SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Of the more than 2,000 players currently on NFL rosters in early August, a number that will be whittled down at the end of this month as rosters go from 90 to 53, 12 of them come out of South Dakota universities.
The players are, in alphabetical order: Jack Cochrane, Dennis Gardeck, Don Gardner, Dallas Goedert, C.J. Ham, Cade Johnson, Tucker Kraft, Chris Oladokun, Trey Pipkins, Christian Rozeboom, Chris Steveler and Pierre Strong, Jr.
Please note: This story only includes players currently on NFL rosters who played in South Dakota at the collegiate level. Athletes who played at the high school level in South Dakota before leaving the state for college are not listed.
Jack Cochrane #43 – LB, Kansas City Chiefs
Cochrane played at USD and entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent (UDFA) signed by the Chiefs in 2022. He was released by the team on Aug. 30, 2022, and resigned to the Chiefs practice squad the next day.
In the 2022 season, Cochrane recorded 4 solo tackles in games.
Cochrane most recently was in the public eye thanks to a scuffle with star tight end Travis Kelce, who took a swing at Cochrane during training camp.
Tucker Kraft #85 – TE, Green Bay Packers
Kraft played for SDSU and was drafted by the Packers with the 15th pick in the 3rd round of the 2023 NFL draft.
This made him the 7th tight end drafted, behind Utah’s Dalton Kincaid (1.26 by Buffalo), Iowa’s Sam LaPorta (2.3 by Detroit), Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer (2.4 by Las Vegas), Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave (2.11 by Green Bay), Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker (2.27 by Dallas) and Penn State’s Brenton Strange (2.30 by Jacksonville).
Kraft could see action throughout the 2023 season as he and Musgrave were drafted following the departure of veteran tight end Robert Tonyan (now with the Chicago Bears) and will enter one of the youngest receiver corps in the league.
Dennis Gardeck #45 – OLB, Arizona Cardinals
Gardeck played his final season of college ball for the University of Sioux Falls after transferring from West Virginia State.
Signed as a UDFA by the Cardinals in 2018, Gardeck has played a total of 72 games for the Cardinals, starting six. He’s logged 64 tackles, 24 assists, 8 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception.
Gardeck is a three-time Cardinals team captain and two-time Pro Bowl alternate who has brought down NFL names including Rashaad Penny, Tyreek Hill and Tyler Lockett.
Don Gardner #36 – CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Out of SDSU, Gardner was picked up as a UDFA by the Buccaneers following the 2022 NFL Draft.
Gardner has seen little action in the league so far, playing in one game in 2022, a week 8 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Dallas Goedert #88 – TE, Philadelphia Eagles
The biggest name of the bunch, Goedert is the starting tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles drafted Goedert in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the 49th overall pick.
Goedert showed plenty of potential over the early years of his career, but fully stepped into the role of TE1 for the team with the departure of current Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz.
Over the past five years, Goedert has made an impression, getting playing time from the jump and being a part of an Eagles team that lost in Super Bowl LVII to the Kansas City Chiefs.
He’s played in a total of 69 games, starting 52 of them, and has 248 receptions for 2,997 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Goedert is currently one of the top tight end options in the league, and according to his Eagles bio, he’s a skilled unicyclist.
C.J. Ham #30 – FB, Minnesota Vikings
Ham entered the league in 2016, going from an Augustana Viking to a Minnesota Viking by way of the Vikings rookie training camp. He was signed out of camp, but released during the final round of roster cuts and signed to the practice squad.
Ham was elevated to the active roster for the 2016 Christmas Eve game against the Packers, but did not play.
In 2017, Ham was the only fullback on the roster in Minnesota, and played in all 16 regular season games, scoring his first NFL touchdown on his first career rushing attempt, a one-yard score against the Pittsburg Steelers.
Ham is a one-time Pro-Bowler and a two-time team captain. He’s played in a total of 96 games for the Vikings over the past six years, starting 33 of them and logging 36 rushing attempts for 97 yards, 70 receptions for 610 yards and a total of five touchdowns, three on the ground and two through the air. He’s only fumbled once.
Cade Johnson #88 – WR, Seattle Seahawks
Johnson, another SDSU alum, was picked up as a UDFA by the Seahawks in 2021. At SDSU, he was a 2019 FCS All-American with 72 receptions for 1,222 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Though he saw no action during the 2021 season, Johnson did suit up for three games in the 2022 regular season: week 8 against the Giants, week 17 against the Jets, and week 18 against the Rams.
It was in that last regular season game that he made his presence felt, catching a pair of passes for 21 yards in the win that sent the Seahawks into the playoffs.
