Every NFL Team's 2021 Undrafted Free Agent Most Likely to Make the Roster

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMay 14, 2021

Every NFL Team's 2021 Undrafted Free Agent Most Likely to Make the Roster

0 of 32

    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    While every football player dreams of hearing his name called during the NFL draft, undrafted free agency is often better than being a late-round selection. 

    Individuals who aren't picked have the freedom to choose their team based on available offers, the likelihood of making the roster and, in some cases, higher guarantees on their first deal. 

    This year's crop held an advantage based on a smaller pool of talent. A scout described how the undrafted market unfolded after the 2021 NFL draft, per Packer Central's Bill Huber

    "It was a very, very competitive year in terms of the amount of money that was spent just because so many teams needed to get numbers. Now, there are some good ones. Obviously, there are some good undrafted players, but the overall numbers were down so much with all the guys going back with COVID. That created a whole different set of obstacles."

    Investments in those "good ones" often serve as a tell regarding how much those organizations liked certain individuals and their chances of staying on the active roster. Talent and the state of a depth chart play significant roles as well.

    With those factors in mind, the following individuals have the best chance to make their team's rosters among undrafted players for the start of the 2021 campaign.

Arizona Cardinals: TE Cary Angeline, North Carolina State

1 of 32

    Ben McKeown/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals knew they still had to address tight end once the 2021 NFL draft finished. 

    "We really didn't feel that there were any tight ends that warranted selections at the spots we were at," general manager Steve Keim told reporters. "We had higher graded players."

    Kiem could dip into the veteran free-agent market or let the team ride with North Carolina State's Cary Angeline. 

    Dan Arnold signed with the Carolina Panthers in free agency after the tight end finished third on the team with 438 receiving yards.

    Angeline is a different type of target. He's big at nearly 6'7" with soft yards, though he's not a great athlete. Basically, the Cardinals can use Angeline as a red-zone threat or massive option over the middle. 

Atlanta Falcons: RB Javian Hawkins, Louisville

2 of 32

    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons' running back stable isn't good. Mike Davis is the team's projected lead back, with Qadree Ollison as his primary backup. 

    It's an interesting situation since head coach Arthur Smith built his reputation as the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator. Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing twice during Smith's tenure. Granted, a team can't just pluck another Henry out of thin air. But the Falcons added nothing to the position during the draft. 

    The scheme itself will help, since the outside zone tends to create productive runners out of no-name options.

    Louisville's Javian Hawkins fits the bill. Running backs coach Desmond Kitchings told reporters that Hawkins brings speed to a room lacking in that area. Hawkins is undersized at 5'9", 195 pounds, but he can get outside the tackle as a runner and double as a viable receiving threat. 

Baltimore Ravens: OT Adrian Ealy, Oklahoma

3 of 32

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens obliged Orlando Brown Jr. by trading him to the Kansas City Chiefs. In turn, the Ravens signed seven-year veteran Alejandro Villanueva to take over right tackle duties. 

    Villanueva signed a two-year deal, but Baltimore can release him next year and save $6 million. Whether he's with the team in 2022 or not, the Ravens will be searching for a long-term right tackle. 

    Tyre Phillips, whom the Ravens drafted in last year's third round, hasn't found a home along the line. Ultimately, he could be a guard. 

    Oklahoma's Adrian Ealy spent the last two seasons at right tackle. He's an aggressive blocker in both the run game and his pass set. Ealy plays stiff and isn't nimble. At the same time, Brown wasn't a stellar athlete, either. But both showed how effective they can be in Lincoln Riley's explosive offense. 

Buffalo Bills: CB Olaijah Griffin, USC

4 of 32

    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Olaijah Griffin became a two-year starter at cornerback for the USC Trojans before he bypassed his senior season to enter the NFL draft. 

    Griffin didn't hear his name called through seven rounds, though. 

