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Undrafted NFL Free Agents 2014: Looking at Most Notable Names Available

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2014

Undrafted NFL Free Agents 2014: Looking at Most Notable Names Available

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The draft is complete, but a busy weekend for NFL teams is far from over. 

    In the hours following the draft, teams will scramble to sign the best of the available prospects, many of whom will go on to distinguished NFL careers. 

    The following list of prospects—organized simply by position, not by any ranking system—are just a few of the notable names in the free agent pool who may go on make an impact at the next level. 

Brett Smith, QB Wyoming

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    Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

    Brett Smith is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in this year's class, and probably the closest thing the rest of this class offers to Johnny Manziel. 

    Like Manziel, Smith excels at keeping the play alive and creating something out of nothing. 

    While his lack of elite competition raises some concern, he turned in one of his most impressive performances against Nebraska in 2013.

    Smith's mechanics aren't great and he's definitely a developmental prospect, but he's shown enough to warrant a shot in training camp. If a team can bury him on the depth chart for a few seasons, he'll have an opportunity to develop into a steal. 

Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina

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    RAINIER EHRHARDT/Associated Press

    Physically, there's not much to like about Connor Shaw. He's short, with small hands and while his speed is decent, he lacks the elite mobility of a guy like Johnny Manziel. 

    Despite the lack of physical tools, Shaw is not the type of player you want to bet against. NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki described Shaw as "a Jeff Garcia, make-it type quarterback likely to will his way into a job."

    Another major reason for Shaw's draft slide is his long list of injuries.

    He's battled multiple foot and shoulder injuries throughout his career and with his physical style of play, his ability to stay on the field at the next level is a legitimate concern.

Stephen Houston, RB, Indiana

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stephen Houston flew under the radar due to the fact that he played in a pass-first offense at Indiana and shared the backfield with the smaller, more athletic Tevin Coleman this past season.

    From the standpoint of pure physical skills, Houston is among the most gifted running backs in this class and may just be scratching the surface of his potential. 

    Houston is a one-cut power runner, but also has enough speed to burst through the hole. 

    He's a developmental prospect but has a high ceiling and it's somewhat surprising to see him fall out of the draft entirely. 

Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Brandon Coleman's college career was painfully inconsistent, but it's impossible to ignore the fact that he suffered from the weak quarterback play around him. 

    He's one of the most surprising undrafted free agents because there simply aren't many receivers blessed with his blend of size and athleticism. 

    If the 6'6" Coleman puts it all together, he has the potential to be a dangerous weapon in the red zone. 

    If Coleman lands in the right system, he can be coached into a contributing receiver, but he's shown that he lacks the discipline to excel if he's in a consistent losing situation. 

L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    When scouting the wide receivers, I felt L'Damian Washington was the most disappointing prospect of the group. He is incredibly talented, but never even scratched the surface of getting the most out of his potential. 

    Washington is lacking in the basic fundamentals of catching the football, as he often takes a passive approach, letting the ball come into his chest. A receiver of his size needs to be more assertive and attack the ball. 

    To make matters worse, he has tiny hands considering his size, which further hurts his ability to hang on to the ball. 

    Despite the issues, however, he has an A.J. Green-like skill set—but he has never shown a willingness to put in the work to reach that level. 

Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    It's somewhat surprising to see Cody Hoffman fall because he clearly has the tools to play at the next level. 

    What holds Hoffman back, however, is that he simply doesn't stand out in any one area. 

    If Hoffman can refine his route running, he has the potential to develop into a decent third or fourth option.

    He lacks the explosive ability to stretch the field, which limits his upside, but his reliable hands will be an asset once he learns how to consistently work his way open on intermediate routes against NFL caliber cornerbacks. 

Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Based purely on talent, Lyerla is an obvious NFL tight end who has the potential to develop into a weapon in the passing game. But he'll never even approach that level if he doesn't sort out his off-field issues.

    Lyerla was suspended for a game early in the 2013 season and then mysteriously left the team, for what head coach Mark Helfrich vaguely described as "circumstances" when speaking with reporters.

    In October 2013, following his departure from the program, Lyerla was then arrested for cocaine possession and later plead guilty to the charges. 

    It's been a wild year for Lyerla, but if he can sort out his personal issues, the talent is there for him to develop into a weapon in this league. 

A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Character concerns led to the fall of A.C. Leonard, who began his career at Florida before voluntarily leaving the school prior to the 2012 season. 

    In 2012, Leonard was arrested and pled no contest to a battery charge for dragging his girlfriend out of their apartment by her hair, which led to a suspension at Florida and contributed to his decision to leave and attend Tennessee State. 

    On the field, however, Leonard has obvious NFL skills and is one of the most explosive prospects at the position in this class.

    He's obviously a gamble based on the character flaws, but if he can stay out of trouble he'll earn his way on to an NFL roster. 

