The Best Undrafted Free Agent in Every 2017 NFL Training Camp

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystJuly 28, 2017

The Best Undrafted Free Agent in Every 2017 NFL Training Camp

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    The experience of sitting through the calling of 253 names during the NFL draft and not hearing yours is devastating and emotionally draining. But for teams, the process of finding the right pieces to build a winning roster doesn't stop once the draft ends.

    That's when the gem finding is just beginning, with phones buzzing in the pursuit of undrafted free agents.

    Many of the UDFAs signed immediately after the draft will bounce around to a few different teams, making a minimal impression at best. Many more won't be heard from again.

    But often an impact player somehow sneaks past every team for seven rounds. Sometimes that's because of off-field character issues. Sometimes it's because of a lack of playing time in college. And sometimes a poor scheme fit is to blame.

    Regardless of the reason, there's usually a handful of undrafted free agents who rise quickly to play meaningful roles. The most iconic, and recent, shining moment for an undrafted player came in Super Bowl XLIX when New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was the hero with his game-sealing interception. He made that play with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett standing on the opposite sideline. Bennett has now recorded 45.5 career sacks as an undrafted free agent.

    The hill undrafted free agents have to climb is steep, with the odds stacked against them. But they can frequently force themselves into key roles either right away, or in the not-so-distant future. And that process starts now in training camp under the sweltering mid-summer sun.

    Let's take a look at each team's best undrafted free agent as training camps begin.

Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback Trevor Knight

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    The limitations with quarterback Trevor Knight are glaring. The throwing part of being a quarterback, and doing it accurately, has been an issue.

    And that's rather important. But the athletic ability that led to 1,467 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground during Knight's collegiate career still ignites a wandering imagination. His muscular build does the same, as Knight can seem like a pile of fast-moving cinder blocks coming at you.

    The 23-year-old has landed in the right place if there's even the faintest hope of correcting his mechanics to become an adequate passer. He completed just 55.5 percent of his throws between time at Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

    Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is a known quarterback whisperer, and his team is in the ideal situation to take on a project. Veteran starter Carson Palmer is likely entering his final NFL season, and replacing a franchise quarterback is a daunting challenge.

    The massive, looming hurdle ahead for Knight to clear is learning how to harness his athletic ability while maintaining a consistent throwing motion. If he shows even mild progress throughout August, a roster spot might be in his future.

Atlanta Falcons: Guard Travis Averill

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    Associated Press

    A general manager can't go wrong with stocking up on offensive line depth during the UDFA period.

    A sturdy offensive line is the motor that runs every offense. And when it sputters because of injury, a replacement piece needs to be plugged in fast so the whole unit keeps on chugging.

    That's surely what the Atlanta Falcons had in mind when they signed five UDFA offensive linemen immediately following the draft. They're throwing low-cost darts, hoping to get serviceable depth from at least one of them.

    The lineman they could hit a bull's-eye with is guard Travis Averill. He was a steady starter for Boise State over the final three seasons of his college career and earned first-team All-Mountain West honors in 2016. As Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline noted, Averill is a capable athlete with fluid movement as a blocker.

    "Quickly sets up off the snap, keeps his head on a swivel and works well with linemates," Pauline wrote. "Displays a good degree of quickness in his game, moves well on his feet and shows fluidity pulling across the scrimmage."

    Averill still needs to improve fundamentally. But he might have the skill set to stick around, develop and eventually add to an existing strength for the Falcons.

Baltimore Ravens: Fullback Ricky Ortiz

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    The traditional fullback is slowly easing into extinction around the NFL. That's why teams want more out of their lead blocker. He needs to be part blocker, and part yard-churner after the catch.

    Or at minimum he needs to be able to catch passes often, and with confidence. The Baltimore Ravens lost arguably the league's best fullback and a reliable pass-catcher when Kyle Juszczyk left for the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent. Over the past three seasons, he caught 97 of his 133 targets (a catch rate of 72.9) for 769 yards and five touchdowns.

    That's a sizable contribution from a position now forgotten by most teams. However, even for the Ravens, a pass-catching fullback isn't worth an investment of any significance. Which is why they turned to the UDFA market and found their match in former Oregon State utility man Ricky Ortiz.

    The 23-year-old did whatever he needed to do for the Beavers if it meant getting on the field. That's a critical approach to already have as an undrafted free agent, as it'll breath life into Ortiz's career.

    He was a fullback, tight end, H-back and linebacker at Oregon State. But NFL teams, including the Ravens, were mostly interested in slotting him in at fullback after the pass-catching skill he demonstrated at his pro day workout.

