Buccaneers rookie Parnell Motley has defied the odds in a short offseason.
In a shortened offseason with no OTAs and no preseason games, how is an undrafted free agent rookie supposed to make a team?
It’s not easy and the vast majority of NFL teams will likely not have undrafted players make it, in all likelihood, but that is not the case for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and rookie cornerback Parnell Motley.
Motley was the pre-draft victim of a number of different circumstances.
First and foremost, playing defense in the Big 12 is not the most glamorous job from an NFL Draft evaluation standpoint. Motley played his college football at Oklahoma, where Kenneth Murray recently proved it’s not impossible to draw a lot of attention, but Motley’s contributions were almost totally overshadowed.
Motley was a four-year player for the Sooners but a starter for three seasons, and in the last three seasons he racked up 33 pass breakups and 167 total tackles along with six interceptions and 7.5 tackles for loss.
He managed to get a workout in at the Oklahoma pro day, but he didn’t turn in great numbers at 6-feet, 180 pounds with a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, a 7.20 in the three-cone, and a 30-inch vertical jump.
Those numbers don’t exactly scream “NFL” but Motley’s production at Oklahoma was good enough to get him drafted, or at least invited to the Scouting Combine, but he wasn’t.
Motley wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine nor was he selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, providing him with overwhelming odds to make an NFL club.
Throughout Buccaneers camp, Motley was seen picking off Tom Brady multiple times, making his presence felt on the field and proving that pre-draft metrics can only be relied on for so much of the evaluation process.
Tape always takes precedent over everything, and Motley was consistently very good at Oklahoma, not only allowing a low completion percentage into his coverage but also generally forcing quarterbacks to not really throw his direction a lot.
This is only the beginning of Motley’s NFL journey, but he’s overcome a lot in a short amount of time to earn a roster spot. He’s even been hurt and sidelined at Buccaneers camp, but has performed so well in practice that he’s apparently making the initial 53-man roster.
Despite his lack of measurable athleticism, no Combine invitation, not being selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, no OTAs, and no preseason games, Motley did enough to win a job in the NFL as an undrafted rookie.
That is one of the most impressive stories of the NFL offseason.