2012 NFL Undrafted Free Agents: 10 Potential Diamonds in the Rough
The NFL draft is over, but that doesn't mean that the draft is really over. Now comes the signing of the undrafted free agents.
Usually these guys don't make the final 53-man rosters, but every now and then, you hit big. Tony Romo, Jeff Saturday, Arian Foster, Antonio Gates and James Harrison were all undrafted free agents, so ignoring guys who go undrafted is not a smart move.
Now that all the dust has settled, what players could become superstars despite being passed over? Here are my top 10.
1. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
I am shocked that no one drafted this kid. He was a great running back for Washington this season, and he was the biggest part of its offense. He rushed for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior season, and he caught 31 passes for an additional 332 yards and four touchdowns.
Polk is also the furthest thing from a one-year wonder; he ran for over 1,000 yards each of the last three years as a starter and has a career 4,049 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns.
With his size (220 lbs), Polk can immediately turn into a third-down running back to get quick first downs in short-yardage situations. If he excels at that, he could be part of a very powerful two-headed rushing attack.
He'll be playing with the Philadelphia Eagles next season.
2. Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee
Tauren Poole didn't have the best season this year since he was fighting a nagging hamstring injury all season. However, if you look at his production during his junior season, you see an NFL-caliber running back.
In 2010, Poole rushed for over 1,000 yards with games against South Carolina, LSU, Alabama, Florida, and Oregon. Tennessee had one of the toughest schedules in the country that year, but he still produced.
Last season, Poole only rushed for only 693 yards and five touchdowns. However, he did have the occasional good game.
Against Cincinnati (the team that Derek Wolfe and J.K. Schaffer came from), Poole rushed for 101 yards and had 30 more yards receiving.
Had he not been injured for nearly the whole season, he probably would've had more games like that. As it is, he's still a player worth looking at after he ran a 4.53-second 40 and had 24 reps on the bench at the combine.
3. Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State
I had Michael Brewster as the third-best center in the class, behind only Peter Konz and Philip Blake, so the fact that he went undrafted is ridiculous. In signing him, the Jacksonville Jaguars essentially gave themselves another fifth-round pick.
Brewster was at one point considered a first-round prospect at the center position, but a weak year sent him sliding down draft boards. However, he was still supposed to be taken in the fifth round or so; going undrafted was a shock.
He'll be a backup for the Jags for a while, but he could end up a replacement for Brad Meester down the line.
4. Desmond Wynn, OG, Rutgers
Another solid interior lineman who went undrafted was Rutgers' Desmond Wynn.
The 6'6", 303-pound guard had a solid season for the Scarlet Knights, which he capped off with an impressive performance at the combine.
He had the fourth-fastest 40-time among offensive linemen (5.05 seconds), the second-highest vertical jump (32.5") and 28 reps on the bench.
Wynn signed with the Buccaneers under his old coach, Greg Schiano.
5. Deangelo Peterson, TE, LSU
Deangelo Peterson caught only 18 balls for 179 yards and a touchdown this season, but he's fast and athletic, so he should've been drafted.
Furthermore, he had to deal with the poor quarterback play at LSU, so there's that.
Peterson was considered a fifth-round prospect, but like the other players on this list, he went undrafted. He has some issues with dropped passes, but he has a ton of upside, so he's worth signing.
The Rams reportedly may pick him up.
6. Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State
Brock Osweiler's favorite target pulled in 77 receptions for 1,397 yards and seven touchdowns this season. That's impressive by any measure.
Add to that the fact that he's 6'3", weighs 233 lbs and has hands wider than 10", and you have an intriguing receiver prospect.
Robinson was, however, a one-year wonder. The year before he declared, he gained just 387 yards but had five touchdowns.
If nothing else, his height makes him a good red-zone target. He was reunited with his quarterback with the Broncos.
7. Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
Just a couple of months ago, Chase Minnifield, son of four-time Pro Bowler Frank Minnifield, was considered a borderline first-rounder. Then some injuries and a very poor combine performance brought him down.
However, no one expected him to go undrafted. His NFL bloodlines and solid college production should have made him an easy late-round pickup.
In his senior season, Minnifield had three interceptions, eight passes broken up and seven tackles for loss.
He's already signed a deal with the Redskins.
8. Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State
The other talented corner to fall past the draft was Leonard Johnson. He had some pretty good production in college, with eight broken-up passes, a couple of tackles for a loss and an interception.
Mostly, he was a solid tackler. He had 58 solo tackles and was always good in big games. He, like Minnifield, had a weak combine performance and subsequently fell on draft day.
He will be playing for the Buccaneers next season and will give them some decent depth at the corner position, though he isn't exactly the upgrade they were looking for.
9. Nick Jean-Baptiste, NT, Baylor
A player who really stood out at the East-West Shrine Game was Nick Jean-Baptiste, the bowling ball-like defensive tackle.
Every offensive lineman he went up against had difficulty containing him, and he looked like a good option for teams looking for nose tackles later in the draft.
As bad as Baylor's defense was this year, Jean-Baptiste was pretty good. He had 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and 36 total tackles.
He signed with the Ravens, where he'll probably back up Terrence Cody.
10. Brandon Lindsey, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh
Brandon Lindsey was very good at getting to the quarterback in college. He had 8.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries.
He also had 11 tackles for a loss, a couple of forced fumbles and 55 total tackles.
Despite that production, he just didn't meet the eyeball test for a starting rush linebacker in the NFL, so he went undrafted. Having a mediocre combine performance didn't help either.
Of course, he was one of the first undrafted free agents signed by the Steelers, so he gets to stay at home and play in a perfect scheme fit. Not a bad result for a kid who went undrafted.