One thing that often gets overlooked during the preseason is the sheer volume of NFL players that clear waivers when they are cut. It seems like people end up in one of two camps, those who believe that anyone you cut will be snatched up on waivers and those who believe that practically anyone will pass through. Both sides are right in ways, but it really depends on the player. It’s more than just preseason performance, however, as teams tend to claim players on waivers that they had previously scouted either in college or those on division rivals or in-season scheduled opponents. So today, instead of looking at the players that will be practice squad eligible, I’m going to look at what must happen prior to making the practice squad if a player is cut: The waiver wire. Just remember, this isn’t an argument of whether a player will make the roster or not -- I’ve purposely excluded those who certainly will -- but a question of whether a player, if cut, is likely to pass through the wire.
Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB - less than 1% chance of being claimed: Chi Chi is a slightly undersized linebacker who didn’t measure particularly well coming out of Northwestern. The undrafted free agent signed with San Diego, where he was eventually waived/injured. There weren’t many teams that showed interest in him prior to the 2015 draft, and with his injury and athletic profile it’s almost a certainty he would pass through waivers unclaimed.
Adairius Barnes, CB - less than 1% chance of being claimed: Barnes is a small, wiry rookie out of Louisiana Tech with elite explosion numbers and an overall strong athletic profile. Barnes is the definition of a practice squad candidate since he needs at least 20 lbs. of muscle before he’d even be considered for a roster. He didn’t have any official visits pre draft and only the Panthers showed passing interest that I could find. Barring a huge preseason showing, it’s a safe bet he passes through.
Jace Billingsley, WR - 4% chance of being claimed: The pride of Winnemucca, Jace Billingsley had a stand out pro day in front of NFL scouts but it’s unknown how many or whom (Lions presumably were one). He’s had a tumultuous camp, but got a chance to show some YAC ability on his first NFL touchdown against the Steelers. With a good athletic profile and a good showing so far, there is a chance Billingsley will be claimed. It isn’t a great chance, and he has a better shot of being signed to the Lions practice squad after passing waivers.
Alex Carter, CB - 75% chance of being claimed: Positive athletic profile, check. High draft pick, check. Incredible youth -- will only be 22 in October -- check. Carter hasn’t been able to put it together for the Detroit Lions, but he’ll almost certainly be picked up if he is cut. The almost comes in when you look at pre-draft interest. Only the Lions and Steelers brought in Alex Carter for an official pre-draft visit, which is unusual for someone selected so high. Still, if he’s cut, it’s very unlikely he’ll be around to make the practice squad.
Brandon Copeland, DE - 90% chance of being claimed: In the event Brandon Copeland is unable to claim a roster spot this season, likely in the last round of cuts, I’d put money on him being one of the few players claimed. He’s eligible to make the squad under the new rule since he only has one accrued season and he did enough in 2015 alone to make his path to another team likely if he’s cut. His relative youth and athleticism as well as previous team interest and depth across the league would make him a quick wire pickup.
Joe Dahl, OG - 99% chance of being claimed: Quick reminder both that this isn’t a prediction of who’s getting cut and that Dahl was a fifth-round pick. Dahl has a top tier athletic profile and had official team visits with 12 other clubs. It just so happens that some of those clubs are either OL needy or known to key in on uber athletic offensive linemen. It’s very unlikely Dahl is cut despite his low draft status. Even if he weren’t looking good so far in the preseason, he’s as good as gone if placed on waivers.
Quinshad Davis, WR - 4% chance of being claimed: Davis didn’t receive any official visits prior to the draft, and there wasn’t much interest overall. Davis did receive a small signing bonus to come to Detroit which likely signals significant interest from at least one other team. Davis has received some positive press during camp and showed some tools his only preseason matchup, so it’s a possibility someone jumps at him.
Chase Farris, OG - 5% chance of being claimed: The only pre-draft visit Farris had was with the Detroit Lions. They gave him a sizeable signing bonus to come to Detroit, so like Quinshad Davis, there’s the possibility of outside interest. Unlike Davis, however, Farris hasn’t had a great showing in camp and would need a noticeably positive preseason showing to garner interest from other teams.
Adam Fuehne, TE - 10% chance of being claimed: Fuehne had a visit with the Lions and Chargers prior the draft and reportedly had interest from 12 teams total. With a poor athletic profile and weak camp, it’s unlikely he finds anyone willing to place him on the 53-man roster during cuts. I won’t rule it out, however, since an injury to any one of the teams who showed interest could put him on their team’s short list.
