Posted on: August 30, 2011 9:01 am
Edited on: August 30, 2011 2:06 pm
Those of us who root for the underdog seem to latch on to an undrafted free agent or two each summer in the hopes that our favorite NFL team has unearthed the next Tony Romo, Arian Foster or John Randle.
With limited opportunity to make a strong impression on coaches this year due to prolonged holdout and lack of mini camps, it has been a steeper climb than ever for undrafted rookies, and yet there are several throughout the league who appear well on their way to making active rosters.
These ten undrafted free agents have stood out for Brad Noel (a regular contributor to this blog, NFLDraftScout.com) and myself during film review of the first three weeks of the preseason.
If you feel there are other UDFAs we've missed, please don't hesitate to identify and provide your own scouting report in the comment section below. Brad and I are watching as much tape as possible, but we haven't seen every game. At least not yet...
Players are listed alphabetically.
1. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks (Stanford): Had impressed brass with his reliable hands, route-running out of the slot and that was before he returned a kickoff 105 yards for a TD against Denver.
2. Nick Bellore, ILB, Jets (Central Michigan): Instinctive and a terrific open field tackler, Bellore made several standout plays Monday against the Giants.
3. Ryan Donahue, P, Lions (Iowa): Seems to have a legitimate chance of unseating veteran Nick Harris for the starting punting (and holder) positions for the Lions.
4. Kevin Kowalski, C, Cowboys (Toledo): I'm told Kowalski's solid play was one of the factors that led to the team's surprising release of former Pro Bowler Andre Gurode.
5. Josh Portis, QB, Seahawks (California of PA): Has easily won the Seahawks No. 3 position and some argue he holds more upside than current No. 2 quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.
6. Weslye Saunders, TE, Steelers (South Carolina): Big bodied blocker with the hands to be a threat in short yardage situations.
7. Ricardo Silva, S, Lions (Hampton): Appeared to be a loooong-shot heading into the preseason, but has proven to be a playmaker (two interceptions, fumble recovery) and is practicing ahead of veterans Aaron Francisco and Michael Johnson, among others.
8. Willie Smith, OT, Redskins (East Carolina): The same athleticism that Brad and I found so intriguing before continues to be obvious. While there are concerns about Smith's technique and ability to handle the playbook, he played well as a second string left tackle against a physical Baltimore front last week. In fact, according to Brad, Smith outplayed veteran Sean Locklear (78 career starts for Seattle) who served as the team's second string right tackle in the same contest.
9. Cedric Thornton, DT, Eagles (Southern Arkansas): Andy Reid's willingness to shuffle the deck at defensive tackle makes listing Thornton a gamble, but he's shown good athleticism at 6-3, 310 pounds.
10. Will Yeatman, TE, Patriots (Maryland): Won't push Gronkowski or Hernandez for fantasy consideration, but is a big body (6-6, 270) who has stood out as a blocker.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Andre Gurode, Brad Noel, California of PA, Cedric Thornton, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit, Doug Baldwin, East Carolina, Hampton, Iowa, Josh Portis, Kevin Kowalski, Lions, Maryland, New England Patriots, NFLDraftScout.com, Philadelphia Eagles, Redskins, Ricardo Silva, Ryan Donahue, Seahawks, Southern Arkansas, Stanford, Toledo, UDFA, undrafted free agents, Will Yeatman, Willie Smith
Posted on: May 17, 2011 12:41 pm
Following the draft, my fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter released NFLDraftScout.com's list of the top undrafted prospects still available. In the article, Chad highlights his five favorite free agents, as well as a breakdown of the five best players per position likely to be signed by NFL teams once the lockout ends.
I focused instead on highlighting the schematic fits that teams may have found in Rounds one through seven. Now, with the Finding the Fits series finished, here are my favorite prospects that weren't drafted.
Players are listed alphabetically.
Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina: I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for cornerbacks with ball skills who have starred at the major collegiate level and then plummeted on draft day when they raw slower than expected. Burney is a classic example of this phenomenon. The 44 game starter has 10 career interceptions, including two he returned for TDs. He ran slowly at the Combine (4.71) and his Pro Day (4.73), but his instincts, quick feet and reliable tackling are legitimately NFL caliber. In a zone scheme, Burney can be effective as a nickel or dime cornerback.
Graig Cooper, RB, Miami: Playing through his recovery for a torn ACL, Cooper was a shadow of his former self last season. Cooper, who had led Miami in rushing the three previous seasons, dropped to only 165 yards and one touchdown in 2010. The elusiveness and burst that he had demonstrated previously was coming back, however, as evidenced by Cooper's strong performance at the East-West Shrine Game and the fact that he ran the fastest 3-cone time of all running backs tested at the Combine (6.66 seconds). Poor medical grades pushed Cooper out of the draft, but don't be surprised if a team willing to take a gamble is paid back handsomely for their investment.
Willie Smith, OT, East Carolina: Smith has legitimate NFL size and athleticism. He is, however, very raw in his technique and prone to mental mistakes. An all-conference left tackle, Smith has the quick feet and long arms to potentially remain as a blindside pass protector in the NFL but doesn't currently possess the upper or lower body strength to play anywhere else on the offensive line. That fact pushed him down the board despite his obvious tools. Smith could surprise if given a year on to develop.
Adam Weber, QB, Minnesota: Weber wasn't surrounded by a great deal of talent while at Minnesota, but he left as one of the most productive passers in Big Ten history. One of the reasons why he wasn't invited to the Combine and slipped out of the draft, itself, was the fact that he came in so much smaller than expected. Listed at 6-3, 221 pounds, Weber instead measured in at 6-1 (and 1/8) and 209 pounds. He has enough arm strength to be effective in a traditional West Coast Offense and has a good feel in the pocket. His gutty play reminds me of former undrafted free agent Jon Kitna, who has carved out for himself a 15-year (and counting) NFL career.
Ian Williams, DT, Notre Dame: Williams may be last on my list alphabetically, but he certainly ranks among my top undrafted targets. Strong and stout at the point of attack, the 6-1, 319 pounder can play the nose in the 3-4 as well as in the 4-3 alignment. Like Cooper, Williams is coming off a knee injury (torn MCL) that limited his senior season. Even when healthy, Williams isn't going to dazzle anyone with flashy plays as he has only moderate overall athleticism. His ability to hold up at the point of attack, however, should make him one of the more eagerly sought-after free agents this year.
Posted on: April 15, 2011 1:22 pm
For most fans of the NFL draft, it is simply human nature to focus on the best players. These, of course, are the headliners that typically are drafted highest and thus, are expected to make the most immediate and lasting impact in the NFL.
Scouts, however, are very well aware of the fact that the big names will only constitute the first 32 or 64 picks of the 254 players selected this year.
As such, they're dedicating much of their attention to the lower rated prospects... and what they've been discovering is the unusual depth at offensive tackle and running back in this year's class.
By now, everyone knows the elite offensive tackles. Anthony Castonzo, Tyron Smith, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod and Nate Solder are all expected to be first round picks . The depth behind the "fabulous five" is worth mentioning too.
Teams are quite high on the toughness and consistency of Alabama's James Carpenter and Miami's Orlando Franklin. With a little fine-tuning, TCU's Marcus Cannon, Indiana's James Brewer and Florida's Marcus Gilbert could surprise. Though level of competition questions abound, no one dominated their opponents as consistently as Villanova's Ben Ijalana throughout his respective career. There are a lot of teams very high on the long-term upside of lower level FBS prospects Derek Newton (Arkansas State), Jah Reid (Central Florida), Willie Smith (East Carolina), Byron Stingily (Louisville) and Byron Bell (New Mexico).
Running backs offer similar depth.
