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Report Card Grades for Houston Texans' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings

Ben LaymanCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2016

Report Card Grades for Houston Texans' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings

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    And just like that, the 2013 NFL draft is over.

    As soon as the last pick was handed in, the Houston Texans and the rest of the league began recruiting undrafted free agents, as they do every year.

    This year's NFL draft had more than a few shocking story lines, which included some prospects surprisingly going undrafted.

    General manager Rick Smith boasts one of the best undrafted free-agent signings in recent NFL history with the signing of Arian Foster. It's probably unfair to assume the franchise will net itself a perennial Pro Bowler every year in undrafted free agency, but it could still find another hidden gem in this year's group.

    If the Texans can find a few contributors from this year's undrafted free-agent class, it'll only solidify the quality work they did with their drafted players.

    Here are the report card grades for the undrafted free-agent signings for the Houston Texans.

Collin Klein

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    Grade: C-

    When most saw the Houston Texans sign Collin Klein, they probably assumed he'd be converting to tight end.

    However, that isn't the case, as the former Kansas State Wildcat will come to Texans camp as a quarterback.

    His chances of making the roster as a QB are slim to none. There are too many arms in front of him with more experience in the scheme and more talent. However, there could still be some value in having him around.

    With Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick on the schedule next year, the Texans will face mobile quarterbacks running the quarterback option and Houston will need to be prepared for it. Collin Klein could help provide the option look in practice on the team's practice squad.

    Because Klein could help the Texans better prepare for the quarterback read option, he could hang around on the scout team for awhile while he tries to develop as an NFL quarterback.

Cierre Wood

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    Grade: C+

    There's a good chance one of the undrafted free-agent running backs will make the final 53-man roster. The Texans did an excellent job of bringing in a few of the top undrafted free-agent backs.

    Cierre Wood was an accomplished runner for three years at Notre Dame in their running back rotation. You won't see much explosiveness out of him, as he's more of a shifty runner who looks to make defenders miss in space.

    There's nothing spectacular about Wood's running style, but he will get the yards that are blocked for him. He might not end up being the best of the undrafted bunch for the Texans, but there's a good chance he could hang around on the practice squad.

Ray Graham

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    Grade: B+

    The first thing you'll hear about when Ray Graham's name is brought up is the horrible ACL tear he suffered during the 2011 season.

    He looked like one of the more promising NFL running back prospects in college football prior to the setback. Some believe he never regained the top end north-south speed he once possessed before the injury.

    However, Graham still came back from the injury and delivered a productive 2012 season for the Pitt Panthers. The Texans are rolling the dice that he'll return to more of his pre-ACL tear form.

    Out of all the backs the Texans signed, Graham might have the best chance of making the roster. He'll be able to play on all downs and might have the most talent out of the undrafted tailback group.

Dennis Johnson

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    Grade: B+

    If Dennis Johnson was a few inches taller than 5'6", he likely would've been drafted.

    The former Razorback is built like Maurice Jones-Drew—short and compact with thick legs. He's also a physical runner like Jones-Drew and isn't shy about making contact.

    The Texans will like him because of his ability to make one cut and get upfield. There isn't much dancing to his game and he's surprisingly more of an inside runner than outside.

    Johnson also shows the ability to play on passing downs, which will only help his case when trying to make the roster. He has some pass-pro ability, can catch the ball out of the backfield and even lined up as a wideout at times.

    It's possible two of these undrafted backs could make the team. It's going to be difficult to cut Johnson.

Ja'Gared Davis

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    Grade: C+

    Many fans are wondering what the Texans' plans are for inside linebacker next to Brian Cushing. Ja'Gared Davis will be one of a handful of 'backers fighting for a spot amongst the group.

    Davis was used at all three linebacker spots for the SMU Mustangs. His versatility is the most attractive part of his game—he's capable of covering, blitzing and playing the run.

    There's usually a reason why a player goes undrafted, and in Davis' case, he doesn't have great size. For the position he'll play with the Texans, he could struggle to hold up on early downs. Houston likely wanted him because of his experience dropping into zone coverage, which he did frequently at SMU.

