The 5 Biggest Winners in Undrafted Free Agency

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIJuly 27, 2011

The 5 Biggest Winners in Undrafted Free Agency

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    Now that undrafted free agency is more or less settled, teams can start signing the big names. Still, undrafted free agents are an important part of any team: they breed competition, add depth, and some even turn into starters and Pro Bowlers down the road.

    Which teams hit it out of the park signing UDFAs? Read on to see the top 5.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

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    On offense, the Eagles hit the ground running, so to speak, signing running backs Noel Devine (West Virginia) and Graig Cooper (Miami). While Devine is a bit undersized for the NFL, he's quicker than his combine 40 time would show and could be a good guy on the practice squad. Cooper is bigger (205 lbs.) and was productive at Miami, and could threaten for a roster spot as well.

    They also signed receiver Terrance Turner from Indiana. Listed as 6'3" and 209 lbs, he's got good size for his position, and is one of the best undrafted wide receivers. Athletic Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson also made himself an Eagle, rounding out their standout offensive picks.

    On defense, the Eagles added DL Cedric Thorton from Southern Arkansas, adding depth to either end or tackle, both of which are positions of need. He was great in college, but played with low competition in Division II play. They also snatched up Florida punter Chas Henry, who ought to make the roster.

    UDFA Grade: B+

4. New York Giants

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    The Giants managed to land everyone's favorite UDFA, linebacker Mark Herzlich, who ought to be able to contribute to one of the weaker areas of the Giants defense. Not being drafted will put a chip on his shoulder, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him as a starter in a few years.

    Further boosting their defense, the Giants signed strong safety David Sims (Iowa State) and defensive tackle Martin Parker (Richmond). While I'm not as high on Parker as a lot of others, he dominated at the small school level and is a good pick up at DT for an UDFA. Sims is high motor guy with great strength and the highest vertical leap in the combine among safeties.  His only real drawback is his height; at 5'9" he's about to be one of the shortest players in the league.

    On offense, the Giants grabbed Pittsburgh fullback Henry Hyoski, who can catch, run, and block, and will make it onto the practice squad.

    UDFA Grade: B+

3. Seattle Seahawks

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    While their wheelings and dealings at the quarterback position stole the show, the Seahawks signed an excellent class of UDFAs.

    Leading the pack is the best undrafted safety whose name isn't Deunta, Jeron Johnson of Boise State. The Eagles have one great safety in Earl Thomas, and adding Johnson provides great depth.  he may even see the field this season.

    The other big name defender signed to Seattle is Nebraska end Pierre Allen. Standing 6'5" and only weighing in at about 265 lbs, he's a little lanky, but could help out on special teams. He could do more with about 10 more pounds of muscle.

    On offense they added Connecticut guard Zach Hurd, adding depth to an offensive line that was lacking last season to say the least. He was expected to be drafted and provides great value as an UDFA. They also nabbed small school (Ford Valley State) standout Ricardo Lockette at receiver. He's raw, but could see playing time down the road.

    All four guys can contribute on the practice squad or special teams at the very least, and Johnson could be a rotational player immediately.

    UDFA Grade: A-

2. Chicago Bears

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    The Bears signed a number of big names yesterday, perhaps the biggest was Dane Sanzenbacher.  The Ohio State receiver put up nearly 1000 yards last season as one of Terrelle Pryor's favorite targets.  Receiver also happens to be one of the Bears' biggest needs, so Sanzenbacher is about as good a fit as it gets.

    Another area of need the Bears strengthened was their offensive line.  They signed both center Alex Linnenkohl (Oregon State) and guard Ricky Henry (Nebraska).  Henry's bruising blocking style could complement Bears first rounder Gaba Carimi well.  Both Henry and Linnenkohl provide good depth for a line that gave up a ton of sacks last year.

    On defense, the Bears signed linebacker Mario Addison (Troy) and defensive backs Mike Holmes (Syracuse) and Ryan Jones (Missouri State).  Addison was a sack machine in college, posting 10.5 sacks in his senior year. Holmes has injury concerns, but was a good corner in college. Jones was projected as a sixth rounder, so he provides good value as well.

    UDFA Grade: A

1. Indianapolis Colts

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    The Colts really hit it out of the park with their UDFA signings, landing three of the best players that weren't taken in the draft.

    The Colts signed the best remaining running back in Virginia Tech's Darren Evans. His knee injuries scared teams away from drafting him, but taking him in undrafted free agency is a no brainer. He's a powerful runner and could see playing time this year.

    Perhaps their highest profile signing was ESPN's No. 1 ranked undrafted free agent Joe Lefeged, a safety out of Rutgers. Lefeged was expected to be drafted from the third to fifth round, so the Colts get an incredible steal with this guy. He has ideal speed and strength, and is a proven leader, elected a team captain last year.

    Their best signing, in my humble opinion, was TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick. Like Lefeged, Kirkpatrick has the strength, speed, and technique to play in the NFL. He was one of the better centers in the in the 2011 class, and I expect he'll inherit the starting job from current starter Jeff Saturday in a couple of years. Fun Fact: Saturday was also an undrafted free agent.

    Add to that underrated quarterback Mike Hartline (Kentucky) and tight end/fullback Mike McNeill (Nebraska) and you have the best group of undrafted free agents in the NFL.

    UDFA Grade: A+