When Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey saw Tra Carson at Texas A&M's Pro Day he must have liked what he saw. The Bengals signed the Texarkana, Texas native as an undrafted free agent following the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Carson went to the same high school as former 49ers running back LaMichael James and broke many of his school records with 2,202 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior. Carson then followed James’ lead and became a member of the Oregon Ducks. Carson was a top 25 running back recruit but spent his first season with the Ducks as a deep backup and didn't see the field.
After a season at Oregon, Carson transferred to a college closer to home, Texas A&M. He emerged as the Aggies’ starter in his junior year, and had his best year as a senior, compiling 1,165 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2015. He also got involved as a receiver in his senior season, catching 29 passes, after recording only 13 completions in his previous three seasons. His versatility could be something the Bengals like as they're always searching for dual threats. And, he could even be a triple threat as Carson attempted two passes in 2015 with the Aggies, completing one for 28 yards.
Carson had a solid season as a fifth year senior for the Aggies, but did not "wow" talent evaluators, and ultimately went undrafted. It was later revealed that he played the year on an injured toe, which was operated on after the season. He played all four of his eligible years in college, plus had a transfer year, so he is an older rookie, already 23-years-old.
Position: Running back
Age: 23 years old
Weight: 227 pounds
Combine: 4.64 40-yard dash at Texas A&M pro day, 19 reps, 37" vertical, 9’7" broad jump
Stock in 2016
Carson has the size and athletic ability to play running back in the NFL. He faces an uphill battle in 2016 to make the 53-man roster, but if he can make the practice squad, he can work to prove his worth and status for 2017, when Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead are slated to hit free agency.
It wasn’t until his fifth year in college that Carson finally put together a productive season. The argument could be made that his good season was due to being an older, stronger player going against younger college athletes. Or you could conversely argue that he finally got a chance, and put his experience and ability together to create a winning combination. If it’s the former, then his Bengals’ career might be short lived.
Odds of making the roster
With Hill, Giovani Bernard, Burkhead and Peerman all shoo-ins for the 53-man roster, Carson’s odds of making the roster stand firmly at 0 percent, unless the injury bug hits this summer. His odds of making the practice squad are probably around 50 percent, depending on how many running backs the Bengals carry on the practice squad this year and how he does in camp compared to DyShawn Mobley and Bronson Hill, the other running backs the Bengals signed as undrafted free agents this year.