5 Undrafted Indianapolis Colts Players Who Could Prove to Be Gems
See Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson's smile in the picture above?
I can't imagine that smile would be any bigger than when one of Grigson's undrafted free-agent signings has panned out. It's fairly common knowledge that Grigson loves his "diamonds in the rough," and is always looking for the next big find.
This season, the Colts have 19 undrafted rookie free agents on their roster, and with some weak positions, there's good reason to believe that at least one of the UDFAs could work out. With that in mind, today we look at five prospects that could end up being gems for the Indianapolis Colts in 2014 and beyond.
DT Zach Kerr
The former Blue Hen of Delaware, Zach Kerr was one of the most highly-rated undrafted free agents from the Colts’ 2014 draft class. Rated by some as a mid-round pick, Kerr dropped all the way out of the draft in May.
But despite going undrafted, Kerr does have a wealth of talents. He has a quick first step off the ball and a tendency to split double-teams going into the backfield, according to Kyle Posey of Bolts From the Blue.
Kerr’s frame, combined with natural athleticism, is the best reason to get excited, however. At 6’1”, 326 pounds, Kerr has a natural leverage advantage over many offensive linemen. He uses that leverage well, according to NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki: “Good lower-body power—can collapse the pocket and walk blockers back to the quarterback when he comes off the ball low.”
Yes, Kerr has some cons attached. His lack of height can be a disadvantage in the NFL against taller lines where he could get swallowed up. The competition Kerr faced at Delaware didn’t really impress anybody. He’s had some endurance issues in college and has an injury history (concussions).
But overall, it’s hard to ignore the combination that Kerr brings. I’ll let Nawrocki sum it up:
Thick-bodied, long-armed, powerful 3-4 nose tackle with scheme versatility to factor in a rotation for an even or odd front. Uses a lot of finesse and would be best utilized in a defense where he is allowed to slant, stunt and shoot gaps. Has moldable tools to develop.
OC Jonotthan Harrison
One of several Florida players to go undrafted, former Gator center Jonotthan Harrison wasn’t a complete surprise to go undrafted, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have the talents of more highly touted prospects.
Like Kerr, one of Harrison’s biggest strengths is his physical stature. At 6’3”, 304 pounds, Harrison has a solid frame, but his arm length (33 3/8”) is what pulls it all together. The combination allows him to both sit low and anchor the line as well as stay balanced and bent in pass protection against blitzers. For the latter, his awareness and vision also contributes. Then there are the intangibles: Harrison was a team leader with a strong work ethic, things that the Colts love as an organization.
Harrison’s overall mobility is lacking, and he likely won’t be able to move well in pulling plays and second-level blocks. That part, unfortunately, will be difficult in the Colts’ system, which calls for the interior line to move quite frequently.
But Harrison impressed Colts head coach Chuck Pagano at rookie minicamp nonetheless, according to The Herald Bulletin's George Bremer: "(Harrison is) a really smart guy, tough. From a technical standpoint, it looks like he's been well-coached. Bright guy, like I said. Really pleasant surprise, really pleasant surprise."
With the Colts’ overall lack of interior linemen (especially after cutting 2013 backup center Thomas Austin), Harrison has a real shot at making the roster and making a name for himself. Currently, Harrison is second on the Colts’ rough depth charts, just ahead of recently signed center out of Indiana State, FN Lutz.
RB Zurlon Tipton
One of my personal favorites from this year’s undrafted class, former Central Michigan running back Zurlon Tipton possesses both the best name and best game between the tackles of any of the Colts’ undrafted free agents.
What stuck out right away from Tipton’s tape was his vision and knowledge of where the hole was going to open up on his offensive line. As Trent Richardson and Donald Brown showed us last season, the understanding of the offensive line theory can completely change how productive running backs are. When you combine that with an ability to break tackles and balance when making his first cuts through the hole, you have a back that can be very consistent in his production.
Tipton doesn’t have the big-play ability of other backs—his top-end speed isn’t as impressive as some—but his quickness and initial burst can make up for that. Durability, however, may be an issue. Tipton had an ankle injury last season and has battled lower-body injuries since high school, according to NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki.
But for an undrafted free agent, that’s a risk you can afford to take. If Tipton can translate his game to a much higher level of competition, he could prove to be a valuable pickup in the Colts’ weak backfield.
CB Qua Cox
Another one of the Colts’ undrafted free agents from a small school, Qua Cox was a redshirt senior at Jackson State in 2013. A theme among these free agents, Cox has great size at 6’0", 185 pounds, and has the production to match.
A ball hawk in man-to-man coverage, Cox stays fluid in his backpedal and closes well on his assignments, according to Tony Pauline of Draft Inisder. Cox picked off 10 passes in his career at Jackson State, and by the end of his career, teams began to ignore his side of the field all together. Cox can also play special teams, which is the ace in the hole for those fringe roster players.
Cox has displayed some issues in press coverage in college, not consistently disrupting receivers’ breaks at the line. But that may be an issue that can be fixed with coaching, especially with Cox’s size.
At the Colts minicamps and OTAs, Cox has already begun to make his mark. Cox made a pick-six early at rookie camp, and then made another athletic play in the end zone during this week’s mandatory minicamp.
For more on Cox, check out The Herald Bulletin’s preview by George Bremer.
CB Loucheiz Purifoy
Another former Florida Gator, Loucheiz Purifoy was once one of the most highly touted prospects in the country, but was derailed by off-the-field issues. Prior to his last season at Florida, Purifoy was ranked 10th by Mel Kiper (subscription required) among all 2014 prospects, and just before the draft he was ranked eighth among all corners by ESPN (via Gamedayr's ).
The theme is size, and Purifoy has it at 5’11”, 190 pounds. Combine that with his natural speed and length and you have one of the more talented athletes in the draft. That athleticism also translates to special teams value, as Purifoy was a gunner early in his career.
Purifoy does have his issues on the field as well. He isn’t refined technically and is inconsistent. He dropped off during his junior year and ended up starting just seven games. He’ll need to work to get back to the level that impressed scouts so much in 2012.
But Purifoy has stuck out in Colts camp early on, making some plays and catching the eye of local media. Purifoy has also caught the eye of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, per team release (h/t Fox Sports' Ross Jones):
He’s doing a great job right now with what he’s been able to do coming in as a rookie, as a young guy. He’s talented and we want to see him keep on making the plays that he has been over the last couple of days.
He’s a raw chunk of talent, the ultimate test for Pagano and the rest of the coaching staff.