Every NFL Team's Most Exciting UDFA Addition

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2019

Every NFL Team's Most Exciting UDFA Addition

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    With NFL minicamps and OTAs in full swing, there is plenty of buzz surrounding incoming rookies to go around. Obviously, early draft picks like Kyler Murray and Quinnen Williams are expected to make an early impact, but first-round picks are not the only rookies worth being excited about.

    In fact, some of the rookies who should excite fans weren't even selected over draft weekend. Undrafted receiver Penny Hart, for example, could add an explosive element to the Indianapolis Colts offense that fans will be thrilled to see.

    Here, we'll examine each team's 2019 undrafted free agent who, like Hart or 2018 undrafted Pro Bowler Phillip Lindsay, could both make the roster and provide a little sizzle as a rookie.


Arizona Cardinals: WR A.J. Richardson, Boise State

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    The Arizona Cardinals never really got a fair look at former first-round pick Josh Rosen because they never surrounded him with an adequate supporting cast. Now that Rosen is out and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray is in at quarterback, the Cardinals must avoid making the same mistake.

    Fortunately, Arizona has at least done a solid job of adding receiving talent to the roster. They drafted Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson, while also adding former Boise State receiver A.J. Richardson after the draft.

    Richardson is a 6'0", 212-pound pass-catcher who pulled in 54 passes for 825 yards and eight touchdowns  in 2018. He has the tools to bolster Arizona's new-look receiving corps while also contributing as a gunner on special teams.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

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    The Atlanta Falcons aren't exactly hurting for wide receivers. They have Julio Jones, obviously, plus Mohamed Sanu and 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley. However, this shouldn't prevent fans from being excited about undrafted rookie receiver Olamide Zaccheaus.

    Zaccheaus is a smaller receiver at 5'8" and 188 pounds, but he's fast, shifty and terrific after the catch. He could be the kind of slippery slot receiver the Falcons previously had in Taylor Gabriel.

    In 2018, Zaccheaus racked up 1,058 yards and nine touchdowns. While he isn't likely to see that kind of production in Atlanta as a rookie, he could add an additional burst to the Falcons passing attack. Look for him to make opposing defenses pay for giving too much attention to the established receivers on Atlanta's roster.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Jaylen Smith, Louisville

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    The Baltimore Ravens used two of their first three draft picks on wide receivers, grabbing Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. Regardless, Ravens fans ought to be hyped for undrafted wideout Jaylen Smith.

    See, Smith played his college ball at Louisville—you know, the same place where starting quarterback Lamar Jackson played his. The pair had some obvious chemistry while playing for the Cardinals. In 2017, Jackson's final season, Smith caught 60 passes for 980 yards and seven touchdowns.

    In addition to being a familiar face for Jackson, Smith has the physical tools to develop into a quality NFL wideout. At 6'2", the 219-pounder racked up 550 yards in 2018, even without Jackson throwing him the ball.

Buffalo Bills: LB Tyrel Dodson, Texas A&M

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    The Buffalo Bills already had a strong defense in 2018, as they allowed just 294.1 yards per game, second-fewest in the NFL. Any prospect who can potentially make that defense better should excite both the team and its fanbase.

    This is exactly the kind of prospect Tyrel Dodson is. Despite regressing across most defensive categories in 2018, no one would have questioned the pick if the former Texas A&M standout had been drafted. Instead, the Bills were lucky to land him as a free agent after the draft.

    Dodson possesses adequate size (6'0", 237 lbs) and explosiveness for the position, plus an aggressive mentality. He should immediately contribute as a special teams player, but he has enough upside to crack the linebacker rotation as well.

    In 2018, Dodson produced 70 tackles, seven tackles for loss and one interception (which he took to the house for a pick-six). Even though those aren't realistic numbers for Dodson's rookie season, they do suggest that he can be a tremendous depth player in Year 1.