    "Crushed. Never knew I could feel this way," Griffin tweeted

    To the defensive back's point, Griffin played extremely well. Only Jaycee Horn, whom the Carolina Panthers selected with the eighth overall pick, posted a higher coverage-snaps-per-catch rate last season, per Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash

    At the same time, Griffin is a 175-pound defender. His slight frame shouldn't be a problem for the Buffalo Bills after Levi Wallace started the last three years with similar questions about his size. Griffin could eventually replace the 179-pound Wallace in the lineup. 

Carolina Panthers: LB Paddy Fisher, Northwestern

5 of 32

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Certain individuals just know how to play. They'll never be the biggest, fastest or most athletic. Yet, they play an instinctive brand of football and contribute. New Carolina Panthers linebacker Paddy Fisher falls into this category. 

    His relative athletic score is abysmal, per Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte. As such, it's easy to see why no team drafted the reigning Lott Trophy winner. His athletic profile simply doesn't match up with today's wide-open style of play. 

    Yet Fisher can always be found around the ball. The two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection accumulated 401 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss and 10 forced fumbles in four seasons. Despite the linebacker's limitations, he allowed only one score in 1,666 career coverage snaps, per Pro Football Focus

    Fisher can provide depth behind middle linebacker Denzel Perryman and contribute on special teams. 

Chicago Bears: OG Dareuan Parker, Mississippi State

6 of 32

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    From the moment the Chicago Bears swung a deal with the New York Giants to trade up and draft quarterback Justin Fields, the organization's plan became obvious. General manager Ryan Pace's next steps were to build around his new franchise signal-caller, and he did. 

    The Bears subsequently drafted Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins and Missouri's Larry Borom in the second and fifth rounds, respectively. Jenkins will play left tackle after the Bears released Charles Leno Jr., while Borom will compete with Germain Ifedi for the right tackle spot. 

    Dareuan Parker gives Chicago another impressive first-year blocker. Parker became a two-year starter at Mississippi State where he played both right and left guard. The 6'4", 355-pounder emerged as a top pass-blocker too. Parker faced the most pass-blocks snaps in the country and didn't allow a single sack, per Pro Football Focus.  

Cincinnati Bengals: RB Pooka Williams Jr., Kansas

7 of 32

    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Running back Joe Mixon will be a go-to guy in 2021. 

    "I don't want Joe to leave the field, personally, and I think he's up to that challenge," Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said, per WKRC-TV's Richard Skinner. "He has some things he has to improve pass-protection-wise. Joe shouldn't come off the field. He should be on the field every down. He's aware of that."

    Behind Mixon, the Bengals have bodies but no one who fills the void left by Giovani Bernard. 

    Pooka Williams Jr. has the requisite skill set to become Cincinnati's new third-down back. He went undrafted for two reasons. Police charged Williams with misdemeanor domestic battery in 2018, after which he signed a diversion agreement to avoid a criminal conviction, per ESPN.

    He's also 170 pounds, albeit with 4.38-second 40-yard-dash speed.

    Williams posted the second-highest forced missed tackle rate in the class, according to Pro Football Focus

Cleveland Browns: DT Marvin Wilson, Florida State

8 of 32

    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns knew they were soft along the defensive interior last season.

    General manager Andrew Berry replaced Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson with Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings, who returns after opting out of the 2020 campaign. Cleveland also drafted Ohio State's Tommy Togiai in this year's fourth round to pair with last year's 88th overall pick, Jordan Elliott. 

    On top of those moves, the Browns splurged by handing Florida State's Marvin Wilson a massive undrafted free-agent contract. A motivated and healthy Wilson can be a force in the middle. The All-ACC performer graded better in 2019 than 2020 first-round picks Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw, per Pro Football Focus (h/t 247Sports' Brendan Sonnone). 

    Since Jackson and Billings are operating under one-year deals, Wilson can easily win a roster spot and form a long-term defensive tackle trio alongside Elliott and Togiai. 

