We looked at Ali Highsmith's future a couple of weeks ago and I figured we'd take a look at each undrafted free agent and their chances of making the squad this year or sometime in the future. First up today is West Virginia's Keilen Dykes, who was a four year starter for the Mountaineers and was the definition of consistency. During his four seasons he played in 50 games and averaged 32 1/2 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 3 sacks per season. He was not only a team captain and first team All-Big East team but also received the 2007 Iron Mountaineer Award as the top performer in their winter workout program and a NSCA Strength All-American first team. Dykes was a defensive tackle at West Virginia but his size (6'3 306) is better suited to play on the end in a 3-4. Dykes wasn't invited to the Combine but he had an impressive Pro Day (which can be seen below) running 5.08 forty and performing 33 bench reps. So, does Keilen Dykes make the Arizona Cardinals roster?
Why He has a Chance in 2008: He's got several things working in his favor including his versatility, a solid work ethic and a non-stop motor. He should come into camp with a huge chip on his shoulder and his 'blue collar' work ethic will earn him some praise during camp and the preseason. His versatility will allow him to slide inside to defensive tackle when the Cardinals shift to a four-man line in pass rush situations (something to keep an eye on in the preseason). His best chance to make the roster this year is to prove to the coaching staff he's a younger, cheaper version of Bryan Robinson. Robinson was signed to back up both defensive end and tackle but he's never been an particulary dynamic player and they're virtually the exact same size. Dykes could also see more playing time at tackle during camp since Watson will be limited in practice until the start of the season.
Why He Doesn't have a Chance in 2008: First of all, it's worth stating that's is very hard for an undrafted free agent to make the squad as a rookie, especially for a defensive linemen because they normally can't contribute on special teams coverage. That's where most late round picks and undrafted free agents make their mark for the first couple of seasons. The depth chart at defensive end is also stacked right now with Dockett, Smith, Campbell, Iwebema and the veteran Bryan Robinson ahead of him at the moment. Dykes would have to be amazing in camp to unseat any of these guys and it would likely take an injury to give him a legitimate chance. At nose tackle the top two spots are nearly set in stone with Gabe Watson and Alan Branch, but the injury to Watson is worth keeping an eye on.
In the end, Dykes will face an uphill battle to make the 53 man roster in 2008 and will likely have to spend at least a season on the practice squad. He's a player though and if he's patient and continues to work and improve his game, he'll be a decent defender in the near future. His future could be on the 2009 squad as Antonio Smith will be an unrestricted free agent and Bryan Robinson will be a 35 year old, in the final year of his deal. Either way, it'll be worth keeping an eye on him during the preseason. So what do you think, does he have a shot and how do you see his career playing out? Any West Virginia fans out there that have seen his abilities first hand?