2012 NFL Undrafted Free Agents: Darron Thomas, Talented Prospects Up for Grabs

Josh Cembellin@@JoshCembellinCorrespondent IMay 10, 2012

2012 NFL Undrafted Free Agents: Darron Thomas, Talented Prospects Up for Grabs

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    Even though NFL teams were quick to reel in bunches of undrafted free agents following the 2012 NFL draft, there are still some talented prospects up for grabs.

    Some of these players have received training-camp invites for tryouts. Others haven’t.

    For various reasons, many prospects fell through the cracks of the draft and are still hoping to fulfill their dreams of playing football at the highest level.

    This article features eight of those prospects, all of who have something unique to offer teams willing to give them a shot.

Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon

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    Perhaps the most recognizable name on this list, former Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas remains unsigned despite having a solid career with the Ducks.  

    CBS Sports talks about his pros and cons. Some argue in favor of his stats; he completed 62 percent of his passes last season for 2,761 yards and 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Thomas also rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Ducks reach the Rose Bowl. For his career, he’s notched 5,910 passing yards for 66 touchdowns and only 17 interceptions in 31 games.

    And like most overlooked QBs, size isn't the issue for the 6'3", 215-pound Thomas.

    Others, however, claim that Thomas’ numbers are merely a product of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly’s aggressive offensive system. The stats look good, but they aren’t an accurate reflection of Thomas’ abilities as a passer. 

    Folks can argue all day long whether he made the right choice by leaving school early for the NFL. But what's done is done.

    Right now, there is a productive signal-caller on the market with good size and athleticism. He’s definitely a project with some work to do, but then again, most rookie quarterbacks are.

    Per Bleacher Report’s Sigmund Bloom:

    Jeffrey Martin of The Oregonian reports that Thomas will try out for [the] Pittsburgh Steelers the first weekend of May, the Cleveland Browns on the following weekend and then the Arizona Cardinals in the middle of the month. At this point, Thomas is striving to simply be included at an NFL training camp.

    While it’s not exactly the way Thomas hoped things would turn out after declaring for the draft, all he can do is strive forward.

Garth Gerhart, C, Arizona State

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    Even though Garth Gerhart may not have made as many headlines as his older brother Toby (Minnesota Vikings), his contributions in the NFL could be just as important.

    The Arizona State center snuck through pre-draft events without much hype due to his average athleticism and size. At 6’1” and 305 pounds, he isn’t the most physically gifted guy to anchor an offensive line.

    But what Gerhart lacks in raw athleticism, he makes up for with grit and a great work ethic. NFL.com described some of Gerhart’s strengths as follows:

    He is a throwback center who finds a way to get a block, whether on the line or linebackers at the next level, and overcomes some small athletic ability issues with effort and football savvy. He is a guy with the type of motor you would want being the center and leader of your line.

    As an intelligent player with a scrappy and competitive style, Gerhart will have value in the NFL.

    CBSSports.com acknowledged that he may have a hard time cracking a starting lineup, but he’ll at least be a serviceable backup due to his “overachieving attitude and pedigree.”

    And it’s not like Gerhart is some pushover, either. He put up 25 reps on the bench and posted a 30.5” vertical jump at the combine, so there is some strength to work with there.

    With adequate agility as well, Gerhart will likely work best in zone-blocking schemes and won’t be tried at guard. Nevertheless, he’ll be able to fill in at center without too much drop-off if called upon.

Tyler Lantrip, QB, Nevada

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    There’s a lot to like about former Nevada quarterback Tyler Lantrip. He has terrific size at 6’4”, 238 pounds. He ran a 4.66 40-time at his pro day. And he worked hard this offseason to get his body into optimal shape, trimming his body fat by 2 percent and adding 16 pounds of muscle, according to NFL Draft Scout.

    The primary concern, though, is game experience.

    In his career at Nevada, the Roseville, CA, native attempted only 202 passes, completing 122 of them for a career completion percentage of just over 60 percent. His most extensive action came in 2011, in which he completed 110 passes out of 179 attempts for 1,553 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions for the Wolf Pack.

    On film, Lantrip demonstrates poise in the pocket. He’s not afraid to wait that extra half-second to take a hit and make the pass. While he sometimes shows a tendency to short-arm throws, he has soft touch and drops balls into precise spots.

    Athletically, Lantrip has decent mobility and above-average arm strength. His footwork is developing, yet he sometimes appears a little bit tight in the hips in his dropbacks and lateral movement.

    At the next level, the developmental project needs to work on his progressions and reading more complex defenses. However, he has solid potential to improve with more extensive reps.  

    Lantrip has the size and tools to eventually help a team under center, but he’ll need to grab the interest of a squad that can afford to wait on his development.

Embry Peeples, RB, Georgia Tech

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    While Georgia Tech has most recently been recognized for its output of freakishly athletic wide receivers, Embry Peeples is trying to put the running back position on the map for the Yellow Jackets.

    Peeples has great straight-line speed. He’s a 5’10”, 194-pound blazer who offers tremendous versatility, as he contributes as a receiver and as a return specialist.

