2017 UDFA – Players to Watch

In every NFL draft, there are players that fall too far to be drafted. This doesn’t mean they lack in talent, this just means that for some reason, they weren’t on an NFL team’s radar. In recent years, we have seen players ranging from Wes Welker to Kurt Warner have good careers in the NFL despite not having their names called during the draft. I am going to look at the best players that have been picked up post draft this year.

Arizona Cardinals

It is no secret that the Cardinals will soon need a quarterback. Carson Palmer is quickly getting caught by ‘father time’ and Drew Stanton doesn’t appear to be a long-term answer. Enter Trevor Knight, a quarterback out of Texas A&M. A one-year starter who is capable of using his legs as well as the passing game. Last season, Knight managed 2,432 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and backed that up with 614 yards on the ground with 10 touchdowns. This was against SEC opposition as well, so they are not numbers to be frowned upon. So why did Knight drop far enough to fall out of the draft completely? Chad Kelly was the first quarterback to be taken as ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ since Chandler Harnish went to the Colts in 2012. So, this draft was deep with unpolished QBs, the ones that need to sit and learn behind a veteran for a couple of years. The Cardinals obviously felt that they could grab Knight in free agency and jumped at the opportunity to do so. It would be easy to write Knight off, but with Palmer’s injury history, he may get an opportunity to shine in the NFL at some point.

Trevor Knight chance of success: 6/10 – If he embraces what he gets taught, he has the tools to be an NFL quarterback somewhere down the line.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have turned into one of those teams that have 7,000 ‘middle of the road’ running backs. They currently have Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon (suspended), Danny Woodhead, Javorius Allen and Stephen Houston. This is what makes my next pick a strange one. Taquan Mizzell out of Virginia managed 2,068 yards and 19 touchdowns in his four years at college. He received an invite to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He was a standout performer gaining 93 yards off just 10 carries including one touchdown which led to many predicting he would have his name called in the sixth round. The answer as to why he dropped out of the draft is simple. Depth. Donnel Pumphrey, the all-time NCAA rushing leader didn’t get picked until the 4th round, which says it all. For the time being, Mizzell will probably sit on the practice squad. I strongly feel that he will break into the Ravens first team and will compete with the starters for a role in the Ravens offense.

Taquan Mizzell chance of success: 5/10 – Needs a couple of injuries to go his way to become ‘fantasy relevant’, but he is a hard worker, he will force the coaches to take a good look at him.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers currently have a strong group of linebackers, from the young Shaq Thompson to the aging Thomas Davis, not to forget their defensive leader Luke Kuechly. Post draft this year, they quickly moved to secure Clemson’s Ben Boulware. As @DFF_Clayton pointed out) his main weakness is man-coverage. This is the main reason he dropped out of the draft. In my opinion, his strengths outweigh his weaknesses and all we are doing here is giving him the opportunity to improve his weaknesses by learning off Carolina’s experienced group of linebackers. He will probably make the squad on special teams to start with, but could work his way into playing defense and becoming very relevant in IDP leagues.

Ben Boulware chance of success: 8/10  – In the long-term, he has the opportunity at Carolina to make a name for himself alongside a strong group of linebackers if he polishes his weaknesses.

Chicago Bears

The Bears lost Alshon Jeffery in the off-season and the WR core doesn’t really excite me with Cam Meredith leading the pack. They didn’t use the draft to upgrade at this position, (although taking huge tight end Adam Shaheen could help) so they dipped into free agency to pick up Jhajuan Seales. The 6’1” receiver out of Oklahoma State only managed 615 yards and 4-touchdowns last year and his stats throughout his career have been underwhelming. You have to take into consideration that he played second fiddle to James Washington for the majority of his college career so that would make a huge dent in his potential production. He has good hands and is capable of getting separation from defenders but is definitely weak as a blocker. I would be comfortable saying the main reason he dropped out of the draft is due to his route running. Ultimately, there were better, more polished receivers still available in the latter rounds such as Isaiah Ford who was taken by the Dolphins in round 7.