I highlighted three of the "sleeper" running backs that I really like in this video with CBS' Lauren Shehadi. Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones and Hawaii's Alex Green are only a few of the backs not getting a lot of media attention that I feel will ultimately surprise. I'm also particularly high on Clemson's Jamie Harper, Louisville's Bilal Powell and Miami's Graig Cooper, though NFLDraftScout.com currently rates all three as Day three picks or, in the case of Cooper, even a potentially undrafted player.
Last year we saw two undrafted free agents lead all rookie running backs in rushing yards. Tampa found their star in former Oregon Duck LaGarrette Blount and New Orleans found a true diamond in the rough in former Tiffin Dragon (and Washington State Cougar) Chris Ivory. The three running backs drafted in the first round -- CJ Spiller (Buffalo), Ryan Matthews (San Diego) and Jahvid Best (Detroit) were all relative disappointments as rookies.
Considering the underrated talent of this year's RB class, don't be surprised if a Day Three find winds up competing for the league's rookie rushing title again in 2011...
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Alex Green, Ben Ijalana, Bilal Powell, Buccaneers, Bucs, Byron Bell, Byron Stingily, Chris Ivory, CJ Spiller, Derek Newton, Graig Cooper, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jah Reid, Jahvid Best, James Brewer, James Carpenter, Jamie Harper, LaGarrette Blount, Marcus Cannon, Marcus Gilbert, NFLDraftScout.com, Orlando Franklin, OT, RB, Ryan Mathews, Saints, Taiwan Jones, Willie Smith
Posted on: December 29, 2010 1:15 pm
My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter does a nice job of breaking down the prospects in today's bowl games in this article , but I wanted to take a few moments to highlight a few others in today's trio of bowl games.
The most exciting prospects on the field for East Carolina and Maryland in today's Military Bowl happen to play the same position in receivers Dwayne Harris (ECU) and Torrey Smith (Maryland).
Kenny Tate , a junior free safety who has made some splashy plays this season and could be peeking ahead to the NFL, will have Harris in his sights.
For those looking for a sleeper in this contest, keep an eye on East Carolina left tackle Willie Smith . His athleticism is intriguing.
By listing Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor in my current first round mock draft , you probably get the idea of how high I believe Taylor is viewed by pro scouts. The 6-4, 340 pound defensive tackle projects nicely in the 4-3 and 3-4 scheme which could see him drafted higher than infinitely more famous DTs Stephen Paea and Drake Nevis.
In the Texas Bowl, however, I'll be focusing on a trio of Illinois underclassmen, all of whom are very much exploring their draft options.
Inside linebacker Martez Wilson jumps off the tape. He's the most exciting combination of size (6-4, 250) and athleticism of any draft-eligible inside linebacker I've scouted this year. He remains a work in progress in terms of instincts, but is one of the few senior/junior ILBs I see as a potential standout in the NFL.
Wilson is certainly helped by up front by one of the faster rising DT prospects in the country in Corey Liuget . The 6-3, 300 pounder is starting to blossom and earned Second Team All-Big Ten accolades this year with 54 tackles, 8.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks.
Running back Mikel LeShoure is one of a host of backs fighting to be ranked second behind Alabama's Mark Ingram as possible 2011 franchise runners. His thick frame and surprising burst could help him achieve that status.
Finally, in the Arizona-Oklahoma State showdown of the Alamo Bowl, I'll can't wait to see these two high-powered offenses go at it. There are a host of prospects to watch (including some guy named Blackmon), most of whom Chad highlighted in his preview (again, the link is here ) but one he mentions just in passing is Wildcat receiver Juron Criner , a 6-4 210 pound vertical threat that star quarterback Nick Foles targets often. I'm not as high on Criner (or Foles, for that matter) that some others seem to be, but each is considering making the jump to the NFL and therefore I'll be watching them closely tonight -- as should you.
Posted on: September 8, 2010 1:06 pm
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