    He worked hard to climb the ladder at Georgia Tech, going from a speedster backup to a reliable spot starter and utility weapon for the Yellow Jackets. Though he never nailed down a permanent role, Peeples made the most of his opportunities.

    In 2011, he finished his senior year with a career high 481 rushing yards and a 10.2 yards-per-carry average. That number should stand out to NFL clubs, as the offensive dynamo can take it to the house on any given play.

    For that reason, Peeples should be especially appealing to teams that run option and Wildcat packages.

    Many undrafted running backs (Arian Foster, Fred Jackson, Priest Holmes) have gone on to have great success in the NFL, but perhaps the player Peeples resembles most is another speedster, Fast Willie Parker.

    Peeples offers a lot; he just needs the chance to show it.

Paul Cornick, OT, North Dakota State

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    Offensive tackle Paul Cornick has been invited for a tryout with the New York Jets. But for now, he remains unsigned as an undrafted rookie free agent.

    Cornick offers very good size and length at 6’5”, 310 pounds with 35” arms and 10.25” hands. According to NFL.com, “He was a 2 1/2-year starter at North Dakota State where he played offensive tackle, but his size and positional versatility to move inside to guard give him added value as a backup player.”

    An aggressive run-blocker who plays through the whistle, Cornick is pretty polished technically, and he uses his hands purposefully when engaging with defensive linemen. The official site of  the North Dakota State Bison:

    [He] graded out 96.5 percent this season with 102 knockdown blocks and allowed just one sack in pass protection and no quarterback hurries. He had a season-high 10 knockdown blocks in the season opener against Lafayette.

    Like most undrafted rookies, though, the knock on him is how his raw athleticism translates to the NFL.

    Cornick may not be athletic enough to remain at tackle at the next level, but that may be to his advantage. After all, his strengths and playing style make him better suited to play inside. So perhaps a move to guard would bring out the best in him.

    For teams looking to add depth along the offensive line, this small-school prospect is certainly worth a look.

Richard Muldrow, OT, Richmond

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    Another available offensive tackle prospect is Richard Muldrow out of Richmond.

    Muldrow began his collegiate career at Rutgers, but after receiving little playing time with the Scarlet Knights during his first three years, he decided to transfer to Richmond.

    There, “he started 22 straight games for the Spiders and became a team leader,” according to the York Daily Record

    Since going undrafted, Muldrow has been invited to a tryout with the Oakland Raiders. He’s 6’6” and 308 pounds with a long frame and wingspan. A team like Oakland, which needs depth at tackle, actually makes a lot of sense for his services.

    Although he still needs to fill out and add strength to his lower body, Muldrow has an excellent frame to start with. He’s athletic enough to play outside, but his best fit may be on the right side, at least to begin his NFL career.

    Muldrow made the most of his opportunity at Richmond, and he hopes to do the same if given a chance with an NFL club.

C.J. Parish, OLB/FB, Arizona

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    It was a little bit surprising to see Arizona’s C.J. Parish go undrafted, considering his combination of size, speed and strength.

    It’s even more surprising that he’s still available as an undrafted free agent.

    Parish goes 6’2”, 245 pounds with 4.5 speed. He put up 25 reps on the bench at his pro day and recorded a 34” vertical jump.

    In addition to his tremendous athleticism, the former Wildcat offers versatility on both sides of the ball. NEPatriotsDraft.com had this to say:

    In the past two seasons alone while playing for the Arizona Wildcats CJ Parish has played fullback for a high powered offense, led the team in sacks as a defensive end and played on his feet as an OLB.

    A true team player, Parish saw his draft stock likely drop as a result of his constant shifting of positions. But if an NFL club is looking to add not only a utility contributor but a high-character player, this is the guy.

    He’ll likely be a better fit initially at fullback, but if a team can coach up Parish as an outside linebacker, he could be a definite force coming off the edge.

    Creative teams should certainly give him a look, as this young man will do whatever it takes to help his team get better.

Quinton McCree, WR, Maryland

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    Quinton McCree isn’t a player most folks would have expected to be drafted. In fact, most probably wouldn’t have expected him on this list.

    At Maryland, McCree had little production and never really stood out with the Terps. To make matters worse, he was involved in an altercation last October along with teammate Ronnie Tyler outside of a 7-11 store, according to NFL Draft Scout. As a consequence, he was hit with a two-game suspension and was charged with misdemeanor assault.

    While other players have overcome more concerning red flags, the incident certainly didn’t help McCree, who had little production to fall back on.

    Nonetheless, he has terrific size, athleticism and agility for a wide receiver. McCree stands 6’1” and 200 pounds. At his pro day, he ran a 4.43 40, and his 6.52-second three-cone drill would have placed second among all prospects—at all positions—at the combine, according to Pro Football Weekly, per Yahoo! Sports.

    McCree has a lot of work to do. He needs to work on using his long arms and strong hands to pluck balls out of the air, as he "lets throws into his body." And he simply needs more time and experience to develop.

    However, he’s also "quick-footed" with "good size and speed," per Pro Football Weekly’s analysis. McCree Could be a valuable slot receiver in the NFL if given an opportunity. But with such a deep wide receiver class this year, there’s no guarantee a team will give him that chance.