James Hurst, OT, North Carolina

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    USA TODAY Sports

    James Hurst would likely have heard his named called on draft weekend if not for suffering a broken leg in North Carolina's bowl game this past season. 

    He played left tackle for the Tar Heels but is somewhat limited athletically and will likely switch to the right side or even inside to guard in the pros. Hurst's strength is his power and he should excel as a run blocker at the next level. 

    He's probably among the most NFL-ready undrafted free agents and could compete for playing time early in his career is he lands in a favorable situation and can stay healthy. 

Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Despite being a massive presence on Tennessee's offensive line, Antonio Richardson was a consistent underachiever which likely led to his dramatic fall in the draft. 

    Richardson has experience at left tackle, but will likely be shifted to right tackle or inside to guard in the pros due to his limited athleticism. 

    In order to excel at the next level, Richardson needs to develop a mean streak. He's far too passive in his approach, but if that tenacity can be coached into him he has potential to develop into a nasty road grader on the offensive line. 

    Teams that like power run blockers will probably have the most interest in Richardson. 

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

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    USA TODAY Sports

    NFL bloodlines are nice, but they only take you so far.

    Jackson Jeffcoat, the son of longtime Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, has explosive potential but his motor runs hot and cold and likely contributed to him falling down draft boards. 

    At times, Jeffcoat flashes dominant potential as a pass-rusher, but doesn't always give the same effort against the run. 

    Injuries, including a sprained ankle in 2010 and a torn pectoral muscle which required surgery in 2012, may have also contributed to Jeffcoat falling in the draft. 

Zach Kerr, DT, Delaware

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    You can't teach size and that's exactly what Kerr brings to the table. 

    He's limited athletically and will never be an every-down lineman at the next level. However, Kerr does have the massive frame necessary to play nose tackle and is capable of being part of a defensive line rotation. 

    A history of concussions may have contributed to Kerr's fall in the draft, but if he checks out medically, he definitely has the potential to earn a job in the NFL. 

    While he obviously fits as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme, as part of a rotation, he could be considered by 4-3 teams as well. 

Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Max Bullough is an incredibly productive, intelligent and instinctive linebacker. However, a lack of athleticism severely limits his upside. 

    His surprising suspension from the 2014 Rose Bowl, for an undisclosed violation of team rules, may have also contributed to his fall depending on how he answered those questions during the interview process. 

    Prior to the suspension, the two-time team captain was praised for his character, but his absence from the biggest game in school history certainly raised some questions. 

    To stick at the next level, Bullough will need to prove his ability to anticipate and get into position are enough make up for his modest athleticism. 

Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Shayne Skov was a captain at Stanford and praised by the coaching staff for his leadership skills. But despite his leadership and collegiate production, a series of injuries severely damaged his draft stock. 

    Skov has battled injuries throughout his college career, most notably a torn ACL in 2011. 

    If he can stay healthy, Skov has the tools to start in the NFL, but he has struggled to stay on the field for the past few seasons and was even unable to participate in the combine this offseason due to a calf injury. 

    He's one of the most intriguing players in the free agent pool, but it's possible that he'll just never be able to stay healthy long enough to make an impact in the pros. 

Christian Jones, LB, Florida State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Christian Jones is another prospect with NFL bloodlines that falls out of the draft, as his father played in the league for the Raiders.

    Jones has the physical tools and fairly productive at Florida State but he's still developing the recognition skills necessary to excel as an inside linebacker in the pros. 

    At this stage of his career, Jones is hesitant and bites on a lot of fakes, which is more of a concern than ever in today's NFL with read-option and creative offensive schemes. 

    As an undrafted free agent, Jones will be able to select a scheme that works well for him and he'll be brought along slowly as he develops the mental side of the game. 

Louchiez Purifoy, CB, Florida

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    A year ago, Louchiez Purifoy was viewed as a potential first round prospect. 

    Lack of production in 2013, as well as multiple drug-related arrests, however, led to Purifoy's stock free falling throughout the 2013 season and the offseason draft process. 

    His character is an obvious red flag, but if he can straighten out his off-field affairs he has potential to develop into a steal. 

    It's rare for a prospect with a long, documented history of off-field problems to straighten out once he's collecting a pay check, but as an undrafted free agent there is very little risk involved and he will get a chance to earn a job somewhere in training camp. 

Dion Bailey, S, USC

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Dion Bailey is a strong safety and linebacker 'tweener, who played both positions during his career at USC. 

    He dropped weight prior to the 2013 season to move to safety, where he will likely begin his career in the NFL, but his athleticism could make him an intriguing option as a weak-side linebacker in certain schemes. 

    As a strong safety, Bailey's coverage skills are lacking and certain matchups with quicker receivers will be difficult for him. However, his experience at linebacker and his physical style of play will make him an asset against the run from the safety position. 

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