UNDRAFTED ROOKIE WINNERS

Every year just about every team in the NFL has a Rookie Free Agent or two who makes their 53-man roster. And in addition, about half the Practice Squad roster for most teams is also comprised of Undrafted Rookie Free Agents (URFA). So, especially in the long run, URFA have an even better chance to make an NFL roster after a few seasons of working out with NFL teams. Just to give you an example, the Champion Patriots currently show 39 men on their 90 man roster as being URFA. That group includes noted NFL players MALCOLM BUTLER/CB & CHRIS HOGAN/WR to name two.
So what I am telling you is that the 4th day of the Draft is a key part of rooster building for most NFL teams. Lest we overlook the Day 4 component, I would like to present the 4 teams that I believe added the best overall groups of URFA signed to their rosters.

CHIEFS Ron Wolf/Ted Thompson protege’ JOHN DORSEY works closely with his scouting crew once the regular Draft ends to sign guys to potentially bolster the bottom of his team’s roster. Among their 14 signees this year were 2 guys in my Top 300 rankings. Way up at #175 was S/JORDAN STERNS. If he can make his mark on Special Teams I believe he may have a real shot to make their roster and eventually break into some secondary sub-packages for them. DAMIEN MAMA/OG/C was my #209 ranked prospect. He ran a sun-dial slow 40-time at the Combine, but that may not matter much on the interior OL. At 6’3/330, he may be a road-grader for a team that likes to run the ball, and the clock more than by passing. It may also work heavily to his advantage that he can back-up all 3 interior slots. GEHRIG DIETER/WR was a Special Teams ace and a solid possession receiver as a grad transfer at Alabama, and may have a shot at the bottom of the team’s WR corps doing the same double duty work as a pro. Another Oklahoma State DB, ASHTON LAMPKIN/CB, may also have a chance to stick around as a back-up DB, perhaps on the Practice Squad for this coming season. JAMARI STAPLES/WR was a part of the loaded receiving corps at Louisville. He faces an uphill battle on a pretty deep WR group, but his long striding frame (6’3/195) makes him a solid deep threat.

JAGUARS There can be little debate that new VP of Operations TOM COUGHLIN, has imbedded himself into the roster building process for the JAGS. The team may have hit a HR with their RFA signings, landing 4 players in my Top 253, meaning guys who I felt were draftable. The top prospect signing for me was CARROLL PHILLIPS/ER/LB/Illinois, who I felt played better on a consistent basis than his teammate SMOOT, who the Jags drafted. PHILLIPS showed well at the Senior Bowl where he spent most of his practice time as an OLB. PHILLIPS had 9 sacks as a senior compared to 5 for SMOOT. Also high on my undrafted list was my 195th ranked player AMBA ETTA-TAWO, who caught 94 balls for 14 TD as a senior transfer at Syracuse. That is way too productive to ignore just because he’s not a speedster. AVERY GENNESY/TEXAS A&M was a very highly ranked OT prospect until he was measured at the Shrine venue and came up short, literally. He measured in at under 6’4, with only 33 5/8″ arms. Neither number cries out of OT length at the pro level. He also was out-quicked by multiple DE during practices. But he ought to be able to give it a good run as an OG candidate in Training Camp. EZRA ROBINSON/CB was my 227th ranked player whom they also inked to a deal. Those 4 lead the way, but also watch for JEREMY CUTRER/CB & I’TAVIUS MATHERS/RB to make runs at roster spots.

GIANTS COUGHLIN’s old team in NYC had it’s usual nice haul under GM JERRY REESE and his scouting department. The team has shown nice patience with their URFA players over the years. Their Practice Squad is used as a regular feeder system for their base roster. Their current roster includes 5 players from my 2017 Top 265 players. Topping the list is S/JADAR JOHNSON(202) from Clemson. His Special Teams work may give him a solid chance to actually make their 53-man roster. A higher ranked player for me (176) was OL prospect JESSAMEN DUNKER from Tennessee State. If they can hold on to him for their practice Squad he might have enough natural talent to make their active roster in a year or two. My highest ranked player that they signed is TRAVIS RUDOLPH/WR(161) whose lack of speed concerns NFL talent scouts. But he led his FSU team in catches in multiple seasons. A crowded WR group makes him a serious Practice Squad candidate. CALVIN MUNSON/LB ranked 257th for me and was a very active and productive college player. It’s hard to ignore his 116 tackles last season in college. Another interesting prospect/project may be JARRON JONES/DT(264), who many think is a good long-term candidate to be converted to an OT. I expect the GIANTS to use the new 1-cut roster process to stack their Practice Squad from their Rookie Free Agent class at the end of the pre-season.

PATRIOTS. The world champs have long used URFA to bolster their Training Camp rosters and find a handful of talented guys to nurture into roster players. They were able to sign one of the most sought after URFA in HARVEY LANGI/LB/BYU. LANGI was my #214 ranked prospect, and his agent’s phone reportedly rang off the hook after the Draft ended. He should make a solid multipurpose defender for the PATS. AUSTIN CARR/WR(244) is likely to end up on their Practice Squad with the team having a plethora of WR on their current roster. But more than a few of their current receivers are on the wrong side of 30, Amendola/Edelman/Slater, which means youth will be served in the near future in New England. A couple of DL candidates could emerge as clear pro talents in Training Camp. JOSH AUGUSTA(6’4/347) and ADAM BUTLER look likely to make waves this summer. TE/JACOB HOLLISTER from Wyoming could also create a buzz as the team looks to find a couple of younger TE to develop for depth purposes. I could see well in excess of 50% of the PATS 2017 Practice Squad coming from this URFA group.

As is often the case expect a high quantity of URFA to make rosters and emerge as contributors as he season progresses. Day 4 players, and creative use of Practice Squads to develop many of them, are now a vital part of NFL player development.

Pigskin