For 256 young men, one of the last three days proved their dream come true. That's how many college football prospects were selected during the 2014 NFL draft over the weekend, which concluded its stranglehold over sports culture Saturday evening.
Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine became the 2014 Mr. Irrelevant winner after the Houston Texans selected him with the night's final pick. But it's the players who were left stranded when Ballentine heard his name who are driving the conversation at the moment.
For all of the hours upon hours of work NFL teams put into identifying the players they take across seven rounds, the immediate seconds following the draft are spent trying to add more potential lottery tickets to the pile. There is a rich history of NFL players emerging from undrafted free agent anonymity to stardom. Defensive tackle John Randle, tight end Antonio Gates and quarterback Warren Moon are among the best players at their respective positions but heard their names uncalled on draft night.
While it's impossible to know if there are any Hall of Famers in this class, there are undoubtedly some very good players. In fact, some of the guys left hanging Saturday afternoon were kind of shocking in and of themselves. Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov has an injury history, sure, but there were few more productive linebackers in college football last season.
And Skov was far from the only one. The University of Texas received a rude awakening when exactly zero Longhorns went off the board. As did players who once thought leaving USC early was an easy ticket to an NFL job.
With that in mind, let's check in on some of the biggest undrafted free-agent names and where they're headed.
|Brandon Coleman||WR||Rutgers||New Orleans Saints|
|Marcus Roberson||CB||Florida||St. Louis Rams|
|Antonio Richardson||OT||Tennessee||Minnesota Vikings|
|Adrian Hubbard||LB||Alabama||Green Bay Packers|
|Jackson Jeffcoat||DE||Texas||Seattle Seahawks|
|Christian Jones||LB||Florida State||Chicago Bears|
|Kelcy Quarles||DT||South Carolina||New York Giants|
|Vic Hampton||CB||South Carolina|
|Craig Loston||S||LSU||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Mike Davis||WR||Texas||Oakland Raiders|
|Shayne Skov||LB||Stanford||San Francisco 49ers|
|Loucheiz Purifoy||CB||Florida||Indianapolis Colts|
|Dion Bailey||DB||USC||Seattle Seahawks|
|George Uko||DT||USC||New Orleans Saints|
|Stephen Morris||QB||Miami (Florida)||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Max Bullough||LB||Michigan State||Houston Texans|
|Connor Shaw||QB||South Carolina||Cleveland Browns|
|Damien Williams||RB||Oklahoma||Miami Dolphins|
|Ladarius Perkins||RB||Mississippi State||Green Bay Packers|
|Kain Colter||WR||Northwestern||Minnesota Vikings|
|Morgan Breslin||LB||USC||San Francisco 49ers|
|Allen Hurns||WR||Miami (Florida)||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|George Atkinson III||RB||Notre Dame||Oakland Raiders|
|James Wilder Jr.||RB||Florida State||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Silas Redd||RB||USC||Washington Redskins|
|Deion Belue||CB||Alabama||Miami Dolphins|
|Jordan Lynch||QB/RB||Northern Illinois||Chicago Bears|
|James Franklin||QB||Missouri||Detroit Lions|
|Keith Price||QB||Washington||Seattle Seahawks|
|Jake Murphy||TE||Utah||Oakland Raiders|
|Tommy Rees||QB||Notre Dame||Washington Redskins|
|Kenny Bell||WR||Alabama||Washington Redskins (Tryout)|
|Glenn Carson||LB||Penn State||Arizona Cardinals|
|Dan Fox||LB||Notre Dame||New York Giants|
|Roy Finch||RB||Oklahoma||New England Patriots|
|Mike Flacco||TE||New Haven||San Diego Chargers|
|Corey Brown||WR||Ohio State||Carolina Panthers|
|Denicos Allen||LB||Michigan State||Carolina Panthers|
|Kolton Browning||QB||Louisiana Monroe||Dallas Cowboys|
|Taylor Martinez||QB||Nebraska||Philadelphia Eagles|
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Seattle Seahawks
In 2013, the Associated Press All-American defensive ends were Michael Sam and Jackson Jeffcoat. Sam waited until the No. 249 overall selection to have his name called. Jeffcoat, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Ted Hendricks Award winner, didn't hear his name called at all.
This is weird and strange and ridiculous for any number of reasons. It's also fortunate for the Seattle Seahawks, who improved the NFL's best defense by adding Jeffcoat late Saturday night, per an Associated Press report. The former Texas standout was one of nine players added to the Seahawks' roster but undoubtedly the one most likely to stick around in September.
As a senior, Jeffcoat made 82 total tackles (19 for loss) and 13 sacks as one of the fiercest edge rushers in college football. Listed at 6'3" and 247 pounds, he has less than ideal size to transition to defensive end but profiles as a strong situational pass rusher early in his career. He's lightning quick off the ball and ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash and 4.18-second shuttle drill at the combine.
Those numbers ranked among the best defensive ends in this class and give some credence to the theory Jeffcoat's best long-term position is outside linebacker. Seattle plays a hybrid front system depending on the offensive alignment, so Pete Carroll could move him all over the formation if he sticks around.
The issue here will be beating out depth. The Seahawks go three deep at both defensive end spots and made picks to bolster their pass-rush rotation this weekend. It will be an uphill climb for Jeffcoat to impress enough to vault over players the coaching staff saw fit to draft. That said, Seattle is famous for loading up on and holding onto pass-rushing prospects, so this is a strong football fit.
We'll just have to see if Jeffcoat can impress enough to stick around.
Shayne Skov, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Skov might be the best player out of the group. The former Stanford star had 109 tackles (13 for loss), 5.5 sacks and knocked down four passes as a senior, his fourth year as an integral member of the Cardinal defense. Notice we don't say fourth straight season because an ACL tear cost him all but three games in 2011.
