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Thor's UDFA Class Rankings

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: July 8, 2020, 3:27 pm ET

Over the last three seasons, 297 undrafted free agents made NFL rosters. That’s 9.28 per team every three years, or a little over three UDFA per organization per year. That doesn’t include the practice squad, where the numbers are more significant, almost double. Since 2017, 17% of players who signed UDFA deals made Week 1 rosters. Undrafted players comprise about one-fifth of NFL rosters.

For that reason, I consider the UDFA free-for-all Saturday night after the completion of Day 3 the “second draft.” Last season, Dolphins WR Preston Williams and CB Nik Needham, Broncos LB Malik Reed, Raiders FB Alec Ingold, Lions QB David Blough, Steelers QB Duck Hodges and Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers were among the group of UDFAs who saw the field as rookies. Many more from that UDFA crop will emerge out of developmental cocoons in the coming years.

So many UDFAs have turned into NFL contributors or more over the years. An incomplete list of active UDFAs currently serving in the NFL to prove the point: Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, Matt MoorePhillip Lindsay, C.J. Anderson, Austin Ekeler, Matt Breida, Damien Williams, Adam Thielen, Danny Amendola, Willie Snead, Allen Hurns, Chris Hogan, Taylor Gabriel, Cole BeasleyTyrell Williams, Robby Anderson, Trey Burton, Jack Doyle, Alejandro Villanueva, Andrew Norwell, Ramon Foster, Chris Hubbard, La’El Collins, Jason Peters, Donald Penn, Demar Dotson, Mike Remmers, Josh Kline, Ronald Leary, Damon Harrison, Steve McLendon, Kyle Love, Michael Pierce, Shaquil Barrett, Cameron Wake, Denico Autry, Mario Addison, Wesley Woodyard, Cory Littleton, Vontaze Burfict, Lorenzo Alexander, Craig Robertson, Todd Davis, A.J. Bouye, Chris Harris, TraMon Williams, Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson, Justin Coleman, Mike Hilton, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Anthony Harris, Kenny Moore, Tashaun Gipson, Tony Jefferson, Adrian Phillips, Rodney McLeod, DarIan Stewart, Tramaine Brock, Adam Vinatieri, Justin Tucker, Matt Bryant, Britton Colquitt and Johnny Hekker.

And of course recent retirees Arian Foster, Wes Welker, Doug Baldwin, Kris Dielman, James Harrison, Tony Romo, Brent Grimes and Antonio Gates were all UDFAs. They join the all-time undrafted legend list with guys like Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia, John Randle, Nate Newton, Jeff Saturday, Brian Waters, London Fletcher, Sam Mills, Priest Holmes and Rod Smith. And no UDFA list is complete without mentioning Warren Moon.

Here’s my point. When I tell people I rank UDFA classes, I get one of two responses: They either think I have a sickness, or that it’s a cute navel-gazing type exercise. What I want to impress upon you is that the UDFA process is integral, and highly underrated. The teams that do it well steal at the margins. Businesses that crush at the margins inevitably become the richest. Ask Bezos. 

The NFL Draft does not end with Round 7 on Saturday night. Below you’ll find class rankings for the remainder of the festivities, what happened afterwards. Starting with a table of results.

Here’s how I did that. I assigned a 1-10 point value to each UDFA, depending on where I had him ranked. Ten-point players were ranked in my pre-draft top-200, nine-point players’ threshold started there and stopped at Round 7 grade, eight-pointers were top-300 guys with UDFA grades, seven-pointers were ranked between 301-350, and so on and so forth.

Since an average of three UDFAs make an active roster, and five more hang on the practice squad, I based 90-percent of each team’s ranking on the average of its top-five UDFA signings (fourth column). The other 10-percent was sum class score, or overall class quality (fifth column). This “Strength” formula is represented in the third column. Below were the top 16 hauls as calculated by the above metrics. You can find the Nos. 17-32 hauls on the second page of this column.