    As John Newby of Scout.com observed, Ortiz looked comfortable while running routes and accelerating after the catch.

    "He ran fantastic routes and displayed serious hands," wrote Newby. "The best catch of the day was on a seam route where he caught a pass in stride 25 yards downfield."

    Ortiz has landed in the right place to address a clear need, which is a dream situation for any undrafted free agent. Now comes the tough part: Continuing to develop as the difficulty level rises. 

Buffalo Bills: Wide Receiver Daikiel Shorts

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    The Buffalo Bills are starved for wide receiver depth. They lost Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Justin Hunter during free agency, and those three were targeted 167 times in 2016.

    Sammy Watkins is healthy now, though it's always tough to know how long that will last. He sits atop the Bills' wide receiver depth chart, and right below him is Zay Jones, their second-round pick.

    So there's still talent among the pass-catchers in Buffalo, especially from Watkins with his 2,459 receiving yards over only 37 career games. But the depth beyond those two drops off swiftly, which could lead to an opportunity for Daikiel Shorts.

    Shorts was one of two UDFA wide receivers the Bills snatched up, and he comes with a promising history of production at a high college level. Shorts led West Virginia in 2016 with 63 catches, and he turned those ample receptions into 894 yards and five touchdowns.

    At 6'1" and 202 pounds, Shorts is a shifty, elusive receiver who was especially effective in the slot for West Virginia. His 874 receiving yards from the slot ranked seventh out of 71 draft-eligible receivers in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus.

Carolina Panthers: Linebacker Ben Boulware

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    Ben Boulware is a feisty linebacker whose intangibles—high energy and a motor that's running hot every snap—come in a smaller package.

    At 6'0" and 232 pounds, Boulware doesn't quite have the natural size teams look for at the linebacker position. But that didn't stop him at Clemson, where he was a tackling demon for the reigning national champions.

    Boulware piled up 197 tackles over his final two college seasons, and he also showed he's capable in coverage with three interceptions during that span. He recorded seven sacks as a starter for Clemson too.

    A lack of size is what made Boulware fall down the draft board, and then ultimately off it. But his tenacity-fueled production at the highest level of college football made him the most appealing undrafted free agent. And now he's landed in a place where he can develop while surrounded by highly talented veteran linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly. Then he can pounce when an opportunity presents itself.

Chicago Bears: Wide Receiver Tanner Gentry

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    Heading into the draft, the Chicago Bears were another team with a swirling vortex occupying their wide receiver depth chart instead of reliable and proven talent. The Bears lost Alshon Jeffery during free agency, and although Kevin White and Cameron Meredith offer plenty of potential, they're far from firmly established talents yet.

    Which is why the Bears scooped up one of the beast available undrafted wide receivers when they signed Tanner Gentry.

    The 6'2" and 210-pound pass-catcher has both the size and speed to one day rise up the depth chart. He showed the latter by averaging more than 18 yards per reception during each of his final two seasons in Wyoming.

    He emerged in 2016 by nearly doubling his receiving production in any other previous season. Gentry blew up for 1,326 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, and then showcased his athleticism at Wyoming's pro day with a 38-inch vertical jump.

    His athletic package led to a high volume of deep targets. Gentry finished 2016 with 49 targets that traveled 20-plus yards through the air, per PFF, which led all draft-eligible receivers.

    In time, he can bring that deep-ball skill to the Bears offense, too.

Cincinnati Bengals: Linebacker Hardy Nickerson

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    Certain expectations come when you play the same position as your four-time All-Pro father. And although the younger Hardy Nickerson, who was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals, may not possess the same raw talent as his dad, he has the throttle pinned on every play to make up for it.

    Nickerson starred as a linebacker for Cal and Illinois, recording 100-plus tackles in each of his final two college seasons. He also developed in coverage during his final year while grabbing two interceptions.

    His strong, fundamentally sound tackling pops off the screen. He missed only three tackles over four years of college football, as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein noted.

    The concern with Nickerson, however, is a lack of natural instincts to read and react to the play in front of him as it develops. He has the skill to capitalize and bring ball-carriers down once he gets to them. But getting there can be a problem.

    For example, during a game against Michigan in 2016, Nickerson recorded a solid eight defensive stops, as PFF's Josh Liskiewitz charted. But his afternoon could have been much better had he not left so many plays on the field.

    "His overall grade was just 41.9 due to a significant number of plays where he ran himself out of gap integrity and gave up big runs through his assignment," noted Liskiewitz.

    Nickerson's physical skill and energy are appealing enough that he has a chance to stick around to learn, and maybe contribute down the road.

