Report Card Grades for St. Louis Rams Undrafted Free Agent Signings
The 2013 NFL draft is over and done with, but undrafted free agents are still being acquired, and they play a valuable but underrated role in team development.
If a franchise has the ability to scout out the next Danny Amendola, Victor Cruz or Arian Foster, it provides that team with an incredible advantage. Finding a quality starter without sacrificing a draft pick or large contract is extremely valuable.
All 22 of the St. Louis Rams starters last season were either draft picks or free agents with prior NFL experience.
With that in mind, the Rams are due for some luck in the undrafted rookie market, and this class certainly has potential.
This article will highlight the top five undrafted rookie signings and provide a grade for each pickup.
The grades will be based on the player's likelihood of making the team, his potential to develop into a starter, as well as his college accomplishments.
S Cody Davis, Texas Tech: B+
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At 6'1" and 203 pounds with a 4.42-second 40-yard dash time, Cody Davis has ideal size and speed for a an NFL safety.
Davis had a breakout year in 2012 with 101 total tackles and three interceptions, after recording just 109 tackles and one interception in his previous three seasons combined.
If Davis had another year or two of college to sharpen his skills, he'd easily be a Day 3 draft pick. But as of now—with one productive year as a starter in a conference known for soft defense—he's still very raw and will require several years of grooming.
Davis is known for his physicality and run support, which means he'll have a shot at making the 53-man roster as a gunner on the kickoff team. And since the Rams are thin at safety, that only helps his odds.
If Davis is not ready for the final roster, he's a prime candidate for the practice squad.
LB Jonathan Stewart, Texas A&M: A-
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At 6'4" and 242 pounds, Jonathan Stewart is freakishly tall for a 4-3 linebacker, but regardless, Stewart didn't thrive until Texas A&M switched to a 4-3 scheme, so apparently it's a system that works for him.
At that height, surely he's capable of batting away a few passes when coming in on a blitz, which can't be a bad thing in a pass-happy league.
In his two full years as a starter, Stewart has recorded 178 total tackles and 5.5 sacks, which means he adds value as an extra pass-rusher coming in on the blitz.
Stewart is a physical player who fits the Jeff Fisher mentality. He maintained a high level of production even after the Aggies moved to the SEC.
The three starting linebackers on the Rams defense are locked in, but the depth is paper-thin behind them, which gives Stewart every opportunity to make the squad.
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn: C-
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Philip Lutzenkirchen was somewhat unproductive in college, but it's hard to turn down a 6'5" tight end with real potential as a red-zone threat.
His 4.94-second 40 time was very unimpressive at the NFL combine, and Lutzenkirchen was held under 250 receiving yards in each of his college seasons.
On the bright side, out of just 59 career receptions at Auburn, 14 of them were for touchdowns. In 2011, he was held to just 24 catches and 238 yards all season, but he still managed to find the end zone seven times.
Lutzenkirchen is a long shot when it comes to making the roster, but proper coaching could one day transform him into a dangerous short-yardage weapon.
LB Mike Taylor, Wisconsin: C+
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Mike Taylor was hindered by injuries early in his collegiate career, but he bounced back in 2012 and was one of Wisconsin's more reliable defenders, as is evident from his 122 total tackles and three sacks.
Taylor is an undersized linebacker at 6'1" and 234 pounds, but his instincts as a tackler easily make up for it.
Unfortunately, Taylor is not quick or athletic enough for the outside and is not physical enough for the inside, which puts him in a bad position.
Taylor's best shot at NFL football in 2013 is as a special teams guru, but he'll most likely end up on the practice squad before ever seeing the 53-man roster.
S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami: A+
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Here's the household name fans are excited about—Ray-Ray Armstrong.
Armstrong was suspended for the first four games of 2011 for accepting improper benefits from a booster, while the Miami Hurricanes released him entirely prior to the 2012 season.
It's been a while since Armstrong has played a full season of football, but he still has the talent.
Like safety T.J. McDonald—St. Louis' third-round draft pick out of USC—Armstrong is stiff in pass coverage, but he brings the thunder in run support.
In terms of pure talent, it's very difficult to find an undrafted rookie of Armstong's caliber. Expect him to make the final cut as the third or fourth safety.