 

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1. Dallas Cowboys

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Rico DowdleRB185'11213Royce Freeman81.39.650.74
Darius AndersonRB205'10208Wendell Smallwood78.46.550.6
Terence SteeleOT216'6312Chris Clark31.09.36---
Francis BernardLB266'0234Jayon Brown19.64.060.08
Azur KamaraLB306'3245Kyler Fackrell25.97.060.53
Charlie TaumoepeauTE176'2240Dante Rosario64.57.820.27
Sewo OloniluaRB306'3232Chris Warren71.57.850.53
Aaron ParkerWR426'2209Brandon LaFell7.04.220.04
Sean McKeonTE186'5242Tyler Kroft---------
Garrett MarinoDL276'2288Stephen Paea---------
LaDarius HamiltonEDGE326'2262Karl Klug5.33.690.09
Ron'Dell CarterEDGE356'3265Tully Banta-Cain---------
Kendrick RogersWR536'4208Martavis Bryant63.07.990.59
Stephen GuidryWR566'3201Aaron Dobson27.76.660.57
Luther KirkS336'0194Dominick Sanders---------
Chris WilliamsDL396'2308Taylor Stallworth---------

 

Remember when people thought Jerry Jones was going to commandeer and then screw up this draft process? Instead, the Cowboys struck for a bonanza of a draft and then absolutely cleaned up on aisle UDFA. I saw uber-athletic South Carolina RB Rico Dowdle as a late fifth-round talent, well-rounded TCU RB Jet Anderson as a sixth-sounder, and Texas Tech T Terence Steele, BYU LB Francis Bernard and Kansas LB Azur Kamara as seventh-rounders. As Dire Straights famously sang, that’s Money for Nothin’. 

Dallas didn’t stop there, signing a massive class, 16 players in my database, while somehow still managing to top the NFL in average points per prospect at 7.2. Stephen Jones said on the season ticket holder call that the Cowboys had draftable grades on seven signed UDFA, including both TCU RB (Sewo Olonilua being the other). While I technically had draftable grades on two fewer, the Cowboys signed six additional prospects I had just outside of draftable range. A massive haul and quality top-to-bottom, increasing the odds of finding additional diamonds in the rough? Quarantine Jerry is living his best life, y’all.


2. Kansas City Chiefs

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Javaris DavisCB175'10183Tavon Young59.96.510.24
Kalija LipscombWR276'0207Andrew Hawkins53.86.060.64
Yasir DurantOT206'6331Donnell Greene---2.32---
Lavert HillCB305'10190Corn Elder---------
Shea PattersonQB146’1212Josh McCown57.56.73---
Darryl WilliamsiOL196'2304Hroniss Grassu---------
Rodney ClemonsCB355'11200Delano Howell---3.260.16
Cody WhiteWR416'3217Marcell Ateman29.33.460.22
Maurice FfrenchWR585'10194Hunter Sharp---------
Tershawn WhartonDL386'1280Kevin Givens---------
Bryan WrightLB616'2235------------
Omari CobbLB656'4229------------
Aleva HifoWR785'10202------------
Andre BaccelliaWR835'10175------------
Jalen JuliusCB755'10185------------
Tommy TownsendP56'2176------------

 

The rich get richer, amirite? I was stunned Auburn CB Javaris Davis didn’t get drafted. He’s not much to look at, but he posted 80.7 and 79.9 PFF coverage grades the past two seasons in the SEC that were better each campaign than teammate Noah Igbinoghene (and now NFL division-mate Damon Arnette lol) and then ran a 4.39 in Indy. In addition, I thought Vandy WR Kalija Lipscomb, Missouri OT Yasir Durant, and Michigan CB Lavert Hill were all draftable. Similar to the Cowboys, the Chiefs didn’t just bring in high-end undrafted talent, but strong depth. And this year, without pro days due to the pandemic, that might be more important than ever, with the possibility of more gems falling through the cracks without scouts having gotten an up-close look at non-Combine invitees.

