Report Card Grades for Houston Texans' Undrafted Free Agent Signings
Keep in mind while reading these grades that I'm not grading the same way I did for players selected during the actual draft.
No undrafted free agent is expected or likely to come in and make a big impact. Most of these guys will either be cut or spend most of their rookie year on the practice squad if they make the final roster. I'll be grading each signing for the position need on the team and if the player might have any long-term potential.
If I give a player an A grade it doesn't mean I think he's a first-round caliber player who will come in and start, it will only mean that the team has a need at his position and/or the player has potential to develop into a contributor three years down the road.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let's start going over all the signings. The Texans were busy in the hours right after the draft, and there's a good chance that you'll see at least one of these players make the roster.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Chris Boswell, K Rice
The scouts from CBS Sports describe Boswell as having a booming leg.
Strong leg with NFL long distance range. Displays proper technique and body fluidity to plant and drive his lower body. Booming leg strength on kickoffs as well with 54 touchbacks on 70 kickoffs. Creative with onside kick attempts with the foot quickness to deceive return teams. Accurate leg on kicks under 40 yards. Has shown clutch ability late in games.
Former Aggie Randy Bullock really struggled last year. Bullock missed the entire 2012 season with an injury and missed nine field goals last season, and many of those came in close/late game situations.
Boswell won't be expected to come in and win the job from Bullock. I think this was most likely the team's way of putting Bullock in a competition to push him and make him feel some pressure to see how he responds.
If Bullock rises to the occasion and wins the competition, then hopefully that means he's a tougher player and more equipped to handle the pressure-packed situations he failed in last season.
If Bullock crumbles, then you have a draft choice worthy kicker on your roster to step in as his replacement.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Kevin Forsch, OG Houston
Kevin Forsch is a 6'3'', 307-pound offensive guard who played at the University of Houston and is also a Houston native, having gone to Klein Oak High School in Tomball.
Forsch is an experienced player with 38 starts over the last three seasons. He's also shown some versatility with starts at guard and center along with time spent on the Cougars special teams unit.
Here's Derek Stephens of CBS Sports/Sports Xchange with a breakdown on the strengths and weaknesses of Forsch.
While he lacks the wide, thick frame that you typically look for in an NFL guard, he does a good job of utilizing light feet and lower-half bend to absorb impact and reset rapidly when bull-rushed, and exhibits consistent extension and punch to keep defenders at arm's length. When asked to pull or trap, he gets off the snap quickly and targets decisively, though he struggles to stop and square up, often electing to extend a forearm or lower his shoulder to "check" or brush his target instead. He also doubles over at the waste at times when anticipating contact at the second level, and can be tossed aside or will end up whiffing altogether. Forsch is a tough, durable and versatile lineman with good awareness and natural instincts, but he may not be a legitimate guard prospect at the next level without bulking up a bit.
The Texans offensive line is pretty solid in the interior with Pro Bowl center Chris Myers along with three recent draft picks, so it will be hard for Forsch to make the roster. One thing that does make him an intriguing option is his ability to play three offensive line spots. That versatility could make him a nice option as the reserve swing lineman, allowing Houston to keep one less lineman on the roster and add a reserve somewhere else.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Travis Labhart, WR Texas A&M
Travis Labhart didn't take the typical path of most athletes who get signed to an NFL roster. According to AggiesSports.com, Labhart was a walk-on, tried out for the men's basketball team and was even on the women's basketball practice team.
After playing in seven games without making a catch over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Labhart broke out during his senior season with 51 receptions for 626 yards and eight receiving touchdowns.
At just 5'9'' and 182 pounds, Labhart doesn't have the size to play as an outside receiver, but he could be a contributor in the slot and as a return man on special teams.
Labhart has a classic underdog story and will be described as a guy who "brings his lunch pail" to work each day. The Texans have a need at slot receiver, but it will still be very difficult for Labhart to make the roster.
Assuming he's still on the roster, Andre Johnson will obviously be the top receiver and DeAndre Hopkins is a lock as the second receiver. After that I'd be surprised if Labhart beat out DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin or Mike Thomas. That's five receivers, and if the Texans keep six, he has a shot, but he'll have to prove himself on special teams to earn that spot.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Terrance Lloyd, DE Baylor
The 6'3'', 245-pound linebacker was a four-year starter for the Bears and racked up 20.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks over his four year career at Baylor. Terrance Lloyd is one of several Houston natives to sign with the Texans; he went to Stratford High School.
DraftInsider.net wrote a brief description of Lloyd as an NFL prospect.
Undersized college defensive end with the physical skills and body type to be used at linebacker in the NFL. Comes with an upside.
Scout.com had this to say about Lloyd as a high school prospect.
Lloyd is an athlete. He is naturally gifted and his size, speed, and athleticism causes problems. He is raw in technique and doesn't use an array of different moves; primary bull rushing or speed rushing to beat his opponent. A summer of the weight room and technique focused training will work wonders. If that is not his focus, he will need a redshirt year. He has all the tools in the shed, they just need sharpened.
