
#5. JT Barrett, Quarterback
By now if you're a Saints fan, you already know that Barrett — whom was among the players the Saints signed as an undrafted free agent immediately after the conclusion of this year's 2018 NFL Draft — single-handedly re-wrote both the Ohio State University and Big Ten conference record books; while also becoming the first 3-time captain in the program’s history, the Big Ten leader in total yardage (12,697), touchdown passes (104), and all purpose touchdowns (147). He also helped lead the school to the 2014 CFP National Championship.
However, Barrett went undrafted largely due to the fact that he struggles with accuracy, has had some past difficulties with his reads and progressions, as well as "ball placement" and "throwing receivers open" (click HERE to watch the detailed analysis by well-respected NFL scouting service Inside The Pylon) — all of which are notable traits of QB play at the professional level that he will most definitely will have to improve upon, if he hopes to be successful and make it onto an NFL roster.
It's important to note however that along with helping the Buckeyes win the National Championship in 2014, Barrett also still managed to complete over 61 percent of his passes in each of his four seasons at Columbus, while posting a VERY IMPRESSIVE 104-to-30 touchdown to interception ratio. So the idea or notion that he's destined to be a career back-up / "clip-board holder", might be somewhat unfair.
But as of this moment (unless something dramatic happens in Camp or in the Pre-Season games), it would appear that Barrett is essentially buried on the QB depth chart behind starter Drew Brees and fellow back-ups Tom Savage and Taysom Hill; making the Practice Squad the likely destination to spend his rookie year in NOLA.
PREDICTION: PRACTICE SQUAD
#4. Elridge Massington, Wide Receiver
Massington, another Saints undrafted free agent, was signed after the Rookie Mini-Camp back in May; with the idea being that he could make his mark as a special teams stand-out performer in New Orleans. The 23-year-old noticed a drop in production during his senior season at UCLA, but as noted by CBS Sports: the Saints appear to have been drawn to Massington's size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and speed.
Massington didn't exactly produce what you'd consider impressive numbers with the Bruins, in spite of being on the receiving end of All-American QB (and now Arizona Cardinals rookie) Josh Rosen’s passing. His most productive season was as a freshman in 2014. In that year, he had 25 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns. But last season in 13 games as a senior, he only had nine catches for 111 yards and two TD's.
To his credit, Massington hasn't allowed that lack of production in college to affect his opportunity to compete for a roster spot, as evidenced by him making a handful of nice plays in OTA's and Mini-Camp; including a notable reception from Drew Brees on a curl route in which Massington was wide open.
But nevertheless: unless Massington somehow manages to completely "blow away" the Saints offensive coaching staff (particularly wide receivers coach Curtis "CJ" Johnson), there's absolutely no way he will surpass the other WR's competing for a spot alongside him in fellow UDFA's Travin Dural, Austin Carr, and Keith Kirkwood.
PREDICTION: CUT / RELEASED
#3. Daniel Lasco, Running Back
Lasco returns for his 3rd season when Training Camp gets underway in 2 more weeks; after he missed the majority of 2017 with a neck injury. The team's 2016 Draft 7th Round pick, Lasco suffered a severe concussion at Buffalo during last year's Week #10 blow-out 47-10 Saints win over the Bills at Buffalo, New York on November 12th and was lost for the remainder of the 2017 season.
Lasco got hurt after he made a head-first tackle on a kickoff return; and later on, it was eventually determined that Lasco had suffered a bulging disk that would require season-ending surgery, although it wasn't considered to be career-threatening.
Prior to that, Lasco carried 11 times for 32 yards during the 2016 season as a rookie the year before, but he was mostly used for his stand-out abilities on special teams. Now he faces an even bigger challenge in 2 more weeks: trying to make the Final 53-man roster, while buried on the RB depth chart behind Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Terrance West, Trey Edmunds, and Jonathan Williams.
There isn't any doubt that the Saints would like to find a way to keep Lasco around being that he's a former draft pick and because of his capability on special teams, but at this point he seems more likely to be the "odd man out" among the suddenly-crowded RB group.
PREDICTION: CUT / RELEASED
#2. Colton Jumper, Linebacker
Likely to become popular with Saints fans just because he has a rather unique name that they will have a good time talking about, Jumper actually had a very impressive 14 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks as a senior for the Volunteers; and is a former college teammate of running back Alvin Kamara.
Jumper came to the Vols as a 2-star recruit from Chattanooga, Tenn., and became one of the most versatile linebackers on the team. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound linebacker played all three linebacker positions over the years, a trait that is obviously coveted by Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
However, Jumper is a HUGE underdog to make the Saints Final 53-man roster; simply because the linebacker position has been the most improved position this off-season and he is buried on the depth chart behind the 6 players most likely to secure final roster spots in starters Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone, and A.J. Klein, and capable reserves Craig Robertson, Manti T'eo, and Nate Stupar.
Jumper could always sneak his way onto the team via a special teams spot, but at this point, it would seem unless he blows away the defensive coaching staff (and specifically linebackers coach Mike Nolan) with some sort of memorable Pre-Season performance, he could end up with Barrett on the Practice Squad.
PREDICTION: PRACTICE SQUAD
#1. De'Vante Harris, Cornerback
Many Saints fans this morning will NOT be surprised to see Harris at the top of this list, given his very notable struggles last season in which many observers felt made him the team's worst player at what was an otherwise position of strength last season: the cornerback position.
Harris has appeared in 21 games (two starts) over the past two seasons with the Saints, including 11 games with one start in 2017, totaling 24 tackles (21 solo), three passes defensed and a fumble recovery. He also contributed on special teams the past two seasons.
He has had his ups and downs since that time, but last season it took a turn for the worse.
Among his misfortunes: getting "torched" by then-Vikings QB Sam Bradford during Minnesota's Week #1 29-19 victory in Minneapolis; and then the game most Saints fans remember vividly: a 26-20 loss at Los Angeles to the Rams in Week #12, where he got victimized on several pass plays from Rams QB Jared Goff to then-Rams WR Sammy Watkins (now with Kansas City).
He was then cut from the active roster following the game.
Eventually, the team re-signed him (to the displeasure of many of those same Saints fans) a week later, and now he returns for what he hopes will be a 3rd NFL season this year.
But you'd have to believe that at this point, he's behind starters Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley, free agent signee Patrick Robinson, and young veteran PJ Williams, Arthur Maulet, and Justin Hardee (rookie Kamrin Moore is likely headed to the Practice Squad). He may even be slightly behind this year's UDFA signee Linden Stephens.
Regardless, keep in mind that Harris has defied the odds not just once but twice and made the Final 53-man roster in back-to-back years; so to count him out at this point is a bit presumptuous; especially since he's still being "coached up" by defensive secondary / CB coach Aaron Glenn. But if he shows up to Camp and performs the way that he did at the end of last year, his time in the Black and Gold may be coming to an end.....
PREDICTION: CUT / RELEASED