Nobody would have batted an eye if Darryl Williams, Rodney Clemons or Cody White had heard their names called. And for all the guffaws his signings drew on Twitter, why not take a shot on former five-star QB Shea Patterson for the low-low price of free? You’ve got verified QB guru Andy Reid, you’ve got verified QB Jesus Pat Mahomes… maybe they can get through to the maddeningly inconsistent former Wolverine and teach him to straighten the scope. It takes a village, not just a grand slam Pat Mahomes pick, to win a Super Bowl. This is such a well-run organization -- this is Kansas City’s second-consecutive top-three finish in my UDFA rankings. Steal at the margins long enough, you get rich.


3. New Orleans Saints

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Malcolm RoachDL186'2297P.J. Hall73.48.440.93
Joe BachieLB206'1230AJ Klein54.47.820.25
Juwan JohnsonWR366'4230Auden Tate64.16.730.58
Calvin ThrockmortoniOL216'5317Spencer Drango---------
Marquez CallawayWR406'1205Russell Shepard73.58.020.58
Darrin PauloOT336'5312Avery Gennesy---------
Tony JonesRB355'10220Dominique Brown27.23.390.18
Keith Washington Jr.CB456'0175De'Vante Harris---------
Jordan StecklerOT476'5306Adam Bisnowaty---------
Adrian MageeiOL426'4347------------
Gus CumberlanderEDGE546'7251------------
Blake GillikinP76'2194------------

 

I ranked the Saints No. 1 in last year’s UDFA rankings. New Orleans once again acquitted themselves very well on Saturday night. And I think I’m starting to get a sense of their strategy -- since they went about business this year exactly as they did last year -- which is clever enough that other contenders ought to at least give a passing thought to copying it. The Saints use their late Day 3 picks to trade up for prospects they’ve targeted who are falling. When New Orleans is out of picks and ESPN analysts say they’re “done drafting for the year," that isn’t exactly true… it seems to be part and parcel of a larger prospect acquisition strategy. While other teams are drafting on Saturday, monitoring their boards and negotiating trades, the Saints are calling their top UDFA targets. They literally get a jump on the rest of the league. It’s genius.

And those calls come with a delicious pitch: We only made three picks (Cesar Ruiz, Zack Baun, Adam Trautman)! Sign here, you’re basically the equivalent of our fourth-round pick! That was the pitch up until Tommy Stevens’ camp told Sean Payton they were signing with the Carolina Panthers, anyway. At which point Payton flipped a future pick for 7.240 to take Stevens. But you get the idea. This is another team that clearly prioritizes the UDFA process… so much so that it seems to have developed a draft strategy catered around getting a jump on it. Boy does it show. I saw the headliners, Bachie and Roach, as fifth- and sixth-round talents, respectively. Baun was a second-round guy from me, and Throckmorton was fringe draftable. You see, zooming up, how they see it, the forest from the trees? It doesn’t look like a full class when you’re looking at the draft results page, but it usually ends up being so, qualitatively. It’s a Magic Eye draft approach. The Saints get value where you aren’t looking. Slick.


4. Cleveland Browns

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Alex TaylorOT156'8308Roderick Johnson37.98.06---
A.J. GreenCB246'1202Antoine Cason---6.120.43
Brian HerrienRB255'11209Kenyan Drake61.96.490.4
Kevin DavidsonQB156'4224Mike White25.64.69---
Benny LeMayRB325'8221Kapri Bibbs2.14.670.05
Drake DorbeckOT296'6322Danny Kistler---------
Ja'Marcus BradleyWR496'0198DeAndrew White---------
Jovante MoffattS395'11213Mark McLaurin---------
Tony BrownWR626'1198------------
Nate WietingTE306'4250------------
Jameson HoustonCB745'11199------------
Jeffery WhatleyDL596'2303------------
Solomon AjayiLB746'1230------------
Elijah BentonS646'1206------------

 

The Browns, resolute in their determination to fix their abomination of an offensive line this offseason, reeled in a monster free agent fish in RT Jack Conklin, then used the No. 10 pick on Alabama OT Jedrick Wills (and later grabbed steady-eddy interior presence Nick Harris in R5). They kept sawin’ wood in the UDFA portion of our show, grabbing top-five overall undrafted talent Alex Taylor, a raw skyscraper who chose the right depth chart to fight for a roster spot on.

