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Report Card Grades for New York Jets' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings

Adam WaksmanCorrespondent IIIMay 3, 2013

Report Card Grades for New York Jets' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings

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    It is often called the eighth round of the NFL draft. The signing of undrafted rookie free agents is a frenzy that can pay dividends throughout the NFL season. The majority of college prospects are not drafted, and every team fills up their roster with these undrafted players who are trying to stick in the NFL.

    Countless success stories occur every year when an undrafted player finds a team and earns a spot on a roster. Head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik of the New York Jets are both in the spotlight this week as they attempt to fill the Jets roster with the best players possible.

    The Jets have been aggressive this week, signing a boatload of players. With the reports coming out so frantically, many of them on Twitter, it can be difficult to be sure of the truth in some cases. It is possible that some of the players who have been reportedly signed by the Jets have only been offered tryout offers. Much of the information available is based on unofficial reports.

    Based in part on the efforts of Brian Bassett at TheJetsBlog.com and in part on the Tweets of Jets insider and reporter for SNY Jake Steinberg (as well as some other reporters), I have assembled a list of the undrafted free agents who the Jets appear to have signed. All of the players on this list have signed with the Jets, either unofficially or officially. In several cases, the players confirmed the transactions themselves via Twitter.

    Given the track records of players and the needs of the Jets roster heading into 2013, I grade the value of each of these players in terms of the value they can bring as rookies.

Tight End Mike Shanahan: A-

2 of 17

    Tight end Mike Shanahan out of Pittsburgh is a very interesting signing. With the loss of Dustin Keller and the generally unproven status of current starter Jeff Cumberland, the Jets are in sore need of a reliable pass-catcher at tight end.

    While Shanahan played wide receiver in college, his general build and level of speed all but guarantee that he will be a tight end in the NFL. Shanahan's obvious weakness is in the blocking department, but he is a great receiver. He caught a total of 159 receptions for 2,276 yards and 11 touchdowns at Pittsburgh.

    If Shanahan earns a roster spot, expect to see him earn snaps at tight end in passing situations.

    By the way, no...no relation.

    This signing was confirmed by Shanahan via Twitter.

    Grade: A-

Tight End Chris Pantale: B-

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    After losing Dustin Keller, the Jets only have one established tight end on the roster: Jeff Cumberland. Cumberland has been average though injury-prone. Without a doubt, the Jets are hoping to add one or two more tight ends to the roster.

    Chris Pantale out of Boston College is a big guy who could help as a blocking tight end. Unlike Mike Shanahan, he is a true tight end, better at blocking than at catching passes. It is not necessarily crazy to think that both players could make the roster, one for passing situations and one for running situations.

    Pantale could also potentially see action in goal-line situations or with special teams units.

    This signing was reported via Twitter by James Christensen of NEPatriotsDraft.com.

    Grade: B-

Wide Receiver Ryan Spadola: B-

4 of 17

    Ryan Spadola, a wide receiver out of Lehigh, is an unproven but interesting pickup. While the Jets have three well-known receivers in Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley, they have virtually nothing in the way of depth.

    Who plays if a receiver gets injured? Maybe a guy like Spadola.

    Spadola is perhaps the fastest player among the Jets' undrafted free-agent class this year. He played 38 games in his collegiate career, garnering 232 catches for 3,611 yards and 24 touchdowns.

    If Spadola makes the roster, he could potentially see snaps out of the slot or as a special teams player.

    This signing was confirmed by Spadola via Twitter.

    Grade: B-

Wide Receiver Zach Rogers: B+

5 of 17

    Wide receiver Zach Rogers from the Tennessee Volunteers is a guy who I expect to be talked about more than most at Jets camp this summer. The Jets badly need depth at wide receiver, and Rogers has shown promise as a receiver.

    An unusually small player, Rogers will need to find a specific role on an NFL roster. More likely than not, the Jets will try to find out if he can be successful in the slot. If he does not have the strength for real game time yet, he could eventually get stashed on the practice squad.

    This signing was confirmed by Rogers via Twitter.

