Every NFL Team's Best Undrafted Free Agent in Camp This Year
The time for NFL training camps is finally here. Though meaningful football games are a little more than a month away, these next few weeks will still be exciting for fans throughout the league.
One of the biggest highlights of training-camp season is the integration of offseason acquisitions into new teams. It's always fun to see how those big-name free agents and top draft picks are developing with and potentially changing their new franchises.
It's worth noting, though, that big-money additions and draft picks are not the only ones who can impact the future of a franchise. Throughout the years, unheralded, undrafted free agents have caught on with teams and made their marks on the league. Just last year, former undrafted free agents like Willie Snead, Thomas Rawls and Tashaun Gipson were proving they too can be stars.
We're going to take a look at some of this year's undrafted free agents who could impact this season or the future. We'll be selecting one undrafted rookie on each team's roster to follow throughout training camp and the preseason, and we will be basing our choices on factors like player potential, team fit and offseason reports where applicable.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Elie Bouka, Cornerback
The Arizona Cardinals already have a strong collection of defensive backs. However, the team was determined to add to that group in the offseason. One intriguing player who made his way onto the roster this offseason as an undrafted free agent was cornerback Elie Bouka.
Bouka probably isn't a familiar name to the casual American football fan because he played his college ball at the University of Calgary. However, Bouka might still have been a popular draft target if not for the fact he is coming off a serious Achilles injury. Because of this, Bouka hasn't taken part in many team drills this offseason, but he does expect to fully participate in training camp.
"I can’t wait for training camp,” Bouka said during an appearance with the Doug and Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “That’s when real football starts, when you strap up and you can make an impact. I’m just an aggressive type of player so I’m excited to get to strap up.”
The Cardinals clearly like what they've seen in the 6'1", 211-pound former receiver. The team inked him to a three-year, $1.62 million deal. Even if Bouka doesn't have an immediate impact as a rookie, he could be part of the team's defensive future.
“This is the team, when I came on a visit, they had a plan,” Bouka said, via the Cardinals' official website. “They had a plan for me. They embraced me and my injury, which is rare to see.”
Bouka should definitely be a player to watch in Cardinals camp.
Ivan McLennan, Edge-Rusher
The Atlanta Falcons struggled to bring down opposing quarterbacks in 2015. In fact, no defense produced fewer than Atlanta's 19 sacks. This was one of the issues that prevented the Falcons from competing in the playoffs last season.
This is also one of the reasons why an undrafted rookie like Ivan McLennan can make the Falcons' regular-season roster. The Washington State product brings some pass-rush ability, which is sorely needed on the defense. He also has adequate size for the pro game at 6'3" and 238 pounds.
Last season, McLennan produced 42 total tackles, nine tackles for a loss and six sacks. If he can fill the right pass-rushing role, McLennan will have every opportunity to stick.
According to the rookie, Falcons linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich actually has a variety of roles in mind.
"[Ulbrich] wants me to play outside linebacker," McLennan said, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. "He wants me to play inside linebacker. He wants me to pass rush on third down. He wants me to play every special teams. It's a great opportunity over there because he said he likes my versatility."
It should be entertaining to follow McLennan throughout camp and the preseason to see what role Atlanta finds for him and what kind of impact he can have on the Falcons' pass rush.
Cavellis Luckett, Linebacker
The Baltimore Ravens have built their identity on defense over the years but took a major step back in 2015. The team finished the year rated just 19th in overall defense by Pro Football Focus.
Depth was part of the issue for the Ravens last season, as a number of starters were sidelined for the year. This is why an undrafted rookie like linebacker Cavellis Luckett can have value to the team moving forward.
Coming out of Middle Tennessee State, Luckett didn't generate a ton of draft hype. However, he was a productive college player and possesses adequate size for the inside linebacker position. The 6'0", 245-pound defender produced 72 total tackles, five tackles for a loss, a half-sack and a forced fumble in 2015.
So far, life as a professional hasn't seemed too big for the former small-school standout.
"It's going great," Luckett said, per Aldo Giovanni Amato of the Daily News Journal. "I'm working hard every day studying the playbook taking one day at a time."
Luckett, who ran a 4.52-second 40 at his pro day, did enough to catch the Ravens' attention this offseason. The next step will be for Luckett to continue demanding attention through training camp and the preseason.
Eric Striker, Linebacker
The Buffalo Bills are also looking to bounce back after a disappointing defensive season in 2015. Though undrafted rookie linebacker Eric Striker might not be a major driving force toward that goal, he can be a quality contributor on the Buffalo defense.