    The former Mustang is more of a finesse coverage 'backer, which is really what the Texans could use at that position group.

Travis Howard

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    Grade: C+

    In a somewhat surprising move, the Texans went a second year in a row without drafting a cornerback. They made up for it by signing a couple corners with NFL upside.

    Travis Howard was regarded as a draftable prospect by many evaluators. He has good height and length for the position and will likely be used on the edge as a corner early on.

    There are some who believe he could be a safety at the next level, and his ball skills at Ohio State showed there's some playmaking skills to his game.

    Overall, Howard wasn't a standout throughout his collegiate career, but he did get better every year. It remains to be seen if he has NFL talent, but he has traits that project to the next level.

Zach Boren

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    Grade: B-

    This signing should probably be taken more seriously than any other. Fullbacks make it in the NFL as undrafted free agents as much as any other position.

    Zach Boren is a short, compact fullback with some physicality to his game. He appears to be capable of handling second level blocking assignments, which is key for any fullback making it in the NFL. He can handle linebackers in space in the running game and does it with some nastiness.

    Depending on how the Texans feel about Tyler Clutts, Boren could be in line to make the roster, especially if he shows he can contribute at a higher level than Clutts on special teams.

Uzoma Nwachukwu

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    Grade: C

    The Texans bolstered the receiver corps in the draft with two picks and added an intriguing wideout from Texas A&M in free agency shortly after.

    Uzoma Nwachukwu had his most productive year as a freshman with Jerrod Johnson throwing him the football. He never really took the next step and remained a rotational receiver for the Aggies. His senior season was his least productive and he seemed to fall out of favor with the program.

    It could be difficult for Nwachukwu to make the roster, but he does have some ability to beat press coverage and he did run in the 4.4s at his pro day.

    With a receiving group already full of young, unproven wideouts, the former Aggie will be fighting an uphill battle to make the team.

Johnny Adams

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    Grade: A

    Out of all of the Texans' rookie free agents, Johnny Adams might be the most surprising to go undrafted.

    Adams is a feisty, competitive corner who became one of the best at his position in the Big 10 over the past two seasons. He was asked to handle all coverage assignments as a Spartan, but was best in zone coverage.

    The versatility he brings is also attractive, as he showed at Michigan State that he's a very effective blitzer with a high number of sacks and tackles for losses for a defensive back.

    He's been billed as the overachiever type who plays better than any 40 time or measurable would suggest.

    The former Spartan projects as the type of corner Wade Phillips likes and his toughness should also fit in well with Houston's defense.

    This is the type of player that makes an NFL roster as an undrafted rookie.

Kenny Demens

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    Grade: D

    Any undrafted rookie inside linebacker the Texans signed was bound to get attention because of the perceived need there.

    Kenny Demens is a versatile, smart linebacker whose probably not physically gifted enough to play in the NFL. You can see his lack of range and take on skills, but it's not for a lack of effort. He played inside and outside at Michigan and did show some ability to cover in space.

    There's usually a pretty clear reason why a player goes undrafted, and in Demens' case, he likely doesn't have the physical skill set needed to play linebacker in the NFL.

Justin Tuggle

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    Grade: B-

    Justin Tuggle's range and ability to fly to the football is obvious from his time at Kansas State. He can be seen chasing down plays sideline to sideline and plays with a high level of confidence.

    There is a serious lack of physicality to his game, however, and he'll need to improve on his tackling. He's weak at the point of attack and can easily get washed out of plays. However, his ability to cover ground in a hurry is likely what attracted the Texans to him.

    The former Wildcat has the best movement skills out of all the linebackers the Texans signed.

Graham Pocic

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    Grade: C

    A 6'7", 310-pound center should get anyone's attention.

    Though he seems too tall for the position, Graham Pocic brings much better athleticism and movement skills than you might think for that size. 

    In this video clip, you can see him in space and getting to the second level of the defense. He's been billed as a zone-scheme only lineman, which explains why he would want to come to Houston.

    It's possible the Texans could look at him at guard or tackle too. He's a developmental prospect and if he ends up making the practice squad, then it's a good signing for the Texans.

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