Now that the NFL draft is over dynasty league rookie drafts should be starting to get underway. Despite not being drafted, some players may still end up becoming big names in the NFL as a result of free agency. The NFL has seen its fair share of great players not get drafted in the past. From James Harrison to Cameron Wake. From Antonio Gates to Arian Foster, you get where I am going here.
I am going to look at five of my favourite free agents that should get a chance to make it big playing on Sundays.
5 – Jake Wieneke, WR, South Dakota State
Jake Wieneke is somebody that I have been high on for a while (going back to February last year where I profiled him here. He is the perfect blend of size and strength and has excellent hands. I had him going in the 6th or 7th round, but for some reason, he dropped out of the draft without getting his name called.
The only reason I could come up with as to why he dropped out of the draft has to do with his injury history. Going back to high school, he lost out on a scholarship at Minnesota because of injuries which also ended his track career. This would have been a huge red flag for NFL teams not willing to gamble that he could stay healthy when stepping up his game to an NFL level.
Update: He has been picked up by the Vikings. This could be a good spot for him. Yes, they have a good receiving group with Thielen, Diggs, Wright and Treadwell, but there isn’t an enormous amount of depth past that. A bit of hard work in pre-season and he could work his way up the depth chart and potentially start getting on the field to work with the GOAT Kirk Cousins.
4 – Jaelon Acklin, WR, Western Illinois
Jaelon Acklin is one of those guys that you can’t help but root for. He is incredibly down to earth, very humble and adds fantastic talent to that package. Throughout high school and college, Jaelon has received all-state honors for basketball, track & field and football, showing just what a versatile athlete he is. I believe he is on par with Daurice Fountain (another WR coming out of the FCS) who got drafted in round 5. I would have thought Acklin would have heard his name called in the late 6th-early 7th round.
The only reason I can see as to why he dropped out of the draft is due to the depth in this year’s draft class. 33 WR’s ended up being drafted in total, so basically, a whole round of the draft was WR’s.
Update: It didn’t take long for Jaelon to receive a phone call. Within two hours of the draft finishing, he was picked up by the Baltimore Ravens. Despite drafting Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, I think there is a place for Acklin in the Ravens WR group. The receivers directly ahead of him are Willie Snead, Tim White, Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, DeVier Posey and Quincy Adeboyejo. Hardly an elite group that Acklin should be able to work his way up the depth chart through to get some snaps on a potentially new-look Ravens offense.
3 – Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa
I genuinely didn’t get this one. I liked Wadley coming out of Iowa. He may not have been graded too highly, and his combine results were underwhelming. But by watching his tape, you could see glimpses of amazing talent shining through. I was waiting to hear his name called in the 5th or 6th round, but somehow the phone never rang. Throw in the fact that he was a solid pass catcher at Iowa (with 738 yards and 7 touchdowns in his last 3 seasons) and is also a solid kick returner, I thought there would be a spot for him on an NFL roster.
Despite his talent, he is what the NFL would class as “undersized.” To me, this should be a thing of the past. With Darren Sproles making a good career in the NFL and Tarik Cohen showing glimpses of class, I don’t get why teams would still be scared of undersized RB’s. But for some reason, they are.
Update: As confirmed by Wadley himself on Twitter, the Tennessee Titans have taken a chance on him. Realistically, Wadley will be competing with David Fluellen and Khalfani Muhammad for a spot on the roster (since Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis are obvious locks to be on the team). I can’t see how he would have many problems working his way through those two and becoming Tennessee’s 3rd RB. And as we know, injuries happen in football, so you never know – he could get an opportunity sooner than you think.
2 – Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
Josh Adams was rock solid during his time at Notre Dame racking up 3,154 yards and 20 touchdowns across his 3 years there. At 6’2 and 225lb’s he is a good size and is a good combination of size and strength. One thing he seems to lack is the elusiveness to be an NFL back, but this will come with maturity and intensive training at the NFL level. He made up for this in college with his impressive strength allowing him to plow through college level D-lines.
There are a couple of reasons I can see as to why he didn’t get drafted. During his junior year, he suffered a torn ACL. This is always something that will scare any NFL team away from a late-round pick. The other reason (which is ridiculous, but hear me out) is his age. At 21 years old he seems young, and you would assume his maturity level isn’t the same as his fellow draftee’s. Despite his age he was lauded by his coaching staff for his humility and his ‘team first’ attitude.
Update: Adams has now been picked up by the World Champion, Philadelphia Eagles. This will be tough for Adams as they currently have Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey and have recently re-signed Darren Sproles. From here it will be a lot of hard work, but I would expect Adams to at least sit on Philly’s practice squad for a year. I would, however, expect him to make a bit of a name for himself in pre-season if he is given a chance.
1 – Allen Lazard WR, Iowa State
This one is a real head-scratcher for me. How did this guy not get drafted? He was expected to go in round 5 or 6, to me that felt too low for him. Just looking at him, he looks like an NFL receiver. Standing at 6’5 and 227lb’s the guy is an athlete. In his time at Iowa State, he is their most decorated receiver getting 3,218 yards and 25 touchdowns in 4 years. I’m not sure there were many pundits, experts or football fans aware of Lazard that didn’t expect him to get his name called.
The only reason I can come up with as to why he wasn’t drafted is that some scouts were reportedly concerned with his ability to separate from defenders. NFL teams even reportedly told his agent that they didn’t know if he would be more useful as a WR or a TE at the next level.
Update: Good news came to Lazard when he was picked up by Jacksonville Jaguars, who also allegedly promised him that they wouldn’t pick up another undrafted receiver. After the release of Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, the Jags came into this draft with a need at WR. They drafted DJ Chark and have picked up a lot of NFL free agents, but there isn’t a stand out WR1 in their team. This is the perfect situation for Lazard to work his way up through the pecking order suggesting he puts the work in during pre-season and makes a statement in the Jaguars pre-season games.
You may have noticed a couple of FCS players featured in this article. If you are looking to learn more about any small school players, Dynasty Football Factory is proud to bring you the ‘Small school rookie guide’ which is free to download. Follow the below link for player measurables, cutting-edge analytics and much more.
As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to give me a follow on Twitter @DFF_JamesH.