The NFL season starts next weekend, meaning 53-man rosters are finalizing league wide. By my count — and I apologize if I miss anyone — there are 9 Colorado Buffaloes on NFL rosters heading into the 2022 season. There aren’t quite as many Buffs as there last year, since a few who were on the fringes of rosters who were unfortunately cut, plus some long-term veterans are still on market.
Nate Landman, LB, Atlanta Falcons
The only rookie Buff in the NFL, Landman fought hard to make the Falcons final roster. The hard-hitting linebacker impressed with his natural instincts in pursuit, the physicality of his play and his quick adaptability to NFL schemes. He’s behind veterans Deion Jones and Rashaan Evans on the depth chart, as well as second round pick Troy Anderson, but he’s going to see the field, often on run downs and special teams.
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Carolina Panthers
Maybe the most talented CU receiver ever, Shenault struggled in a difficult situation on the moribund Jaguars before being traded to the Panthers. Poised for a breakout this time last year, Viska was less productive than his rookie year, although that can be blamed on probably the worst coaching staff of the last decade (must read). This will be a prove-it year for Viska, as coach Matt Rhule will try to find a role for him in an offense featuring Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson.
Davion Taylor, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
Taylor was putting together a nice second season — highlighted by two forced fumbles in Denver — before a sprained knee ended his season prematurely. However, the Eagles signed Kyzir White and drafted Nakobe Dean, likely moving Taylor into a rotational role where he can still make on impact.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Chido was tremendous in his first season with the Bengals, playing an instrumental role as #1 cornerback on the surprise AFC Champs. Both the player and the team will hope to build on that 2021 season.
Josh Tupou, NT, Bengals
Also on that great Bengals defense was Tupou playing a key role as run stopping nose tackle. His role was most pronounced against the Tennessee Titans, in which Tupou clogged the running lanes and superstar Derrick Henry to just 62 yards on 20 carries. The 6th-year pro (!) will occupy the same role and hopefully to the same effect.
David Bakhtiari, LT, Green Bay Packers
The one true superstar Buff, Bakhtiari has had a difficult couple of years. After being named All-Pro for the sixth time in as many seasons, the left tackle tore his ACL at the very end of the 2020 season. He missed all but one game in 2021, dealing with injuries that last into the summer of 2022. Hopefully he’s back at his All-Pro self.
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Falcons
Oliver was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft with hopes that he would convert his incredible athleticism into a star defender. That hasn’t quite worked out — a knee injury shorted his 2021 season — but he has grown into a solid corner whose physicality really works as a nickelback. He re-signed on a one-year deal, so if he shines in a surprisingly on a poor Falcons team, he could be in line for a longer term contract.
Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Another member of the the vaunted 2016 CU defense, Witherspoon may have found his new home in Pittsburgh. In 2021, he bounced from San Francisco to Seattle, then as an emergency starter on the injury-plagued Steelers. He was an instant success, intercepting three passes across nine appearances. Re-signed to a two-year deal, Witherspoon will compete with Cameron Sutton for a starting spot.
Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay Packers
Crosby’s place on the Packers was more up in the air than you would expect, considering he’s the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. He had the worst season of his 15-year career in 2021, then started on the PUP list after having a minor procedure on his knee, and finally had to beat out Oklahoma rookie Gabe Brkic for the job. Hopefully a bounce back season is on the horizon for the CU legend.
Phillip Lindsay, RB
It’s been a tough two years for Lindsay. He left the Broncos for a chance at a bigger payday — he was going to be their third back, behind Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III — but his time with the Texans was ruined by a terrible OL. He bounced to the Dolphins and didn’t stick, then signed with the Colts this offseason but didn’t make the final roster. It’s unclear where the former Pro Bowler will go, but he will surely find another NFL roster at some point this season.
Juwann Winfree, WR
Winfree was a surprise cut after reports suggest he had built decent chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. If he isn’t claimed on waivers, the Packers will likely keep him on the practice squad.
Kabion Ento, CB
The former receiver has spent the last three years developing as a cornerback on the Packers practice squad. Like Winfree, the team is hoping to bring him back if he clears waivers.
Ken Crawley, CB
Crawley has bounced around a bit since his breakout 2017 season with the Saints. He hoped to land a roster spot in San Francisco, but now he’s looking for his seventh team in four years. Such is life on the NFL fringes.
Arlington Hambright, G/T
Drafted by the Chicago Bears, Hambright appeared in nine games on a disastrous offensive line. He wasn’t exactly to blame, as the Bears were incompetently coached, particularly on the OL. Hambright signed with the Patriots this offseason, but was a final roster cut.
Will Sherman, LG
Sherman was a 6th round pick by the Patriots and spent his rookie 2021 season on the practice squad. He was hoping to make their final roster but like Hambright was unable to make the final roster.
Israel Antwine, DT
Antwine probably doesn’t qualify as a Buff in the NFL considering he transferred after his freshman year, but these things have to change with the new transfer rules. (Christian Gonzalez will be our superstar Buff even if he says “University of Oregon” on Sunday Night Football.) Antwine had a great career at Oklahoma State but will likely spend his rookie year on someone’s practice squad after being cut by the Jaguars.
Jimmy Smith, CB
After 11 seasons with the Ravens, Smith might be on the verge of retirement if he doesn’t find the right offer for his talents. If this is the end for Smith, it was a tremendous career that included a Super Bowl victory, in which Smith defended Michael Crabtree on the last minute fourth down pass.
Nate Solder, LT
Solder, now 34 years old, played out his big money contract with the New York Giants and is still waiting on offers for this season. There will be opportunities if the 10-year* pro wants to keep playing, since contenders will always need OL depth.
*If you’re wondering why Solder played 10 years and Smith played 11 despite being in the same draft class, it’s because Solder sat out the 2020 Covid season when his five-year-old son Hudson was battling cancer. Hudson is now fully healthy.
Tedric Thompson, S
The dynamic safety of the the 2016 Buffs, Thompson got his NFL chance with the Seattle Seahawks. He made some great plays, but was a bit erratic, ultimately losing the job to current star Quandre Diggs. Thompson bounced around a few teams and is still looking for a contract.
Daniel Munyer, G/C
Munyer was far from spectacular at CU but nonetheless he has put together a very solid 7-year NFL career. He was cut by the Titans on August 12, so there’s a good chance the 30-year-old will find his way onto a roster at some point this season.