Once a season at The Practice Squad Power Rankings, I like to pay my respects to veterans.
Normally, I have a strict "young players only" policy, meaning to be eligible for the PSPR, you must be in one of your first three seasons in the NFL.
This is the week I'm highlighting those wily veterans who are sticking around for the love of the game. OK, so yeah, getting a paycheck is better than not getting a paycheck, but you know what I mean.
Most of the veterans listed below had their time in the spotlight during the prime of their respective careers, and have graciously accepted their roles as practice squad mentors for other youngster still on the come-up. Many veterans believe they're "too good" to ever get slapped with the practice squad label.
Not this group.
Some of the names listed below will be like PSPR's version of Facebook Memories, and, frankly, you might be surprised to learn these guys are still technically in the league, just one elevation away from making an impact on Sunday once again.
I went with 10 names -- actually, 11 -- for this special edition of The Practice Squad Power Rankings, instead of the normal 11. Given we've entered crunch time in the NFL regular season, these veterans are more likely to get The Call than unproven youngsters anyway.
Let's quickly pay homage to Practice Squad Power Ranking alums like Saints TE Juwan Johnson, 49ers wideout Jauan Jennings, Buccaneers wideout Deven Thompkins, Cardinals center Hjalte Froholdt, and Giants receiver Isaiah Hodgins (among many others) who have all graduated to become important mainstays on their clubs' respective 53-man rosters and contribute in their own ways each weekend.
As for The CUT (Call Up Tracker) we had another Tariq Carpenter elevation in Week 12 for the Steelers, So we're well into double digits -- 14 call-ups to be exact. Let's keep it rolling in the holiday season.
What I'm asking of you as a loyal PSPR patron: alert me on X/Twitter @ChrisTrapasso if you see a tweet about a PSPR getting The Call so I can add to The CUT.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Irvin, EDGE, Lions
My man Bruce is a 2012 first-round draft pick who just turned 36 years old and is still grinding, getting after the quarterback in Lions practices every single week. Mad respect. Irvin is no slouch by the way; he had 3.5 sacks last season in his third (!) stint with the Seahawks.
10. Leonard Fournette, RB, Bills
The revitalization of the Bills offense the past two weeks has coincided with the switch to Joe Brady at coordinator, and with that switch has come the out-of-nowhere emergence of No. 3 runner Ty Johnson, who has 75 yards and a score on 13 touches in Week 11 and 12 combined. Is Fournette's elevation and absolute necessity right now for Buffalo? It appears not to be. However, under Brady, Josh Allen has utilized the running backs as receivers out of the backfield much more frequently and, we know, Fournette proved to be a quality pass-catcher during the short but sweet Tom Brady era in Tampa Bay. Plus, it can't be fun tackling the tank that is Fournette in the cold.
9. Sidney Jones, CB, Bengals
Jones was a second-round pick by the Eagles back in 2017 after an awesome career at the University of Washington. Unfortunately, he can't shake the nagging injury bug and is now on his fifth NFL team. In 2021 with the Seahawks, a healthy Jones had 10 pass breakups after back-to-back seasons with a pair of picks. Dude can play. The Bengals have allowed the most explosive plays in football entering Week 13, so any call up for Jones would be sensible to shake things up in the secondary.
8. Troy Pride, CB, Raiders
Pride was a magnet to the football at Notre Dame, with four interceptions and 18 defended passes in his final three seasons in South Bend -- then went in the fourth round in the 2020 NFL Draft. He rarely saw the field with the team that drafted him, the Panthers, and is now waiting patiently on Las Vegas' practice squad. For a defense with immense leaks all over the unit, Pride deserves an opportunity.
7. Stephen Anderson, TE, Chargers
Anderson was a fun underneath, YAC-based tight end from California, who made the 2016 Texans as an undrafted free agent and proved his worth early by averaging nearly 14 yards per catch on 25 snags in his second season. He's hardly been utilized at any point in his NFL career, but at 6-foot-2 and around 230 pounds with serious explosiveness, Anderson can be a useful extension of the run game for the Chargers.
6. Martavis Bryant, WR, Cowboys
Man, what would've been for Bryant if the league had a more progressive philosophy on marijuana at the early stages of his professional career. He averaged 21.1 yards per grab as a ridiculously explosive rookie in 2014, then went over 700 yards in 2015. Then multiple substance abuse policy suspensions halted his career after his age 27 season. Now fully reinstated, the soon-to-be 31-year-old wideout is available for Dallas to elevate him at any time. Not that the Cowboys need more receiver juice right now. But I was compelled to add Bryant when I saw his name on the practice squad in Dallas.
5. Jordan Matthews, TE, Panthers
Matthews is part of the famed Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry draft class of 2014, the first I fully evaluated. Yeah I have a soft spot for him, and he was an easy add to this PSPR. With the Eagles, Matthews went over 800 yards in each of his first three seasons and scored 19 receiving touchdowns. Stops in Buffalo and San Francisco yielded marginal results, and Matthews was out of football in 2022. Now, at the ripe age of 31, Vanderbilt's all-time leading receiver -- in all major categories -- is back.
4. Greg Stroman, CB, Bears
Stroman is a PSPR alum, so of course I gravitated toward him for this special edition. A seventh-rounder in the 2018 NFL Draft after an illustrious, highly productive career at Virginia Tech, Stroman has an interception in each of the three NFL seasons he's appeared in, and has been a steady contributor earlier in 2023 on a surprisingly stingy Bears defense. Get him back out there, Coach Eberflus.
3. Myles Jack, LB, Steelers
Jack was a relatively early free-agent signing by the Steelers in 2022 and accumulated 104 tackles, three tackles for loss, and three pass breakups as one of the starting inside linebackers. Now, Jack has dealt with a myriad of injuries -- and did decide to retire after being signed by the Eagles in August. But he entered the league as one of the freakiest athletic specimens we've seen at the position in recent memory. Given Pittsburgh's linebacker situation, Jack would be a welcomed addition to the second level of the Steelers defense.
2. Joe Flacco, QB, Browns
Piece of cake here -- Flacco is reportedly going to start for the Browns in Week 13 against the Rams if Dorian Thompson-Robinson doesn't clear concussion protocol. But, technically, Flacco's a practice squadder at the time. So, naturally, the former Super Bowl MVP makes the list. Ok, yeah, that Super Bowl MVP was won a decade ago, yet Flacco did throw five touchdowns to just three picks in relief duty for the Jets in 2022.
1. James Robinson, RB, Packers
J-Rob epitomizes why draft status is so vital for the duration of a player's NFL career. He went undrafted out of Illinois State in 2020 and rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a rookie at 4.5 yards per carry. Should be a big deal. In 2021, he upped his yards-per-carry average to 4.7 but tore his Achilles in Week 16. He got a grand total of 100 carries on two teams -- the Jaguars traded him to the Jets -- in 2022, and now sits idly by on the Packers practice squad. Green Bay's a club dealing with serious running back injury issues and Patrick Mahomes coming to town in Week 13. Elevate Robinson, Coach LaFleur.