Undrafted Saints rookie Dallin Holker given good odds of making the team

It’s a hard life for undrafted free agents — about 500 rookies sign with NFL teams after the draft each year, but maybe 50 of them will make the cut and earn a spot on the 53-man roster for Week 1’s kickoff games. And one stands apart when looking at the New Orleans Saints’ undrafted crop: former Colorado State tight end Dallin Holker.

Wide Left’s Arif Hasan studied the rate of undrafted rookies who made the cut for teams over the last three years, and found a good correlation between two factors determining their changes. NFL teams show us how they regard undrafted free agents by guaranteeing a portion of their contracts. And draft analysts’ rankings in Hasan’s consensus board can play a part, too.

We’ll let Hasan explain his methodology:

When accounting for the high correlation between Consensus Big Board rank and guaranteed money (a correlation of -0.48) one can construct a simple model that projects likelihood for undrafted free agents. The base make rate is about nine percent, and a higher consensus board rank and/or a higher guaranteed salary have an equal chance of helping or hurting those odds in the model, from a maximum of 33 percent to a minimum of 4 percent.

So even if a best-case scenario for an undrafted rookie gives them a 33% chance of making the team (not counting practice squad slots; just those who start out on the 53-man roster outright). Keep that 33% number in mind, because this is all relative. Hasan’s model gave Holker a 23.7% chance of making the cut with the Saints this summer, which is seventh-best among the hundreds of undrafted players who signed with NFL teams a few weeks ago.

The Saints guaranteed $235,000 of Holker’s contract. That’s more than any other undrafted free agent they signed this year by a considerable margin, and it ranks among the highest guarantees for these players around the league.

While saying that Holker’s odds of making the team is less than 24% may not be too inspiring, it’s still better than the dozen or so other undrafted rookies who came to New Orleans this offseason. But this is all speculative. At the end of the day it’ll be Holker’s performance at practices and training camp and preseason games that determines whether he joins Juwan Johnson and Foster Moreau on the 53-man roster.

And the early returns have been positive. He has clean feet and great movement skills in a small space. Teams aren’t allowed to do many blocking drills or full-contact work this early in the offseason calendar, but Holker has helped himself by catching the ball cleanly and turning upfield in a hurry. He was known as a run-after-catch threat at Colorado State and those skills appear to be translating, though of course defenders aren’t allowed to tackle him with a head full of steam just yet.

Holker needs to keep that momentum going into the summer. He’s competing with veterans like Tommy Hudson and Michael Jacobson, both of whom were on the practice squad last year. Jacobson has stood out in passing drills early on and he won’t make Holker’s quest for a roster spot easy. There’s room for a third tight end with Jimmy Graham training to row across the Arctic Ocean, and the lackluster production the Saints got out of Johnson and Moreau last year should open up a real role for someone like Holker or Jacobson. This might shape up for an entertaining training camp battle after all.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire