The NFL lockout affected everyone associated with the sport: the players, the owners and the fans. But one particular group of people was affected more than any other by the 18-week lockout.
That group consists of the names that weren’t called during the draft. The undrafted free agents have been in limbo since the 254th pick was announced in the draft.
Virginia Tech had more then it’s fair share of these players. Eight Hokies have been signed who were not quite good enough to be drafted, but not bad enough to be forgotten. A few days ago these players were sitting at home and trying to stay in playing shape, but now they are on their way to training camps across the country.
We know where they were, but where will they be tomorrow? That is the real question.
The biggest draft snub for the Hokies was running back Darren Evans. Evans began his Hokie career with a bang. As a redshirt freshman he ran for 1,265 yards (ACC record). He lost his second season to a torn ACL. Last season, Evans averaged 5.5 yards per rush and totaled 854 yards on the ground.
His biggest drawback as a player is that he isn’t that great at catching balls out of the backfield. Evans also doesn’t have blazing speed, but his strength (no pun intended) is his raw power. Evans has the ability to run people over. He seems to be a poor man’s Brandon Jacobs. He is strong in-between the tackles and can break tackles on a regular basis.
Evans was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. Indianapolis is his hometown, so Evans will have some pressure on him to make the team. I think that he will make it onto the Colts roster, but I wouldn’t look for him to get many touches in his rookie season.
Evans seems to be the biggest lock of any of the Hokies’ undrafted free agents to make an NFL roster. The rest have some work to do.
Steven Friday signed with the Houston Texans. Friday was a one-year starter at defensive end for the Hokies. During the 2010 season Friday accumulated 66 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. The Texans will try Friday out at the outside linebacker position, because they run a 3-4 defense rather than Virginia Tech’s 4-3.
Friday has a fighting chance to make the Texans’ roster, but it is far from a given.
Hokies’ safety Davon Morgan has been signed by the New York Jets. In 2010, he had 82 tackles and five interceptions. Making the Jets secondary will not be an easy task. Morgan is a ball hawk and he will have to show that ability to Rex Ryan in order to become a Jet.
I think that Morgan can do it, but he is going to have to work exceedingly hard to make one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
Tight end Andre Smith has signed with the Chicago Bears. Smith caught five touchdowns last year. He only had 20 total receptions but I believe he has the best chance to make the roster, outside of Evans. Smith has soft hands and is a good run blocker. He isn’t a starter by any means, but he can be a solid back up.
Beau Warren (center) signed with the St. Louis Rams. He was a solid center with the Hokies, but I’m not sure if he can make it. The special teams are also represented in this list of Hokie undrafted free agents. Both the punter, Brian Saunders, and the place kicker Chris Hazely were signed.
Saunders was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Last season Saunders averaged 44 yards per punt. The Jaguars’ starting punter last season (Adam Podlesh) averaged 43.8 yards per punt. It should be a good competition in Jacksonville.
Hazely was signed by the Buffalo Bills. He made 21 field goals for the Hokies last season and made 95.5 percent of his attempts. He is an accurate place kicker whose range is about 50 yards. The Bills kicker last season was Rian Lindell. He made 76.2 percent of his field goal attempts.
I think that Hazely has a good shot at becoming the Bills next place kicker, but he could be affected by the kicking conditions during the winter.
Whatever happens, the fact that these seven players were signed is an accomplishment in itself. All seven have high hopes, and all Hokies’ fans are rooting for them. Good luck, gentlemen.