For over three months, six undrafted Wildcats waited in limbo.
Working toward a lifelong goal tainted by uncertainty. No contracts, no workouts, no access to team facilities, no contact with anything NFL.
But when the lockout ended Monday, Nic Grigsby, Colin Baxter, Adam Grant, Travis Cobb, Lolomana Mikaele and Conan Amituanai all joined fellow Wildcats Brooks Reed, D'Aundre Reed and Ricky Elmore in the NFL.
Grigsby was the first Arizona product to officially add NFL to his résumé as the change of pace back signed with the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
From there the domino effect set in and ironman center Colin Baxter signed with the Chargers, defensive tackle Mikaele with the Bengals, kick returner Travis Cobb with the Bears, offensive tackle Grant with the Broncos and Conan Amituanai joined D'Aundre Reed with the Vikings.
The Arizona Daily Star reported that Baxter chose the Chargers over the Saints, Ravens, Dolphins, Bills and Cardinals, while Grigsby went with the Dolphins instead of the Rams.
How will each player fit in with his respective team? Will he make it past the first cuts? Here's a quick breakdown:
Position: Running Back
Strengths: Speed and lateral agility
Weaknesses: Durability, size, dances too much
Projection: Grigsby told The Star, "I'm not a third-down back anymore. They said they want to have me on every down."
But Grigsby is the epitome of a third-down back. He's a great change of pace guy who can stretch the field and develop into a home-run hitter. Remember this is a guy who took the Pac-10 by story his sophomore season with 1,153 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns.
There's no question the talent's always been there, and now that he's bigger and supposedly shaking his injury-prone label, Grigsby could have a chance to be more than a typical third-down back.
But remember, this is also the same player who couldn't get on the field for the better part of his last two seasons. He's also a guy who's battled character issues and could turn into the type of player always bouncing around to look for the right fit.
He's also behind Ronnie Brown and fellow rookie and 2nd round pick Daniel Thomas. When it's all said and done, I see Grigsby turning into a nice back up and possible return man with potential to take it to the house.
It's not out of the question that he develops into an every down back over the course of his career given his talent level, but judging by his UA career, calling Grigsby a life-long third-down back is a safe bet.
Strengths: Toughness and technique
Weaknesses: Size and recent injury
Projection: In the weeks leading up to the 2011 NFL draft Baxter told me, "I think I'm one of the best centers in the draft this year so hopefully I'll go high. Maybe I won't go so high and some team will get a good deal on me, who knows. I think I'm right up there with all the other centers."
The Chargers became that team. Baxter brings a ton of experience, smarts and blue-collar toughness to a San Diego team that indeed did get a "good deal" on him.
Baxter should get a solid opportunity with San Diego as well. The Chargers have establish veteran and former Pro Bowler (2006) Nick Hardwick under center, but he's entering his ninth year in the NFL and there's minimal talent behind him.
Baxter ends up in a good situation, but if he never went down with a torn meniscus near the end of last season, he certainly wouldn't have had to spend the last few months stressing over his employment status. Over the course of his four years Baxter earned ironman status as he started 48 consecutive games and reportedly never missed a practice before the injury.
He was one the Pac-10's best centers and arguably a top 5 center in the country. The injury (that led to surgery) killed his stock, but all he needs is a chance to show his skills and he. If there's one player out of this group with a chance to become a longtime NFL starter its Baxter.
He may be a bit undersized, but he knows how to play the center position and if he can stay healthy, he'll compete for a starting job at one point in his career before it's all said and done.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Strengths: Size and Experience
Weaknesses: Age and Quickness
Projection: Grant has a solid chance at NFL longevity, for an offensive lineman anyway. He'll most likely be a career-long backup, but if he can stay healthy, his size and tremendous technique will always land him a job somewhere. The 26-year-old tackle put together an impressive senior season that earned him second-team All-Pac-10 honors. He protected Nick Foles' blind side extremely well and earned a combine invite because of it. I remember when Arizona played (and defeated) Iowa last season Grant did a number on defensive end and Tamba Bay Buccaneer (20th overall pick) Adrian Clayborn. The explosive defensive end finished the game with only three tackles (none for a loss) and no sacks. Aside from Grigsby and Baxter, Grant has the best chance to stand out from this group and make a career for himself in the league.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Strengths: NFL size and good run-stopper
Weaknesses: Lacks explosion and pass rush
Projection: Mikaele was a solid starter for the Wildcats as the co-captain finished with 32 tackles and 7.5 TFLs his senior season. His ceiling isn't super high due to his below-average athleticism, but he is a productive player who specializes in stopping the run. His NFL career will most likely be uneventful, but he's solid enough to stay on a roster, especially the Bengals who need defense in the worst way. They finished 19th against the run last year, so there's opportunity within the organization for Mikaele to contribute.
Position: Wide Receiver/Kick Returner
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 180
Weaknesses: Nothing more than a return man
Projection: Cobb may never catch a pass in the NFL because of his mediocre receiver skills, but his straight-line speed gives him an outside shot at making an impact as a return man.
He'll certainly have a great one to learn from in Devin Hester. It's a mystery if Cobb will even make it out of training camp with a roster spot, however. If he doesn't prove himself in the return game, there's no need for the speedster.
Landing a special teams job can also be extremely hit or miss, as a lot of things have to go right in order to stand out as a return man. Cobb certainly has the ability.
He took a kickoff 100 yards to the house against Iowa on national TV last year, which is most likely the one play that earned him an NFL check.
Other than that he was fairly non existent and I expect Cobb to find how hard it is to make it as a return man, and bounce out of the league in a few years.
Weaknesses: Limited experience
Projection: Conan has the worst chance of the six to stick in the league. He'll have the support of D'Aundre Reed in Minnesota, but there's not much that separates him as a guard.
His biggest positive is that he can play both sides of the ball, as he came to Arizona as a defensive tackle. But other than that, I don't see Conan sticking in the NFL for long.