Undrafted Free Agents You Can Expect to See on 2013 NFL Rosters
Most of the excitement surrounding the NFL draft has to do with the big-name players that fans have been looking up, researching and hearing about for days, weeks and months leading up to the draft.
But there are hundreds of players that sign free-agent deals once the draft has completed. These are players that went undrafted who are still looking to make an NFL roster and make an impact on whichever team gives them an opportunity.
We saw it last year with Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden. Both of these players went undrafted and still made an impact in 2012. Burfict notched 127 tackles for the Bengals defense and Bolden cracked a pretty deep Patriots running back group. Bolden finished the season with 274 yards rushing on 56 carries and two touchdowns. That was good for a 4.9 yards-per-carry average, which led the Patriots.
Before a 2013 undrafted free agent can make an impact on their team, they have to actually make the team first. So let's take a look at 10 players who stand a good chance of making the roster for their respective teams.
Tennessee Quarterback Tyler Bray: Kansas City Chiefs
It's probably not a stretch to say Tyler Bray was surprised he wasn't drafted. When you declare for the NFL as a junior and then go undrafted, there's a disconnect somewhere.
“I was surprised a team didn't take at least a late flier on him, but that's how bad his team interviews must have gone,” said NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com. “That and the fact that his former teammates and coaches, including Coach [Derek] Dooley, didn't speak too highly of him sealed his fate.”
Bray actually landed in a pretty good situation with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs traded for Alex Smith this offseason and signed former New Orleans Saints backup Chase Daniel to the same position. They have former fifth-round pick from Iowa, Ricky Stanzi, and second-year player from Monmouth College, Alex Tanney, as the only other quarterbacks on the roster.
Bray displayed elite physical abilities during his three years at Tennessee. He possesses the size at 6'6" 243 pounds and the arm strength, which many called the best in the entire 2013 quarterback class, to be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. The problem is when people start throwing the 'maturity' word around in describing your character. Bray was also plagued by severe inconsistencies with his footwork and decision-making.
It's basically a two-man race for the No. 3 quarterback position in Kansas City between Tyler Bray and Ricky Stanzi. Despite the atrocious quarterback play in Kansas City last season, Stanzi still couldn't sniff the field. That has nothing to do with Bray's maturity but maybe going undrafted will humble Bray enough to figure it out and be the developmental quarterback for Chiefs offensive-minded head coach, Andy Reid.
North Carolina Linebacker Kevin Reddick: New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints defense is moving to the 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. Whenever there's a schematic change there's going to be some turnover on the personnel. Not all players fit all schemes.
North Carolina linebacker Kevin Reddick surprisingly went undrafted and his versatility would be a good match for a 3-4 defensive scheme. NFL.com mentioned where he might fit best.
He could start in the middle in the NFL as a thumper for a 3-4 team, or, if he proves he has the athleticism, could possibly be a candidate at strongside linebacker for some teams.
Even NFLDraftScout.com had Reddick as a mid-round pick before the draft.
NFLDraftScout.com rated the former North Carolina standout as the fifth-best inside linebacker in the draft and slated him as a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
Reddick impressed at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama with his strength and closing speed when coming down-hill towards a ball-carrier or when rushing the passer. He consistently blew-up running backs in 'backs on backers' blocking drills at practice and easily got to the quarterback.
The Saints have Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne as inside linebackers that could potentially play the strongside position, also depending on how Jonathan Vilma fits into their equation. Reddick won't be handed a position and the Saints have quality depth at linebacker both on the inside, with the previously mentioned players, and on the outside with Junior Galette, Martez Wilson and Victor Butler.
Reddick's versatility and experience, having been a four-year starter at North Carolina, should help him find a role and contribute in some way next season for the Saints.
Tennessee Tech Wide Receiver Da'Rick Rogers: Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills made a concerted effort to bring in playmakers on the offensive side of the ball during this draft. It started with the decision to use their first-round pick on quarterback EJ Manuel, but then continued with early picks on wide receivers Robert Woods of USC and Marquise Goodwin of Texas.
The Bills insistence on adding play-makers on offense continued after the draft when they signed Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers as an undrafted free agent. Rogers had been at Tennessee Tech for just one season after transferring from the University of Tennessee.
Rogers ran into trouble his first two years in college during his time in Knoxville.
In August, Rogers transferred to Tennessee Tech shortly after being suspended indefinitely by the Volunteers for violating team rules. Rogers said multiple failed drug tests prompted his move to the Football Championship Subdivision.
Rogers also had a troubled start to his college career. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest before his freshman season.
It's these reasons which most likely led Rogers, who was ranked by some as a top-12 receiver in this draft and a mid-round prospect, to being undrafted.
Prior to the draft, Steve Johnson (1,046) and T.J. Graham (322) were the only receivers on the Bills roster that had at least 125 yards receiving last year.
Woods and Goodwin may have been drafted while Rogers was signed as an undrafted free agent, but once they all step on the field it won't matter. Rogers has a good shot of not only making the team but contributing early on in his career with the Bills.