Jhajuan Seales chance of success: 7/10 – If he embraces the coaching at the pro level to polish his game, he could turn out to be a useful receiver in the NFL.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns had a very un-Cleveland-like draft and managed to address a lot of needs. The secondary needed improving, so they jumped at the opportunity to take Jabrill Peppers with the 25th pick. But cornerback is an issue as they have only Joe Haden as a big playmaker. They took Howard Wilson in the 4th round, but I am still looking at Channing Stribling to come up big for the Browns. He has a big frame and has great hands as proven by his 6-interceptions over the last two seasons. At 6’1” and 188 lbs, you would expect him to be a lot stronger than he is. This was his main weakness that forced him to drop out of the draft, along with his speed not being up to pro-level. Cornerbacks are basically the kickers of IDP leagues, but Stribling will have the opportunity with the Browns to make a name for himself among IDP fantasy players.

Channing Stribling chance of success: 10/10 – He gets maximum chance due to the lack of depth in the squad ahead of him. He could comfortably play as a slot corner in the NFL and is definitely capable of having a big career in Cleveland.

Detroit Lions

Looking past Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, the Lions don’t have many receivers for Stafford to throw to. They picked up Kenny Golladay in the 3rd round of the draft but I’m not convinced by him. They have taken 4 WRs in free agency, but the pick of these is Noel Thomas. He was Connecticut’s top receiver in his junior year with 54 receptions for 719 yards and 3-TDs before setting a school record with 100 receptions in his senior year. He has impressive ball skills and is very capable of ‘circus catches’ and will fight for extra yards after the catch. His main issues are route running and vertical speed, both of which contributed to him dropping out of the draft.

Noel Thomas chance of success: 8/10 – Stafford has all the experience to make even average receivers good. Thomas is most likely to be a slot receiver in the NFL. He may not set fantasy leagues alight, but he may be a good WR3 suggesting he can translate his skills to the NFL.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have a good set of wide receivers. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and the new addition Dede Westbrook are all strong players, but who is stepping in if any of these get injured? Amba Etta-Tawo stands at 6’1” and 208lb. and has a 40-yard dash of 4.49 seconds. NFL teams didn’t like him as he only really had one big season at Syracuse in his senior year. His first three years of college were spent at Maryland in the wrong scheme just falling down the depth chart, so he made the decision to transfer for his senior year, a decision that has ultimately bought him a space on an NFL team. During his three years at Maryland, he only managed 938 yards and 3 touchdowns. He then exploded in his senior year to go for 1,482 yards and 14 touchdowns. A lot of teams are put off by a player who has only had one season of production (except Chicago Bears *cough cough* Mitch Trubisky), which is why he fell out of the draft and into free agency.

Amba Etta-Tawo chance of success: 7/10 – He requires some help to make any sort of impact in fantasy football. A couple of key injuries in Jacksonville could lead to him making his mark and having a big career in the NFL.

Minnesota Vikings

When Sam Bradford is your number one quarterback, an opportunity for a backup can always be right around the corner. The Vikings currently have Case Keenum as their number two QB so there is a possible opportunity for undrafted free agent Wes Lunt. He played at Illinois for three seasons after transferring from Oklahoma State after his freshman year. He has gone relatively unnoticed due to a poor team record (Illinois went 3-9 last season). Take nothing away from Wes Lunt though, I strongly feel he is better than this record would suggest. In his three years in Illinois, he threw for 5,900 yards and 36 touchdowns while only throwing 12 interceptions. His main problem is that he is one-dimensional. The modern quarterback nowadays uses their legs; Lunt’s main issue is how slow he moves. You can’t dispute how strong his arm is, this out of all his attributes is what is the most NFL ready with Lunt.

Wes Lunt chance of success: 5/10 – It is hard to improve your speed, but with NFL coaching you can utilize your other abilities to make up for this. He would require a couple of injuries to become relevant in fantasy football but if he makes his way to starter, he could be useful.