The former Oklahoma star is a bit on the smaller side at just 5'11" and 227 pounds. Yet, he was an absolute stud last season, racking up 67.0 total tackles, 19.0 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, three passes defended and an interception.
It was likely Striker's production and role as a leader in the Oklahoma defense that gained the attention of Buffalo. Of course, his position at inside linebacker could be what helps him make the roster.
Joe Buscaglia of WKBW Buffalo recently explained:
Based purely on numbers at the position and who's ahead of him, on paper Striker has the best chance to make the roster. The only two locks to make the roster at this point are Preston Brown and Reggie Ragland. Zach Brown, with the Bills on a one-year deal, is assumed to have the next highest percentage to make the roster. After that, the situation is up for grabs.
Striker has the intangibles and the past production NFL teams covet. It will be worth following him during camp to see if Striker can build upon these traits and earn himself a roster spot.
Jeremy Cash, Linebacker
The Carolina Panthers landed a potential steal when they signed former Duke safety Jeremy Cash as an undrafted free agent.
Cash likely fell out of the draft because he is more of a linebacker-safety hybrid than a natural at any one position. He is an in-the-box defender but is a bit undersized at just 6'0" and 212 pounds. Still, Cash's size rarely hindered his production on the field. Just last season, he amassed 101.0 total tackles, 8.0 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks.
We've seen plenty of hybrid defenders excel in the NFL in recent years. Cardinals "moneybacker" Deone Bucannon is a prime example. The Panthers, however, seem to view Cash as an outside linebacker.
"We see him as an outside linebacker. His production translates to outside linebacker for us," Panthers director of college scouting Don Gregory said, via Bryan Strickland of the team's official website. "He's aggressive, a very good tackler. He's smart and has cover skills. He fits into the mold of a poor man's Shaq Thompson. Now we have two of them."
Panthers fans should enjoy following Cash in camp to see what type of role the team has in store for him and to see just what the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year can bring to Carolina.
Roy Robertson-Harris, Linebacker
Undrafted rookie Roy Robertson-Harris has a golden opportunity to earn a role with the Chicago Bears in camp and this preseason. The former Texas-El Paso defender projects as a pro outside linebacker—a position that has been in a bit of flux since the Bears changed over to a 3-4 base defense last offseason.
His position isn't the only thing that gives Robertson-Harris a healthy shot at the regular-season roster. He possesses an ideal frame for an edge-rusher at 6'7" and 255 pounds. He also possesses intriguing athleticism.
"He has the desired length, power and athleticism to play on the edge and it will be interesting to see if teams view him as a defensive end or a stand-up player," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein wrote before the draft. "If Robertson-Harris can get coached up to improve his hands and pass-rush talent, he has the athleticism and talent to become an NFL starter."
Robertson-Harris' past production is also attention-worthy. Last year, he produced 51.0 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks.
Now, Robertson-Harris has to prove he can produce on a pro field.
“I’m going to approach [my time with the Bears] with the fact that I have the opportunity of a lifetime,” Robertson-Harris said, per Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. “You’ve got to amp it up.”
Ryan Brown, Defensive End
The Cincinnati Bengals already boast a deep and talented overall roster, so it's going to be difficult for any undrafted rookie to find a home during the regular season. One rookie free agent who just might be able to pull off the feat, however, is Mississippi State product Ryan Brown.
Brown is a long, lean defensive end at 6'6" and 266 pounds. He proved to be a productive defender at the end position in college, and he could provide quality depth at the position in Cincinnati. Brown finished the 2015 season with 39.0 total tackles, 8.0 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks.
Cincinnati doesn't possess a ton of quality depth behind starting ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. This is precisely why Brown can find a home as a rotational player—especially if he can flash some pass-rush ability during camp and in the preseason.
Cody Tewmey of CincyJungle.com believes that Brown could push fourth-year end Margus Hunt for a roster spot. Considering Hunt has rarely made his presence felt—just 12.0 tackles and 1.5 sacks in three seasons—this could be a realistic goal for the rookie.
If Brown can prove to be an upgrade over what Cincinnati currently has at the bottom of its depth chart, the defensive line could become an even bigger strength for the Bengals.
Dominique Alexander, Linebacker
The Cleveland Browns have some holes to fill in the middle of their 3-4 defense before the season starts. The team lost inside linebacker Craig Robertson in free agency and parted with fellow inside linebacker Karlos Dansby shortly after the market period opened.
Undrafted Oklahoma product Dominique Alexander might be part of the patch job that fills those holes.