    Grade: B+

Wide Receiver Antavius Wilson: C+

6 of 17

    Antavius Wilson comes from a relatively small school and did not garner too much attention leading up to the draft. He certainly counts as a sleeper.

    With the Jets bringing in so many undrafted receivers, it is clear that they are hoping to find a diamond in the rough. The odds are against Wilson, but nobody can know for sure until we see him on the practice field.

    Wilson is a relatively small receiver. If he were to make the 2013 roster, the most probable fits seem to be special teams or the slot.

    The signing was announced by Wilson via Twitter.

    Grade: C+

Wide Receiver K.J. Stroud: C+

7 of 17

    With yet another receiver pickup, the Jets grabbed K.J. Stroud. This pickup was in line with the Jets' apparent strategy of creating as much competition at receiver as possible. The Jets' lack of depth at wide receiver was an enormous problem in 2012.

    Realistically, Stroud's chances to make the roster right away do not seem great. However, the competition appears to be wide open, so if he can impress the coaching staff, there is nothing to stop him from earning a roster spot.

    Stroud has a slight physical and size advantage over some of the other rookie receivers.

    This signing was reported by Jake Steinberg of SNY.

    Grade: C+

Cornerback Mike Edwards: A-

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    Head coach Rex Ryan is a guy who is known to like having many cornerbacks. It is a position where depth can always be used, especially in nickel packages. Mike Edwards out of Hawaii is a quality undrafted pickup. With his talents, it is almost surprising that he was not drafted.

    He has the speed and agility to help out on special teams, potentially as a kick or punt returner. He also can add some depth at cornerback if he makes the roster. Beyond Antonio Cromartie, the position is relatively open. Kyle Wilson and rookie draft pick Dee Milliner will obviously be competing for a spot, but nothing is certain yet.

    This signing was confirmed by Edwards via Twitter.

    Grade: A-

Free Safety Rontez Miles: B+

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    Safety is a wide open position for the New York Jets. While veteran Dawan Landry has a solid shot at a starting position, it is not guaranteed. Beyond that, it appears to be a fairly open competition.

    Rontez Miles is a rookie whose skill set suggests free safety. There have been suggestions of some character issues regarding Miles. He had problems at Kent State related to allegations of possession of marijuana and driving without a license (via NFL.com), although he was eventually cleared of the charges. 

    Given the current situation at safety, it appears that a roster spot is there to be won if Miles is up to the challenge.

    This signing was reported by Jake Steinberg of SNY.

    Grade: B+

Offensive Guard Mark Popek: D

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    Mark Popek is an offensive lineman whose skill set suggests he will most probably develop into an offensive guard. I have trouble seeing the wisdom in this signing. The Jets drafted offensive linemen like there was no tomorrow this year, and they already have enough on the roster to create a serious competition.

    Even without Popek, they were already going to have to cut one or multiple offensive linemen. Now the competition is even more crowded. This could be a good thing, but it is unclear if Popek is ready to make any noise in the competition. At first glance, it is hard to see Popek making the Jets roster this year. Perhaps the practice squad will have a place for him.

    This signing was announced by the USF Football official Twitter account.

    Grade: D

Offensive Tackle Trey Gilleo: D

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    Trey Gilleo is an offensive lineman who is most suited to play offensive tackle in the NFL. Similar to Mark Popek, he will find the competition stiff to make the Jets roster. D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Austin Howard seem to have the starting tackle jobs locked up, and there is already depth behind them.

    With all the rookies the Jets have now at offensive tackle and offensive guard, it is almost guaranteed that a few of them will be cut or stashed on the practice squad.

    Still, Gilleo is extremely tall and athletic. Maybe he will get his technique and understanding of the game up to speed to be ready for NFL play this year.

    This signing was announced by NAU Football's official Twitter account.

    Grade: D

Center Dalton Freeman: C+

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    Dalton Freeman out of Clemson is a skilled offensive lineman who played center in college and is well-suited to play center in the NFL. Unlike the other offensive line pickups, this one makes sense to me. While the Jets are loaded at tackle and guard, they have virtually no depth behind Nick Mangold at center.

