Despite advanced metrics that assess NFL prospects, one of the toughest things for an NFL front office to determine is which college athletes will make the best professionals. Every year, the first round of the NFL draft is brimming with potential stars.
But success is not always contingent on draft position. The later rounds of the draft and undrafted free-agent signings can add value to teams’ rosters.
Rookie minicamps feature 40–60 players, including draft picks, undrafted free agents, and other tryout players hoping to make a team’s active roster.
Pro football’s ivory tower includes a number of undrafted free-agent signings who have progressed to become Hall of Famers and All-Pro players. Kurt Warner, a two-time league MVP who posted the three best single-game passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history, has one of the most prominent rags-to-riches tales.
Let’s not forget Dick “Night Train” Lane, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who still owns the rookie record for interceptions—14 in 1952—and had 68 career interceptions with three teams.
When it comes to the NFL, draft selection is not everything. Outside of Boston College guard Zion Johnson, who the Los Angeles Chargers selected with the 17th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, eight Eagles have agreed to terms with NFL squads. Let’s take a look at where some of the notable players ended up and what they have to deliver on the field.
Alec Lindstrom, center, Dallas Cowboys signee
Lindstrom, a three-year starter at BC, is one of five players in program history to be a two-time First-Team All-ACC selection. Standing at 6-foot-3, 298 pounds, Lindstrom clocked a 5.18-second 40-yard dash and went for 25 reps on the bench press at the 2022 NFL Combine.
Lindstrom is formidable on the line and brings physical awareness to the Cowboys. Even if he loses his primary reads, Lindstrom makes plays on the secondary level. From my perspective, his physical attributes need a year or two to develop, but his intellect makes him a contender to be a starting center with the right conditioning.
Tyler Vrabel, offensive tackle, Atlanta Falcons signee
An NFL legacy of Mike Vrabel—former New England Patriot and current head coach of the Tennessee Titans—Vrabel stacks up at 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds on the exterior offensive line. Vrabel was a starter for the Eagles at both left and right tackle for the last three seasons, switching in large part due to a nagging injury that restricted his abilities on the left side. In 2021, he earned All-ACC honorable mention honors for the third consecutive year.
Vrabel is a physical and aggressive blocker in the run game and is proficient on both sides of the line. In 2021, the redshirt junior allowed 17 total pressures, but his biggest skills lie in timing, temperament, and power.
Ben Petrula, offensive line, Cleveland Browns signee
In his tenure on the Heights, Petrula was a rock on BC’s offensive line, playing over 4,100 offensive snaps in 60 career starts. Petrula was a low four-star recruit out of high school and he landed on BC, where became a starter for five full seasons across nearly every position on the line.
In 2017, Petrula earned ESPN Freshman All-American honors at center. Petrula was an All-ACC honorable mention in 2018 at right tackle, an All-ACC Second Team member in 2019 at the same position, and in 2020, he earned All-ACC Third Team honors at right guard. He moved back to right tackle in 2021, where he started in all 12 games. At 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, Petrula has the size and mobility to start at any position on the line at the professional level.
Brandon Sebastian, cornerback, Los Angeles Chargers signee
Sebastian was a four-year starter at BC after redshirting his freshman season. In 2021, Sebastian picked the game-winning interception to seal BC’s 41–34 overtime win against Missouri, sending the home crowd onto the field in a stampede to celebrate a fourth straight victory to open the season.
Sebastian is smooth in transition and battles hard to break up throws, but it took him three years to find his stride. He accumulated four interceptions over his first three seasons with BC, but he matched that number in his senior season alone.
Isaiah Graham-Mobley, linebacker, Carolina Panthers signee
Graham-Mobley arrived at BC in 2021 as a transfer from Temple, where he was a three-year starter, and was one of just three Eagles invited to the NFL combine. In nine games in the 2021 season at middle linebacker, Graham-Mobley was responsible for 52 tackles, including 34 solo tackles and one quarterback hurry. Throughout his time as an Eagle and an Owl, Graham-Mobley registered 203 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, five sacks, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble.
At the NFL combine, Graham-Mobley ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds–above average for inside linebackers–and he recorded a 34.5-inch vertical jump.
Trae Barry, tight end, invited to Arizona Cardinals rookie mini-camp
Tall and athletic, Barry was the second leading receiver for BC in 2021. Barry transferred to BC after four years at Jacksonville State and made some impressive plays during the 2021 season, making the highlight reel on several occasions with his enormous catch radius. In BC’s 51–0 demolition of Colgate to open the 2021 season, Barry made a 51-yard touchdown reception on which he leapt over a defender, hurdling himself into the endzone.
With terrific length to track passes gracefully in the air and excellent blocking vision, he grabbed 21 receptions for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Like team-leading wide receiver Zay Flowers and the rest of the offense, the 6-foot-7 pass catcher was hampered by quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s right-wrist injury.
Mike Palmer and Brandon Barlow were also invited to participate in rookie mini-camps for the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.