The 6'0", 232-pound Alexander is a bit undersized, but that didn't stop him from being a defensive force for the Sooners. Just last season, he piled up 103 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss and an interception.
Cleveland coaches have been impressed with what Alexander can bring to the proverbial table.
“We are very pleased to have him. We like his athletic ability. He’s a smart kid and an instinctive player who can make plays,” inside linebackers coach Johnny Holland said of Alexander, via the team's official website.
Alexander will have to prove that his size won't be an issue at the pro level, and he'll likely have to earn a role on special teams in order to make the final roster. Yet he appears confident in his ability to find a home with the Browns.
"I'm feeling pretty good going back to Cleveland,” Alexander said, per Harold Kuntz of News on 6 Oklahoma. “We have six inside linebackers on the team right now and I feel as though as long as I keep getting my opportunities and getting a chance to show what I can do then I’m going to make the most of my opportunity."
Andy Jones, Wide Receiver
Part of the reason why the Dallas Cowboys suffered so poorly through injuries last season is that the receiver depth behind Dez Bryant was lacking. This isn't to say Dallas couldn't field other quality receivers, but there were few pass-catchers who could really break a game open.
Undrafted rookie Andy Jones might not be a true game-breaking receiver, but the Jacksonville University product has a lot of intriguing potential.
At 6'2" and 200 pounds, Jones has the size pro teams look for in an outside receiver. He also has some impressive production on his resume. Last season, Jones hauled in 60 passes for 890 yards and eight touchdowns.
It's Jones' athletic ability that gained Dallas' attention this offseason, however. The rookie attended Florida's pro day in order to work out for scouts, and he posted a 4.5-second 40 and a 41.5-inch vertical there.
"[Head coach] Jason Garrett was asked about Jones at rookie minicamp and said the undrafted receiver has a strong frame and he’s a good athlete," per DallasCowboys.com. "He comes from a smaller program, Jacksonville, but impressed scouts at his pro day."
If Jones can continue impressing through camp and the preseason, he should have an opportunity to stick as a pass-catcher and a special teamer.
Bralon Addison, Wide Receiver
With guys like Demaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders on the roster, wide receiver might not be a real position of priority for the Denver Broncos. However, this doesn't mean that undrafted rookie Bralon Addison doesn't have value for the franchise.
Addison isn't a physically imposing figure (5'9" and 197 pounds) but he is quick and dangerous in space with the football. Last year, the Oregon product amassed 804 receiving yards, 84 rushing yards and scored 12 combined offensive touchdowns. He also averaged 12.58 yards per punt return, 21.38 yards per kick return and scored once on special teams.
“He can change the whole momentum of the game,” Oregon offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said of Addison, per Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post. “No moment is too big for him.”
With the Broncos, Addison could be a valuable gadget player and return specialist. He'll likely compete for the returner role against Jordan Norwood, who was retained during the offseason. Because of Norwood's presence, Addison will have to prove he can be more than a return specialist.
Addison will have to prove his worth on special teams and as a pass-catcher. He'll also need to show how his team-first attitude makes him a fit in Denver.
“Just go in and don’t talk,” Addison said, per Wolfe. “A lot of rookies come in and want to voice themselves, thinking that’s how they get noticed and respected. But I just want to let my work ethic show that I can be respected.”
Jay Lee, Wide Receiver
The Detroit Lions are looking to strengthen their receiving corps in the wake of star Calvin Johnson's offseason retirement. The team added Marvin Jones in free agency and scooped up a handful of undrafted free agents to add to the mix.
The most notable undrafted rookie seems to be Baylor product Jay Lee. The 6'1", 214-pound pass-catcher can be a big target, yet has enough quickness (he ran a 4.53-second 40 at his pro day) to attack downfield in Detroit's offense.
Kyle Meinke of MLive.com recently reported that Lee has been impressive in the early offseason and explained why he can be an offensive asset:
The undrafted free agent out of Baylor stood out for his size and physicality during the early portions of the offseason. He certainly seems capable of providing a big-bodied complement to smaller dudes like Marvin Jones, TJ Jones, [Jeremy] Kerley and [Golden] Tate, and that's attractive for a club that wants to do a lot of rushing and short passing. You need someone to block at the second level, and Lee looks like he could be up for it.
Lee caught just 38 passes for Baylor in 2015, but he produced 758 yards and eight touchdowns in the process. If he can find some consistency on offense and show some special-teams ability, Lee should be able to stick with the Lions this season.