Deonte Gibson, DE - less than 1% chance of being claimed: With little pre-draft interest in the former Northwestern player, and a conversion from 3-4 OLB to 4-3 DE in progress, the possibility he is claimed is very slim. This is one to watch for the practice squad, as an aside, teams don’t usually start a position conversion without a long-term plan.
Kerry Hyder, DL - less than 1% chance of being claimed: Hyder has been subject to waivers before and passed without incident. He’s looked a little better this offseason, but not enough so that his chances of passing unclaimed go up significantly.
Gabe Ikard, OC - 13% chance of being claimed: Ikard has a solid athletic profile and showed a lot of drive at the beginning of training camp. That wavered down the stretch, and he’s been lost for the preseason so far. Still, he’s had some real NFL action and a center needy team may jump if he’s on the wire and they want some youth. It’s not likely, though.
Isaiah Johnson, SS - 13% chance of being claimed: A safety without a strong athletic profile isn’t normally a game changer. Johnson did some damage to his credibility when he took out his own teammate in Zaviar Gooden against the Steelers, but there’s a long odds, better than zero chance Martin Mayhew lobbies for the talented player in New York. Adding to his chances, strong safeties are among the most claimed players on waivers -- though I haven’t isolated why that is -- being claimed about 13% of the time.
TJ Jones, WR - 35% chance of being claimed: Jones was able to show some limited receiving ability and intriguing, if inconsistent, special teams ability in 2015. If he doesn’t make the Lions roster, there’s a fair chance he goes unclaimed. Most teams already have their top receivers figured out and have role players or depth that they trust. Jones has shown enough that he’s more valuable than an unproven rookie or aged vet in some situations. It’s a risk to cut him, but not one the team couldn’t make given the makeup of their own WR position.
Jimmy Landes, LS - 15% chance of being claimed: Here’s a funny thing about waivers. Long snappers get claimed on them fairly routinely. While their claim percentage is only a bit above the mean, enough of them get claimed that I wouldn’t wager confidence Landes falls all the way through waivers. Specialists that get claimed tend to do so on a team that doesn’t have one they can trust (duh), and by the time waivers roll around, it becomes a matter of cost. Sixth-round picks are cheap and their contracts have more security than say signing a FA to a one-year deal.
Jay Lee, WR - 5% chance of being claimed: Like the other undrafted WRs, Lee will garner some interest. He turned down a couple of teams to come to Detroit, but being blanked in his first preseason contest likely hurt his shot slightly. It’s more likely than not he would pass through waivers, but he’d be an early candidate to be poached once an injury or two happens across the league.
Keith Lewis, CB - less than 1% chance of being claimed: Lewis has been subjected to waivers before, several times, and passed through clean. I have no doubt it would happen again.
Cornelius Lucas, OT - 35% chance of being claimed: Several teams showed interest in Lucas prior to the draft and while he’s not beloved by fans for his play he hasn’t been so awful that nobody is going to see development. That starter experience is what led to a much lower upside player like Michael Ola getting picked up on waivers and it’s sure to attract some teams to Cornelius Lucas in the hopes they can harness his incredible wingspan and range.
Luke Marquardt, OT - less than 1% chance of being claimed: Though he’s been subjected to waivers and passed before, what really puts Marquardt’s chances so low is just how little upside and potential he’s shown. He was easily the worst player in camp, at any position, and the only thing keeping him in a Lions uniform right now is the lack of depth ahead of him.
Louis Palmer, DL - less than 1% chance of being claimed: In the years of data that I have for NFL transactions, no DL -- not listed as specifically a tackle or end -- has been claimed on waivers. Until Palmer settles into a position enough that he has a position, he’s going to find it hard to make a regular season roster and because of that he will always be a long shot to be claimed on the wire.
Caraun Reid, DT - 75% chance of being claimed: In the event he gets pushed off the Detroit Lions roster, I have no doubt Reid will be picked up immediately. As part of a deep group that has shown itself one of the lone bright spots in terms of talent and depth, it wouldn’t surprise me to see two DTs claimed off the Detroit Lions roster. If one of those cut is Reid, he’ll certainly be somewhere else the following day.
Rashaad Reynolds, CB - less than 1% chance of being claimed: One of the newest faces on the roster, I wouldn’t expect a quick turnaround if Reynolds were let loose. He’s been subjected to waivers before and passed unclaimed, and while he played well on a short week with little preparation against third-team Steelers, he’ll have to show a lot more impact to be a waiver wire pickup.