While Skov returned and has been incredibly productive since, questions about his top-end speed and lateral quickness caused him to drop down draft boards. Viewed as an early Day 3 selection by NFL.com, Skov kept falling and falling and falling. Given the lesser value placed on inside linebackers on draft night, it was not a surprise to see Skov drop a little. But Going off the board entirely was surprising.
That said, going undrafted allowed Skov to have his pick of situations. It seems he'll be sticking around in California a little longer. Skov chose to sign with the San Francisco 49ers over fellow Bay Area occupant Oakland, sharing the decision on his personal Twitter account:
Don't know where the whole Oakland thing came from... But I'm headed to the 49ers, gunna make my mark in this league before it's all over— Gojira ゴジラ Skov (@ShayneSkov) May 11, 2014
The reasoning here isn't exactly obvious. One team employs Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. The other does not. Oakland's current starting middle linebacker is Nick Roach, a perfectly good but non-Pro Bowl talent. Behind Roach is Kaluka Maiava, and the Raiders did not draft any linebackers—assuming they plan on moving Khalil Mack to the defensive line.
Skov still has a good chance at making this roster, but he'll have an uphill climb to contributing.
Connor Shaw, QB, Cleveland Browns
The Browns are apparently enamored with SEC quarterbacks. On Thursday, they made one of the boldest moves of the draft, trading up to No. 22 to take Texas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel. The world has unexpectedly remained intact, so Cleveland has since gone about bolstering its depth across the roster (except, curiously, at wide receiver).
Included in that depth is a quarterback who used to try to outgun Manziel. South Carolina's Connor Shaw tweeted he has decided to sign with the Browns:
Cleveland Browns it is. Thankful for the opportunity. #DawgPound— Connor Shaw (@cmshaw_14) May 10, 2014
Shaw joins an absolutely crowded depth chart. Along with Manziel and Shaw, Cleveland has incumbent starter Brian Hoyer, veterans Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen and the unproven Alex Tanney. I was not a math major in college, but having six quarterbacks on a 53-man roster when a team can only play one seems a bit unlikely.
I'd suspect half of those players currently on the depth chart will receive walking papers by the first cut of training camp. Shaw, the winningest quarterback in South Carolina history, threw for 2,447 yards and 24 touchdowns against just one interception as a senior. While he's probably the low man on the totem pole at this point, Shaw's ability to create on his feet and improvise might make him a solid scout team option.
At the very least, Shaw was one of the hardest-working quarterbacks in the country. He'd be a great attitude fit if nothing else.
Silas Redd, RB, Washington Redskins
Think back a couple seasons. To a time when Lane Kiffin was not persona-non-grata at USC. To when Matt Barkley was considered a first-round prospect. To when the Trojans were the most talented team in the country, a preseason No. 1 with a world-beating offense and a talented defense.
The running back who was supposed to play Reggie Bush to Barkley's Matt Leinart? Silas Redd. A Penn State transfer in the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Redd was a highly-productive, explosive talent seemingly on the edge of a breakout. Put him around all-world talent elsewhere on offense, and the theory was that he would thrive.
We never really got to find out. Injuries marred Redd's time in Southern California, as his two-year total as a Trojan (1,281 yards) barely eclipsed his sophomore campaign (1,241 yards) in Happy Valley. In particular, a bothersome knee injury held him to only 376 yards as a senior.
As Tony Di Francisco of College Football Matrix points out, Redd's stock fell so sharply it was easy to forget he was even a member of the 2014 draft class:
I didn't even realize Silas Redd was an option in this draft either. Talk about a declined stock.— Tony Di Francisco (@TonyDiFrancisco) May 10, 2014
Although not a shock to be undrafted, Redd certainly has the tools to be an effective NFL back if he stays healthy. Luckily, he's headed to a team that's had some recent success plucking running backs from out of nowhere. Fox Sports' Ross Jones reported Redd will sign with the Washington Redskins, where he'll compete to back up Pro Bowler Alfred Morris.
Washington also drafted Baylor's Lache Seastrunk, so Redd won't be without explosive competition. Roy Helu and Redd's former Penn State teammate Evan Royster are also listed on the depth chart. But if we've learned anything over these last few years, it's that the running back position is fungible. Redd is one breakout camp away from soaring up the depth chart—especially considering head coach Jay Gruden has no history with current Washington backs.
Christian Jones, LB, Chicago Bears
As a member of Florida State's stellar 2013 defense, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle when you're not a future first-round pick. The Seminoles time and again put their best athletes on defense, and last season watched on as they throttled all comers en route to a national title.
Christian Jones was an integral part of that attack. Starting at outside linebacker for all but one of the Seminoles' 14 games, he compiled 56 total tackles and two sacks as a steadying force. Jones rarely stood out as a star, but is talented enough that he considered leaving school a year early before coming back for his senior year.
That move got him a national title ring. It also might have cost him his draft stock. Jones dropped out of Saturday's proceedings after running a disappointing 4.74-second 40-yard dash and showing mediocre quickness at the combine. Jones also failed his drug test at the combine, per Fox Sports' Jay Glazer.
Considered a potential rush linebacker in the pros, those numbers weren't good enough to overcome mediocre production—some of which was caused by sharing the field with players more talented than he. Still, Jones probably would have been taken without the drug-test snafu and is certainly an NFL-worthy talent.
Now, what team Jones is headed to was topic up for debate. Florida State football's official Twitter feed said Jones had agreed with the Jaguars, as had other reports. However, Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel later confirmed Jones flipped his commitment and would be headed to the Chicago Bears
We'll likely find out here within a matter of hours. But such is life in the Wild Wild West of undrafted free agent negotiations.
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