With just days until the 2022-23 NFL season kicks off, it’s time to once again keep up with the Penn alumni in the pros and see how they're doing.
Greg Van Roten — Guard, Buffalo Bills
The Bills are undoubtedly one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, but their most dangerous weapon is quarterback Josh Allen who has taken the team to several deep playoff runs in his young career. He’s a dual-threat QB with the ability to throw long, accurate passes but can scramble for an easy 20 yards with no issues.
Van Roten will potentially be protecting Allen for the first time this year. Van Roten is entering his eighth season in the league, the Bills being his sixth team across that span. After leaving the New York Jets following last season, he signed a one-year deal with the Bills and will likely back up starting left guard Rodger Saffold. Throughout his career, he’s dealt with a multitude of injuries, but seems healthy entering this year and will be ready if there are any injuries to the starters.
During the preseason, the journeyman played in two of the Bills' three games, starting the first one and coming off the bench in the second.
Justin Watson — Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
Although they never crossed paths at Penn, Watson and Van Roten will play for rivaling squads this season, as Watson, a fifth-round pick in 2018, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. After remaining injured last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — with whom Watson won a Super Bowl — decided to move on from him, and now Watson will go from catching passes thrown by Tom Brady to Patrick Mahomes.
Watson is a tall but quick receiver who will add a deep ball element that the Chiefs are missing since the departure of Tyreek Hill. Watson is a second-string receiver, but it will be interesting to see if he can crack the regular rotation to give Mahomes a weapon downfield. Recently, the 26-year-old was mentioned on The Bill Simmons Podcast as a potential threat in the Kansas City wide receiving corps.
In his first preseason contest as a Chief, Watson impressed, leading the team in yards and receptions while also catching a 22-yard touchdown at the end of the second quarter.
Kevin Stefanski — Head Coach, Cleveland Browns
The Browns have had a very tumultuous offseason. They moved on from former number one pick Baker Mayfield in favor of Deshaun Watson, who has been the center of controversy for the last year now. Watson will be out the first 11 games of the season due to suspension, so it will be up to QB Jacoby Brissett and third-year head coach Stefanski to hold down the fort. On top of that, they are playing in the extremely competitive AFC North division that features Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.
Luckily for Stefanski, he has a sturdy defensive unit to rely on along with stud running back Nick Chubb. The work is cut out for Stefanski and the Browns, but if they can soldier through the first 11 games of the season, they may be able to sneak into the playoffs.
Prince Emili — Defensive Lineman, Unclaimed
Fresh out of Penn football after six years with the program, Emili looked to have a shot at reaching the final 53-man roster of the Buffalo Bills this offseason, but came up just short on the last round of cuts. Emili was not signed to the Bills' practice squad or another roster, so he'll likely have to play the waiting game through this season and potentially until next to reach another training camp or roster.
Brandon Copeland — Linebacker, Netflix
Although Copeland likely won't be on a roster come the start of the NFL season, he'll still be on TV screens this fall. The linebacker, who played for five seasons in the NFL on four different teams, recently appeared on the new "Shark Tank"-like reality series, "Buy My House," which debuted on Sept. 2 on Netflix.
The show consists of Copeland and three other investors sitting in plush chairs and vying for a seller's piece of real estate. For the 31-year-old, the project serves as a natural progression from his NFL career in which he split his time between playing, practicing, and teaching a financial literacy course at Penn.