Even after seven rounds, 256 picks and three days of the 2014 NFL draft, there are still sure to be a handful of undrafted gems who become impact players in the league.
Within minutes of the draft ending—or at times, even before it ends—some of the top undrafted players are contacted by teams and signed soon after. The pain of not getting drafted might last a while, but the top unchosen commodities at least find out rather quickly which training camp they're headed to.
That part has already been settled for many of the top names to be passed on at Radio City Music Hall over the weekend. Some of those players will fall into situations where they will be able to make a 53-man roster and begin developing into a productive player.
There may not be a Tony Romo, Arian Foster or Wes Welker signed this year, but there are a handful of big-time prospects who were picked up early in the undrafted free-agent process and will thrive early on.
Let's take a look at some undrafted players recently signed who are the most likely to have early success.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Minnesota Vikings
Entering 2013, Antonio "Tiny" Richardson's draft stock was soaring, and he had the potential to be a top offensive tackle in the class. Even entering the draft, he was expected to come off the board on Day 2.
But after a Day 3 tumble and going undrafted, Richardson signed with the Vikings soon after the draft ended, per his Twitter account:
Vikings— Antonio Richardson (@tinyrichardson) May 11, 2014
Richardson played his college football at Tennessee and emerged on a Vol offensive line loaded with players selected in this weekend's draft. His ideal size (6'6", 325 pounds) and athleticism for his stature make him a daunting tackle—one that can handle quick outside rushers down after down.
For Minnesota, he could make an early impact due to his ability to play the guard spot. The Vikings could use a replacement for left guard Charlie Johnson, as indicated by the team's selection of Stanford's David Yankey in the fifth round.
But Richardson's skill set and peak size are undeniable, and if he plays like he did on the line at Tennessee, he should have no problem earning a starting spot in Minnesota.
Shayne Skov, LB, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers made as much noise as anyone on Day 2 and beyond of the NFL draft, but one of the team's most intriguing late moves came hours after the draft concluded.
San Francisco added a nearby product out of Stanford in linebacker Shayne Skov to bolster an already great defense. Skov announced the move on Twitter:
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
It might not be the best place to earn playing time early on, but Skov will benefit from joining the San Francisco system. Being able to develop without the pressure of either draft expectations or playing time seems to bode well for certain players.
However, if Skov breaks out like he did at Stanford and sees his effectiveness translate to the NFL, it shouldn't take long for him to earn some reps. He showed great instincts at Stanford, and his abilities to fill the hole as well as drop back into coverage make him the complete package at linebacker.
The 49ers bolstered Skov's position in the third round by selecting Chris Borland, but the Stanford product will be hot on his tail in climbing the pecking order throughout this summer's training camp and beyond.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Seattle Seahawks
In glaring fashion, no players from the University of Texas were selected in this year's draft. But it won't take long for one to make a roster and an early impact.
Promising pass-rusher Jackson Jeffcoat was picked up quickly by the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks when the undrafted free-agency period began.
Bleacher Report's Erik Frenz added what the move meant for Seattle:
Just like Skov, Jeffcoat enters a situation that will be more challenging than most to earn his way into the pecking order. But if he pans out like he should, that should be no problem.
Jeffcoat had a third-to-fourth-round grade from CBS Sports, and it's not hard to see why. At 6'3" and 247 pounds with a 4.61 40-yard dash and possessing all of the physical tools necessary, the sky is the limit for him.
He may be more of a long-term project, but Jeffcoat's massive potential should be enough to get him a roster spot and force head coach Pete Carroll's hand at getting him on the field plenty early on. He'll be more effective in his second and third years, but expect a strong Year 1 from Jeffcoat.