Carolina Panthers: RB Elijah Holyfield, Georgia

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    The Carolina Panthers have themselves a true workhorse back in Christian McCaffrey. While he can definitely do it all, it would be wise to reduce McCaffrey's workload if the Panthers want to get the most out of him.

    This is why the addition of bruising back Elijah Holyfield is exciting.

    "He’s a fantastic power back who may need to work in tandem with a faster receiving option out of the backfield, but has the strength and vision to be an impactful rookie," Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller wrote of Holyfield.

    If Holyfield sticks on the roster, he'll be able to spell McCaffrey in short-yardage situations and on running downs, keeping the former first-rounder fresh and ready to generate explosive plays.

Chicago Bears: WR Emanuel Hall, Missouri

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    The Chicago Bears aren't particularly thin at wide receiver, but former Missouri wideout Emanuel Hall should still have a good shot at making the roster and contributing as a rookie. He's just too talented not to.

    At 6'2" and 201 pounds, Hall has more than adequate size for the position. He has above-average speed too, having run a 4.39-second 40 at the combine. These skills allowed him to rack up 828 yards and six touchdowns on just 37 receptions in 2018 and should engender a role in the Bears offense.

    Early on, Hall should contribute as a field-stretching complementary receiver, but he could potentially push a veteran like Allen Robinson or Taylor Gabriel off the roster within a year or two if he's able to adapt to the speed and physicality of the NFL.

Cincinnati Bengals: WR Stanley Morgan, Nebraska

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    The Cincinnati Bengals are a bit of an afterthought in the AFC North right now. However, if new head coach Zac Taylor is able to get the most out of his offense, they could be a dangerous foe to reckon with.

    The Bengals have weapons, including A.J. Green, Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd. Undrafted wideout Stanley Morgan is another player who could hurt opposing defenses in 2019. The Nebraska product has good size (6'0", 202 lbs) for the position and is more than willing to make tough catches.

    In 2018, Morgan caught 70 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. He'll likely be a possession guy at the NFL level, but if he can provide Andy Dalton with a security blanket underneath, it would be a huge addition to Taylor's offense.

Cleveland Browns: CB Jhavonte Dean, Miami

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    The Cleveland Browns grabbed cornerback Greedy Williams in the second round of the draft and will likely pair him with Denzel Ward on the outside. There is certainly room for depth at the position, though, which is why the addition of Jhavonte Dean is big.

    Dean is a rangy corner (6'2") with good ball skills (three picks in 2018) and a willingness to mix things up physically. He was granted a tryout with the Browns and quickly caught the team's attention.

    "He was a factor," head coach Freddie Kitchens said, per Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan. "Anytime you are a factor, you kind of stand out. That is a good thing during this time of the year."

    Though Dean will likely begin his career as a special-teamer and a backup, he has the makeup of another young piece for Cleveland's seemingly bright future.

Dallas Cowboys: DT Daniel Wise, Kansas

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    The strength of the Dallas Cowboys defense is its defensive line. Undrafted interior defender Daniel Wise has the potential to make that line even better as a rotational player. The Kansas product is a stout 6'3" and 281 pounds and possesses enough attacking ability to disrupt pass plays from the middle.

    "He is a busy-body pass rusher with the ability to find the edge early and then create his rush counters with footwork and agility," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote of Wise.

    While Wise is not a pure pass-rusher, he is versatile, just like his brother, New England Patriot Deatrich Wise. In 2018, he produced 34 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and five sacks. At the very least, he should stick to the roster as a backup.

Denver Broncos: WR Kelvin McKnight, WR, Samford

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    The Denver Broncos did a lot of work to address their quarterback position this offseason. They added Joe Flacco to be the quarterback of the present and drafted Missouri's Drew Lock to potentially be the quarterback of the future.

    Undrafted receiver Kelvin McKnight has enough ability and upside to benefit both signal-callers. The Samford product is a bit undersized at 5'8" and 185 pounds, but his crisp route-running and ability to create space could allow him to be a threat out of the slot.