Dallas Cowboys: TE Nick Eubanks, Michigan

9 of 32

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys brass understood the team needed significant improvements on the defense and set about doing so during the draft. Of Dallas' 11 selections, it chose eight defenders, including its initial six picks. 

    The offense didn't receive nearly as much attention, and the organization didn't address tight end at all, even though Blake Jarwin is coming off a torn ACL and Dalton Schultz is a marginal receiving threat at best. 

    Michigan's Nick Eubanks can immediately vie for the third spot on the roster.

    The undrafted rookie will have competition from fellow Wolverine Sean McKeon, who also went unselected last year, and Jeremy Sprinkle. Eubanks improved each year on campus and brings an excellent athletic profile to mold into something more. His 4.59-second 40-yard-dash speed certainly adds a different element to the position. 

Denver Broncos: EDGE Andre Mintze, Vanderbilt

10 of 32

    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos haven't featured a healthy version of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller since Week 4 of the 2019 campaign. 

    Chubb tore an ACL in that contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then, Miller missed the entire 2020 campaign with an ankle injury that required surgery. 

    Quality depth among the Broncos' outside linebackers is critical until the two veterans prove they can stay on the field and provide consistent pressure. 

    The Broncos have Derrek Tuszka, Malik Reed, Natrez Patrick and this year's 239th overall pick, Jonathon Cooper, on the outside. Rookie Baron Browning can work off the edge, too. 

    Denver still signed Vanderbilt's Andre Mintze to a deal that included $85,000 guaranteed, per Denver 9News' Mike Klis. Mintze brings some quickness off the edge and uses his hands well despite being an undersized (249 lbs) edge defender. 

Detroit Lions: C Drake Jackson, Kentucky

11 of 32

    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Last week, the Detroit Lions signed Frank Ragnow to the richest contract ever for a center. In total, the deal's maximum worth sits at $54 million over four years. 

    Yet, the undrafted free-agent addition of Kentucky's Drake Jackson shouldn't be overlooked.

    First, the Lions didn't have another quality snapper. Second, Jackson graded as the nation's second-most valuable interior blocker last season, per Pro Football Focus. Finally, the incoming rookie, who started 44 consecutive games at center, will help provide depth at all three interior spots after showing he can play guard at the Senior Bowl. 

    "Versatility is something that you have to have as an interior offensive linemen, especially if you're not an immediate starter," Jackson told The Draft Network's Justin Melo. "I wanted to have that in my back pocket. I proved that I can play three different positions."

Green Bay Packers: OT Coy Cronk, Iowa

12 of 32

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Coy Cronk looked like a future draft pick until injuries derailed his collegiate career. 

    He started 40 games as the Indiana Hoosiers' left tackle, including 13 as a true freshman, before an ankle injury ended his senior season in Bloomington. The NCAA granted the offensive lineman a fifth year of eligibility. The 6'5", 325-pound blocker transferred to Iowa where he started two games before reinjuring his ankle. 

    The injuries clearly held back a talented tackle prospect. One scout told Huber that Cronk "might be the best player in undrafted free agency." 

    He will join fellow rookies Royce Newman and Cole Van Lanen as options behind David Bakhtiari, who is recovering from a torn ACL, and Billy Turner, whose salary-cap charge escalates to $8.9 million in 2022. 

Houston Texans: OT Carson Green, Texas A&M

13 of 32

    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans will look almost like a brand-new squad when they take the field this fall thanks to all of their offseason moves. General manager Nick Caserio knew the Texans wouldn't be active in the undrafted free-agent market as a result, and signed only four such players.

    He told reporters:

    "Quite frankly the undrafted process is a little bit more position-specific just relative to what your needs are because a lot of those players you're looking to add for depth or whatever the case may be, and if you have X amount of players at one position, if you add a player at that position, are you adding a player that's necessarily better than what you have?" 

    Clearly, the Texans needed a little more depth along their offensive front and signed two offensive linemen. Texas A&M's Carson Green can play tackle or guard, thus giving him a good opportunity to emerge as Houston's utility lineman. 