Oklahoma Safety Tony Jefferson: Arizona Cardinals
Add Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson to the list of players that may have been surprised they weren't drafted. The second-team All-American from last season signed a free-agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals shortly after the draft. He announced via twitter where he had signed and then proceeded to let everyone know that he's got a chip on his shoulder.
Blessed beyond measure! I love football.Regardless the circumstances Ima ball player everyone who passed me up, will feel me Point blank son
— Tony Jefferson (@tonyjefferson1) April 28, 2013
Jefferson heads into a pretty good situation at the safety position in Arizona. The Cardinals are without both of their starting safeties from last season in Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson. Rhodes is currently a free agent and Wilson signed with the New England Patriots. The Cardinals did sign veteran free-agent safety Yeremiah Bell, but there's plenty of room for Jefferson to step in and find a role sooner rather than later.
Seth Cox, editor of The Sports Headquarters and NFL draft analyst with Arizona Sports, believes that Jefferson could have a role early in his Cardinals career.
He plays well as a single high safety and his ability in man and zone coverages will allow him to push for playing time early. Where Jefferson will make his mark though is on special teams, as he plays with a reckless abandon and doesn't shy away from contact.
Heading into the draft Jefferson was ranked as the No. 8 free safety by CBS Sports and projected as a fifth-round pick. Questions arose right before the draft about Jefferson's work ethic and that might have contributed to his fall and undrafted status.
Jefferson is in a great spot to make the Cardinals roster and to contribute early on in his career.
UCLA Tight End Joseph Fauria: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions have tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler in the last year of their current contracts. They also used their seventh-round pick on Alabama tight end Michael Williams. But it's the 6'7" 259 pound Fauria who provides an interesting receiving target for quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense.
Fauria went undrafted because he's far from an all-around player. He doesn't possess the blocking ability to be an in-line tight end and his slender frame causes issues when running through traffic. He can easily be knocked off a route and brought down once he's caught the ball. But Fauria brings something to the table that no other tight-end on this roster can bring.
Fauria's value lies in his ability as a mismatch in the passing game. While not a speed threat in the Jimmy Graham mold, Fauria shows impressive flexibility and agility as a route-runner, soft hands to make tough catches and the combination of strength, fluidity and leaping ability (see Stanford, 2011) to be a "Bruin" after the catch.
It's hard to say that Fauria will earn a roster spot with the Lions strictly because he could be an effective red-zone target. There aren't many roster spots available and that's a pretty specific role. Fauria will have to show that he can be an effective receiver all over the field while improving his blocking at the same time.
Fauria caught 12 touchdowns last season for the Bruins on just 46 receptions. There's enough physical ability with his combination of size and athleticism that Fauria should be able to find a role with the Lions offense next season.
Iowa State Linebacker Jake Knott: Philadelphia Eagles
Jake Knott left Iowa State ranked sixth all-time in career tackles with 347. During his senior year, a shoulder injury set him back and may have led to his undrafted status. Regardless, the hard-working linebacker should make an instant impact for his new team.
Happy to say I will be a Philadelphia Eagle!
— Jake Knott (@Jknott20) April 28, 2013
Knott possesses enough speed and physicality that he should be able to contribute on special teams right away for the Eagles. He'll compete with Jason Phillips and Casey Matthews for one of the inside linebacking positions in the Eagles new 3-4 defense.
With new defensive coordinator Billy Davis and head coach Chip Kelly making the defensive scheme change to the 3-4 there's going to be some change with the personnel. Knott's experience is as a 4-3 outside linebacker but his physical traits and abilities would make him better suited as a 3-4 inside linebacker. NFL.com describes Knott as an athletic linebacker who won't shy away from contact.
Willing to eat fullback blocks in the hole to free up other defenders, uses his strength to work through blocks to the ballcarrier. Should be an excellent special teamer with his intelligence, aggressiveness and agility.
After a storied career in Ames, Knott finds himself with an uphill climb to make the Eagles roster next season. He's shown the physical abilities throughout his time at Iowa State to play at a very high level and seems to have the right mindset as he approaches this new challenge.
“I just want to make myself an asset as a starter, as a backup, as a special teams guy, even as a practice player,” Knott said. “So they know how much talent I have and how much I could do to help out the team and the locker room.”
Missouri Wide Receiver T.J. Moe: New England Patriots
The Patriots picked up wide receivers Danny Amendola, Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins in free agency, then went ahead and drafted Aaron Dobson of Marshall (2nd round) and Texas Christian's Josh Boyce (4th round).
The Patriots are obviously trying to improve their receiving core as a whole and this is where TJ Moe might just fit in pretty well. There isn't one skill or trait that separates Moe from a lot of other receivers that were available in this draft. He's not overly big, fast, quick or strong, but he is a solid combination of all of those things and he's tough across the middle, which is a very hard thing to quantify in numbers. NFL.com thinks Moe is primarily a slot receiver in the NFL.
Moe is a tough, gritty wide receiver. He's built to play the slot receiver position, due to his compact build, toughness, and physicality. While he will likely never be a standout player, it's tough to imagine that he won't fight himself onto a roster.