    In 2018, McKnight produced 100 receptions and 1,453 receiving yards—impressive numbers for a receiver of any size. McKnight also spent four years as a returner, which should allow him to contribute on special teams from Day 1.

Detroit Lions: G Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin

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    Fans don't usually get excited about undrafted interior offensive lineman. However, former Wisconsin guard Beau Benzschawel should at least grab some attention leading into the 2019 season. He's a gargantuan 6'6", 309-pound prospect who drew the interest of several NFL franchises.

    In fact, Benzschawel had offers from "more than 20" teams, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

    Benzschawel is, at the very least, a Day-1 backup with developmental upside. However, if he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the pro game quickly, he may even force his way into the starting lineup before the end of his rookie campaign.

Green Bay Packers: DE Greg Roberts, Baylor

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    The Green Bay Packers took steps to improve their defense in regular free agency, adding Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos. In undrafted free agency, they added former Baylor defensive end Greg Roberts.

    Roberts has the size (6'5", 258 lbs) and athleticism to be an exciting addition in his own right.

    While a bit of a developmental prospect, Roberts' combination of defensive-end strength and linebacker mobility makes him intriguing. He has some pass-rushing potential—3.0 sacks in 2018—but Roberts will likely begin his career as a backup and possibly a rotational defensive end on running downs.

Houston Texans: RB Karan Higdon, Michigan

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    In 2019, the Houston Texans should focus on protecting quarterback Deshaun Watson with a strong running game. Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman should see plenty of work, and undrafted running back Karan Higdon could be part of that equation.

    Higdon is a stout (5'9", 206 lbs), physical runner who produced 1,178 yards on 5.3 yards per carry in 2018.

    "Higdon was the savior of the Michigan offense early in the season when the passing game couldn't get going. He was productive and consistent, but a lack of physical traits are an issue when watching his tape," Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote.

    While Higdon will likely begin his career as the No. 3 back on the depth chart, his hard running style and ability to handle a high volume could push him past Foreman quickly. He also has enough upside to potentially develop into Houston's primary runner.

Indianapolis Colts: WR Penny Hart, Georgia State

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    New Indianapolis Colts receiver Penny Hart was mentioned at the top of this article, and for good reason. The Georgia State product is a quick and elusive pass-catcher who can add an explosive element to the Indianapolis offense from Day 1.

    With speedy T.Y. Hilton and possession receiver Devin Funchess also on the field, Hart should be able to create plenty of mismatches in the passing game out of the slot.

    He can also contribute heavily on special teams. He showed the ability to return both kickoffs and punts in college—averaging more than 19 yards and 17 yards per return, respectively, in 2018. If Hart doesn't make the 53-man roster, it would be a complete shock.

Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Joe Giles-Harris, Duke

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars are counting on new quarterback Nick Foles to help them get back to playoff contention. However, a defensive resurgence is also needed if Jacksonville is going to be a legitimate threat in the AFC.

    Former Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris has the potential to be part of that resurgence. He's a high-motor, physical player with plenty of pro upside.

    In 2018, Giles-Harris amassed 81 total tackles, 7.0 tackles for a loss and a sack.

    "On tape, Giles-Harris makes up for his limitations with an above-average sense of play development and consistent downhill fills to shore up the run defense," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein wrote.

    Expect Giles-Harris to make the regular-season roster and to make an impact as a special teamer and a rotational defender.

Kansas City Chiefs: CB Mark Fields, Clemson

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    Pass defense was the Kansas City Chiefs' biggest weakness in 2018. The defense allowed an average of 273.4 yards passing per game, second-most in the NFL. This is precisely why former Clemson cornerback Mark Fields has the potential to make an immediate impact for Kansas City.

    Fields is a 5'10", 192-pound cornerback fresh off a championship run with the Tigers. Though he didn't see extensive work for the Clemson defense in 2018, he flashed his ball skills by defending five passes in limited action (seven games).