Indianapolis Colts: WR Tyler Vaughns, USC

14 of 32

    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns reunite as members of the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver room. 

    The last time these two played together, Pittman caught 101 passes for 1,275 yards, and Vaughns followed closely behind with 74 receptions for 912 yards. 

    The latter's final season on campus didn't go as well as expected, though he still left the program as its third all-time leading receiver with 222 career receptions. Vaughns didn't test well prior to the draft, either. But his performance before 2020 can be predictive of what the 6'2", 190-pound target will become as part of the Colts' wide receiver corps.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Vaughns led all FBS receivers since 2017 with 28 receptions within a yard of the sideline and ranked third since the start of the 2014 campaign by snagging 52 catches of 20 or more yards downfield without a single drop. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Dylan Moses, Alabama

15 of 32

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses' undrafted status surprised his former head coach, Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide coach explained

    "It had nothing to do with what kind of football player he is. It was all based on medical grades by the teams, which, frankly, was a little surprising to me. My time in the league, when guys came back and played, that usually got (them) out of that '5' medical grade, which is 'undraftable.' It might have been a '4' medical grade, which means a guy does have an injury that could be a problem in the future, but he's come back and played with it, so we have to give him an opportunity."

    Yes, Moses suffered a broken foot in late 2017 and a torn ACL in 2019. He had to overcome both injuries and play through some pain last season. As a result, Moses never developed to the level many expected when he walked onto campus as a 5-star recruit

    The potential is still there for Moses to develop into a big-time linebacker, though. The Jacksonville Jaguars already have Joe Schobert at middle linebacker, but the team can move on from the veteran next offseason and save $4.5 million toward the 2022 salary cap. 

Kansas City Chiefs: CB Dicaprio Bootle, Nebraska

16 of 32

    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach did a spectacular job of rebuilding the team's offensive front after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismantled the usually high-octane unit during Super Bowl LV. 

    While Patrick Mahomes should be far more comfortable, the Chiefs didn't do as much work on the secondary, which could have used a boost after Bashaud Breeland's departure. 

    Veach signed a pair of undrafted cornerbacks in Nebraska's Dicaprio Bootle and Louisville's Marlon Character. Bootle has a slight edge because of his athletic profile. Character is bigger and thicker, yet Bootle's movement skills are impressive. 

    At Nebraska's pro day, the 5'9", 180-pound defensive back posted a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, 36.5-inch vertical, 4.03-second short shuttle and 6.77-second three-cone drill. Bootle played in every game over the last four seasons. 

Las Vegas Raiders: DT Darius Stills, West Virginia

17 of 32

    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders' newly minted defensive tackle, Darius Stills, already has a boulder on his shoulder after going undrafted. 

    "I knew there were not 19 D-tackles better than me," Stills told Levi Damien of Raiders Wire. "Honestly I don't think there's five that's better than me in this draft, but they're all just 6'4", 310 and I'm 6'1", 280."

    Size certainly played a part. Stills primarily played nose tackle at West Virginia. He won't consistently hold up at the point of attack. However, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and consensus All-American consistently performs at a high level against the run and wins his fair share of matchups when rushing the passer. 

    "[The Raiders] liked my quickness, my lateral twitch, and they like how I can get upfield and attack gaps," Stills said. "My play style is I don't like holding up gaps so linebackers can make plays, I like making plays myself."

Los Angeles Chargers: K Alex Kessman, Pitt

18 of 32

    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers fielded an embarrassingly bad special teams unit last season. They bungled, botched and booted multiple opportunities to clinch victories. 

    As such, new special teams coordinator Derius Swinton II knows things must change. 

    "You evaluate first, then you get with each other and they come in and you implement your system around them," Swinton told reporters. "The cupboard is not empty here."

    Maybe not. But change could be a very good thing. Michael Badgley ranked 27th in field-goal accuracy last season. He finished dead last among kickers with 30 or more attempts. 

