SEC Undrafted Free Agents Who Will Have Successful NFL Careers
One of the more remarkable streaks in college football was kept alive over the weekend, as the SEC led all conferences in players drafted for the eighth straight season.
A grand total of 49 former players heard their names called in New York City at the world's biggest televised job fair.
But while those 49 players realized their dreams, the former SEC stars who didn't get a phone call from an NFL franchise during the draft is perhaps the most shocking development of the draft from a college football perspective.
Former stars like Tennessee offensive lineman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson and Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy had to go the undrafted free-agent route to make it to the league.
Which SEC undrafted free agents have the best chances of having successful NFL careers? The top five are in this slideshow.
5. Cleveland Browns QB Connor Shaw
The Cleveland Browns drafted a gamer when it selected former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round, but it also got another one through free agency when they inked former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw to a free-agent deal, according to Pro Football Talk.
He completed 65.5 percent of his passes (480-of-733) for 6,074 yards, 56 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions in four years at South Carolina. The ultra-tough dual-threat quarterback also rushed for 1,683 yards and 17 touchdowns and is a perfect backup to Manziel.
The durability questions surrounding Manziel are silly. He routinely put his body at risk at Texas A&M and almost always got back up, dusted himself off and moved onto the next play. But he does put himself at risk, and while Shaw is no Manziel, he can do a lot of the same things the former Aggie can do. So if he's called upon to fill in, the changes in the offense should be minimal.
If Shaw ever gets a chance to start somewhere in the NFL, don't be surprised if he takes a job and runs with it.
4. Green Bay Packers LB Adrian Hubbard
Adrian Hubbard left Alabama early to chase his NFL dream, but the path is a little different than he initially envisioned.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, he believes that a heart condition led to his fall in the draft. But the 6'6", 257-pound outside linebacker found a pretty sweet landing spot with the Green Bay Packers.
He was a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide, racking up 83 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks during his time in T-Town. He's quick off the edge, solid against the run and a big hitter, which will play well in Green Bay.
He's using the draft snub as motivation.
31 teams going to get it by any means— Adrian Hubbard (@__unchained42) May 11, 2014
Whether it's with Green Bay or somewhere else, Hubbard has the physical traits that will make him attractive, and he will stick around in the NFL for a while.
3. Indianapolis Colts CB Loucheiz Purifoy
Once upon a time, former Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was considered a hot-shot prospect in the NFL draft, according to ESPN.com's Todd McShay (subscription required).
One inconsistent season, some off-the-field transgressions and seven rounds later, Purifoy was still waiting for a call.
The Indianapolis Colts snatched him up in free agency to provide depth, according to the Indianapolis Star. That's perfect for Purifoy, who has to be humbled by his draft tumble and will have to prove himself as a reserve and on special teams to make the Colts and a case for himself in the NFL.
All he needs is a chance. If he gets it, expect him to stick around. He was exposed in coverage at times last year at Florida and didn't exactly impress at the combine with a 4.61 40-yard dash, per NFL.com. But he has the athleticism to be a star on special teams and can be a solid situational defensive back.
2. Dallas Cowboys WR L'Damian Washington
Dorial Green-Beckham got a lot of the headlines last year, but L'Damian Washington was Missouri's leading receiver during its run to the SEC East title, catching 50 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The 6'4", 195-pounder ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine, per NFL.com, and proved during his final season in Columbia that he has strong hands and can create separation. Despite that, he didn't hear his name called in New York City and, according to the Shreveport (La.) Times, signed a free-agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
He has the length and speed to create mismatches downfield against opposing defensive backs, especially if he puts on a bit more weight.
1. Minnesota Vikings OT Antonio "Tiny" Richardson
The biggest name—quite literally—not mentioned during the NFL draft was former Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson.
The 6'6", 336-pounder left Tennessee a year early to pursue his NFL dreams, but knee issues sent him on the road less traveled, according to FoxSports.com's Bruce Feldman.
Massive Tiny Richardson, a sharp kid who started 24 gms at LT for #Vols went undrafted> It was all medical related. Bad knees, per source.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 13, 2014
He signed on with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent, and if he can overcome those knee issues, he has all the talent in the world to not only enjoy a long career in the NFL but one as a starter.
His size will make him attractive to not only the Vikings but other teams if he doesn't stick in Minnesota. He has long arms and punishes defenders in the running game, and as long as his knee issues don't persist, he'll be a star.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.
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