The Great Returner Job Battle Of 2012

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 09: Wide receiver James Rodgers #8 of the Oregon State Beavers sits on the sidelines during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

One of the toughest parts of being a UDFA is not overcoming your draft status, but the incumbents. There are at least rookies who will be facing exactly that challenge as they gun for the returner gigs for these Atlanta Falcons.

First off: The chances of the team carrying a guy who's basically just going to return kicks or punts is virtually non-existent, so I will refer to the eventual winner of this competition as "the returner." Secondly, the chances of this particular competition being won by a rookie UDFA seem slim enough.

Mike Smith said something Saturday that makes me think this, paired with simple common sense. Alex Welch covered in his excellent rookie mini-camp story, which you should be sure to read immediately. Here's the relevant quote:

"Dominique Franks and Harry Douglas, those are the two guys right now that would probably be the leading candidates to return punts."

Now, a lot can change in between now and the season. Rodgers could impress, Pearcy could gain 20 pounds of muscle and start knocking would-be tacklers off their feet and Marcus Jackson could somehow leapfrog all four candidates for returner. It could happen, but I don't consider it particularly likely. Both Franks and Douglas can do returns, they've been around a while and the coaching staff trusts them.

You can downgrade Douglas if you want because he's expected to be a bigger part of the offense, but Franks is now the fourth or fifth cornerback on a team

At the very least, though, you can't say these remarks won't motivate the crop of UDFAs. The "right now" is a nice touch. And that will, in turn, hopefully inspire Douglas and Franks to do great things. My money's on Franks.

That's not to say I'm not intrigued by Cody Pearcy, James Rodgers and even Marcus Jackson, but it's clear they're facing an uphill battle to snatch a job. Do you think they'll get one?

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