During his senior year, Moe's slip in production had as much to do with the offense deviating from a system that made Moe a standout as a sophomore. Current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert helped get Moe more than 1,000 yards receiving on 92 receptions back in 2010 at Missouri. Current Missouri quarterback James Franklin isn't the natural passer that Gabbert showed to be during his time in college. He's more of a runner and that affected Moe's production in the receiving game. But that didn't stop Moe from improving other aspects of his game.
"I became a lot better blocker. I'm a lot better receiver today than I was in 2010 as a sophomore," Moe said. "I had a lot of catches, but it was really sloppy routes and I just made plays. I just didn't get the opportunities I had back then. It's a little give and take."
Moe is in a perfect spot to make an immediate impact as a rookie with his skills and abilities. While he wasn't drafted and doesn't come in with the same fanfare that draftees Dobson and Boyce possess, once they start practice it's about making plays and contributing. That's where Moe will surpass expectations and make a spot for himself on the Patriots roster.
Arizona Quarterback Matt Scott: Jacksonville Jaguars
When your starting quarterback is Blaine Gabbert and your backup quarterback is Chad Henne, any quarterback drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent is going to get some consideration.
Former Arizona quarterback Matt Scott finds himself in a pretty good situation in Jacksonville as he'll compete with fellow undrafted free agent Jordan Rodgers (Aaron Rodgers' little brother) for the No. 3 position as it stands today.
Scott was a hot name before the draft coming out of Rich Rodriguez's spread offensive system at Arizona because of the recent trend of athletic quarterbacks. We saw the buzz surrounding Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick last season.
Just so nobody is confused, Matt Scott is not on their level. But he does have above-average athleticism for the position and as the wind changes in offensive schemes at the NFL level that will trickle down to prospects coming out of the draft. Especially those that might fit into one of those particular offensive schemes/looks.
Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel believes that Scott is special.
“You know, my Russell Wilson in this draft, the guy who is going to be a second- or third-round pick who will end up being a big time player, I’m going to tell you, is Arizona’s Matt Scott."
Former Miami Safety Ray-Ray Armstrong: St. Louis Rams
You might not find a more interesting player to keep an eye on than former Miami Hurricanes safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, who's getting a chance with the St. Louis Rams.
Armstrong didn't play football at all in 2012 after being dismissed from Miami by head coach Al Golden. The reasons were never specified but it's believed to be associated with the NCAA investigation into improper benefits.
The problems weren't new to the 2012 season for Armstrong. His junior season was shortened to just seven games due to these same issues.
He was suspended for the first four games of 2011 for accepting improper benefits while being recruited. Later in the season, Armstrong was suspended for the Florida State game after tweeting about having dinner with members of a PR firm that represented athletes.
With all of these issues it seems the ability that Armstrong had demonstrated on the field became secondary to discussing another off-field concern. Armstrong finally has a chance to put all of that behind him and continue playing football again.
Before his junior season, Armstrong was considered one of the top-18 NFL prospects in the country. He's heading to a situation in St. Louis where depth at the safety position is needed. Armstrong is one of three safeties that were signed as undrafted free agents by the Rams.
Armstrong's best season was back in 2010 when he finished the season with 79 tackles and three interceptions. He stands at 6'3" 216 pounds and is an "aggressive athlete with the speed and range to cover both sidelines."
He joins Memphis safety Cannon Smith and Texas Tech safety Cody Smith as guys fighting for a roster spot once camp begins. He'll also be competing with T.J. McDonald, the safety from USC that was the Rams' third-round pick.
Georgia Defensive Lineman Kwame Geathers: San Diego Chargers
Any time you have a player that stands at 6'5" 342 pounds, you're going to take notice. Former Georgia defensive lineman Kwame Geathers is a beast of a man and is the very definition of a space eater in the middle of the defensive line.
Despite declaring for the NFL draft after his junior year and going undrafted, Geathers found a home in a place that could really use his services.
Thankful for the opportunity to be apart of the San Diego Chargers. I'm ready to go to work! #GoBolts— Kwame Geathers (@klgeathers) April 30, 2013
Geathers finds himself in a pretty good situation in San Diego as the Chargers lost quite a few defensive linemen from last season. Antonio Garay is now with the New York Jets, Vaughn Martin is with the Miami Dolphins and Aubrayo Franklin is now with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Chargers still have young developing players in Cam Thomas, Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes along the defensive line. But they need more help and Geathers is a strong possibility to provide another developmental player that could potentially be a rotational defensive lineman early in his career.
Geathers was seen as a player whose motor runs hot and cold throughout the course of a game while at Georgia. As a potential rotational player in San Diego early in his career, that shouldn't be much of an issue. Geathers provides the physical skill-set needed to play along the defensive line.
Geathers has an absolutely monstrous frame and carries the weight well. Packs a powerful punch and can offensive lineman on their heals immediately. Showcases the ability to lock his arms out, and use quick, active hands to shed. Uses his arm length to extend and wrap up ball carriers. When he fires off the ball low, he can hold the point of attack.
If Geathers has the right work ethic and the coaches are able to develop him properly, there's no reason Geathers shouldn't make the Chargers roster next season and provide immediate help along the defensive line, even as a spot rotational player.