    These ball skills—combined with legitimate sub-4.4 speed (he ran a 4.37-second 40)—give Fields the upside needed to be a sub-package defensive back in Steve Spagnuolo's defense. He should see some work in nickel and dime schemes as well as on special teams early in his career.

Los Angeles Chargers: TE Daniel Helm, Duke

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    Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry is working his way back from a torn ACL. The Chargers should be careful with his workload in 2018, which is why providing depth at tight end will be important.

    This is where former Duke tight end Daniel Helm comes in.

    Helm projects primarily as a blocking tight end, but he does have enough receiving ability to at least keep defenses honest. In 2018, he caught 26 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. He had similar production in 2016 and 2017. This means that if Helm is on the field, opposing teams won't be able to assume it's a running play.

    Even if Helm only gets on the field for a handful of plays each game, those are plays during which Henry will be able to rest. Just the prospect of a fresh and healthy Henry for the stretch run should be exciting to fans.

Los Angeles Rams: DL Marquise Copeland, Cincinnati

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    The Los Angeles Rams have not re-signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. While former Cincinnati defensive tackle Marquise Copeland isn't going to replace Suh, he has the potential to at least limit the drop-off on the line.

    The 6'2", 287-pounder is versatile and has experience on the interior and at end. In 2018, he racked up 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.

    Copeland's versatility should help defensive coordinator Wade Phillips with his schematic creativity up front. His ability to penetrate the backfield meshes with Phillips' desire to create pressure from the interior. Copeland should fit into the line rotation as a rookie and could start in the future.

Miami Dolphins: WR Preston Williams, Colorado State

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    The Miami Dolphins decided to take a chance on former Colorado State wide receiver Preston Williams, who was charged with domestic violence, harassment and tampering following an arrest in September 2017, per Kelly Lyell of the Fort Collins Coloradoan. A police report stated Williams was accused of pushing and restraining a woman who called herself his girlfriend.

    He was arrested again the next month after allegedly violating a protection order by calling the woman "approximately 200" times. Williams pleaded guilty to harassment, with all other charges dropped. He was given a deferred sentence.

    Williams isn't the first and won't be the last player a team takes a chance on despite character concerns, but from a football standpoint, the gamble makes sense.

    The Dolphins don't have many proven receivers on their roster. That is a problem because they will at least give 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen a chance to show he can be a franchise quarterback. If Miami cannot field better weapons than the ones Rosen had in Arizona, the results aren't likely to be much different.

    Williams has the potential to be a difference-maker. He has tremendous 6'4", 210-pound size, plus he's shown he is capable of taking over games. Last season, he caught 96 passes for 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns. He won't record those numbers as a rookie, but he can be an early contributor.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Isaiah Wharton, Rutgers

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    The Minnesota Vikings are set to lose second-year cornerback Holton Hill for the first month of the 2019 season because of a PED violation. Hill was an undrafted free agent last season and played extremely well when given the opportunity. He had 30 solo tackles and an interception.

    While there's no guarantee former Rutgers cornerback Isaiah Wharton will be this year's version of Hill, the potential is there. He's a stout 6'1", 205-pounder who is willing to mix it up in the box. Last season, he produced 61 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions.

    Wharton is also durable, having started all 48 games of his college career.

    At the very least, he should help the Vikings mitigate the loss of Hill for the first month of the season.

New England Patriots: WR Jakobi Meyers, NC State

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    The Patriots drafted former Arizona State wideout N'Keal Harry in the first round, and he'll be the rookie receiver drawing attention in 2019. However, former North Carolina State receiver Jakobi Meyers should also get fans excited.

    While Meyers doesn't have blazing speed, he does have tremendous hands and a penchant for snagging contested balls. In 2018, he caught 92 passes for 1,047 yards and four touchdowns—impressive production considering receiver isn't his original position.