The team would go on to lose their playoff matchup to the San Francisco 49ers 23-41, but in the action, Johnson caught three passes for 39 yards from his quarterback, Geno Smith.
In this game, Johnson was second in terms of production out of the receiving corps, with his three receptions on three targets for 39 yards tying Tyler Lockett, who had six receptions on eight targets. DK Metcalf lead the team in receiving that game with 10 receptions on 13 targets for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
With the addition of 2023 first-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Johnson will likely be in the mix for Seattle’s WR4 position and a roster spot with fellow receivers John Hall, Tyjon Lindsey, Cody Thompson, Matt Landers, Easop Winston, Jr., Dareke Young, Jake Bobo and Dee Eskridge.
Chris Oladokun #6 – QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Oladokun was drafted out of SDSU in the 2022 NFL draft by the Pittsburg Steelers in the 7th round with the 241st overall pick.
He was released by the Steelers on August 30, 2022, and was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad the next day.
Oladokun spent the entirey of the 2022 season on the practice squad. As of early August 2023, he sits in a Kansas City quarterback room made up of starter Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert and Shane Buechele.
Trey Pipkins III #79 – T, Los Angeles Chargers
Pipkins, who played for the University of Sioux Falls, was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL draft by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 91st overall pick.
Since then, Pipkins has played 52 games for the Chargers over the past four years, starting 24 of them. He is under contract with the team until 2026.
Christian Rozeboom #56 – LB, Los Angeles Rams
Rozeboom, a linebacker from SDSU, was signed by the Rams as a UDFA in 2020. He missed the final roster, being cut in Sept. 2020 and resigned to the team’s practice squad. He was signed to a reserve/futures contract by the Rams in January 2021 but was waived at the end of the 2021 training camp in August.
From there, Rozeboom was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad in Sept. 2021.
He was elevated to the active roster later in the season before being placed back on the practice squad.
In November of 2021, he was picked up once again by the Rams from the Chiefs practice squad, going on to finish the season with the Super Bowl-winning team.
Rozeboom was resigned by the Rams in April 2023. Over his career he’s played in 27 games, making six tackles and five assists.
Chris Streveler #15 – QB, New York Jets
Streveler, a quarterback from the University of South Dakota, went undrafted in the 2018 NFL draft and went on to sign with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Streveler got his start in the CFL following an injury to then-starter Matt Nichols, starting the first three games of the 2018 season. The injury also provided an avenue for him to start in 2019, where the Bombers went on to win the Grey Cup.
Across his two seasons with the Bombers, Streveler logged 242 completions on 374 passing attempts for 2,698 yards with 19 interceptions and 19 touchdowns. He also caught one pass for 10 yards and logged 204 carries for 1,167 rushing yards and 22 rushing touchdowns, contributing to his reputation as ‘Streveler the Leveler.’
Streveler was signed by the Cardinals next, playing in seven games across the 2020 and 2021 seasons in relief of starter Kyler Murray. In that time he completed 17 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 21 yards on 7 carries.
Streveler was waived by the Cardinals in November of 2021 and bounced around the league for a few months, landing on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad and being picked up by the Miami Dolphins in February of 2022 before being waived in May of 2022.
Signed by the New York Jets in July 2022, Streveler was again waived in August and resigned to the Jets practice squad.
He stepped in for an injured Zach Wilson in week 16 of the 2022 season, completing 10 out of 15 passes for 90 yards in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
On January 9, 2023, he was signed to a reserve/futures contract with the Jets.
Pierre Strong, Jr. #35 – RB, New England Patriots
Strong was drafted out of SDSU in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft by the Patriots with the 127th overall pick.
Active throughout the 2022 season on special teams, Strong got his first chance to perform as a running back in the 4th quarter of a game against the Cleveland Browns in October 2022.
Playing in 15 games throughout the season (though he started in none), Strong logged 100 yards on 10 attempts for one touchdown, as well as seven receptions for 42 yards.
Of all the players listed in this story, Strong may have the clearest path to playing time in 2023.
Going into the 2023 season, Stevenson is the clear-cut starter, and barring the acquisition of a free agent running back (such as veterans Dalvin Cook or Ezekiel Elliot, among others), the role of RB2 on the team is wide open.
Boosting Strong’s chances is the small size of the Patriot’s running back room as of August 3, 2023.
Besides Stevenson and Strong, the team has only rostered two other running backs; 25-year-old J.J. Taylor, who has been on the team since being signed as a rookie free agent in 2020, and 22-year-old Kevin Harris, who the Pats drafted in the 6th round of the 2022 NFL draft.