A.J. Green has been one of the Big 12’s best corners for the past few years and has length for days, Brian Herrien intrigues as an athletic Georgia back who was stuck behind a procession of studs, and QB Kevin Davidson has lots of fans in the scouting community as a developmental one-year wonder arm from the Ivy League. His name came up a ton when I was in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. All three were draftable.


5. Philadelphia Eagles

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Michael WarrenRB195'9226Rob Kelley---------
Raequan WilliamsDL166'4308Harrison Phillips5.54.930.31
Dante OlsonLB326'2237Jason Cabinda73.76.060.25
Grayland ArnoldCB325'9186Greg Reid23.22.570.07
Adrian KillinsRB365'7162Kenjon Barner---------
Julian Good-JonesOT366'5313Eric Lefeld---------
Elijah RileyCB425'11209Treston Decoud---------
Khalil TateQB316'2216J.T. Barrett---------
Noah TogiaiTE266'4241------------
Luke JurigaiOL416'3295------------
Michael Jacquett IIICB666'1201------------
Manasseh BaileyWR806'0181------------
Matt LeoEDGE576'7273------------

 

The Eagles graded out well in my system by combining high-quality signings with a bunch of calculated dart-throws, including the signing of former Arizona dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate to give a receiver transition a spin in camp. 

The headliners are Cincy RB Michael Warren, Michigan State DL Raequan Williams, Montana LB Dante Olson and Baylor DB Grayland Arnold, all borderline draftable guys. Warren runs like a sock of rocks but has cement shoes… it’ll be interesting to see if he can carve out a Fat Robb career. I like Raequan’s shot of sticking around. He doesn’t rush the passer, but he’s long, he’s versatile, and he brings his lunch pail against the run. Feels like a long-term swing backup type.


6. Jacksonville Jaguars

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
James RobinsonRB155'9219Isaiah Crowell87.88.340.52
J.R. ReedS146'0202Quandre Diggs66.28.670.28
Luq BarcooCB396'0172JaMarcus King---------
Tavien FeasterRB315'11221Mike Boone---------
Steve NielsenOT286'7291Jerry Ugokwe---------
Doug CostinDL296'2291Angelo Blackson---------
Ben EllefsonTE226'3251Rhett Ellison---------
Tre'Vour Wallace-SimmsiOL346'4351Quinton Spain---------
Kobe WilliamsCB645'9169------------
Josh HammondWR716'0194------------
Nate EvansLB666'1240------------
Nathan CottrellRB605'10193------------

 

If you’re looking for this year’s Philip Lindsay candidate, the leading contender in the clubhouse right now has to be James Robinson. How did this kid not get drafted?! Uber-productive in the FCS, the compact, hard-charging Robinson proved in Indy that athletically everything in the profile checks out except long speed. And his well-rounded game includes plenty of experience in the receiving game. If Robinson hits, you have a potential low-end three-down option. We know Ryquell Armstead can’t catch. So if Leonard Fournette is traded, Robinson not only looks like a good bet to make the team, but a strong bet to carve out, at minimum, a situational role as a rookie. 

I also loved the CB Luq Barcoo signing. Jacksonville must have had furious competition for him, as they gave Barcoo a UDFA record $180,000 in guarantees. Ironically, that was better than Barcoo would have gotten had he been picked in Rounds 6 or 7. Barcoo exploded last season for the San Diego State Aztecs, with nine interceptions and 16 pass breakups to earn Thorpe Award semifinalist honors and a third-team All-American nod. He’s a bit spindly, but you have to love the length and ball skills. And although we didn’t get to see him test, Barcoo is reportedly a strong athlete. He’s raw, sure. But this is the kind of kid you want to take a flier on in the UDFA sweepstakes.


