10 Undrafted Free Agents with the Best Chance of Making an NFL Roster
No one wants to go undrafted, but it’s not a death sentence to an NFL hopeful's career.
Forty-nine undrafted free agents (UDFAs) from the 2013 NFL draft made rosters last year, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt. From a 2014 draft class lauded as one of the best in recent history, there could be even more UDFAs who survive final cuts this summer.
Of the hundreds of UDFAs who signed with NFL teams following this year's draft, all will have an opportunity to prove themselves in training camp, and many of them legitimately have enough talent to fight their way onto a roster.
The prospects who have the best chances of making rosters aren't simply the undrafted rookies with the most talent, but those who are in the best depth-chart situations with the talent to take advantage of windows of opportunity. While each UDFA had the opportunity to choose where he signed rather than being drafted onto a team, some of them ended up in much more favorable situations than others.
Most observers expected the following 10 players to be drafted, and any of them could have been selected without causing any significant stir. However, going undrafted might actually end up working in their favor, as all of these newcomers landed with teams who could have a real need for their services this upcoming season.
10. Dion Bailey, SS, Seattle Seahawks
Dion Bailey is a prime example of a player who was able to choose a seemingly perfect situation as an undrafted rookie.
As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks have an allure that could have drawn many undrafted rookies to want to sign with them. More importantly for Bailey, however, he is a natural fit for the Seahawks at strong safety, where he could provide much-needed depth.
Reunited with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who recruited Bailey to USC before leaving for the NFL, Bailey fits the mold the Seahawks have formed at the strong safety position with Kam Chancellor.
At 6'0" and 201 pounds, Bailey is significantly smaller than Chancellor, but like Chancellor, he is a physical, in-the-box safety who is good at making plays on the ball and can be pesky in coverage despite subpar timed speed. Having played both safety and outside linebacker for the Trojans, Bailey brings positional versatility to the field and a demonstrated ability to pursue and track down plays.
He'll have to beat out Jeron Johnson and Terrance Parks to win the job as Chancellor's backup, but there's little reason he shouldn't go into training camp on the same plane of the roster hierarchy as them. If he can prove that his 4.66-second 40-yard dash won't stop him from being productive in the NFL and establish a role on special teams in the preseason, he should make Seattle's 53-man roster.
9. Antonio Richardson, OT, Minnesota Vikings
Projected by many draft prognosticators, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, to be a Day 2 selection in this year's draft, Antonio Richardson went undrafted due to concerns with his knees, according to Fox Sports North's Brian Hall. Nonetheless, the Minnesota Vikings might have landed a gem with the undrafted rookie if he can maintain a clean bill of health.
Inconsistent and sometimes disappointing play at Tennessee was certainly also a factor in Richardson’s fall out of the draft, but he has the potential to star on either side of the offensive line. Standing 6'6" and 336 pounds with 35-inch arms, he is a massive offensive tackle who generates power effectively and has a good burst off the snap.
The Vikings have a gifted pair of young starting offensive tackles in Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt, but they have no established veteran to play the swing tackle role.
Richardson has by far the most upside of any of the other OTs on Minnesota's roster, and he shouldn't have much trouble beating out Mike Remmers and Kevin Murphy for the priority backup job as long as he stays healthy.
8. Chris Boswell, K, Houston Texans
In his first NFL playing season, Randy Bullock missed nine of his 35 field-goal attempts, and his struggles were one of many reasons that the Houston Texans failed to win more than two games this past year. Considering Bullock's disappointing 2013 campaign, Houston should give undrafted rookie Chris Boswell every opportunity to beat him out for the placekicking job.
Like Bullock last year, Boswell had some issues of his own in regard to accuracy and consistency during his four-season career at Rice. That said, he has a booming leg that gives him long field-goal range, allows him to excel on kickoffs and led many analysts, including B/R's Matt Miller, to rank him as the top kicker in the 2014 draft class.
Rice never showed any hesitation sending Boswell out to attempt long field goals, and he rewarded his team's confidence by making 13 from more than 50 yards deep over the course of his career. That makes him a potential upgrade over Bullock, who converted only one of five attempts from 50-plus yards this past season.
Undrafted rookies regularly win special teams battles, as even the top kickers often go unselected due to a perceived lack of value at the position. No specialist is in a better position to gain a roster spot this season than Bullock.
7. Deandre Coleman, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars
Although the Jacksonville Jaguars made some notable reinforcements to their defensive line this offseason with the additions of veteran free agents Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Ziggy Hood, there still appears to be room for undrafted free agent Deandre Coleman to also catch on and earn a spot in the defensive line rotation.