Green Bay Packers
Peter Mortell, Punter
Former Minnesota punter Peter Mortell grew up near Lambeau Field and, like most kids in the area, dreamed of one day joining the Green Bay Packers.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to wear the green and gold, and play for my hometown team," Mortell said, via the Packers' official website. "It was the best opportunity for me and I’m happy I’m here.”
The Packers signed Mortell as an undrafted free agent, but not because of his feel-good story. Mortell was a quality punter at Minnesota and was named Big Ten Punter of the Year two seasons ago. He averaged 43.4 yards per punt in 2015, despite suffering a torn meniscus in his plant leg.
Mortell underwent surgery during the team's bye week and returned to punt the remainder of the season.
The Packers could use an upgrade over punter Tim Masthay. He finished last season rated just 37th overall among all punters by Pro Football Focus.
Though the punter position is usually an unappreciated one, Packers fans should be happy if their team can upgrade it with an undrafted free agent. This is precisely why Mortell will be worth following through training camp and the preseason.
Stephen Anderson, Tight End
The Houston Texans put a lot of work into overhauling their offense this offseason. The team signed free agents like quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller. The team also grabbed guys like former Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller in the draft.
One undrafted rookie who might just fit in with Houston's overhaul is former California tight end Stephen Anderson.
Anderson is undersized for the tight end position at 6'2" and 230 pounds. Yet, he is fast for his size—Anderson ran a 4.63-second 40 at his pro day—and can create mismatches down the field. Last season at Cal, he hauled in 41 passes for 474 yards and two scores.
The Texans really seem to like what they have in Anderson, as tight ends coach John Perry recently explained to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle:
He's come out and really put in a great effort every day. He's held true to the Cal mantra of being a smart kid. He's picked up things very quickly and, on top of that, he's got great athleticism. He's got good hands. His best trait is he continues to work at it. Here's a kid who's just climbed the ladder. He walked on at Cal. Now he comes in here as a free agent. He's taken advantage of opportunities that have been presented to him. So, he's fun to work with and I can see him continuing to get better.
If Anderson continues to work hard and showcase himself in camp and in the preseason, the Texans would be wise to find a role for him.
Josh Ferguson, Running Back
The Indianapolis Colts didn't add a running back who appears truly capable of challenging Frank Gore during free agency or in the draft. However, undrafted Illinois product Josh Ferguson might just have the skills to be a regular contributor in a change-of-pace role.
The 5'9", 198-pound back is a shifty athlete who can contribute in the ground game, the passing game and on special teams.
According to Kevin Bowen of the Colts' official website, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski pitched a Darren Sproles-type role to Ferguson during his free-agent recruitment. This seems to indicate Indianapolis believes Ferguson is capable of excelling in multiple phases of the game.
Another sign that the Colts have roles in mind for Ferguson is the fact he received a three-year, $1.63 million deal that included a $10,000 signing bonus.
The early reports on Ferguson have been quite positive.
“You know, again, it’s just in shorts, but he looks really good,” head coach Chuck Pagano said of Ferguson, per Josh Wilson of StampedeBlue.com. “He’s smart. He picks things up in a hurry. He’s very, very athletic. He’s a great receiver out of the backfield. We can split him wide, we can displace him formationally. He’s a mismatch out in space."
Don't be surprised if Ferguson is a major piece of the Colts' offensive puzzle this season and beyond.
Jarrod Wilson, Safety
The Jacksonville Jaguars made a number of quality defensive additions during the offseason. Of particular note are defensive backs like free-agent safety Tashaun Gipson and rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey. These are the guys who are expected to transform Jacksonville's 29th-ranked pass defense (268.2 yards per game allowed).
These additions, however, don't mean the Jaguars can't benefit from the addition of undrafted rookie Jarrod Wilson. The former Michigan safety has good size at 6'2" and 205 pounds, plus he has a track record of production.
Last year, Wilson produced 61 total tackles, two interceptions and a sack.
So far this offseason, Wilson has shown that he can be an asset to the Jacksonville defense.
“He’s very sharp,” defensive coordinator Todd Wash said of Wilson, per Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “He came in, he learned the package really well and he put himself in position to make a lot of plays in the middle of the field. It’s good to see.”
The next step for Wilson will be demonstrating that he can help the Jaguars against opponents in different-colored uniforms. He should get his chance during the preseason.
Kansas City Chiefs
Shakiel Randolph, Cornerback
Though the Kansas City Chiefs fielded a playoff-caliber defense a year ago, there is more room for improvement in the secondary than one might initially think. Solid players like Husain Abdullah (retired) and Sean Smith (free agent) are gone, leaving notable holes in their wake.