7. New England Patriots

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Trevon HillEDGE256'3248AQ Muhammad2.51.980.18
J.J. TaylorRB295'5185Tarik Cohen33.44.870.05
Jeff ThomasWR385'9170Antonio Callaway53.86.340.33
Nick CoeDL256'5280Isaac Rochell20.84.940.32
Kyahva TezinoLB336'0235Malik Reed---------
Myles BryantCB385'8184Mike Hilton---1.680.01
Brian LewerkeQB176’2213Jordan Ta'amu37.24.23---
De'Jon HarrisLB356'0234Hayes Pullard14.84.190.27
Bill MurrayDL536'3296------------
J'Mar SmithQB346'0226------------
Isaiah ZuberWR815'11186------------
Will HastingsWR825'9174------------
Rashod BerryTE356'3263------------

 

As you’re no doubt aware, the Patriots didn’t draft a quarterback, nor did they sign a big-name signal caller to replace Tom Brady. They did, however, sign a pair of young quarterbacks after the draft in Brian Lewerke and J'Mar Smith. Once upon a time, Lewerke was a scouting darling, and beloved by certain folks in my industry I won’t mention by name. His arm has a little juice, and he can move a little, but Sensei Bill and Lord Josh will have to rejigger the motherboard for Lewerke to have a shot to stick around.

Trevon Hill probably would have gotten drafted if he’d tested better. Jeff Thomas definitely would have gotten drafted if he didn’t have character questions. My pre-draft comp was Antonio Callaway. J.J. Taylor would have gotten drafted if he was five inches taller -- he’s a fascinating player to watch, a 5-foot-5 runner who lacks speed but runs with surprising power. And might Nick Coe have gotten drafted if he hadn’t been overshadowed by Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson his whole career?


8. Los Angeles Rams

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Josh LoveQB166'0203Nick Mullens---------
Bryce PerkinsQB186'1214Vlad Lee---------
Trishton JacksonWR396'1197Paul Richardson46.87.40.16
Cohl CabraliOL266'5291Bryan Stork---3.87---
Jonah WilliamsEDGE336'5281Obum Gwacham---------
Xavier JonesRB385'11209Jalin Moore---------
Sam RennerEDGE396'4264Darian Roseboro---------
Daniel BituliLB406'2246Carl Ihenacho21.95.240.11
Levonta TaylorCB435'8176Ahmad Black---------
James GilbertRB515'8198Mike Hart---------
Juju HughesS425'11188------------
J.J. KoskiWR696'1186------------
Easop WinstonWR725'11190------------
Christian RozeboomLB626'2228------------
Dayan GhanwolokuCB735'9205------------
Brandon PolkWR795'9176------------
Tyrique McGheeCB785'10185------------

 

The Rams lacked for early capital in the draft itself -- they did not select a player until Cam Akers at 2.52 -- but temporarily freed from the handicaps of their own making in the UDFA Dollar Store, GM Les Snead and HC Sean McVay went on a shopping spree. The Rams brought in five prospects in my top-350, with Weber State EDGE Jonah Williams headlining the group at No. 309. 

Beyond Williams, after mystifyingly ignoring a problematic offensive line situation in the draft outside of seventh-round interior flier Tremayne Anchrum, the Rams brought in further competition via ASU’s Cohl Cabral, a smart and lengthy pivot, as well as Syracuse WR Trishton Jackson, who will cook you in a straight line if you’re not careful. The Rams only have John Wolford behind Jared Goff, making the signings of QBs Josh Love and Bryce Perkins, two of the class’ best undrafted signal-callers, intriguing. Good chance one of them makes the opening roster.