Cleveland Browns: Cornerback Channing Stribling

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    There's a label in baseball that often signals the end for a highly touted prospect: Quad-A player.

    That's when a player lights up the level right below the major leagues but then can't replicate the same production at the highest level. Which might be how we describe Channing Stribling soon enough, though he can avoid that fate by developing better vision to read routes.

    The Cleveland Browns gave the former Michigan Wolverines cornerback a chance. They needed to explore every avenue available to improve a 21st-ranked pass defense in 2016 that allowed an average of 249.8 yards per game.

    Judging by his college game film, it seems like Stribling could give that unit a boost. He led the Wolverines in interceptions (four) and passes defensed (17) during the 2016 season. He also posted an incredibly low passer rating in coverage of 22.7, per PFF, which was the second-best mark in the country among cornerbacks who were targeted at least 40 times.

    But it's difficult to see him playing at that level going forward because he lacks athleticism.

    Stribling needed 4.60 seconds to run the 40-yard dash at the combine, which is excruciatingly slow at his position. He also posted a time of 4.56 in the short shuttle, which was the slowest mark among all defensive backs.

    At 6'1" and 188 pounds, he still has the size that teams covet now in the modern NFL to handle larger receivers. And when he's in position, Stribling has shown the ball skills to disrupt plays consistently.

    But can he get in position regularly enough to use his physicality? The Browns are about to find out. 

Dallas Cowboys: Tight End Blake Jarwin

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    Back in March, the Dallas Cowboys signed franchise legend and longtime tight end Jason Witten to a four-year contract extension. But it contained zero guaranteed money and therefore was an example of NFL salary-cap gymnastics and not an actual commitment.

    And you wouldn't expect a long-term commitment to a tight end who's entering his age-35 season. Witten is aging and slowing, with his last 1,000-plus-yard receiving season now way back in 2012. He's at the point in his career when retirement questions are an annual staple of the locker clean-out process after the end of each season.

    Soon enough the tight end torch will be passed in Dallas, and there are a handful of developmental options assembling behind Witten. That now includes Blake Jarwin, an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State.

    Jarwin is a versatile pass-catcher who was used everywhere in college, and that experience alone makes him an asset. He lined up as an in-line tight end, from the slot, as an H-back and was also split out wide. Overall, his targets and opportunities were limited, but Jarwin still left for the draft with a per-catch average of 15 yards.

    He has the speed to separate up the seam and the toughness to win jump balls amid chaos up the middle.

    "Jarwin has the athleticism to be a matchup player in the pros," wrote Bleacher Report's Matt Miller in his scouting report. "He could easily play as a flex tight end or even a fullback in the right scheme. A tough player with a high work ethic, he has the tools to become a more prolific pass-catcher at the next level than he was in college."

Denver Broncos: Safety Orion Stewart

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    The Denver Broncos had the league's best pass defense in 2016. Often, adding depth while building on an existing strength is wise in the later rounds of the draft and during the UFA period immediately after.

    That's what the Broncos did when they signed safety Orion Stewart.

    Stewart hovered around the ball at the college level and recorded 12 interceptions over four seasons for Baylor, six of which came in 2016. He was an All-Big 12 honorable mention twice and tallied 260 tackles.

    He excelled as a special teamer too. That may be his best immediate path to a roster spot, because although his ball skills are promising, Stewart plays with stiff hips.

    He'll need time to develop his craft and make his movement more fluid. But there's still potential for him to blossom and be looked back on as a true hidden gem.

Detroit Lions: Wide Receiver Noel Thomas Jr.

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    The Detroit Lions went about the business of replacing wide receiver Calvin Johnson by spreading out touches in 2016. Their generous footballs-for-all approach in the passing game led to a rapid-fire offense only slowed by the amount of time quarterback Matthew Stafford spent trying to avoid a helmet in his midsection.

    As a result the Lions had five pass-catchers with 50-plus receptions. That alone isn't a problem, and in fact is very much the opposite. A passing offense able to utilize so many weapons regularly becomes unpredictable and difficult to scheme against.

    No, the problem was only one of those five pass-catchers averaged more than 12 yards per reception. The Lions need more reliable deep speed any way they can get it. And maybe they'll find some from undrafted free agent Noel Thomas Jr.

    Thomas is fresh off a 2016 season when he led the Connecticut Huskies with 100 receptions, which also stands as a single-season school record. That resulted in 1,179 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

    Those catches often came in spectacular fashion, with Thomas leaning on his wide catch radius to secure throws with a high degree of difficulty. There can be a sort of football ballet element to his grabs, with acrobatic mid-air twisting and contorting.