    As such, incoming kicker Alex Kessman may be one of the Chargers' biggest offseason moves. Kessman left Pitt as the Panthers' third all-time leading scorer and set an NCAA record with a 66.7 percent success rate for kicks over 50 yards. 

Los Angeles Rams: OT Alaric Jackson, Iowa

19 of 32

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Andrew Whitworth is a marvel. The 39-year-old left tackle is about to enter his 16th season as professional football's oldest position player (excluding quarterbacks and specialists). 

    Eventually, the Los Angeles Rams will need to find a replacement. Maybe they already have. 

    The franchise selected Joseph Noteboom in the third round of the 2018 draft. The addition of undrafted left tackle Alaric Jackson creates some intrigue.

    Jackson started 42 games and primarily kept Tristan Wirfs on the right side during his collegiate career. When testing, Jackson didn't look like a good athlete. Yet he provided a consistent presence at left tackle and excelled in the Hawkeyes' zone-heavy schemewhich is important considering the Rams' blocking preference. 

    Noteboom and Jackson can compete, with the winner eventually taking over for Whitworth while the other moves to guard.

Miami Dolphins: OT Robert Jones, Middle Tennessee State

20 of 32

    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Disappointment can quickly turn into excitement for an undrafted prospect. Middle Tennessee State's Robert Jones can attest. 

    "When I went out there and visited Miami, I knew that was a place where I wanted to go," Jones told My Stateline's Scott Leber. "Things worked out in my favor and I was able to choose where I wanted to go."

    The Miami Dolphins signed Jones to a deal with $130,000 in guaranteed money, per Aaron Wilson

    Jones brings experience at guard and right tackle despite being a latecomer to the sport. The 6'5", 330-pound blocker only played one season in high school before going the JUCO route and ending up at Middle Tennessee State. Yet, he didn't look out of place at the Senior Bowl. 

    Now, the small-school product has an opportunity to establish himself at guard behind the Dolphins' young duo of Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley. 

Minnesota Vikings: WR Blake Proehl, East Carolina

21 of 32

    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    The 2021 season may be Adam Thielen's last with the Minnesota Vikings. The financial realities of the situation can't be overlooked. 

    Thielen's salary-cap charge escalates to nearly $17 million next season. The numbers exceed $17 million in 2023 and '24. Trade rumors already surfaced last year. Plus, the Vikings won't have significant financial wiggle room next season even if the salary cap increases by $10 million. 

    Maybe lightning can strike twice for the Vikings with another undrafted wide receiver. Minnesota signed East Carolina's Blake Proehl to an undrafted free-agent deal that includes $115,000 guaranteed, per Wilson

    In three seasons, Proehl caught 130 passes for 1,576 yards and nine touchdowns. His potential contributions lie in his route running and reliability as a pass-catcher. He's a 6'1", 186-pound target with 4.47-second 40-yard-dash speed and NFL bloodlines, as his father, Rickly, played 17 seasons in the league.

New England Patriots: K Quinn Nordin, Michigan

22 of 32

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    When a team signs only one undrafted free agent, he has the best chance to make the roster by default. 

    But does Quinn Nordin have a realistic shot at dethroning Nick Folk to become the New England Patriots' new kicker? 

    Probably not. 

    Folk's 92.3 percent field-goal conversion rate last season ranked eighth overall, and he converted 13 of 15 from 40 yards or longer. 

    Nordin went from being stripped of primary kicking duties early in his collegiate career to a PAT specialist before regaining his job and converting only two of five field-goal attempts last season at Michigan.

    Maybe Patriots special teams coach Cameron Achord can find the special sauce to get Nordin back on track. Otherwise, Folk is a far more reliable option. 

New Orleans Saints: CB Bryce Thompson, Tennessee

23 of 32

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints entered the draft with one of the league's worst position groups.