9. Baltimore Ravens

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Chauncey RiversEDGE266'2262Ifeadi Odenigbo1.11.340.03
Jacob BreelandTE166'5252Luke Stocker---------
Tyler HuntleyQB196'0196Vernon Adams---------
Ty'Son WilliamsRB345'11218Alex Collins---------
Trystan Colon-CastilloiOL286'3313Colby Gossett56.78.37---
Sean PollardiOL296'5309Avery Genessy---------
John DakaEDGE386'2224Jeff Holland---------
Daishawn DixoniOL336'5325Jamil Demby---------
Nigel WarriorS296'0197Randall Goforth---------
Eli WolfTE276'4240------------
Aaron CrawfordDL516'1290------------
Kristian WelchLB546'2239------------
Josh NurseCB696'3199------------
Evan AdamsiOL576'5341------------
Marcus WilloughbyEDGE606'2255------------
Khalil DorseyCB805'9171------------

 

'Last Chance U' fans will remember EDGE Chauncey Rivers, who had a strong 2019 season with Mississippi State. I thought he had a shot to get drafted, despite poor testing. I also had TE Jacob Breeland right on the edge of a Round 7 grade. Earlier in his career, Breeland was seen as a potential Day 2 prospect, but on-field inconsistencies and injuries took him off course. The size and speed have always intrigued, but promise has an expiration date, and Breeland’s is right around the bend if things don’t click this summer.

Ty’son Williams had a star-crossed collegiate career, bouncing between three different schools, but he looked great early last fall at his grad transfer destination, BYU, before a super-unfortunate season-ending injury in September wrote a fitting final chapter to his story. For a run-heavy team taking a flier, I like bringing him in for the summer to see if there’s talent that others just haven’t been able to see because of circumstances outside of Williams’ control. At each of his previous stops -- North and South Carolina -- he got stuck in crowded rooms. His breakout opportunity last fall got stolen from him by the Injury Monster. Maybe Baltimore can sneak him onto the practice squad if they spot promise in camp.


10. New York Jets

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Javelin GuidryCB225'9191Mark Fields---9.420.77
Lamar JacksonCB266'2208Anthony Averett64.56.720.75
Shyheim CarterCB295'10194Jordan Poyer---------
Jared HilbersOT246'6310Sam Young---------
Bryce HuffEDGE296'1254Sio Moore---------
Lawrence CagerWR486'4220Justin Watson---------
Domenique DavisDL576'1307------------
Sterling JohnsonDL586'3300------------

 

Returning to UDFA strategy, the Jets are a team with a clearly delineated one. The two years I’ve studied these classes, they’ve swung for and landed some of the top undrafted prospects who’ve filtered out of the draft, and from there have been unconcerned with fleshing out a larger class with a bushel of lottery tickets. This year, the Mean Green were sitting dead-red on the class’ top unpicked corners.

I ranked Javelin Guidry, Lamar Jackson and Shyheim Carter as the second, fifth and seventh-best undrafted corners in the class, respectively. I had Rounds 5, 6 and 7 grades on those three prospects prior to the draft. And the cool thing about them is they represent different shapes and flavors in camp. Guidry is a world-class sprinter who ran a 4.29 in Indy. Jackson is a press-man 6’2 outside presence, while Carter has corner/safety versatility.


11. San Francisco 49ers

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
JaMycal HastyRB175'8205Justin Forsett90.06.880.7
Darrion DanielsDL206'3311Tyler Lancaster14.83.690.51
Salvon AhmedRB275'11197Bryce Love27.15.530.2
DeMarkus AcyCB406'0195Walt Aikens---------
Jared MaydenS256'0201Craig Dahl---------
Chris FinkeWR555'9186Jeremy Gallon70.53.120.17
Chase HarrellTE286'3257------------
Jonas GriffithLB576'3247------------
Broc RutterQB386'2205------------

 

Like the Saints, the Niners had a small draft class (five players, including only two taken before Round 5), and this may have helped them in the UDFA process. It certainly did at defensive back, a position they curiously didn’t touch in the draft despite an acute need. DeMarkus Acy and Jared Mayden will both have a shot to make the roster. Senior Bowl czar Jim Nagy is a noted fan of Mayden’s. 

San Francisco also didn’t take a running back and ended up grabbing two of the better runners who didn’t get picked. Baylor’s JaMycal Hasty is a human banana peel who runs fearless. Salvon Ahmed, who arrived at Washington with considerable hype but underwhelmed, may compete with him for San Fran’s RB3 role.