    There are areas of his game that need to be polished. Specifically, his route-running and ability to separate from press coverage. But he has potential to grow into a threat on both the outside and in the slot, where Thomas averaged 2.29 yards per route run in 2016, per PFF.

Green Bay Packers: Outside Linebacker Johnathan Calvin

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    When outside linebacker Julius Peppers left as a free agent, the Green Bay Packers lost a pass-rusher who had contributed 25 sacks over the past three seasons—and 7.5 in 2016—in a limited, rotational role.

    There are a few players along the defensive front who could step up to fill that void now. Most notably, defensive end Kenny Clark, the 2016 first-round pick who is being leaned on to make a second-year leap.

    But maybe there will be a surprise showing in training camp. And if that happens, it'll likely come from outside linebacker and undrafted free agent Johnathan Calvin.

    The 6'3", 275-pound pass-rusher led Mississippi State in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (seven) during the 2016 season. He also blocked two kicks and recorded 82 tackles over 26 games, starting only 11.

    Calvin might land on the practice squad initially to get more coaching on his burst off the line, but he has a skill base to build on and an intriguing recent history of production.

Houston Texans: Running Back Dare Ogunbowale

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    The Houston Texans have a history of unearthing glistening UFA gold and inserting it into their backfield. Arian Foster, the four-time Pro Bowler who's also the franchise leader in rushing yards by over 3,000 yards was an undrafted free agent back in 2009.

    The Texans began to address their backfield depth during the draft by using a third-round pick on running back D'Onta Foreman. But having a deep running back stable is always important, especially for the run-oriented offense after starter Lamar Miller slowed down in 2016 under a heavy workload (299 regular-season touches, which was easily a career high).

    So the Texans wisely also signed Dare Ogunbowale, who hails from Wisconson's running back factory.

    Ogunbowale's college production is impressive considering he was mostly used in a backup or complementary role. Corey Clement received 314 carries as the Badgers' starter in 2016, but Ogunbowale still finished with 506 rushing yards for an average of 5.6 yards on his 91 attempts.

    We don't have to look back far to see what Ogunbowale could do in a larger role. In 2015 Clement was injured for much of the year, and Ogunbowale showcased his skills as both a runner and pass-catcher. He finished the year with 1,118 yards from scrimmage.

    The pass-catching element of his game is Ogunbowale's best path to a roster spot and perhaps even a way to contribute quickly. He piled up 507 receiving yards over his final two seasons with the Badgers.

Indianapolis Colts: Wide Receiver Bug Howard

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    The Indianapolis Colts have plenty of blazing deep speed on their wide receiver depth chart between T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett. They're lacking a massive tree-like possession receiver who can wrestle for tough catches, especially in the compacted traffic of the end zone.

    But they may have found a receiver who meets that description: the awesomely named Bug Howard.

    Howard isn't about to set any land-speed records, though he's also not horribly slow at his size either. He's 6'4", weighs 221 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds.

    So separating and setting off fireworks deep might be an issue for Howard, but that's not how he should be used in the NFL.

    He has a large and solid frame and knows how to use it to gain position over defensive backs in traffic. That's how he became a reliable possession and red-zone target for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2016, when Howard finished with 53 receptions for 827 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns.

    He's more than just a large body, though. Howard also has a soft set of hands and demonstrated them regularly. As NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein noted, Howard dropped just four passes over his four seasons at North Carolina.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive End Hunter Dimick

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    Hunter Dimick (No. 49)
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    Go look at what defensive end Hunter Dimick did over four seasons in Utah. Then go look at where he was drafted.

    When you scroll through the former, you'll see 29.5 sacks, the best career total in school history. Of those sacks, 13.5 came during his senior year along with 19.5 tackles for a loss. That 2016 sack total ranked tied for third in the nation.

    Then you remind yourself of what went down in the 2017 draft: There were 253 names, and Dimick didn't appear once.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars took what might turn out to be the most promising undrafted free agent flier when they signed Dimick. He drifted down the draft board and eventually off it because of size concerns. At 6'3" and 269 pounds, he likely lacks the ideal length to make an impact as an every-down pass-rusher in the NFL.

    But he could still grow into a meaningful contributor in a rotational role after learning how to deal with his size restrictions against NFL blockers. The talent ceiling with Dimick is much higher than most undrafted pass-rushers after his 83 pressures led the nation in 2016, per PFF.

Kansas City Chiefs: Wide Receiver Marcus Kemp

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    Uncertainty on any roster leads to opportunities in training camp. And there's a heaping helping of uncertainty among the Kansas City Chiefs wide receivers after Jeremy Maclin was released.

