Early Winners Of Undrafted Free Agency
The NFL Draft may have been over, but the procurement of college talent is still well underway. Teams began signing players who weren’t drafted as soon as the 7th round ended and it will continue through when teams have their rookie tryouts as players who are signed now may be released and other UDFA’s will take their place. UDFA announcements are far from official at this point, but we can get an early look at what teams have done well in signing UDFA’s. Here is a look at the best UDFA class from each division.
(All UDFA signing information is from NEPatriotsDraft.com)
AFC EAST: Miami Dolphins:
-None of the AFC East teams really stand out, but the Dolphins walked away with the most interesting guys. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson was a guy who has flashed a lot of potential and if he stayed in school, probably would have been in consideration for a top 100 pick next year (some felt he had that chance this year). He not only has a real chance of making it, but in 3-4 years he could develop into a starting caliber guy. Center Tyler Larsen is undersized, but he plays with great leverage and had a strong Senior Bowl week stonewalling most of the top DL he went up against. TE Gator Hoskins and CB Deion Belue are two other interesting names to keep an eye on. Both were considered draftable guys, and while they might just be practice squad names to watch this year they could have a future in this league.
AFC NORTH: Cleveland Browns
-All of the AFC North teams signed a couple interesting guys, but the Browns probably cast the widest net and will likely get the most value out of this group. Wide receivers Chandler Jones and Willie Snead were possible draftees, and both could get a long look in Cleveland given the state of their WR corps this year. Tight end Blake Jackson showed some nice pass catching ability in college and could earn a back-up spot down the road. Safeties Jason Hendricks and Nickoe Whitley could fight for a roster spot and help on special teams. Running back Isaiah Crowell has a lot of talent, but went undrafted due to off the field concerns. If he gets his act together he could be a great pick up. Finally, while all the hype will be on QB Johnny Manziel, the Browns picked up another similar quarterback in Conner Shaw. Shaw maybe won’t ever be a starter, but he could be an interesting back-up option.
AFC SOUTH: Tennessee Titans
-The Titans didn’t land the biggest UDFA class of these teams, but they got some intriguing players. Wide receivers Jaz Reynolds, Eric Ward and Josh Stewart could be competing for a spot. Running back Antonio Andrews performed well at the Senior Bowl and could be in the mix for a back-up job. Defensive end James Gayle could be asked to stand up in the Titans 3-4 and he looked good at the Senior Bowl before going down with injury. Center Gabe Ikard and safety Hakeem Smith, both were thought of as late round options and are nice pick ups here for the Titans.
AFC WEST: Oakland Raiders
-The Raiders brought in a pair of bigger receivers in Mike Davis and D.J. Coles, both of whom could have a shot of sticking around either at the bottom of the depth chart or at least on the practice squad. Tight end Jake Murphy is another guy who could be fighting for a roster spot and he could have a future at the next level. Linebacker Carlos Fields, RB George Atkinson III and OT Danny Kistler are all guys who could have a chance to make the roster as well.
NFC EAST: New York Giants
-The Giants didn’t sign a lot of guys, but they did a really nice job adding some defensive line talent. Kerry Wynn could play base end or move inside for the Giants. New York also added DT’s Kelcy Quarles who at one time was considered a top 100 pick and most thought would be drafted and Eathyn Manumaluena, who had a good career at BYU. Tight end Xavier Grimble many thought would be drafted and has a great chance to make it given the Giants thin roster at tight end. Safety C.J. Barnett could be a good special teams player as well.
NFC NORTH: Chicago Bears
-The Bears haven’t signed a lot of guys yet, but they have brought in four guys worth watching. Quarterback Jordan Lynch was a Heisman candidate and while he’s not really a good bet to stick at QB he’s such a great athlete that the Bears could find a home for him. Linebacker Christian Jones was one of the better players on the Florida State National Championship defense and looked to be an early to mid round draftee. He did apparently fail a drug test at the Combine, but others did as well and they still found themselves drafted. Jones could end up being a steal given his talent and versatility. Linebacker DeDe Lattimore and guard Ryan Groy both were possible late round pick-ups making them good value signings here.
NFC SOUTH: New Orleans Saints
-The Saints brought in a number of guys who were considered draftable talents and really stockpiled some young talent here. They also did a nice job bringing in multiple guys at each position. Here are some of the more interesting guys they brought in. Safety- Ty Zimmerman and Pierre Warren, WR- Seantavious Jones and Brandon Coleman, RB- Tim Flanders, DL- George Uko, OLB – Kasim Edebali, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, CB- Brian Dixon, C- Matt Armstrong. Overall it’s a nice mix of bigger school guys who were overshadowed and small school guys were overlooked. It wouldn’t be surprising to see 2-4 of these guys make the 53 man roster and another couple to earn practice squad spots.
NFC WEST: San Francisco 49ers
-All of the teams in the West seemed to have the same approach with signing a smaller class, but focusing on 2-4 guys who could have a real shot of making the roster. All four classes are close, but the 49ers class gets the edge. Inside linebacker Shane Skov is very familiar with both the 49ers system and coaching staff and could have a real shot of making the roster even with the draft pick of Chris Borland. OLB Morgan Breslin had a huge Junior year with 13 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, but saw his production slid in his senior year. As an UDFA he could be a diamond in the rough and a situational pass rusher for the 49ers. Offensive linemen Dillon Farrell and Fou Fonoti are both intriguing guys who could be options for the Practice Squad.