Perhaps undrafted defensive back Shakiel Randolph can help strengthen Kansas City's secondary.
The former Southern Methodist defensive back has the potential, at least, to fill a variety of roles. He spent time at cornerback, safety and linebacker at SMU. He was generally productive in each. Last season, Randolph amassed 39.0 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.
If Randolph can stick with the Chiefs into the regular season, he should be able to provide the team with immense versatility. However, the rookie believes that his range gives him a real advantage as a pass defender.
“That's definitely one of my best attributes,” Randolph explained, per BJ Kissel of the Chiefs' official website. “The fact that I can cover a lot of ground. I've had a lot of experience playing outside linebacker, playing corner, playing safety. When you're back there, it all ties in together, so it’s really easy seeing the big picture of things.”
Randolph's range and size also make him a solid fit for special teams duties. This may be where he earns his first real NFL opportunity, but the potential is there for him to develop into a defensive contributor.
Los Angeles Rams
Nelson Spruce, Wide Receiver
The Los Angeles Rams are betting heavily on rookie quarterback Jared Goff this season and beyond. However, the team doesn't boast a receiving corps that appears ideal for his development. Last year, Pro Football Focus rated the Rams just 31st in the league in receiving.
This, of course, means that there should be legitimate opportunities for undrafted receivers like rookie Nelson Spruce. The Colorado product won't be the fastest or most athletic receiver in Rams camp, but he is a quality possession receiver who can help Goff in the passing game.
“I’m glad I ended up here," Spruce said in the spring, per Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News.
At 6'1" and 206 pounds, Spruce has the size to provide Goff with a big target on the field. He has also proven himself capable of being a legitimate offensive weapon. Over the past two seasons, Spruce racked up 2,251 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
The rookie quarterback has taken notice of what Spruce has to offer.
“Whenever I see him out there he gets into space well and I try to put it on him,” Goff said of Spruce, per Jesse Dougherty of the Los Angeles Times. “He's done a really good job so far.”
If Spruce can show his depth value in camp and prove himself on special teams, he should be able to push for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
James Burgess, Linebacker
Former Louisville linebacker James Burgess likely slipped through the cracks of the draft because of his underwhelming size. However, the 5'11", 227-pound defender might prove to be a major steal for the Miami Dolphins.
Burgess has solid quickness for the position—he ran a 4.61-second 40 at his pro day. He also hits with a physical force that belies his stature. If you're looking for past production, Burgess has plenty of it. Just last season, he piled up 92 total tackles, nine tackles for a loss, four passes defended, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
"He should have been drafted,” draft analyst Tony Pauline said of Burgess, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “Fast, explosive, makes plays around the ball. Traditional weak-side linebacker. Size is the only limitation. He would be a nickel linebacker. The concern is he’ll get smothered at the point of attack. Could be an eighth linebacker.”
Because of his size, Burgess projects as a depth linebacker who can come in on passing downs and contribute on special teams. He has the potential to excel in these roles and to provide a boost to the Miami defense in the process. The trick will be demonstrating in camp and during the preseason that size won't be enough to hold him back.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/nfl/miami-dolphins/article89619482.html#storylink=cpy
Theiren Cockran, Defensive End
The Minnesota Vikings don't have many holes on their playoff-caliber defense, but this doesn't mean there isn't room for local product Theiren Cockran. The former University of Minnesota standout can fill a role as a rotational player at defensive end.
At 6'4" and 252 pounds, Cockran has good size for a 4-3 end, and he has a history of on-field production. Last season, he amassed 28 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss and three sacks for the Golden Gophers.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. named Cockran as one of his 30 top undrafted prospects following the 2016 draft. According to Cockran, the Vikings were the first team to offer him an opportunity.
“They were the first call that I got after the draft, and I accepted it immediately,” Cockran said, per Chris Tommason of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “This is where I wanted to be. Other teams that called were Baltimore, the Patriots and the Redskins, but I gave the Vikings my word.”
If Cockran can prove himself during camp and in the preseason, the Vikings will know they made the right call.
New England Patriots
Jonathan Jones, Cornerback
Over the past two seasons, the New England Patriots have watched former undrafted free agent Malcolm Butler develop into a standout cornerback. This offseason, the Patriots added undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones with the hopes that he can do the same.
So far, the Auburn product has done nothing but show promise.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald observed during June minicamp that Jones seems to have a knack for finding the football.
"Jones put together a nice set of offseason workouts with those two breakups in team drills after registering an interception and a breakup last week," Howe wrote. "He was also around the ball a bit during positional work."