Coleman never achieved the level of production that he should have been capable of during his career at California, but he has the traits to be a productive NFL player if he continues to develop.
A 6'5", 314-pound defensive lineman with 34.375-inch arms and impressive athleticism for his size, Coleman can be highly disruptive when he is on top of his game. With experience playing both inside and outside, he is a great fit for the Jaguars' hybrid defense, as he projects well to play both 3-technique defensive tackle and 5-technique defensive end.
Both a solid gap-plugger versus the run and a player with the quickness to penetrate into the backfield, Coleman has the potential to play on any down and could provide depth at all four spots on the defensive line. He should have a great shot at beating out other players who have yet to establish themselves, such as defensive tackle Abry Jones, for a roster spot.
6. Kerry Hyder, DE/DT, New York Jets
With the emergence this past season of Sheldon Richardson as an interior penetrator and Damon Harrison as a run-stuffing nose tackle, the New York Jets—with a starting lineup of Muhammad Wilkerson, Richardson and Harrison—have one of the NFL’s elite starting defensive lines. They don't have a great deal of depth for the unit, however, which leaves the door open for undrafted free agent Kerry Hyder.
Hyder isn't nearly as explosive or strong as Richardson or Wilkerson, but like them, the Texas Tech product is a good athlete for his position who moves lithely and has interior pass-rushing skill. He changes direction fluidly for an interior defensive lineman and can cover significant ground to make plays downfield or outside.
At only 6'2" and 290 pounds, Hyder has an unimpressive body and limited upside, so it's not exactly a surprise that he went unselected in this year's draft. Nonetheless, his activity level as a collegiate player suggests he is a high-motor player who could provide solid depth behind Richardson and Wilkerson as a 5-technique defensive end/3-technique defensive tackle.
Outside of backup nose tackle Kenrick Ellis, the Jets don't have any locks to make their roster on the second-team defensive line.
Hyder reportedly had at least one standout practice in spring workouts, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. If he can continue to make plays in training camp, he should have a good shot at beating out Leger Douzable and the rest of New York's rotational defensive ends for a roster spot.
5. Daniel Sorensen, S, Kansas City Chiefs
As a safety and/or on special teams, it's likely Daniel Sorensen will make an impact for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014.
Despite a major need to add safety talent alongside starter Eric Berry, the Chiefs did not draft any players at the position this year. That leaves the door wide open for Sorensen, a skilled player with some very intriguing traits, to make an immediate push for not only a roster spot but playing time on defense as well.
Having finished his 40-yard dash in just 4.67 seconds at this year's NFL Scouting Combine, Sorensen has a speed deficiency for the safety position that likely led teams to pass on him with their late draft picks. That said, he also had some of the fastest times at this year's combine in the three-cone drill (6.47 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (3.95), which indicate that he can make up for his limited acceleration with exceptional change-of-direction quickness.
A product of BYU, Sorensen is good at making plays on the ball and has terrific hands. Those ball skills give him the chance to be a difference-maker defensively. If his lack of speed proves too much to overcome at safety, he could at least be an excellent special teamer if he becomes a more consistent tackler.
The Chiefs will likely go with Husain Abdullah at free safety, while young defensive backs Sanders Commings and Phillip Gaines could also convert from cornerback to safety at least partially. Nevertheless, there's no reason Sorensen can't beat out Malcolm Bronson and Jerron McMillian to earn a roster spot.
4. Tyler Larsen, C, Miami Dolphins
If Mike Pouncey was healthy, Tyler Larsen probably wouldn't be on this list, but with the Miami Dolphins' starting center expected to miss at least the start of the upcoming season, Larsen has a good shot to end up with a roster spot.
Pouncey underwent hip surgery and is likely to be out at least three months as of June 24, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. That makes it likely that Pouncey could start the year on the physically unable to perform list, which would require him to miss the first six games of the season.
Should that be the case, it will open up a roster spot for another Dolphins blocker at least temporarily, and Larsen could be the beneficiary. Among the players on Miami's roster, he is the best bet to serve as Sam Brenner's backup at center while Pouncey is sidelined.
A four-year starter at Utah State, Larsen is a 6'4", 313-pound man in the middle with pure strength and powerful hands. He's not an explosive athlete by any standard, but his technical prowess and experience make him far better suited for early playing time than most rookie centers.
