Earlier this offseason, we discussed some of the more alluring undrafted free agents signed by the St. Louis Rams following the draft, but with OTAs nearing a conclusion, which of these long-shot youngsters are making a splash?
Sure, discussing irrelevant, no-name prospects is not always as interesting as covering the well-known blockbuster names. However, if you’re a fan of HBO’s Hard Knocks, then you know perfectly well that intense preseason battles between the bottom-tier hopefuls are one of the more entertaining aspects of training camp.
Also, while the majority of undrafted players are non-factors and will fall short of their dreams, the cream always rises to the top in the NFL.
These players have been given a shot for a reason. They’re irrelevant today, but they all possess special talents that could propel them into stardom at some point.
It’s unlikely any of these players will experience a high level of success, but we’ve seen it before with current and past stars such as Danny Amendola, Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates and Arian Foster.
So, based on media buzz and chatter coming out of OTAs, which undrafted Rams players are most likely to make a real impact?
Quarterback Austin Davis came to St. Louis as an undrafted rookie in 2012 and made a lot of noise in the preseason, despite being the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart.
Throughout the first three exhibition contests in 2012, Davis completed 70.0 percent of his passes, and the offense seemed to run with a nice flow when he was under center.
Davis is expected to win the backup quarterback job over Kellen Clemens, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs during his second preseason.
Sam Bradford is obviously locked in as the starter, but it never hurts to have a promising developmental project on the roster ready to take over in an emergency.
Undrafted safeties Rodney McLeod and Matt Daniels were brought in a year ago for training camp, and while Daniels struggled to stay healthy, McLeod was able to fight for a job and earn a spot on the Week 1 roster.
With veteran Quintin Mikell out of the picture, McLeod is—believe it or not—the second-most experienced safety on the roster (behind only Darian Stewart). He primarily played special teams in 2012, but he did see limited action up top.
There’s plenty of young competition at safety this year, so McLeod certainly won’t be handed a job, but he proved last year that he’s capable of winning training camp battles.
Many have penciled in Stewart and rookie T.J. McDonald as the starting safeties, but McLeod is the dark-horse candidate and could steal one of the jobs away.
Cody Davis was a four-year contributor for the Texas Tech Red Raiders and surprisingly went undrafted despite great athleticism and measurables.
The Rams are severely lacking talent at safety, so Davis will have a golden opportunity to come in and earn playing time with an impressive training camp performance.
Davis will struggle to earn playing time ahead of McDonald, Stewart and McLeod, but he still has a decent shot at making the 53-man roster and is capable of contributing immediately on special teams.
Ray Ray Armstrong was a standout player and a rising star at Miami, but multiple NCAA suspensions in 2011 and 2012 all but ruined his collegiate career.
Armstrong is making a transition from safety to outside linebacker, which is a difficult assignment to dump on a young player, but he certainly has the raw talent to make it work.
In the short term, Armstrong has the ability to be a dangerous special teams contributor, particularly as a kickoff gunner. If he’s not ready for the 53-man roster, he’s still an ideal candidate to place on the practice squad and groom for the future.
Terrell Brown was a defensive lineman for Ole Miss during his collegiate career, but he managed to go undrafted last April.
Brown is a gigantic presence on the field at 6’10” and 403 pounds, but the rookie is making a switch from defensive line to offensive tackle, which is guaranteed to be an intense learning experience for him.
Brown has a lot of factors working against him, but he’s a monstrous presence on the field, so he’s the type of player you really hope pans out.
Surely Bradford would be grateful to have a man of Brown's stature watching his back.