Report Card Grades for San Diego Chargers' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
The San Diego Chargers signed 17 undrafted free agents following the end of the 2014 draft, but which signings graded out the best?
It's difficult to judge how a player will perform in OTAs and training camp based solely upon his accolades at the collegiate level. The draft puts added pressure on general managers and coaches to select players who they believe are worthy of a draft choice, whereas the choice regarding who to sign as an undrafted free agent involves less strategy. Undrafted players also have more say as to where they want to go and can determine if a certain team is the right fit for them.
The Chargers brought in a wide variety of players from different positions and with varying skill sets, but let's see which players received the highest grades.
All combine information, draft projections and height weight measurements courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise noted.
D.J. Adams, RB, Portland State
A lack of playing time at Maryland forced Adams into making the decision to transfer after just two seasons with the Terps.
He signed on with Portland State for the 2012 season and became an instant star, amassing nearly 1,000 rushing yards to go along with 12 touchdowns. However, his next season with the Vikings would be his best, as he totaled 19 touchdowns and 1,600 yards, which ranked sixth in the FCS last season.
Adams finished his time at Portland State with a career average of 6.1 yards per carry and 111.6 yards per game. Production wasn't a problem for the gifted back, but there could be some concern as to how legitimate his numbers were playing in a sub-division.
The Chargers don't necessarily need more depth at running back, with four players who could potentially make the 2014 roster, but Adams' physical running style fits well with the team's offense. Furthermore, Ryan Mathews' injury history could force the team to add a fifth back.
Torrence Allen, WR, West Texas A&M
Allen's ridiculous numbers over the past two seasons have earned him several spots in West Texas A&M's history books. He owns the second- and third-highest receiving yardage totals in a single season with 1,430 in 2012 and 1,668 in 2013. He also managed to secure the Buffs' second-most career receiving yards (3,500) and second-most career receptions (234).
Allen doesn't have the credentials of a star wideout from a larger program, but he clearly did something right in his career to garner so much success. He'll compete for a job this summer and has the skill set to make the team.
Brelan Chancellor, WR, North Texas
Chancellor's forte at North Texas was serving as an excellent return man, but his abilities as a receiver emerged in 2013, as he posted career numbers. He caught 53 passes for 792 yards and four touchdowns while also earning the title of Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year.
Chancellor was one of 10 players in the nation to return a kickoff and punt for a touchdown last season, and he tallied 1,964 all-purpose yards in the process—a single-season record at North Texas. San Diego has a definite need for a return man, but Chancellor may be a fit as a slot receiver as well.
Alden Darby, S, Arizona State
Darby registered 13 of his 26 career pass deflections during the 2013 season and finished second on the Sun Devils in tackles with 72. He appeared in 50 games (28 starts) during his Arizona State career and had 10 career interceptions. According to Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com, Darby exhibits a hard-work ethic and leadership.
That being said, it's difficult to predict where Darby will fit in. San Diego has five safeties already, all of whom are still fresh. Darby could cut it as a special-teamer, but it's hard to see value in signing him for that purpose alone.
Chris Davis, CB, Auburn
The famed return man of Auburn has plenty to offer on special teams, but let's not forget his abilities as a defender. Last season, Davis finished second on the team in tackles with 74 and had 15 passes defensed. This signing by San Diego makes sense in two ways, as David specializes in two areas the team has been suffering at.
Davis' average punt return yardage (18.7) ranked third in the nation last season, which makes him a leading candidate to earn a spot on the roster as a punt returner, at the very least. Eddie Royal and Keenan Allen can't be taking risky hits on returns this year given their importance to the team's offense.
Greg Ducre, CB, Washington
As noted by NFL.com's Gil Brandt, Ducre ran a blazing 40-yard dash time of 4.33 seconds at his pro day, and it should also be noted that he was named the MVP of the College All-Star Bowl. Originally projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick by NFL.com, San Diego gets Ducre in camp for next to nothing. His athleticism and speed at the corner position is something to keep an eye on.
Even with Jason Verrett in the mix, the Chargers aren't very deep at corner. Richard Marshall is probably the safest reserve in house, Steve Williams hasn't played a snap in the NFL, and Brandon Ghee hasn't played very much because of his inability to stay healthy.
Ian White, OL, Boston College
White was a 13-game starter at right tackle for Boston College, but he also saw extensive time at guard early in his career. He'll compete for a spot on the roster as a backup, and his chances look good considering his versatility along the offensive line.
Injuries to King Dunlap allowed ample playing time for reserves last season, but none managed to stand out when given the opportunity. White would relish that opportunity and should have no problem moving around if it means more playing time.