Larsen could end up in competition with Daryn Colledge, a veteran guard signed in the aftermath of Pouncey's injury, for a roster spot. That said, Larsen is a skilled young player who would have been good enough to warrant a draft selection. He is certainly good enough to earn a spot on the regular-season roster at a spot where Miami has a sudden need for depth.
3. Anthony Steen, G, Arizona Cardinals
Of the four guards the Arizona Cardinals currently have listed on their roster, Anthony Steen could easily end up being one of the best two, despite going unselected in this year's NFL draft.
While the Cardinals have a potential star at left guard in Jonathan Cooper, who was a first-round pick in 2013 but missed his rookie season with a fractured fibula, their right guard position is a major question mark. Incumbent starter Paul Fanaika was one of the NFL's worst guards last year, while Earl Watford is an unproven player who is looking to make a big second-year leap.
Steen is unlikely to be an immediate solution to that concern. After undergoing surgery for a torn labrum this offseason—an injury that likely led to him going undrafted—he missed all of the Cardinals' OTAs, only returning for the team's minicamp this spring, according to Jess Root of SB Nation's Revenge of the Birds.
If Steen is fully healthy for training camp, however, he could make a push for a shot to compete. A three-year starting right guard on the Alabama offensive line, Steen is a tough, strong and technically sound blocker.
He must prove his success was not a product of the talent around him—the 2012 Alabama offensive line, from which each of the other four starters went in the first four rounds of one of the past two drafts, was arguably better than Arizona's current offensive line—but he could end up proving to be overlooked. His measurables aren't very impressive—his 30.5-inch arms are far below ideal for an NFL offensive lineman—but he uses his hands well and has good footwork.
For depth reasons alone, Steen should have a very good shot of making the Arizona roster as long as he proves to be fully healthy. While it's unlikely he'll end up in the starting lineup this year, he'd be solid developmental insurance behind Cooper, Watford and Fanaika.
2. Zach Kerr, NT, Indianapolis Colts
Despite the fact that half of the NFL now runs some variation of a 3-4 defensive scheme, the nose tackle position has seemingly fallen in value in recent drafts. That trend could work out very well for the Indianapolis Colts, who had a league-low five picks in this year's draft but might have landed a gem in Zach Kerr.
Kerr fits the mold of a traditional nose tackle. You wouldn't mistake him for a Greek god—at 6'1" and 326 pounds, he has a more rotund figure than most modern NFL defensive linemen—but he is very strong at the point of attack and is impressively agile for a man of his size.
In the middle of a three-man defensive front, a strong anchor is needed. Kerr, who exhibits the ability to win with power and can challenge double-teams up the middle, has the skills to be that guy for the Colts.
Third-year player Josh Chapman is likely to take over the starting nose tackle job, but Kerr has many similar traits and is a good fit to be his backup for the 2014 season. The Delaware product could face competition from veteran Brandon McKinney for the second spot on the depth chart, but Kerr has more athleticism, potential and playmaking ability.
Should he make the roster, Kerr could get immediate playing time in a rotational role and quickly challenge Chapman for his job if Chapman fails to prove his worth as a starter early on this year.
1. James Hurst, OT, Baltimore Ravens
Despite no clear replacement for Michael Oher at right tackle, the Baltimore Ravens did not draft any offensive tackles in this year's NFL draft. That could prove to be a surprisingly shrewd strategy if James Hurst lives up to expectations this summer.
If Baltimore didn't have confidence that either Ricky Wagner or Ryan Jensen could take control of the right tackle job this preseason, it would have drafted a player at the position. Certainly, the Ravens aren't banking on an undrafted rookie to be in their starting offensive line.
In time, however, Hurst has the skill to develop into a starting-caliber player at right tackle or guard. While he doesn't have the physical tools that are ideally coveted in an NFL offensive tackle, he is already polished and consistent technically after starting 49 games in his career at North Carolina.
Had he not fractured his fibula in his final collegiate game, he likely would have been a Day 3 draft selection. Although the 6'5", 296-pound blocker isn't incredibly athletic, he has clean footwork, held his own against top pass-rushers at UNC and is a solid run-blocker.
Despite coming off an injury, Hurst was reportedly impressive for the Ravens this spring. In OTAs he spent time with Baltimore's first-team offense in place of left tackle Eugene Monroe, according to Bo Smolka of CSNBaltimore.com.
At the very least, Hurst should have a great shot of making Baltimore's roster as depth, given the team's lack of established offensive tackle talent outside of Monroe.
All measurables courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise noted.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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