    Meyers is a converted quarterback, just like Patriots star Julian Edelman, who has made a living off of understanding Tom Brady's tendencies. While the two are far different receivers, there is reason to believe that bringing a quarterback mentality to the position can be valuable in the New England system, which is so dependent on pre-snap adjustments.

New Orleans Saints: DE Carl Granderson, Wyoming

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    New Orleans Saints defensive end Carl Granderson played significant roles in all four of his collegiate seasons and racked up 11.5 sacks over the last two. He is also facing trial for sexual assault, however, which is likely the primary reason he wasn't drafted. The Saints, however, seem to believe he will be cleared.

    "We felt real comfortable with everything we knew, and so far he's done a good job here," head coach Sean Payton said, per Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com.

    Two women told police Granderson touched them sexually without consent in November, and third-degree sexual assault and sexual battery charges were issued three months later. Granderson pleaded not guilty, and the trial is set to begin July 15.

    If Granderson is cleared and able to play, he has the potential to contribute right away as a situational pass-rusher, boosting a defense that already produced 49 sacks in 2018.

New York Giants: LB Josiah Tauaefa, UTSA

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    The buzz surrounding the New York Giants draft has largely been focused on first-round quarterback Daniel Jones. However, quarterback isn't the only position the Giants needed to address this offseason. They had to improve a defense that allowed 25.8 points per game in 2018.

    That is why the signing of Texas-San Antonio's Josiah Tauaefa was exciting. The 6'1" 232-pound linebacker is aggressive and seemed to be involved in almost every play for the Roadrunners. In 2018, he amassed 111 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks.

    Tauaefa will likely begin his pro career as a depth player and special teamer, but he brings the kind of sideline-to-sideline coverage needed to get more playing time on defense as a rookie.

New York Jets: WR Greg Dortch, Wake Forest

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    The New York Jets may have finally found their franchise quarterback in the form of Sam Darnold. Now they need to focus on getting him the pieces needed to fully thrive. The addition of running back Le'Veon Bell will certainly help, but Darnold still needs more pass-catching weapons at his disposal.

    This is where former Wake Forest wideout Greg Dortch comes into play.

    Dortch is a shifty and quick receiver. He's also reliable—particularly for his size (5'7", 173 lbs)—having hauled in 89 balls for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018. He has enough upside to secure a spot as a fifth or sixth receiver.

    More immediately, though, Dortch should contribute on special teams. He averaged 11.0 yards per punt return and 20.9 yards per kick return for the Demon Deacons in 2018.

Oakland Raiders: WR Keelan Doss, UC Davis

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    The Oakland Raiders got an up-close look at former UC Davis wideout Keelan Doss at this year's Senior Bowl. Jon Gruden coached him with the North squad and saw firsthand the skills Doss deployed to dominate his competition in college.

    In 2018, he produced 118 receptions, 1,334 yards and nine touchdowns. He did so with his size (6'2", 211 lbs) and ability to sense soft spots in the coverage. These skills could help Doss become a solid possession receiver for the Raiders.

    While fans are undoubtedly more excited about the arrival of offseason acquisition Antonio Brown, Doss could serve a noteworthy role in the Raiders offense for many years to come.

Philadelphia Eagles: LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin

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    The Philadelphia Eagles may have landed one of the steals of undrafted free agency in the form of former Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards. The 6'1", 242-pounder possesses a physical mindset that should mesh perfectly with the Eagles defense.

    "Stout four-year starter who shows up and does his job each week as a banger in the box with surprising ball skills to flip the field," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote of Edwards.

    Edwards' high motor regularly got him involved for the Badgers. In 2018, he racked up 112 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. While he isn't likely to produce those kinds of numbers as a rookie, he should slot in as a backup inside linebacker who can start in a pinch.

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Travon McMillian, Colorado

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the process of replacing Le'Veon Bell at running back. James Conner filled in well last season and looks to be a reliable starter when healthy. However, he did deal with injuries late in the year and with inconsistency early.