    Maclin was targeted 76 times over 12 games in 2016. Tyreek Hill will now be elevated to the top receiver role after his electric rookie year. But then the next three receivers behind him currently on the Chiefs' depth chart—Chis Conley, Albert Wilson and De'Anthony Thomas—have combined for just 190 career catches.

    That's why the Chiefs threw lots of wet noddles at their wide receiver rankings board after the draft, hoping someone will stick. Of the 12 undrafted free agents they signed, five were wide receivers. And Marcus Kemp likely has the best chance to emerge.

    Kemp is a large target at 6'4", but he'll need to add some weight onto his 200-pound frame to beat press coverage more consistently at the next level. His height combined with 4.54 speed in the 40-yard dash leads to frequent deep catches, though, and will provide a wide catch radius for future Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

    The effectiveness of Kemp's size-speed blend was on full display during his breakout 2016 season with the Hawaii Warriors. He finished with 73 catches for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns.

Los Angeles Chargers: Running Back Austin Ekeler

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    Austin Ekeler is small in a few ways.

    The first and most important is his size. At 5'9" and 195 pounds, Ekeler's size is on the lower end of what NFL talent evaluators typically look for in a running back. That's mainly why he tumbled out of the draft, as teams couldn't be confident in his ability to withstand weekly whacks at the next level.

    He's also small in terms of his football background. Ekeler starred for Division II Western State Colorado University, which leads to quality-of-competition concerns and an element of the unknown. He's doing more than just climbing a few rungs on the football ladder now. Instead the 22-year-old is jumping up several flights of stairs, with the speed of the game increasing dramatically.

    There are often a few small-school prospects who surprise us to ascend fast, and Ekeler played so far above his competition that rising up to another level might not matter much at all.

    He averaged 149.5 rushing yards per game as a senior. That came after an even more remarkable 2015 season when Ekeler averaged 203.9 all-purpose yards each week. He finished his collegiate career with 5,857 rushing yards and 55 touchdowns.

    He may need time to adjust at the professional level. But it wouldn't at all be surprising to see Ekeler impress when given an opportunity in the preseason and force his way onto the Chargers roster.

Los Angeles Rams: Running Back Justin Davis

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    The Los Angeles Rams have an opening for any running back willing to take it. And if he can fix his fumble issues, Justin Davis has a shot to rise up and compete for carries.

    The Rams lost Benny Cunningham during free agency. He was a solid passing-down back who recorded 752 receiving yards over his four seasons with the Rams. Suddenly the depth behind starting running back Todd Gurley—who averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in 2016—is looking thin, with a mediocre Lance Dunbar the leading third-down option.

    A sliver of daylight could be available for Davis then. His fourth and final season at USC was cut short due to an ankle injury, but he still managed to compile 719 yards from scrimmage over 10 games and average 5.5 yards per carry. His true breakout came in 2015, when Davis finished with 902 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

    He's experienced some ball-security issues, with three fumbles in 2016, and he'll have to improve as a blocker to carve out a roster spot. But after seeing Davis' 46 catches for 400 yards in college, an NFC West scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein he could fit a pass-catching role and even gave him a decent pre-draft grade.

    "I put a fifth-round grade on him," the scout said. "They didn't ask much of him as a pass-catcher in that offense but I think he can do it. He can play heavier than he is right now so he carries third running back value. He also returned kicks last year so that helps him too."

Miami Dolphins: Wide Receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow

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    The Miami Dolphins have one of the NFL's best slot receivers in Jarvis Landry. They also have a grass burner on their wide receiver depth chart. That's Kenny Stills, who averaged 17.3 yards per reception in 2016 and was just signed to a lucrative four-year contract extension.

    But they need a safety net beyond those two in case DeVante Parker doesn't take a third-year leap.

    That's why they stockpiled receivers after the draft, signing four undrafted free agents. One of them is former Ole Miss pass-catcher Damore'ea Stringfellow, who could either boom or bust and do it hard in either direction. If Stringfellow can fall on the boom side, though, the Dolphins will have added promising depth.

    Stringfellow's appeal lies in his circus catches. He's able to control his large frame (6'2", 211 lbs) to haul in difficult throws. That makes him a strong red-zone presence and led to six touchdowns during his final year at Ole Miss. Stringfellow also finished 2016 with 46 receptions for 716 yards.

    In his scouting report, Zierlein envisioned a receiver who could grow into a quality possession target.

    "Big receiver with average speed but an ability to track the ball and win it at the high point," he wrote. "Might not ever be dynamic enough to be a dangerous starting target, but he has the body control and competitiveness to work the second and third levels with some success."