    Aside from Marshon Lattimore, the organization had next to nothing at cornerback. The Saints added Stanford's Paulson Adebo in the third round. Beyond that, New Orleans didn't do much except sign a few undrafted defensive backs. 

    Bryce Thompson declared for the draft after starting three years, including his true freshman campaign, for the Tennessee Volunteers. Basically, he learned the position on the fly after entering the program as an offensive recruit. At times, mistakes occurred because he bit on fakes and didn't remain disciplined. Still, Thompson is excellent at playing the ball, especially in zone coverage when he sees routes develop in front of him. 

    Aside from Lattimore and Adebo, the Saints lack true outside corners. Thompson can help fill the void. 

New York Giants: C Brett Heggie, Florida

24 of 32

    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    One of the benefits of when an undrafted free agent makes the active roster is how his inclusion affects the salary cap. 

    An organization's yearly cap number only takes into account its 51-highest-paid players. As such, the incorporation of an undrafted rookie creates a little more wiggle room since he'll knock a veteran, even one with a lower charge, off the roster. 

    For the New York Giants, Florida's Brett Heggie can become Nick Gates' primary backup, thus removing Jonotthan Harrison and his $1.2 million cap hit from the roster. 

    The possibility shouldn't be viewed solely as a financial decision. Heggie is a capable interior blocker with experience at center and guard. He's powerful at the point of attack, shows a consistent pass set and displays good awareness to pick up movement by the defense. 

New York Jets: TE Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss

25 of 32

    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Every team feels like it got a great value with every draft selection and undrafted signing it made. The New York Jets aren't any different. 

    According to The Athletic's Connor Hughes, the Jets had a fourth-round grade on Ole Miss tight end Kenny Yeboah and "were stunned" he went undrafted. 

    To be fair, the Jets also passed on him seven times during the draft's third day. Obviously, the team likes him, but not so much it felt the need to draft him despite a plethora of picks with which to do so. 

    Still, Yeboah created some excitement within the organization, which could translate onto the field.

    The Jets aren't exactly set at tight end. Chris Herndon hasn't emerged as expected. Ryan Griffin is 31 years old. And Tyler Kroft hasn't played a full slate of games since 2017. 

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Trevon Grimes, Florida

26 of 32

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The great wide receiver reckoning continues in Philadelphia as the Eagles address Jalen Hurts' available targets. 

    Philadelphia already moved on from DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. The organization drafted Jalen Reagor in last year's first round before trading up in this year's initial frame to select the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama's DeVonta Smith. 

    Smith, Reagor and Travis Fulgham form a solid trio. The returning Greg Ward led the team with 53 receptions last season. Still, the undrafted Trevon Grimes adds a different element. The Florida product is a 6'4", 220-pound target who can go up and pluck the ball from above defensive backs. He shows excellent body control when working outside the numbers. 

    Over the last two seasons, Grimes caught 71 passes for 1,080 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's an instant red-zone and downfield threat. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Shakur Brown, Michigan State

27 of 32

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Nickel corner Mike Hilton left the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason and signed a free-agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers surprisingly released Steven Nelson as well. Yet, the organization did next to nothing to address cornerback in free agency or the draft. 

    Pittsburgh chose Oklahoma's Tre Norwood in the seventh round, but he's a safety with nickel versatility.

    From there, the undrafted free-agent addition of Michigan State's Shakur Brown gives the Steelers their next-best option to help the cornerback rotation this fall. 

    Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton are two solid starting options. Otherwise, the Steelers cornerback room is filled with uncertainty. Brown isn't a good athlete relative to the position. However, he's an instinctive and aggressive defensive back, who excels in zone coverage. His fit within Pittsburgh's defensive approach should supersede his physical limitations. 

San Francisco 49ers: LB Justin Hilliard, Ohio State

28 of 32

    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Justin Hilliard is a tailor-made early-round linebacker prospect. Unfortunately, significant injuries derailed his career with the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

    His misfortune—which he overcame as a senior to become an integral part of the Buckeyes' run to the national championship game—can benefit the San Francisco 49ers. 

