There is no question the NFL draft is important but undrafted free agency is becoming just crucial. Who are some gems teams have uncovered?
Baltimore Ravens – James Hurst – OT – North Carolina
Ozzie Newsome always finds a way to meet his team needs regardless of when and the offensive line issues for the Baltimore Ravens got some help with the addition of James Hurst. He played left tackle at North Carolina, is a good run blocker and shows the smarts to pick up blitzes and the nastiness for the pros.
Chicago Bears – Christian Jones – LB – Florida State
The arrival of Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch got the headlines but Christian Jones might be the steal of UDFA for the Chicago Bears. Pegged as a 2nd to 4th round pick, he is a freak athlete with proven production at Florida State and initially planned to sign in Jacksonville before Chicago swooped in. Loads of starter potential.
Dallas Cowboys – L’Damian Washington – WR – Missouri
Jerry Jones loves his wide receivers and there is no question Missouri standout L’Damian Washington bears watching. He stands a rangy 6’4″ and showed off blazing speed at school and the scouting combine. His technique is still very raw but if he can be brought along Tony Romo has another quality target in the making.
Green Bay Packers – Rajion Neal – RB – Tennessee
I’m not sure why he wasn’t drafted but Rajion Neal is going to succeed in the NFL. He has the ideal body for it at 5’11″, 220 lbs with the instincts and feet to find and hit the hole. The Green Bay Packers will love his ability to pass protect and catch passes out of the backfield.
Houston Texans – Anthony Denham – TE – Utah
That “tweener” label between wide receiver and tight end probably hurt him but Anthony Denham has excellent potential. He’s 6’4″ with 33 inch arms and big hands. While not fast he can become a great target on money downs and in the red zone for the Houston Texans.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Craig Loston – SS – LSU
This team arguably had the best NFL draft and undrafted free agency as well. Among their haul was LSU safety Craig Loston. Many, including myself had him going in the 4th round. Though not premier athlete he’s big, physical and a terrific leader on the back end. The Jacksonville Jaguars can find a home for him.
Minnesota Vikings – Antonio Richardson – OT – Tennessee
Considered a third round pick going into the draft, something must have happened to cause Antonio Richardson to fall so far but the Tennessee tackle is a proven blocker with great size, strength and heavy hands to wall off pass rushers. The Minnesota Vikings might find a home for him at guard.
New Orleans Saints – Brandon Coleman – WR – Rutgers
I for one was concerned the New Orleans Saints favored speed at wide receiver in the draft considering it was a lack of size that really hurt them against Seattle in the playoffs. Then they went ahead and signed Rutgers monstrosity Brandon Coleman who stands every bit of 6’6″. Very raw but loads of potential for Sean Payton to mold.
Oakland Raiders – Shayne Skov – LB – Stanford
Nick Roach wasn’t a world beated at middle linebacker last season so the Oakland Raiders knew they wanted to bring in competition. To get Shayne Skov who commanded the Stanford defense and has playmaking ability as an undrafted free agent could be a steal for the Silver and Black.
(Update: After initial reports the Raiders signed him, Skov tweeted he is in fact joining the San Francisco 49ers)
Pittsburgh Steelers – Howard Jones – LB – Shepherd
Another small school standout many thought did enough at the scouting combine to get draft. Howard Jones has that look of a pass rushing 3-4 linebacker with really good athleticism. It’s only fitting that he ends up with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Seattle Seahawks – Jackson Jeffcoat – DE – Texas
Few teams value undrafted free agents more than the Seattle Seahawks and they may have struck again on that front when they nabbed Jackson Jeffcoat out of Texas. He doesn’t have a definitive position at defensive end or linebacker yet, but he has pass rush potential Pete Carroll can certainly put to good use.
Tennessee Titans – James Gayle – DE – Virginia Tech
Pass rushers were something the Tennessee Titans knew they needed this NFL season. James Gayle up until recently was a solid prospect with 3rd to 4th round grades. He has the explosion and motor of a pass rusher. His height-weight-speed numbers are excellent. Landing him as a free agent could prove fruitful right away.
Washington Redskins – Cody Hoffman – WR – BYU
One thing that has been missing from the Washington Redskins passing offense is size. Not many people talked about Cody Hoffman out of BYU but the 6’4″ kid has an outstanding catch radius and proved at school he can get open, make the hard catches and also finds a way to be productive even when hurt.
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