Jones will have to rely on his instinct and athleticism in order to make plays on the field because he isn't likely to dominate physically. He is listed at just 5'9" and 186 pounds. The good news is that there probably isn't a team in the NFL that values productivity over measurables more than New England.
"Of the undrafted corners, he looked very solid this spring and was arguably the best on the field," Steve Balestrieri of PatsFans.com wrote. "But once the pads come on, can he continue his solid play? He will bear close watching this summer. He’s a dark horse to make the roster but don’t write him off just yet."
If Jones can prove himself on the practice and playing field this summer, he'll find a home on the Patriots roster.
New Orleans Saints
Landon Turner, Guard
Former North Carolina guard Landon Turner somehow fell out of the NFL draft. However, he may have landed in an ideal situation with the New Orleans Saints. This is a team that could use some quality line depth, especially after parting ways with former Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans in the offseason.
Turner might provide more than solid depth, though. He might develop into a pro starter. The massive 6'4", 330-pounder was a three-year starter at right guard for the Tar Heels and an All-American.
NFL Media's Lance Zierlein actually projected Turner as a fourth- or fifth-round pick prior to the draft, referring to him as "a road grader deluxe whose size and power will have teams who covet those traits licking their chops."
If Turner can emerge as a rookie starter, he could potentially help New Orleans boost its rushing attack. At the very least, he should be a top-notch backup in his inaugural campaign. The Saints seem thrilled that they were able to snag him as a free agent.
“We had a good grade on him, we had a draftable grade,” general manager Mickey Loomis said, per John DeShazier of the Saints' official website. “So to get him as a college free agent, and not have to use a draft pick, is good for us. He’s a good player, he was a good college player. We saw some things athletically and there’s nothing in this camp that would change our mind.”
New York Giants
Greg Milhouse, Defensive Tackle
Run defense was a bit of an issue for the New York Giants last season. Pro Football Focus rated the team 26th overall against the run. Fortunately, the addition of free-agent defensive tackle Damon Harrison should help strengthen New York's four-man front against opposing ball-carriers.
Another guy who might help is undrafted rookie tackle Greg Milhouse.
The Campbell product wasn't a trendy prospect leading up to the draft, but the former small-school star has the traits to make a difference for the Giants. At 6'1" and 295 pounds, he is big enough for the tackle position, yet he is also surprisingly athletic for his size.
Milhouse ran a 4.9-second 40 and clocked a 33.5-inch vertical at his pro day.
"I was able to show everyone what I've been working so hard on," Milhouse said of his pro day, per Bret Strelow of the Fayetteville Observer. "Show the scouts the full version of me with my athleticism and my strength and that I'm a hard worker, that I have what it takes. They should have no second guesses about me, no second thoughts."
Milhouse's attributes allowed him to produce five sacks as an interior lineman for the Fighting Camels in 2015. Now Milhouse needs to demonstrate his ability to produce against pro competition. His pass-rush potential could help earn him a roster spot, but quality run defense will likely be what gets Milhouse on the field.
New York Jets
Tom Hackett, Punter
Undrafted rookie punter Tom Hackett has a challenge ahead of him if he is hoping to stay with the New York Jets. The former Utah special teamer will be competing in camp with seventh-round pick Lachlan Edwards for the starting job.
Darryl Slater of NJ.com listed the battle between Hackett and Edwards as one of three to watch during training camp.
The good news for the undrafted free agent is that Hackett definitely has the skills to find a home somewhere in the NFL, even if he doesn't stick in New York.
Hackett is an Australian-style directional punter and a two-time Ray Guy Award winner. He averaged 48 yards per punt in 2015, with a long of 76 yards. During his college career, he placed nearly 46 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line and 22 percent inside the 10. Teams looking for a directional punter over a power punter are going to love Hackett.
"Amongst the influx of Australian kickers into college football, Hackett is the lead dog," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein wrote of Hackett before the draft. "Hackett is competitive and confident and has shown the potential to succeed as a base punter."
Hackett will be an interesting player to follow during camp, and you can bet that fans won't be the only ones watching him.
James Cowser, Linebacker
Oakland Raiders undrafted rookie James Cowser might not have received a bevy of draft hype or come from a big-school program. However, the Southern Utah product managed to catch the Raiders' collective eye with some elite production.
The former defensive end produced 80.0 tackles for a loss and 42.5 sacks during his collegiate career.