Lloyd was an All-Big 12 defensive end in 2012 and was part of a senior class at Baylor that played in four straight bowl games for the first time in school history.
Lloyd obviously doesn't have the size to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, so he will move to outside linebacker in the Texans defense. The Texans already have first-round picks Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, who will likely be the starters at outside linebacker.
If Brooks Reed moves to inside linebacker as expected, the players Lloyd will be in competition with will be Ricky Sapp, Trevardo Williams, Justin Tuggle and Mike Mohamed.
Linebackers usually make good special teams players, which is where Lloyd will have to prove himself to make the roster.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Chris McAllister, DE Baylor
The Houston Texans added another Baylor Bear with the addition of Chris McAllister. The Texas native made the All-Big 12 first team last season and was the defensive MVP of the 2012 Alamo Bowl.
The 14.5 sacks from McAllister over his four seasons tie him for the career record at Baylor. McAllister also had 11.5 tackles for loss last season for the Bears and 25 tackles for loss total over his four years playing for Baylor.
Eric Galko of OptimumScouting.com likes McAllister's physical play and thinks his best fit at the NFL level will be as an 3-4 outside linebacker.
This defensive end won’t wow with speed rush ability or an array of moves, but what he will do is play physical, assignment sound football. Setting the edge with powerful and active hands, McAllister takes pride in feeling out down blocks, locating run flow and pursuing at full speed. He’s far more athletic than credited, can work laterally to protect the sideline and even flashes the ability to implement strong, rip/dip moves off the edge to cross face of opposing tackles. McAllister has the long arms, stout frame, more than enough range and violent hands that should translate very well to a 3-4 outside linebacker position.
The Texans could use depth at outside linebacker, so McAllister may find himself on the practice squad. If he doesn't develop more pass-rush moves he'll never be more than a reserve at the NFL level. His only chance to make the regular roster will be to excel on special teams during training camp and preseason.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Max Bullough, ILB Michigan State
Maybe Brooks Reed becomes the Texans inside linebacker next to Brian Cushing, but I was still surprised that the team decided not to draft a player at the position. I was also surprised to see Max Bullough from Michigan State go undrafted; he was a player I hoped the Texans would target in the sixth round if he made it that far.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com likes his football intelligence, tackling skill and physicality. Nawrocki had him rated as a possible fourth-round pick.
Terrific football intelligence. Keys and diagnoses quickly, understands run fits and spills willingly. Physical -- good take-on/tackle strengh between the tackles. Pursues hard. Good tackler when he's able to square up ball carriers. Two-year captain with outstanding football character. Leads vocally and by example. Football is in his blood and approaches the game accordingly. His 30 bench-press reps were tied for most among linebackers at the combine.
Of course, as a guy who went undrafted, he has many flaws as Nawrocki points out.
Average athlete. Not explosive. Tight hips (exposed in space). Limited foot speed, lateral agility and range. Can be late to the perimeter. Struggles in man coverage and is stiff dropping/turning in coverage.
I don't want to get too excited about an undrafted free agent, but I really think signing Bullough was a great move. The downside on him is that he's not very strong in coverage, so he'll likely be a two-down player and come off the field when the Texans go into their nickel or dime package.
If Coach O'Brien is true to his word of playing nickel 70 percent of the time, then maybe Bullough will be just a one-down player, which perhaps explains why the team didn't seem to value the position during the draft.
In my opinion, whenever Bullough gets on the field, he has enough skill to make an impact in run defense. Bullough was a two-time team captain and led the Spartans in tackles in 2011 and 2012.
With Joe Mays and Darryl Sharpton gone from last season, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bullough get a good amount of playing time next to Brian Cushing next season.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Anthony McClung, WR Cincinnati
The 6'1" McClung caught 72 passes last year for 939 yards and five touchdowns for the Bearcats.
Derek Stephens from The Sports Xchange and CBS Sports described the strengths and weaknesses of McClung's game.
At 6-1, McClung possesses ideal length and range for the position and displays strong coordination and soft hands when asked to secure the ball off his frame. Despite appearing a bit high-waisted, McClung exhibits impressive shiftiness and stop-start ability in traffic and can really accelerate in the open field after the catch. He plays light, is often easy to knock off course in press and has really been at his best when he's able to separate across the field from the slot when given a few steps of space to work with off the snap. Thus, adding some muscle and turning up the level of physicality will be a must if he wants to project as a consistent outside target at the next level.
CincyOnTheProwl.com wasn't as complimentary of McClung's production level and believes that he can only play one position in the NFL.
Cincinnati’s slot receiver had a strong senior season. McClung lead all players at his position with 939 reception yards and was second in receptions. But he only snagged five touchdowns and didn’t really establish himself as a “go to” option for UC quarterbacks like wide outs in the past. Plus he’s a little on the skinny side and really only fulfills one role for a team, that being on the inside. That lack of versatility and the fact that he didn’t run at UC’s Pro Day are big dings on his resume. McClung might get an invitation to a team’s camp, though.