Colton Underwood, DE, Illinois State
Underwood played a lot of defensive end at Illinois State and was fairly successful, with 44 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks, but he lacks the size (6'3", 256 lbs) and arm length to continue his career on the defensive line. In San Diego, he'll switch to outside linebacker and use the same skills that made him so effective in the college ranks.
However, not every player can successfully make that move. Veterans and rookies alike have struggled going from a hand-in-the-ground role to a stand-up position on many occasions. If Underwood can make good on the transition, however, then his signing will pay off.
Ricky Tjong-a-Tjoe, DT, Boise State
Tjong-A-Tjoe is an Amsterdam native who is still somewhat adapting to American football. He played nine-man football at the club level before his senior year of high school, and he continued to develop his skills at Boise State, where he totaled 37 tackles (4.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks in 2013. He still needs work on the finer points of the game, but he's off to a great start so far.
After selecting Ryan Carrethers with their fifth-round pick, the Chargers could stand to add some more variety at defensive tackle. Getting that big-bodied run stuffer was a major plus, but the defensive line also needs players with more quickness and finesse like Tjong-A-Tjoe.
Chase Tenpenny, P, Nevada
Unfortunately for Tenpenny, the Chargers have a punter they seem to like a whole lot. The team's current punter, Mike Scifres, hasn't shown any signs of slowing, but I applaud San Diego for bringing in some competition for him anyway.
Tenpenny will benefit from getting some work in OTAs and camp, and he could potentially pick up a thing or two from Scifres in the process.
Michael Flacco, TE, New Haven
Flacco goes from being a New Haven Charger to a San Diego Charger, at least for now.
Having played just one season of football in college, there will be some doubts as to how he can improve his game in such a short amount of time. However, he had nine touchdowns and 591 receiving yards in just 11 games last season. It is fine for the team to take a flier on him in order to see what he's got, but his decision to pursue baseball in the past has left him behind compared to the other tight end competition.
Still, his natural athleticism as a multi-sport athlete should allow Flacco to keep up at the next level even though he's got a lot of learning to do.
Micah Hatfield, WR, Oregon State
If Hatfield is as fast as he was at Oregon State's pro day (4.33 40-time) then San Diego is in for a real treat. Injuries didn't allow Hatfield to build his resume before the draft, but he'll get his shot in camp with a Chargers team that could still be looking for receiver help, especially receivers as fast as Hatfield.
The big question, though, is whether his body will allow him to pursue a dream of playing in the NFL.
Javontee Herndon, WR, Arkansas
Herndon didn't see the ball come his way too often in college, and his numbers weren't exactly extraordinary, but that was partly due to the fact that he played in a conference which thrived on running the ball.
Still, the Chargers saw enough from him to bring him on board. One thing Herndon does have going for him is consistency and durability, as he played 37 consecutive games at Arkansas.
D.J. Johnson, OG, New Mexico
Johnson started 29 consecutive games at left tackle, but he was originally inserted as a guard at New Mexico. His efforts helped New Mexico develop the nation's fourth-ranked rushing attack, which averaged 308.8 yards per game in 2013.
His 6'4" stature is a little short for a tackle in the NFL, but Johnson could find a home at his original position of guard. After all, the Chargers still have a need for interior lineman despite drafting one (Chris Watt) last week.
Tenny Palepoi, DT, Utah
Palepoi is another steal by the Chargers. He was projected as a fifth- or sixth-rounder by NFL.com but fell out of the draft for whatever reason.
Athletic for his size (6'1", 298 lbs) and quick in his recognition of plays, Palepoi totaled 53 tackles (4.5 for loss) in 2013. Carrethers provided a good start in the team's efforts to upgrade the defensive tackle position, but Palepoi could break into the rotation if John Pagano likes what he see from the former Ute.
Alvin Scioneaux, OLB, Wofford
Scioneaux's highly productive career at Wofford earned him all-Southern Conference selections for three years running.
He finished 2013 with 75 tackles (nine for loss) and 1.5 sacks. San Diego has clearly decided it is best to look everywhere for pass-rushers, no matter how large or small the program the hail from is.
Jeremiah Sirles, OT, Nebraska
Sirles has anchored both tackle spots for the Cornhuskers in the past, helping them build one of the top running games in the Big Ten on an annual basis.
With Dunlap suffering multiple concussions last season, the Chargers need for a reliable backup is evident. Sirles can play on either side of the line and has immense starting experience. Of the 53 games he played at Nebraska, Sirles has started in 41. He is a safe addition for the Chargers.
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