    On the other side, the bust concern with Stringfellow centers around his hands. He recorded 10 drops in 2016, per PFF.

Minnesota Vikings: Defensive Tackle Dylan Bradley

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    The next general manager who says he has too much quality pass-rushing will also be the first general manager to say he has too much quality pass-rushing.

    There really is no such thing as reaching capacity in that department. And the way to make sure a strength stays that way is to keep adding quality talent, preferably at a low cost.

    Which is what the Minnesota Vikings did when they signed defensive tackle Dylan Bradley.

    The Vikings defense was fifth in 2016 with 41 sacks. Much of their front-four muscle was provided by Danielle Hunter, the defensive end who rose fast in his second year and recorded 12.5 sacks.

    Bradley doesn't have the same natural gifts. But with some time and grooming, he could also rise to give the Vikings' pass rush yet another youthful jolt.

    The 265-pound lineman packs a power punch in his compact 6'1" body and often gets solid leverage to win battles. That's how he totaled 18 sacks over four seasons at Southern Mississippi along with 37.5 tackles for a loss.

    Even more impressively, Bradley also recorded 37 pressures on 350 pass-rush snaps in 2016, per PFF. He's a bit of a tweener, however, and doesn't have the preferred NFL size to be an every-down presence on the inside. Some added bulk could go a long way if the Vikings have a little patience.

New England Patriots: Wide Receiver Austin Carr

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    The New England Patriots have always been in the business of finding high-end production for low-end prices by nailing their late-round or undrafted free agent picks.

    Julian Edelman, for example, nearly went undrafted and lasted all the way to the 232nd overall pick in 2009. Now he's one of the league's best slot receivers and contributed 98 catches for 1,106 yards in 2016 during a championship season.

    Now Austin Carr has a chance to become the next sneaky undrafted find for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

    The wide receiver out of Northwestern erupted during his final collegiate season with 90 receptions for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns. His reception and yardage totals placed Carr in the top 20 among the nation's receivers.

    He grew into a trusted and reliable slot receiver, with his quarterback having confidence that any ball thrown in Carr's general direction would be vacuumed up. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thompson had a passer rating of 118.6 when targeting Carr in 2016, per PFF, and his rating dropped to 77.6 with every other receiver.

    At 6'1" and 194 pounds, he's a little larger than your typical slot receiver, but Carr thrives there regardless and is consistently open underneath. He could provide quality depth behind the 31-year-old Edelman and potentially develop into another option on the outside too.

New Orleans Saints: Wide Receiver Travin Dural

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    The problem with evaluating LSU receivers is there often isn't much to evaluate.

    The Tigers have a run-heavy offense, and that lean was even more pronounced over the past two seasons as running back Leonard Fournette steamrolled over pretty much every opposing defense. That was great for anyone who enjoys watching a uniquely talented running back. It was less great for the LSU receivers and their draft outlook.

    That included wide receiver Travin Dural, who caught only 28 passes for 280 yards over nine games in 2016. But there is still a solid season on his college resume, as Dural showed his deep speed with 20.5 yards per reception, 758 yards overall and seven touchdowns in 2014. He also posted 111 rushing yards that season.

    He has the wheels to get deep and the sudden lateral movement to create chunk yardage after short throws. Dural created six missed tackles in 2016, per PFF, which is impressive considering his minimal use.

    The Saints signed him hoping they've been gifted a receiver who deserved to be drafted but wasn't simply because of limited recent game film.

New York Giants: Guard Jessamen Dunker

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    The New York Giants prioritized other needs and didn't select an offensive lineman until the sixth round of the 2017 draft.

    That wasn't the wrong approach necessarily, as they came away with yet another athletically skilled target for quarterback Eli Manning (tight end Evan Engram), and their possible future successor under center (Davis Webb).

    But a team that saw its 36-year-old quarterback having to dodge, weave and frantically fire in 2016 while under too much pressure still needed to reinforce the offensive line. And preferably with a versatile lineman who can move fluidly.

    Those boxes are hard to check off with an undrafted free agent, but the Giants came as close as possible by signing guard Jessamen Dunker.

    Trouble away from the field forced Dunker to transfer from Florida to Tennessee State after he was accused of stealing a scooter. He then stayed quiet and became an effective blocker as both a guard and tackle. That included settling in as a blindside protector at left tackle, where Dunker started every game as a senior and earned FCS All-American honors.

    There's still a rawness to Dunker, and he might struggle to hold up against more powerful NFL defensive lineman while run-blocking, as Zierlein noted. But his athleticism alone makes him an intriguing prospect perhaps best suited in a zone-blocking scheme.