Jake Rudock, QB - less than 1% chance of being claimed: Of drafted quarterbacks who were waived between 2014 and now, eight drafted QBs were claimed on waivers, but only three of them were sixth round or later and none of them were claimed as rookies. In fact, if we included undrafted QBs that were waived, not one was picked up on waivers as a rookie in the past couple of seasons. Making it even tougher on Rudock, 15 teams drafted a QB this season meaning even if teams were looking his way it would be half of the league, at best.
Quanterus Smith, DE - less than 1% chance of being claimed: Smith has had a rough go of it in his NFL career with injuries, a trend that started before being drafted by the Broncos in 2013. He’s been subjected to waivers three times since then and hasn’t been claimed. I think it’s safe to say his window has passed without showing some serious development and making a team on his pass rushing talents alone.
Khyri Thornton, DT - 75% chance of being claimed: Khyri Thornton has been subjected to waivers twice before and both times he was claimed. His potential has been apparent since the moment he stepped on the field in Allen Park and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him claimed a third time if he somehow didn’t end up on the Detroit Lions final roster.
Dominique Tovell, LB - less than 1% chance of being claimed: Tovell has been on the Lions before, was cut and cleared, before being brought back. He has immense upside and needs time to develop. He’s clear practice squad material, but aside from the possibility of a preseason breakout he will most likely be cut and clear again.
Kyle Van Noy, LB - 90% chance of being claimed: Should the Detroit Lions decide to move on from Kyle Van Noy, the former second-round pick would almost certainly be snatched up the moment he hits the wire. A highly touted player with several first-round grades, several of the teams that had personal visits with him prior to the 2014 draft are in need of linebacker depth and one is in the NFCN. He’s starting, currently, at Sam linebacker for the Lions, but if he plays his way off the team he will likely be picked up before ever seeing free agency.
Charles Washington, DB - less than 1% chance of being claimed: You’d be forgiven if you forgot Washington was on the team. He was the last safety in training camp and has been so far in the preseason. Afterthoughts rarely get claimed to regular season rosters.
Dwayne Washington, RB - 9% chance of being claimed: This one took a lot of thought. Running backs are claimed at one of the lowest rates in the NFL, with less than 5 percent of those getting claimed. Adding to that, most of those RB that were claimed on waivers showed either elite athleticism, special team value, or both. You might note those have been Washington’s strengths so far, however. There’s still a pretty safe chance that Washington would clear waivers cleanly at this point, given his ball control and injury issues from college, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and put him at the 9 percent of drafted RB that are claimed on waivers in case someone out there ignores his flaws for developmental purposes.
Cole Wick, TE - 40% chance of being claimed: I was tempted to put this at 50/50, but despite the training camp hype on him I haven’t seen enough of Cole Wick to state he’d be a sure pick up on another team. You have to remember that picking up someone on waivers puts them on the active roster, not the practice squad. Wick has showed a lot of potential, enough that I’d be extremely hesitant putting his chances around the 9 percent average of tight ends that get claimed on waivers. There are enough teams out there than need TE depth that I could see four or five teams taking a flyer on rumor and athletic upside alone.
Antwione Williams, LB - 8% chance of being claimed: Linebackers don’t get claimed on waivers very often compared to other positions. In fact, linebackers get claimed at one of the lowest rates of any positions if we exclude players listed as 3-4 OLB. Their claim percentage is higher only than free safeties, kickers, and fullbacks and lower than long snappers and punters. Williams has his draft status playing for him, putting him right up there with the 8 percent of drafted linebackers that are claimed on waivers, but that might be even a little generous considering his lack of a plus athletic profile and small school status.
Gabe Wright, DT - 50% chance of being claimed: One player that fans had seemed convinced would pass through to the practice squad easily was Gabe Wright. After a down rookie season, and with a deep position group, many were ready to just move on. His high draft status and the fact he was scouted fairly heavily by a good amount of teams point to the likelihood of being snatched if he were exposed to waivers. His below average athletic profile and documented struggles as a pro keep that number from going higher than a coin toss.
Anthony Zettel, DL - 2% chance of being claimed: While drafted defensive ends get picked up on waivers approximately 12% of the time, only one of those players (Obum Gwacham) was picked up on waivers as a rookie with no playing experience. Zettel has showed a little bit in the preseason, but still lags behind where you’d want him to be to make the regular season roster. Should be be cut, it’s a likelihood he’ll clear waivers safely.