At 6'3" and 248 pounds, Cowser is probably best suited as an outside linebacker and situational rush end in Oakland's defense. If the Raiders can find the right role for him, he has the skills to eventually become an NFL star.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio recently explained what he likes about the former small-school star, per Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle:
I really had a high grade of him, a high evaluation of him coming out. He’s just come in here and worked really hard. He’s been impressive in the fact that he’s a good learner, he understands what we’re asking of him, what we want him to do, what we want him to be able to do, whether it’s special teams or defense as his role. He’s very conscientious.
Cowser has a prime opportunity to prove himself in training camp and in the preseason this year. If he can handle himself against pro-level competition over the next few weeks, he should get the opportunity to prove his worth on the regular-season roster.
Cayleb Jones, Wide Receiver
The Philadelphia Eagles now appear deep at the quarterback position with Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz all on the roster. However, these quarterbacks aren't going to be supported by an overwhelming receiver corps.
Pro Football Focus rated Philadelphia dead last in receiving in 2015.
The Eagles did add free-agent pass-catchers Rueben Randle and Chris Givens during the offseason. Yet there is still plenty of room for the Eagles to improve the group.
One player who might help is undrafted rookie and former Arizona wideout Cayleb Jones. He possesses the size at 6'3" and 209 pounds to be an immediate difference-maker. He also seems to be making a smooth transition into the NFL, as Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently explained:
"Another undrafted rookie who could push for a roster spot is receiver Cayleb Jones," McLane wrote after the Eagles' first day of training camp. "He was clearly the most polished of the first-year receivers during the spring and picked up where he left off with a nice sideline grab of a Wentz laser."
Jones amassed 904 yards and five scores last season with Arizona, so he has shown that he can be a producer on the field. Now he'll have to prove he can do it against NFL competition.
Canaan Severin, Wide Receiver
The Pittsburgh Steelers will need some young wide receivers to emerge this season, seeing as how standout Martavis Bryant is banned for a year for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. One of those receivers might just be undrafted Virginia product Canaan Severin.
Severin is a big receiver at 6'2" and 212 pounds, and he is a natural pass-catcher. Last season, he produced 759 yards and eight touchdowns on 54 receptions. Severin won't provide the kind of speedy, downfield threat that Bryant did in the Steelers offense, but he can strengthen depth as a possession receiver.
The undrafted pass-catcher will undoubtedly have to work hard and prove himself in the offense and on special teams in camp and the preseason in order to earn a role. Severin recently told Mike Prisuta of the team's official website how his determined work ethic can help him stand out:
One thing that’s big and Coach Tomlin always touches on is physical conditioning. I want to be a guy that’s known to be in top shape, in elite shape and that can make difficult catches routine, that can make contested catches routine. Being a big receiver that has to be kind of my m.o. if I want to have a chance in this league.
Pittsburgh has a recent history of turning relatively unheralded wideouts into stars. It will be fun to see what the team can get out of Severin in camp.
San Diego Chargers
Adrian McDonald, Safety
The San Diego Chargers may have gotten themselves a legitimate steal when they landed former University of Houston safety Adrian McDonald as an undrafted free agent.
NFL Media's Chad Reuter listed McDonald as a top-200 senior prospect last offseason, and the ball-snagging defensive back lived up to the hype. In 2015, McDonald piled up 92.0 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, four interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery. McDonald finished his Houston career with 17 interceptions.
However, size likely prevented McDonald from drawing serious draft interest. The Chargers list him at just 5'9" and 190 pounds.
Still, undersized defensive backs like Arizona's Tyrann Mathieu have shown that game-changers can come in a variety of sizes. If McDonald can prove his ball-hawking skills are good at the pro level, he'll earn a role in San Diego.
Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that McDonald made "made several good plays in spring camp."
McDonald just needs to keep making plays in camp and during the preseason.
San Francisco 49ers
Alex Balducci, Offensive Lineman
Former defensive tackle Alex Balducci has reunited with Chip Kelly, one of the guys who recruited him to Oregon. With the San Francisco 49ers, though, Kelly is moving Balducci over to the other side of the football.
The 6'3", 308-pound Balducci will try to make the team as an offensive lineman, likely somewhere in the interior.
"I just think he has the skill set," Kelly said of Balducci earlier this offseason, per Geoffrey C. Arnold of the Oregonian. "I think he's got really good feet and is very athletic, so I think it was a natural maneuver."
Balducci may have a hard time carving out a large role early in his career, but he hasn't looked out of place on the offensive line so far this offseason.
49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley said the following of Balducci, via the team's official website:
He’s doing really well. I mean I would never have known that he was coming from D-line. I actually didn’t know until he had until a week after he was here. His footwork, because a lot of the stuff is like, I feel like coming from different positions, especially from defensive line to offensive line is different as far as footwork, and offensive line is such a technical position. And he’s got a lot of that stuff down from day one.