New York Jets: Wide Receiver Gabe Marks

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    Watching the New York Jets will likely be about as enjoyable as emptying the dishwasher or vacuuming. Which is to say it'll be a chore, and one that would be put off if possible.

    Winning will happen only occasionally for the 2017 Jets after the team was dismantled, but the upside for young players is there will be plenty of opportunities to shine. The Jets will be playing for 2018 and 2019 while holding auditions every week.

    One of the most wide-open areas is the wide receiver depth chart. The Jets are just one season removed from Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker combining for 189 receptions, 2,529 yards and 26 touchdown catches. Now they're both playing elsewhere, which leaves a mountain of targets and production to replace.

    Undrafted free agent Gabe Marks finds himself amid a crowded depth chart at the position that also includes early-round 2017 picks ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen. But Marks could still make his presence known.

    At 6'0 and 190 pounds, he doesn't have size that pops off the screen, which is partly why Marks went undrafted. His speed is also adequate though not spectacular, and he clocked in at 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash during the combine.

    However, none of that stopped Marks from setting the Pac-12 record for most career receptions (316) and finishing second in conference history with 37 touchdown catches. His 3,453 receiving yards also stand as a Washington State team record.

    He's a crisp route-runner who's able to separate through his footwork off the line and acceleration. Keep his name in mind for later in the season when the Jets are inevitably spreading out the snaps and targets to find future solutions.

Oakland Raiders: Wide Receiver Ishmael Zamora

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Ishmael Zamora went undrafted largely due to the potential public relations nightmare of investing a draft pick in him.

    Prior to the 2016 college football season, a video surfaced of him beating his dog with a belt. Consequently, Zamora was charged with animal abuse, which included a fine and 40 hours of community service. His dog was also taken away and given to a friendlier home.

    There's no excusing his disgusting actions, but he was appropriately charged and punished. The Raiders are seeing what he can do for them now and hoping his off-field misconduct is in the past.

    If that's the case then Zamora has an opportunity to climb up a thin depth chart beyond starters Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. He has a drool-worthy combination of size and speed, as the high school hurdles champion stands 6'4" and weighs 215 pounds.

    That frame and downfield quickness make Zamora a multi-purpose receiver who's able to both separate deep and grapple for jump balls up the middle. He snatched 63 receptions for 809 yards and eight touchdowns during his final year at Baylor.

    But he's still raw with limited game experience. Patience might be required, which is why the Raiders are a great fit. They have a stacked offense already and the luxury of waiting on a talent like Zamora.

Philadelphia Eagles: Running Back Corey Clement

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    At a glance, it looks like the Philadelphia Eagles have enough running backs. But upon further review, that's not the case both to begin the 2017 season and beyond that.

    Ryan Mathews will eventually be released once he's medically cleared. LeGarrette Blount will likely be the early-down back in 2017, but he's a 30-year-old signed to a one-year contract. And pass-catching dynamo Darren Sproles is entering his final season before retirement.

    So there's an opening for another running back to provide essential depth. And Corey Clement is ready to make a contribution.

    The Eagles signed the former Wisconsin standout after he ran for 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016. He's not much of a pass-catcher, though, with just 29 receptions over four seasons with the Badgers. But that won't matter if he sticks around with the Eagles. Sproles has the passing-down role covered right now, and rookie Donnel Pumphrey is waiting to take over once he moves on.

    The Eagles have plenty of smaller, shifty running backs who are creative in space. They needed another bruiser who can ease the burden on Blount as he ages. At 5'10" and 220 pounds, Clement has the physical build to fill that role.

    His athletic traits won't leave anyone looking wide-eyed at a stop watch or tape measure (he posted only a 28.5-inch vertical at the combine). But he's landed in the right place to make a meaningful contribution.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Tight End Scott Orndoff

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers assumed they filled a tight end void after signing Ladarius Green in 2016. Then concussion and ankle issues limited his playing time during his one season in Pittsburgh, and he was released after a failed physical.

    Even when Green was healthy, the Steelers only received a combined 642 yards from their top two tight ends. Jesse James is slowly emerging, but the position was still an area of need on an otherwise stacked offense.

    Which is why the Steelers signed one of the better undrafted tight ends available, and one right in their backyard, too.

    Scott Orndoff went to the University of Pittsburgh, where his production increased over his final two seasons as his role grew. The highlight was his senior season, when Orndoff showed his speed up the seam by averaging 16.5 yards per catch. Overall, he finished with 579 yards on 35 catches with five touchdowns that year.

    Prior to the draft, one NFC North scout had high praise for Orndoff when speaking to Zierlein.

