7 Undrafted Rookies Making Noise in Offseason Workouts
Undrafted free agency is a vicious, post-draft free-for-all that sees teams vying for lottery tickets at an incredible rate. The dust settled long ago, and most of those players aren't going to make it at the next level.
Some do, though, and they do it by impressing right away. You have to stick out to remain with the team.
It's early in workout season, but some undrafted free agents have been making noise thus far. Click through to see which ones have been the loudest through the first few weeks.
Kapri Bibbs, RB, Denver Broncos
The running back position isn't exactly on lockdown in Denver.
The Broncos let Knowshon Moreno and his 1,038 rushing yards from 2013 go in free agency, opening up an opportunity for second-year back Montee Ball to take over. Behind him, though, is plenty of competition.
Undrafted free agent Kapri Bibbs might be in the mix for a backup role, and he is turning heads thus far, according to Bleacher Report's Cecil Lammey:
He has looked good during rookie minicamp and the full-team minicamp that is going on right now. Bibbs is looking swift with the ball in his hands, and he’s been able to turn the corner with good burst during 11-on-11 drills.
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase recently praised Bibbs after practice: "He’s done a good job. All these free agents that we’ve had out here, the rookies in that running back room have been very impressive. You can tell it’s not too big for them and they’re stepping up and getting their reps, and doing a good job at it."
There is plenty of competition for him, but Bibbs is making early noise that could land him on the 53-man roster if he keeps it up over the next couple of months.
Max Bullough, LB, Houston Texans
Linebacker Max Bullough was a three-year starter for a solid Michigan State defense. A Rose Bowl suspension may have cost him, though, and he fell all the way out of the draft.
Bullough landed with the right team in undrafted free agency, however, as the Houston Texans have a potential opening alongside Brian Cushing in the middle of that defense. He has gotten off to a pretty good start with the Texans, per Patrick D. Starr of the State of the Texans blog:
After a slow first day, Bullough looks like he shook the jitters out on day two. Bullough was flying around and despite struggling in coverage looked much better today when asked to do the same thing. If Bullough can understand what Romeo Crennel is asking from the inside linebacker position quickly, he will have a chance to climb up the depth chart and be called on to be more than just a depth player.
Bullough has a rare chance to rise from the ashes of his draft stock to become a starter out of undrafted free agency, and it sounds like he's off to a good start.
Chris Davis, CB, San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers had an awful pass defense last season, and there is some opportunity at the bottom end of the cornerback depth chart for an unheralded rookie to crash.
One of those rookies is Chris Davis, the man who beat Alabama with a 109-yard field-goal return for a touchdown as time expired last season.
Davis has been turning heads with the Chargers for his skills as a cornerback, particularly head coach Mike McCoy's, according to Garrett Sisti of BoltBlitz.com:
At yesterday’s press conference McCoy had some good things to say about Chris Davis in OTA’s, "playing out there on an island often and you’ve seen him make some nice plays throughout the early part of OTA’s." When referring to what attracted him to Chris Davis, McCoy added, "Seeing him play week in and week out against the best in the country, the success he had not only on defense but on special teams it was an easy decision for us to make, we’re fortunate to have him."
It will be interesting to see if Davis can sneak onto the 53-man roster if he keeps up his momentum from OTAs.
James Hurst, OT, Baltimore Ravens
It was a bit of a surprise to see James Hurst fall all the way out of the draft. A broken leg late last season was the biggest culprit.
The former UNC offensive lineman is getting his shot at the next level with the Baltimore Ravens, and he is making an impression on head coach John Harbaugh early.
Per Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com, Harbaugh said: "Hurst at the left tackle draws my attention a lot. He has very good feet. He seems like he’s picking it up quickly. He likes to practice. He has a heavy punch. So, he has a chance."
Hurst might be punching his way onto the 53-man roster if he keeps catching Harbaugh's eye in the coming months.
Kerry Hyder, DL, New York Jets
The New York Jets aren't lacking along the defensive front; they're one of the stoutest teams in the league in that department. Depth was a bit of an issue this offseason, however, and the Jets may have found a gem in undrafted free agency with Kerry Hyder.
He was a tough run defender in college, but his lack of athleticism sunk his draft stock. He was intriguing enough for the Jets to sign, though, and if anyone could mold a guy like Hyder into a good football player, it's head coach Rex Ryan.
So far, Hyder has done a nice enough job to run with the second team, according to the New York Post's Brian Costello:
The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder was second-team All-Big 12 last year and he showed flashes why on Wednesday. He was very active and seemed to be around the ball a lot. It’s hard to judge linemen in non-contact OTAs, but Hyder looked as if he was holding his own. He also saw a lot of time with the second team, which is impressive for an undrafted free agent in May.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Green Bay Packers
Colt Lyerla's story is one of redemption.
Despite loads of talent, the tight end out of Oregon went undrafted thanks to off-field concerns that involved serious drug use and quitting on his team in 2013. He is out to right the ship, though, and the Green Bay Packers took a chance on the talented tight end.
So far, so good in Green bay for Lyerla, according to SB Nation's Aron Yohannes:
Shortly after, he made a pretty difficult grab across the middle and received a nice order of chants from fans in attendance at Ray Nitschke field.
He was also one of the last players to exit the field after staying when practice concluded to run routes and catch passes. Just like today’s drop, Lyerla is working to make sure things in his past don’t happen again.
Lyerla also says his off-field issues are behind him, a good sign if he is going to stick at the next level. Once Lyerla is given a chance to truly shine, it's going to be difficult to keep him off the field.
Dion Bailey, FS, Seattle Seahawks
Once considered a second- or third-round prospect, safety Dion Bailey inexplicably fell all the way out of the draft. The Seattle Seahawks came calling, and he picked up the phone in undrafted free agency.
Bailey was one of the best undrafted signees after the draft, and he is already proving it to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, per Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times:
"Dion Bailey has certainly caught my eye. I’ve been impressed by the way he’s picked up the defense. I’ve been impressed by the way he communicates. I’ve been impressed by the way he goes after the ball."
According to Condotta, "the backup safety spots still appear a little of a jumble." If that's the case, Bailey will have a great shot to become Earl Thomas' primary backup.