Balducci should get every opportunity to stick with the 49ers during camp and the preseason.
Tyvis Powell, Safety
The Seattle Seahawks seem to have a knack for finding quality undrafted free agents. Just last season, former undrafted rookies like Doug Baldwin, Michael Bennett and Thomas Rawls helped lead the charge into the playoffs.
The Seahawks may have found their next undrafted standout in former Ohio State defensive back Tyvis Powell. The former Buckeye safety has the size and range (6'3", 211 pounds) that the Seahawks seem to love in their defensive backs. He has also proven himself to be a productive defender on the field.
Last year, he racked up 71 total tackles and three interceptions.
Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN Seattle recently described Powell as one of the Seahawks' most intriguing players. Henderson explained how Seattle was quick to target Powell once he went undrafted:
General manager John Schneider said the Seahawks had a “very high” grade on Powell. So once he went undrafted, Seattle pounced. Schneider described it as a priority to sign Powell, saying that as the Seahawks were trying to convince him to choose Seattle in the frantic moments after the draft, they had set aside a chunk of their UDFA money specifically for him.
Powell looks to have a very good chance of making the regular-season roster, but he will have to prove himself in camp. It will be worth following Powell to see what kind of impact he can have as a backup safety and on special teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DaVonte Lambert, Defensive Tackle
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be set at the defensive tackle position, at least when it comes to starters. However, there is room for depth at the position, especially when you consider Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence all missed time last season.
Enter undrafted defensive tackle and Auburn product DaVonte Lambert. The 6'2", 282-pound defender has the size needed to perform in Tampa's four-man front, and he brings with him that big-program pedigree that pro teams love. Lambert also brings a bit of versatility, having played primarily at end at Auburn.
Last season, Lambert produced 24.0 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack for the Tigers. This might not seem overly impressive, but it's worth noting that Lambert was coming off a torn ACL. He was more disruptive in 2014, notching 7.0 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks despite missing the final two games of that season.
Lambert projects as a solid depth player early in his career, with the potential to be a regular contributor once he becomes more adjusted to the pro game. Joe Kania of the Buccaneers' official website listed Lambert as his dark horse of the defensive tackle competition.
"With just six defensive tackles on the team’s roster heading into training camp, he has a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster," Kania wrote. "Lambert has experience, played end in college and specializes in rushing the passer."
Ben Roberts, Wide Receiver
The Tennessee Titans may have one star rookie receiver on their hands in the form of draft pick Tajae Sharpe. However, undrafted rookie Ben Roberts might also have the goods to earn a role on the team this season.
The former Montana receiver took the tough route to his current spot, earning a camp invite and later a free-agent contract.
Roberts wasn't exactly a game-breaker at Montana last season, though he did manage to catch 66 passes for 649 yards and five touchdowns. The former baseball standout tended to win on the field with his size, and he can provide second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota with a big red-zone target with that size as a pro.
Roberts is listed at 6'4" and 215 pounds on NFL.com.
The Montana product undoubtedly finds himself in a tough competition with receivers like Sharpe, Kendall Wright, Tre McBride and others vying for playing time. However, he seems to be doing enough to stand out.
Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official website recently called Roberts a sleeper, stating: "I’ve liked the looks of him this offseason."
Tennessee liked Roberts enough to offer him a rookie deal. If he keeps up the hard work in training camp, they might also offer him a role on the team.
Lloyd Carrington, Cornerback
The Washington Redskins took a big step toward improving their pass defense this offseason when the team went after and secured emerging cornerback Josh Norman. However, Norman isn't going to single-handedly transform Washington's 25th-ranked pass defense (258 yards per game allowed). The team needs to find help elsewhere, and it may find some in the form of rookie cornerback Lloyd Carrington.
Carrington is relatively new to the game of football, having played just one year in high school. However, he turned plenty of heads last season at Arizona State, amassing 53 tackles, six passes defended and an interception.
Carrington has also been turning heads this offseason. Stephen Czarda of the team's official website reports that Carrington made a one-handed interception during June minicamp and was "mobbed by teammates, fellow college free-agent signings and veterans alike, in celebration."
Though he doesn't possess overwhelming size at 5'10" and 190 pounds, Carrington is definitely built for the position. He spent time on the special teams unit in college and could have an immediate impact there for the Redskins.
Special teams may be Carrington's ticket to making the roster, but he has the potential to one day be a mainstay in an NFL secondary.
All contract information via Spotrac.com.