12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Parnell MotleyCB286'0183Zach Sanchez---------
John MolchoniOL236'5309Bradley Bozeman21.55.18---
Michael DivinityLB366'1242Josh Forrest10.72.730.12
Cam GillLB396'2232Quart'e Sapp---------
Reid SinnettQB246'3229Kyle Shurmur---------
Josh PearsonWR506'3205Josh Reynolds---------
Zach ShackelfordiOL356'3303Braxston Cave---------
Nasir PlayerEDGE406'4260Martin Ifedi---------
Benning Potoa'eDL406'3291Zach Seiler---------
Javon HaganS466'0218------------
Nick LeverettiOL596'3307------------

 

Oklahoma CB Parnell Motley was snubbed from the NFL Combine, but he has some solid tape against top-shelf competition. Last year he locked horns with receivers like Baylor’s Denzel Mims, TCU’s Jalen Reagor, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Texas’ Collin Johnson, and allowed 10-of-20 targets to be completed to opposing WR1s for 124 yards and a 0/1 TD/INT rate. 

Athletic limitations cap his upside, though Tampa Bay’s press-man heavy schema suit Motley’s game and length, giving him a real shot to give the disappointing M.J. Stewart a run for his money for the CB5 role. Tampa Bay beat out multiple interested parties for Motley, including the Vikings. So Mr. Motley is going to be spending the season on a practice squad -- at least.


13. Green Bay Packers

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Patrick TaylorRB216'1217Jeremy Hill47.17.190.53
Tipa GaleaiEDGE246'4235De’vondre Campbell---------
Stanford Samuels IIICB336'1187Marquez White---------
Delontae ScottEDGE376'4246Derick Roberson---------
Jalen MortonQB296'3224Brandon Bridge---------
Will SunderlandCB476'2196Channing Stribling---------
Krys BarnesLB496'2229Nate Hall---------
Darrell StewartWR636'0212------------
Travis BruffyOT516'5305------------
Willington PrevilonEDGE526'5285------------
Zack JohnsonOT556'6310------------
Henry BlackS606'0200------------

 

The Packers had the worst draft in the NFL this year -- according to consensus grading, and also yours truly -- but did snag a rock-solid UDFA class. RB Patrick Taylor was one of the reasons Antonio Gibson didn’t touch the ball more at Memphis. EDGE Tipa Galeai, Jordan Love’s teammate at Utah State, has some juice off the edge, with 23 TFL over the past two years.

I do have to ask one question, though. This was a historically stocked receiver class. The Packers didn’t pick one in the draft. Okay, that’s their prerogative. A bunch of talented pass-catchers fell out of the draft, though. And yet the Pack could only manage Darrell Stewart? Just the one? Just Stewart? Best receiver class of the past few decades, you’re the Green Bay Packers, you’ve got a championship window now, you enter the 2020 NFL Draft process with this acute need at receiver, it’s perfect, and you leave the entire process with Darrell Stewart? After spending most of your draft equity on another quarterback and running back? Woo-diggedy-dog, to be a fly on the wall when Aaron Rodgers first talked to management after all that.


14. New York Giants

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Javon LeakeRB226'0215Tony Pollard32.47.680.44
Oluwole Betiku Jr.EDGE316'3249Aaron Maybin---------
Austin MackWR436'1208Isaiah Ford9.13.750.13
Kyle MurphyiOL226'3316Jamil Demby4.31.35---
Case CookusQB256'3208Taylor Heinicke---------
Binjimen VictorWR546'4198Darvin Adams58.55.740.65
Kyle MarkwayTE236'4252Jeremy Sprinkle---------
Jaquarius LandrewsS366'0200Joshua Kalu---------
Niko LalosEDGE516'5268------------
Derrick DillonWR745'11184------------
Dominique RossLB736'3219------------

 

The G-Men’s top-two signees, Maryland RB Javon Leake and Illinois EDGE Oluwole Betiku Jr., both had pet niche cheering sections in the scouting community. Leake, who made a mistake in declaring when he could have returned to Maryland and been “The Guy” with fellow-RB Anthony McFarland Jr. also opting for the pros early, fell out of the draft after running a 4.65 in Indy. But he averaged 7.9 YPC over his career at Maryland, and, maybe more importantly for the Giants at this point, is an outstanding return man. Leake is the reigning B1G Return Specialist of the Year. 