The good thing for McClung is that the Texans have a need at slot receiver. He'll be thrown into a crowded competition for the slot receiver role with several veterans, but what will play in his favor is his contract. Even if he doesn't play better than guys like Keshawn Martin or Mike Thomas, if he at least competes, the pennies it will take to pay him will work in his favor.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Chris Martin, OT Central Florida
A former tight end, Chris Martin played 11 games at right tackle and two games at left tackle last season for UCF.
As a former tight end, Martin is pretty athletic for the tackle position as Derek Stephens from the Sports Xchange points out.
Big, athletic tackle who converted to the O-line from tight end, midway through his junior year, appearing in 12 total games with one start at tackle. Has immense upside, but multiple suspensions have marred his UCF career and he'll need to show improvement both on and off the field as a senior, if he's to earn draft consideration.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com describes the 6'5", 305-pound UCF tackle as a strong player with bad technique and doesn't like his athletic ability as much as Stephens.
Good overall mass and weight-room strength. Flashes some straight-line power and nastiness to finish blocks. Has enough strength to hold the point of attack.
A big-bodied, grabber lacking the length and agility ideally suited to handle the edges and the core strength desired on the inside. Has a chance when he plays square and has an angle, but athletic limitations could always be restricting.
The Texans needed to add a player during the draft to compete for the right tackle job held last year by Derek Newton. Despite not doing so, I'd be shocked if Martin were able to beat out second-year players David Quessenberry or Brennan Williams at the position.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Anthony Denham, TE Utah
The Texans added another tight end with Anthony Denham from Utah.
Denham doesn't have much experience as a receiver with only two years of playing time and 35 career receptions, but Dane Brugler from CBS Sports calls him the undrafted free agent to watch on the Texans roster.
More of a rocked up receiver than traditional tight end, Denham transferred from the JUCO level to Utah and started in 2013. An impressive specimen who passes the eye test, he doesn't have the ideal resume, but there is untapped potential there, especially as a red zone threat.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com likes Denham's physical attributes but also has concerns about his experience as a receiver.
Marginal play speed. Does not sell his routes and gives up break points. Struggles to beat the jam, and most catches are contested. Does not keep working to uncover or show much awareness for zones. Disinterested, lackadaisical blocker. No special-teams value.
Long-limbed, high-cut possession receiver must learn what it means to be a pro to stand a chance to realize his potential. Very raw size prospect.
At best, Denham would be the Texans' fourth tight end behind Garrett Graham, Ryan Griffin and third-round draft pick C.J. Fiedorowicz. Will the Texans keep a fourth tight end? I doubt it, but with his size and physical gifts, he could be an impact player on special teams, which would earn him a job.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Nathan Slaughter, WR West Texas A&M
The Houston Texans signed yet another Texas native with Nathan Slaughter from the city of Lubbock and West Texas A&M University.
The 5'10'' 185 pound receiver started 32 games during his career with the Buffs, totaling 133 receptions for 1,563 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Slaughter is a lightning quick receiver who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day and could be a great scheme fit with a connection to Wes Welker who starred in an offense ran by Coach O'Brien in 2011. As the site Battle Red Blog points out, the offense Slaughter played in during college was put together by Mike Leach; Welker's coach at Texas Tech.
The WTAMU offense was built in 2005 with help from Mike Leach who allowed the WTAMU staff to basically live in Lubbock and attend all meetings and practices. Since the air raid's inception at WTAMU in 2005, the Buffaloes are an annual favorite to win their conference (recruiting is dominantly better than its opponents' recruiting efforts) and they came within one game of playing for the national championship this past year.
Welker was to Leach what Slaughter was to Carthel, the elusive and gritty Slot Receiver who takes slants and screens in a way that causes havoc on opposing defenses who can't find them in traffic and who inevitably end up with hands on hips after prolonged exposure to that type of hyperkinetic action on the field all game long. We have never had a true utilization of a true slot Receiver, though Kubiak tried with David Anderson to some degree off and on over the years before finally giving up on the idea. Looking at the UDFA Slot Receiver additions, I think O'Brien is about to Patriot-ize our offense, folks.
Slaughter was also a contributor on special teams in college so that could be his ticket. He'll will face stiff competition but it's exciting to see Coach O'Brien identify scheme fits like Slaughter and bring them in to compete for a job.
Houston Texans Undrafted Free Agent: Lacoltan Bester, WR Oklahoma
The Texans signed Lacoltan Bester, a big receiver from the University of Oklahoma.
The 6'3'' receiver was really only a one year player for the Sooners after coming to Oklahoma as a JUCO from East Mississippi Community College. Bester played mostly on special teams during the 2012 season but got an opportunity to play receiver in 2013 and racked up 27 receptions for 392 yards and two touchdowns.
The Texans outside receiver spot will impossible for him to crack with Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and DeVier Posey on the roster in front of him. At 6'3'' I don't see him as a natural fit for the slot position.