Who's a lock to make the Buffalo Bills' roster? Who's on the bubble?
With the NFL-maximum of 90 players on the Bills' roster as they begin training camp later this week, the team must eventually trim its roster to 75 players and then 53 players before the start of the regular season.
So who are the locks to make the Bills' 53-man roster? Here are the 28 players I currently see falling into that category:
Locks on offense (11): QB Tyrod Taylor, QB EJ Manuel, QB Cardale Jones, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, TE Charles Clay, OT Cordy Glenn, G Richie Incognito, C Eric Wood, G John Miller
The only name some might quibble with is Manuel, but what's keeping his No. 2 quarterback job almost certainly safe are two things: (1) His base salary is fully guaranteed, so the Bills would essentially still be paying him if they released him, and (2) Jones is a raw prospect and is best this season as a No. 3, developmental quarterback. It's unlikely he'll be ready to take the primary backup role by September.
Locks on defense (14): DL Marcell Dareus, DL Kyle Williams, DL Adolphus Washington, DL Corbin Bryant, OLB Jerry Hughes, OLB Manny Lawson, OLB Shaq Lawson, ILB Preston Brown, ILB Reggie Ragland, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Ronald Darby, CB Nickell Robey, S Aaron Williams, S Corey Graham
Shaq Lawson could land on PUP if he's expected to miss the first six games of the regular season, which would add a 53-man roster spot.
As for the players on the bubble, here is how I see them breaking down, starting with the most likely players to make the cut and ending with the longest shots:
On the cusp (70 percent chance): RB Karlos Williams, RB Mike Gillislee, FB Jerome Felton, WR Dezmin Lewis, TE Chris Gragg, OT Jordan Mills, OT Seantrel Henderson, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, OLB IK Enemkpali, ILB Zach Brown, CB Kevon Seymour, CB Mario Butler, K Dan Carpenter
Karlos Williams is suspended for the first four games, so he won't factor into the 53-man roster discussion. I put him in this category because his disastrous offseason could put his role on the team in jeopardy. Gillislee is also close to "lock" territory but that could be disrupted if a veteran, such as Reggie Bush, is signed. The right tackle battle is also highlighted here; if Henderson can bounce back from Crohn's disease and re-take the starting job, then the swing tackle role will come down to Mills and Kouandjio. Overall, all of these players' roster spots should be safe but there are still some scenarios that could push them off.
The most likely scenario is that Williams and Listenbee, two of the Bills' late-round draft choices this season, stick on the 53-man roster but are healthy inactives on the game day, 46-man roster. Dray could be pushed for his roster spot by Blake Annen, while Velasco and Alexander are older veterans who must show they're still capable of filling roles.
On the fence (50 percent chance): WR Greg Salas, WR Leonard Hankerson, WR Marquise Goodwin, TE Nick O'Leary, DL Jerel Worthy, ILB Kevin Reddick, CB Javier Arenas, CB Sterling Moore, CB Corey White, S Duke Williams, S Jonathan Meeks, S Colt Anderson, K Jordan Gay
These are the truest "bubble" players. I see Salas, Hankerson and Goodwin battling for one -- possibly two -- roster spots. There's also a battle for the last spot at cornerback and one (possibly two) final spots at safety.
Something to prove (40 percent chance): FB Glenn Gronkowski, WR Greg Little, WR Walter Powell, TE Blake Annen, G Cyril Richardson, DL Leger Douzable, DL Justin Zimmer, ILB Eric Striker, ILB Jamari Lattimore, K Marshall Morgan
Gronkowski has a shot to push Felton off the roster with a strong training camp. Powell's path to the 53-man roster would be as a return man. If Morgan is nearly perfect in training camp, the Bills could decide to keep him over the pricier veteran, Carpenter. Along with Gronkowski, I see Zimmer and Striker as the Bills' undrafted rookies with the best chance of making it.
Needs to catch a break (30 percent chance): RB James Wilder, RB Boom Herron, WR Jarrett Boykin, OL Chris Martin, DE Cedric Reed, DE Lavar Edwards, DL T.J. Barnes, OLB Max Valles, OLB Bryson Albright, CB Jonathan Dowling, CB Sammy Seamster
Wilder and Herron's names have moved more onto the radar with the offseason troubles faced by Karlos Williams and Jonathan Williams, but they'll still need an injury or a surprise release to find a spot on the 53-man roster. Albright, an undrafted rookie, made a few plays in spring practices that could make him an intriguing option as a pass-rusher. Dowling, a former safety, converted to cornerback this spring and possesses intriguing height and length for the spot.
Long shots (20 percent chance): WR Gary Chambers, WR Davonte Allen, OT Marquis Lucas, OL Jamison Lalk, OL Rob Kugler, OL Justin Renfrow, LS Reid Ferguson
All of these players except Renfrow are undrafted rookies who will be looking to make an impression and possibly land on the practice squad this fall.