Let’s put it this way: Wayne Gallman is officially on notice and may be well served looking into the government’s generous new unemployment offerings for those laid off during the pandemic. Betiku, meanwhile, is a former ballyhooed five-star recruit at USC who didn’t pan out there but broke out with nine sacks in 10 games at Illinois last year after a grad transfer. Meanwhile, the Giants, who didn’t draft a receiver, added a pair of familiar former battle-tested Buckeyes in Austin Mack and Bin Victor. Friends will turn foe in camp in bloodsport for a final receiver spot.


15. Carolina Panthers

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Rodney SmithRB285'10208Myles Gaskin---------
Omar BaylessWR356'1212DaMarkus Lodge30.24.20.41
Jordan MackLB386'2241Damien Wilson---------
Branden BoweniOL306'6310Lester Cotton---------
Chris OrrLB435'10223BJ Blunt---------
Frederick MauigoaiOL376'2310Brandon Vitabile---------
David ReeseLB526'0248------------
Sam FranklinLB536'2210------------
Giovanni RicciTE296'3220------------
Mike HortoniOL556'3325------------
Myles AdamsDL606'1285------------

 

An NFL Combine snub, six-year Golden Gophers vet RB Rodney Smith never got his due. But I think he’ll have a decent shot to stick around for a little in the NFL. He’s never going to wow you, he just does a little bit of everything -- runs hard, understands leverage, solid receiver, good pass blocker. We’ll see if he can stay healthy.

The other intriguing addition was Arkansas State WR Omar Bayless, who went ballistic with a 93-1653-17 line last fall, winning the #FunBelt’s Player of the Year Award. Carolina landed Robby Anderson for big money, signed Pharoh Cooper and Seth Roberts to short-term deals, and didn’t trade Curtis Samuel, so Bayless has a long road in front of him to make the active. He’ll spend the campaign developing on a practice squad if he can’t.


16. Miami Dolphins

NamePositionHtWtComparisonSPQRASAdj SPQ
Benito JonesDL196'1316D.J. Jones7.91.310.14
Bryce SterkEDGE346'4262Parker Hesse---------
Kirk MerrittWR475'11208Stacy Coley---------
Nick KaltmayerOT396'7313Sean Hickey---------
Ray LimaDL416'2302Ken Bishop---------
Tyshun RenderEDGE456'4259Avery Moss---------
Matt ColeWR675'10197------------
Donell StanleyiOL506'2322------------
Kylan JohnsonLB696'1231------------

 

Recall that last spring the Dolphins unearthed a pair of UDFA gems in WR Preston Williams and CB Nik Needham. Interestingly, it looks like they tried to recreate history with two of their more high-profile UDFA signings this year. Ole Miss iDL Benito Jones, a former five-star recruit, saw his odds of getting drafted take a huge shot when he tested poorly in Indy. Jones will likely head into camp as the third nose tackle, behind Davon Godchaux and second-rounder Raekwon Davis

If Jones, like Needham, fell out of the draft because of eyesore athletic testing, WR Kirk Merritt, like Preston Williams, wasn’t selected because of problematic character concerns. Merritt got run out of Texas A&M by Kevin Sumlin for an indecent exposure incident with a tutor after a transfer from Oregon. Sent into exile, Merritt ultimately finished his career at Arkansas State. He was not invited to the NFL Combine. Merritt is a former track superstar and SPARQ champion who posted a 153-1811-19 receiver line the last two years after finally getting on the field.

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is NBC Sports Edge’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!