New England Patriots

For the Patriots, I am picking the following: Josh Augusta (DT), Adam Butler (DT), Austin Carr (WR), LeShun Daniels (RB), DJ Dean (CB), Cody Hollister (WR), Jacob Hollister (TE), David Jones (DB), DJ Killings (CB), Harvey Langi (LB), Kenny Moore (CB), Dwayne Thomas (DB), Jason Thompson (S), Damarius Travis (S), Corey Vereen (DE).

New England Patriots UDFA chance of success: 10/10 – Bill Belichick could turn a Walmart cashier and a postman into an MVP quarterback and a WR1. It is hard to not believe in any pickup he makes.

New York Giants

The Giants’ offensive weapons are ridiculous. Manning currently has Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and now Evan Engram to throw to so it would be hard to list an undrafted free agent as somebody that could have an impact in this offense. Going into the draft, I was really high on Travis Rudolph. The 6’0” rangy receiver out of Florida State would have been a higher draft pick if he had stayed in college, played out his senior year and become a more polished player. He managed 2,311 yards in his 3-years at the Seminoles and backed that up with 18 touchdowns. I can’t see any reason why Rudolph dropped out of the draft. His father was unfortunately shot and killed a few days before the draft, so potentially NFL teams could have seen this and questioned whether his head would be in the right place. (Just speculating.)

Travis Rudolph chance of success: 6/10 – This would be much higher if it wasn’t for the tools that the Giants already have. But a couple of injuries could result in him being very relevant in fantasy football.

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders are steadily growing into one of the better teams in the league with Derek Carr under center. At wide receiver, they have Amari Cooper and the aging Michael Crabtree. Beyond that, the receiver group is not great with Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson. They didn’t use the draft to address this, but they looked to free agency for Ishmael Zamora and Keon Hatcher. Zamora is a tall and fast ‘deep threat’ receiver, whereas Hatcher has the size but not necessarily the speed. So, who am I picking between them? A part of me just wants to take Hatcher due to the video of Zamora abusing a dog. But in truth, I would take Hatcher based on talent alone. He plays with good strength and is extremely athletic. He can go up and make tough catches and can be useful as a WR3 in Oakland’s offense.

Keon Hatcher chance of success: 8/10 – He was a really solid pickup for Oakland and has a great opportunity to break into the starting line-up alongside Crabtree and Cooper.

Ishmael Zamora chance of success: 2/10 – I like dogs.

Philadelphia Eagles

Who is the Eagles’ starting running back? I don’t see Mathews as a starting caliber running back and Sproles is essentially a kick returner. That leaves us with all-time NCAA rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey taken in Round-4 of this year’s draft and Wendell Smallwood. Enter Corey Clement. The running back from Wisconsin had a breakout year last year managing 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is a high quality running back technically with great speed, good hands and is extremely explosive. His main issue, and the reason why he dropped off draft boards, is his attitude. An NFC North scout was quoted saying “He checked out mentally on the entire 2015 season and wasn’t very well liked inside that program. Then you add durability concerns and that’s a problem.”

Corey Clement chance of success: 7/10 – If he can shake the attitude problems and focus on football as a career then there is no reason he can’t be a valuable asset to Philadelphia as he could easily insert himself into the battle to be starting running back.

Let me know what you think of my highlighted players from the 2017 UDFAs. Can you think of any other UDFAs that will outshine the players I like? Let me know in the comments below.

Get in touch with me on Twitter @DFF_JamesH.

 

jhanmore

I work as an In-Play US Sports trader, father to Elijah, fan of Pittsburgh Steelers, recently started out playing the game as DT for Staffordshire Surge (Find them on Twitter @StaffsSurge). FSWA member. Follow me on Twitter @DFF_JamesH

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2 Comments

    • Luke7799

      May 11, 2017

      Krishawn Hogan and Jerome Lane. Hogan is a big WR with a team that desperately needs one. Lane should be the WR 4 in Indy by end of training camp and its not like Moncrief and Dorsett have been super impressive

       
      Reply
    • James Hanmore

      May 18, 2017

      Hi Luke, I do like Hogan, he would have got an honourable mention if I had added that kind of section on. While I agree with you about Lane, since you wrote that I think he has been cut already. Your point is still bang on though!

       
      Reply

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