    Jets fans surely remember in 2011 when a Nick Mangold injury crippled their playoff chances. If Freeman can learn the Jets' new offense quickly, I could see him earning the backup center job for 2013. Only time will tell.

    This signing was reported by Jake Steinberg of SNY.

    Grade: C+

Defensive Tackle Jake McDonough: C+

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    Jake McDonough out of Iowa State is a defensive lineman whose size suggests defensive tackle in the NFL. There will be some legitimate competition along the Jets' defensive line. An already quality line has been bolstered with first-round pick Sheldon Richardson.

    It appears, however, that McDonough will be given a chance to compete. McDonough was a relatively versatile player in college and lined up in multiple places. Rex Ryan is known for liking multifaceted players on his defenses. Perhaps he will find a use for McDonough.

    This signing was confirmed by McDonough via Twitter.

    Grade: C+

Defensive Tackle Roosevelt Holliday: C

14 of 17

    Another undrafted defensive tackle, Roosevelt Holliday adds to the competition along the defensive front for the New York Jets. Of course, there are only so many spots to go around, so not everyone will be able to earn a spot.

    Holliday was not a highly discussed prospect, so it would be impressive if he were to earn a spot right away. Nevertheless, competition is generally a good thing. With Kenrick Ellis having some health concerns and Sione Pouha gone from the team, the defensive tackle spot is up for grabs.

    First-round draft pick Sheldon Richardson naturally has the inside track for this race, along with Ellis, who is heading into his third year.

    This signing was reported by Jake Steinberg of SNY.

    Grade: C

Defensive Tackle Spencer Nealy: C

15 of 17

    Spencer Nealy out of Texas A&M is a defensive tackle who is arguably versatile enough to also play defensive end. Rex Ryan runs a hybrid defense where the two positions are not always so clear cut.

    While Nealy was not talked about a whole lot prior to the draft, NYJetsDraft.com had something to say about Nealy after the draft:

    Nealy is a versatile having played defensive end and tackle for the Aggies. He is active and plays hard. From a talent perspective, there isn’t a whole lot to work with but could stick on the roster because of the scheme versatility and activity level.  Nealy was often referred to as a major leader on his successful Texas A&M team.

     

    The competition will be stiff, but maybe Nealy will surprise some people.

    This signing was reported by Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com, along with some other Texas A&M alumni signings.

    Grade: C

Defensive End Troy Davis: B-

16 of 17

    While I am listing Troy Davis as a defensive end, it is doubtless the case that Rex Ryan would use him in multiple ways if he were to give Davis a roster spot.

    Ryan's hybrid 3-4 defense often involves four players having their hands on the ground, which makes room for an outside rush linebacker position that is strongly similar to a defensive end. With Davis being too small to be a true defensive end in the NFL, this is a position that could potentially suit him in the future.

    While only time can tell for sure, history tells us that Ryan has no problem moving players around and making use of their various strengths when it comes to the defensive side of the ball. Nobody knows whether or not Davis will make it onto the Jets' final roster, but the safe bet is that if he does it will not be as a conventional defensive end.

    This signing was announced by Brandon Helwig of UCFSports.com.

    Grade: B-

Punter Alex Dunnachie: C

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    The Jets traditionally keep only one punter on the roster, so Alex Dunnachie will have to fight for a spot against Robert Malone. NYJetsDraft.com provides some background on Dunnachie:

    This punter becomes the second Jet on the roster to have Aussie bloodlines.  He has a monster leg, evident by his 36 punts that notched over 50 yards over his first three season at Hawaii.  The Jets give him a chance after he was suspended the first four games of 2012 due to a drunk driving arrest over the summer.

     

    This competition for the starting job will be something to follow throughout the summer.

    This signing was announced by Dunnachie himself on Twitter.

     

    Adam Waksman is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report who writes primarily about the New York Jets and the NFL. Be sure to follow Adam on Twitter to receive updates right away.

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