    "He's one of my favorite tight ends for what we are looking to add," the scout said. "He will get better as a blocker, but he's as good as what we have now."

San Francisco 49ers: Safety Lorenzo Jerome

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The concept of rebuilding a team is simple enough in theory: pile up as many talented young players as possible, coach them well and watch that talent grow.

    In practice, of course, the process of evaluating talent and nailing draft picks comes with many pitfalls and has driven plenty of general managers to unemployment. But rookie San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch is off to a fine start after adding lots of talent both before and after the draft.

    That includes safety Lorenzo Jerome, whom ESPN's Todd McShay ranked as the top undrafted free agent.

    Jerome is a small-school prospect from St. Francis, which automatically raises the usual quality-of-competition concerns. But he eased those doubts by being the megastar defensive back of the Senior Bowl. At a much higher level of play, he grabbed two interceptions during the game and recorded three tackles (one for a loss) and a forced fumble.

    That all came after a standout collegiate career. He finished the 2016 season with six interceptions and was name a first-team FCS All-American.

Seattle Seahawks: Guard Jordan Roos

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Seattle Seahawks entered the offseason with one clear mission: to make sure quarterback Russell Wilson stops getting pummeled so often he turns the same shade as his home uniform.

    They did that first by using a second-round pick on center/guard Ethan Pocic, and later in the sixth round adding depth by selecting tackle Justin Senior. But by the way head coach Pete Carroll is talking, an undrafted rookie might have a chance to contribute along the offensive line.

    The Seahawks signed guard Jordan Roos, a three-year starter at Purdue. That experience alone at a high level of college football gives Roos a mental advantage as he tries to secure a role. And of course, his strength that sent scouts scribbling in notepads helps, too. Roos hit 41 bench-press reps at his pro-day workout, which was six more than any lineman at the scouting combine.

    At 6'3" and 302 pounds he could become a rock-solid presence in time at either guard or tackle. Carroll was already impressed after spring practices.

    "I thought he looked really good," Carroll told Lindsey Wisniewski of Seahawkswire. "That was a really important signing for us. We had targeted him through the draft, and we weren't able to get him, but he looks like he fits right in."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Linebacker Richie Brown

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    Danny Johnston/Associated Press

    The SEC has long been known as a conference filled with defensive juggernauts. So you're doing something right if you finish in the top five of any defensive category there.

    Richie Brown did that for Mississippi State when he finished fifth in tackles during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The linebacker logged two straight years with 100-plus tackles, and he showed pass-rushing skill by recording 6.5 sacks in 2015.

    Now he's bringing that instinct for finding the ball to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The Bucs signed Brown to reinforce a unit led by Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. Depth beyond those two is a concern, and Brown could develop into a viable option.

    He's a little undersized for an NFL linebacker at 6'1" and 234 pounds. But whatever he lacks in downhill thumping is made up for by his coverage skills. Brown recorded five interceptions at Mississippi State, three of which came in 2014 alone.

Tennessee Titans: Nose Tackle DeAngelo Brown

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    If you believe some people were put on this planet for a reason, then it's clear what purpose nose tackle DeAngelo Brown serves: to be a human wall. 

    Brown spent his college days plugging the middle for the Louisville Cardinals. He's massive at 6'1", 317 pounds and is well-versed in how to use that size while anchoring the front seven. The 23-year-old recorded 40 tackles in each of his final two seasons at Louisville, including 20 for a loss. He also showed interior pass-rushing skill with five sacks.

    He'll bring his hulking presence to the Tennessee Titans, one of the few teams that still leans heavily on a mountain-sized nose tackle up front. Brown is a highly effective run stuffer and could quickly settle in right behind starter Sylvester Williams on the depth chart.

Washington Redskins: Wide Receiver Zach Pascal

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins lost Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson during free agency. They were on the other end for a combined 135 receptions and 2,046 yards in 2016.

    Terrelle Pryor came in as a free agent, and alongside Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder he'll do his part to replace the duo. But when there's that much changeover among a team's top receivers, having a versatile wild-card offensive weapon provides a security net.

    That's the sort of player Zach Pascal could become.

    The 6'2", 219-pound hybrid receiver-running back recorded 2,231 yards from scrimmage over his final two seasons at Old Dominion. Most of that came as a receiver, which is how he scored 24 touchdowns in his collegiate career. But he was also often effectively used as a runner. Pascal averaged 6.3 yards per carry on 23 attempts in 2016.

    That will help his efforts to make the roster and stay there. And as RotoViz's Shawn Siegele noted, Pascal accounted for 40 percent of Old Dominion's touchdowns in 2016.

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