    Hilliard's injury history is the primary reason he went undrafted. Biceps tears and a torn Achilles tendon are difficult to overcome by themselves, let alone both. The former 5-star recruit persevered and eventually excelled. As a linebacker, Hilliard can defend the run, and he's comfortable in coverage. He's played all three linebacker spots and even served in a hybrid safety role. 

    Most importantly, the undrafted rookie can immediately contribute as a core-four special teamer. Hilliard played more special teams snaps than any other incoming prospect, according to NFL Network's Ben Fennell

Seattle Seahawks: CB Bryan Mills, North Carolina Central

29 of 32

    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks secondary isn't what it once was, nor should the organization act like it can rebuild some semblance of a neo-Legion of Boom. 

    At the same time, the team knows exactly what it wants from the position. Seattle prefers long, physical corners who can reroute wide receivers in its zone-heavy scheme. 

    Ironically, the Seahawks' fourth-round pick, Oklahoma's Tre Brown, doesn't fit those physical standards at 5'10", 188 pounds. Undrafted free agent Bryan Mills does. 

    Mills is a 6'2", 180-pound defensive back who can be excellent in press technique. The HBCU product showed he belonged at the Senior Bowl despite not playing last season because of pandemic cancellations. He'll join a crowded cornerback room that also added veteran Ahkello Witherspoon and Pierre Desire this offseason. Even so, Mills has the makeup to excel in Seattle's defense. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OG Sadarius Hutcherson, South Carolina

30 of 32

    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Amazingly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers retained the majority of their free agents this offseason. 

    In doing so, all 22 starters return in the franchise's quest to repeat as champions. Now, Tampa Bay must build quality depth with younger, cheaper options capable of taking over starting spots when veterans start to leave. 

    Sadarius Hutcherson may not be counted among the Buccaneers' seven-player draft class, but his odds of eventually working his way into the lineup are quite good. The three-year starter played both guard spots and left tackle for the Gamecocks. The 320-pound blocker then crushed his predraft workout. Tampa Bay signed him to a hefty undrafted free-agent deal with $130,000 guaranteed, per Wilson

    Right guard could be wide open next season since Alex Cappa is on the last year of his deal. 

Tennessee Titans: DT Naquan Jones, Michigan State

31 of 32

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans signed defensive linemen Denico Autry and drafted Rashad Weaver in this year's fourth round. But Autry is more of a hybrid who plays both on the edge and 3-technique.

    On a more serious note, Weaver faces a simple assault charge, per ESPN's Turron Davenport

    In either case, Tennessee didn't immediately replace DaQuan Jones along the interior after he started 93 games in seven seasons. 

    Naquan Jones adds another option. The 6'3", 313-pound rookie is strong at the point of attack. In fact, he played closer to 340 during his Michigan State Spartans career. 

    "Naquan can move at 340 pounds," Michigan State defensive line coach Ron Burton told the Chicago Tribune's Dan Wiederer. "... He can move at 330. But he can really move at 313. And (NFL teams) have that on film right now. They know he has that ability. And that should tell them he's working his craft to get to the next level."

Washington Football Team: RB Jaret Patterson, Buffalo

32 of 32

    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team wasn't very active in the undrafted free-agent market. But the organization made one exception based on the recommendation of reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young. 

    "Since middle school we've been tight," Patterson told ABC 7 News' Scott Abraham. " ... He vouched for me, he wanted me to come to Washington. He vouched for me to Coach [Ron] Rivera, that definitely shows he believes in me, and I'm going to put on."

    The 5'7", 195-pound ball-carrier has been overlooked every step of the way. However, Patterson runs much bigger than his size indicates. In three seasons with the Buffalo Bulls, the reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Year amassed 3,884 rushing yards and 52 touchdowns.

    Patterson has the vision and play strength to add another dimension to Washington's backfield. 


    Salary-cap info via Spotrac


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.