    Depth behind Conner will be important, which is why the addition of Colorado's Travon McMillian is exciting. He's a versatile back capable of catching balls out of the backfield—he averaged 8.4 yards per reception in 2018—and returning kickoffs. He's also motivated by what fellow undrafted Colorado product Phillip Lindsay accomplished in his Pro Bowl rookie season.

    "I didn't get invited to the combine, so I just used that as motivation and drive just like Phil did," McMillian said, per Scott MacDonald of the CU Independent. "I'm just out here to prove myself."

    McMillian has the potential to contribute in the running game, the passing game and the return game as a rookie.

San Francisco 49ers: LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic

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    San Francisco 49ers fans may not yet be familiar with former Florida Atlantic linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair. But the team's pass-rushing coach, Chris Kiffin, definitely is.

    Kiffin was the Owls' defensive coordinator in 2017, a year in which Al-Shaair had 146 tackles and 10 tackles for loss.

    Familiarity with an existing coach isn't the only reason why Al-Shaair brings excitement, though. He has a solid 6'1", 234-pound frame and is an aggressive and technically sound tackler who should contribute immediately on special teams. If Kiffin can get the most out of him, Al-Shaair may also become a regular presence on defense.

Seattle Seahawks: CB Derrek Thomas, Baylor

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    Former Baylor cornerback Derrek Thomas is not an NFL-ready prospect, but this is largely due to the fact that he is new to the position.

    "With just three years as a full-time cornerback, it's fair to assume he will continue to improve, but he needs plenty of work, and he must get tougher," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote of Thomas.

    The Seattle Seahawks should be excited about Thomas' upside. He is a 6'3", 189-pound pass defender with legitimate 4.4 speed. Those attributes are impossible to coach out of a player, and they're perfectly suited for what the Seahawks like to have on the outside.

    Thomas isn't likely to see a ton of playing time as a rookie, but his development is going to provide plenty of excitement on its own.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Lukas Denis, Boston College

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers struggled to defend the pass in 2018—they allowed 259.4 yards per game, 26th in the NFL—which is why the addition of safety Lukas Denis is exciting.

    Denis (5'11", 190 lbs) isn't going to be the biggest defensive back on the field, but he's fast and smooth in pass coverage. He also possesses tremendous ball skills, as evidenced by his seven interceptions in 2017. He only had one pick last season, but he also had an impressive 31 solo tackles.

    Given his skill set, the Boston College product should be able to provide depth at both cornerback and safety in Year 1, though the upside is there for him to eventually compete for a starting job.

Tennessee Titans: WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, North Carolina

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    In an effort to improve the pass-catching weapons at Marcus Mariota's disposal, the Tennessee Titans used a second-round draft pick on former Mississippi receiver A.J. Brown. Later, they landed North Carolina receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams as a free agent.

    Ratliff-Williams isn't as polished a product as Brown, but he does have some intriguing upside. He is a 6'1", 205-pound pass-catcher who amassed 42 receptions for 689 yards in 2018. He also has enough return ability to be a contributor as he continues learning what being an NFL receiver is all about.

    "His kick-return ability and talent with the ball in his hands make him worthy of a late-round pick in hopes of sharpening his areas of weakness," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote of Ratliff-Williams.

    Ratliff-Williams may not immediately make the Titans' passing attack an elite unit, but he does have the potential to make the team a little more fun to watch.

Washington Redskins: TE Kano Dillon, Oregon

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    The Washington Redskins aren't exactly thin at the tight end position, having both Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. However, former Oregon tight end Kano Dillon is an intriguing prospect with the potential to add a little something extra to the offense.

    Dillon has tremendous size for the position at 6'5", 256 pounds, and he has adequate skills as both a blocker and a pass-catcher—though he doesn't overwhelm in either area.

    Where Dillon can excite is as a second tight end in running formations. Neither Reed nor Davis is a particularly dominant run-blocker. If Dillon can develop into one, he'll help boost a ground game expected to feature plenty of Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson in 2019.


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