There is reason for optimism that the lockout will end by the end of July and that there will be a tsunami of free agent signings, exclusive rights free agent re-signings, drafted rookie contract signings, salary cap cuts, a supplemental draft and trades.
Whew! The NFL year will start with such a flurry of frantic activity that the league’s general managers should be tested for steroids.
So, what about the undrafted rookie free agents (UDFAs)? As a long-time draftnik, I can tell you that we analysts and scouts who work for DraftTek.com were amazed at some of the talent that went undrafted.
Training camp rosters will be expanded to 90 players in 2011. I’m putting together my Detroit Lions UDFA wish list for Christmas in July. Join the party, and point out those diamonds in the rough that I have overlooked, or just don’t like. We’ll hash it out.
Here’s my UDFA pet cats.
OLB Mark Herzlich (Boston College)
Everyone has heard the Herzlich story. After a stellar sophomore 2008 season, Herzlich led all LBs in pass coverage stats and looked like a sure top-10 draft pick after his Junior year.
In 2009 Herzlich was diagnosed with bone cancer. He missed his junior season after undergoing surgery that replaced most of his left femur with a titanium rod.
During his chemotherapy and radiation therapies, Herzlich attended workouts and practices (non contact drills). He would often be seen vomiting on the sidelines, but would not quit on his team.
In 2010, Herzlich was in full remission and was given the medical go ahead to fully participate in team activities. Early on it was clear that his strength and stamina had fallen off considerably.
Herzlich worked like a maniac. He did not quit. Then, he worked even harder. The coaching staff was so concerned that they put Herzlich on a strict workout regimen, and barred him from the weight room during certain periods.
As the 2010 season progressed, Herzlich had recovered some, but not all of his strength and stamina. This was evident at the NFL combine and, as a result, teams decided not to roll the dice on him.
Now that training camp is almost upon us, I think that Herzlich will field a lot of offers. The reason is that Herzlich is still considered an elite cover LB. If he can continue his recovery Herzlich will look like a savvy investment indeed.
Other possible invitees include Nick Bellore (CMU), Kenny Rowe (Oregon), and Ugo Chinasa (OK State).
S DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson)
The 2011 safety draft class was the worst in a decade. It wasn’t even close. McDaniel would have made some serious cash as an underclassman in 2010 after a breakout 2009 season where he intercepted eight passes.
McDaniel was projected as a solid third-round pick in 2010, a class that included Eric Berry, Taylor Mays and Earl Thomas.
McDaniel made a bad choice when he chose to return to Clemson for his Senior season. He compounded his mistake by seriously fracturing his left wrist prior to the beginning of the 2010 season. Worse yet, McDaniel rejected surgery and decided to play through the injury.
When it rains, it pours. McDaniel cracked two ribs in Clemson’s first game, but played on. The 6’0”, 217-pound safety snared only four interceptions in 2010 but still looked like a player who was a lock to be drafted in 2011.
At the combine, McDaniel turned in a pedestrian 4.60 40-yard dash time, and was not impressive in drills.
McDaniel told NFL scouts and coaches that he would wait to have surgery on his wrist until after his NFL rookie year.
What? C’mon, man? That was not the answer that the NFL folks wanted to hear.
After being snubbed in the draft, what do I like about McDaniel? Well, since he doesn’t have the speed or technique to play safety at the next level, why not give him a look at SAM LB?
This point was discussed at length by Mike Mayock (a former safety) and Deion Sanders who felt that McDaniel would be best suited as an OLB in the NFL.
I agree. The Lions should sign McDaniel as an OLB, add some muscle to his frame, order him to have surgery on that wrist, then place him on the IR.
McDaniel might be a pleasant surprise—in 2012.
Some other safeties who can be good OLBs in the NFL are Deunta Williams (UNC), Dom Decicco (PITT), Jeron Johnson (Boise State), Joe Lefeged (Rutgers), and Davonte Shannon (Buffalo).
OT David Mims (Virginia Union)
The 6’8”, 331-pound behemoth played ball at little Virginia Union. He was the biggest football player in the 2011 draft.
Mims dominated in Division II, but really wowed scouts at his Pro Day. He’s got a solid base, and long (over 36”), strong arms. Mims showed the ability to get to the second level and blow up defenders.
During the time between the combine (Mims wasn’t invited) and the draft, the Lions worked him out in their Allen Park facility. Did they see something that they liked?
We won’t know until day one of training camp. One thing for sure is that David Mims is no longer a secret.
Other offensive tackles to watch for are Ray Dominguez (Arkansas), Richard Lapham (Boston College), and Josh Davis (Georgia).
C Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU)
At 6’2”, 301 pounds, Kirkpatrick doesn’t look like a three position interior lineman. He’s smaller than Dominic Raiola, the Pygmy pony.
Kirkpatrick’s draft projections were all over the map — depending upon who’s draft analysis you subscribed to, or the analysis du jour.
The post 2011 draft analysis consensus of opinion takes a dim view of Kirkpatrick’s size only. Other than his size, Kirkpatrick has excellent strength, leverage, awareness, and footwork. He has a good punch and squares up nicely to defenders. He picks up the stunt and blitz consistently.
Does Kirkpatrick look like a developmental prospect? He does if the Lions lose Dylan Gandy. That’s why he’s on my UDFA wish list.
Some other possible center invitees are Kristopher O’Dowd (USC), and Tim Barnes (Missouri).
CB Kendric Burney (UNC)
There were a host of talented cornerbacks in the 2011 draft not named Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara. Burney may well be the one that got away.
Burney was suspended for six games in 2010 in the NCAA investigation into academic, and other rules infractions. He missed a seventh game while re-establishing his eligibility to play.
In the six games Burney played, he made two interceptions and defended two passes. The 5’9”, 190-lb. Burney was first team ACC in 2009 where he snagged eight INTs, and defended three passes.
Burney will get picked up, but can he stick? For the Lions it largely depends upon what moves they make in free agency.
Some other notable UDFA corners are Mario Butler (GA Tech), Ryan Hill (Miami), Darrin Wells (Notre Dame), Kevin Rutland (Missouri), and Andrew McGee (OK State).
Well, that’s my UDFA wish list. Who is on yours?
Mike Sudds is a syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst for DraftTek.com.
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