NFL Training Camp Undrafted Players To Watch
Undrafted NFL free agents always face an uphill battle during the course of training camp and preseason. Every year certain players begin camp as underdogs and come out looking like diamonds in the rough. There are approximately 397 undrafted players that will be battling for roster spots in the coming weeks. For teams that require depth at specific positions, the undrafted pool is a great place to find under the radar talent.
Let’s take a look at 32 undrafted players that have a good chance of making the final roster.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES- Jeremy Reaves, Safety, South Alabama: An aggressive playmaker for the South Alabama Jaguars, Reaves made the transition from corner to safety his senior year without any issues. In 2017, he logged three interceptions, eight pass breakups, and three forced fumbles. Reaves shows fluid movement and tackling ability as evidenced by his 285 tackles that he recorded over a three-year span. The 21-year-old is a versatile defensive back and fits the mold of what head Coach Doug Peterson looks for in his players. Last season the Eagles played with three safeties very often throughout the course of the year. With four safeties currently on Philadelphia’s roster, Tre Sullivan and Chris Maragos look to be Reaves main competition. If Reaves displays his physical skillset during camp, he can earn the final spot at the safety position.
NEW YORK GIANTS- Grant Haley, Cornerback, Penn State: Surprisingly, The Giants didn’t sign a cornerback in seven rounds of the NFL draft. Haley, a teammate of Giants first-round pick Saquon Barkley, was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions. Chad Reuter of NFL.com gave high praise for the Giants ability to land Haley as an UDFA. Even as an undersized defensive back (5’9, 190) he has the quickness and anticipation to be an early contributor as a slot corner. Haley has a nose for the football and is always in or around the area to make a play. According to Pro Football Focus, Haley allowed a 41.7 passer rating when he was targeted by opposing quarterbacks. The Giants ranked 31st in the league against the pass last season and could use the playmaking abilities of Haley to improve their defensive backfield.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS- Quin Blanding, Safety, Virginia: Blanding became a surprise undrafted free agent after being originally projected to go high on Day 3 of the draft. As a four-year starter at Virginia, Blanding recorded 492 tackles and 10 interceptions during his college tenure. On stats alone, the former Cavalier garnered the draft buzz that he deserved. But during the evaluation process, his athleticism gave a reason for scouts to second guess his abilities at the next level. Blanding does not possess the kind of speed and explosiveness expected from a player at his position. His 4.63 speed at the combine confirmed what teams already knew regarding his lack of acceleration and elite athleticism. There’s no doubt Blanding has playmaking ability, but he’ll have to outshine tough competition to stand out.
DALLAS COWBOYS- Kameron Kelly, Cornerback, San Diego State: It never hurts to draft defensive backs that can play multiple positions. That is precisely what The Cowboys did when they signed former Aztec, Kameron Kelly. Possessing both size and range, Kelly made the transition from safety to corner for his senior year. The move proved better than most scouts expected. Kelly recorded 68 tackles, eight pass breakups, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Dallas released CB Orlando Scandrick back in March, and he was scooped up by the division rivals Washington Redskins. The Cowboys did not select a corner in the draft, which elevates the chances of a versatile player like Kelly making the roster.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS- Godwin Igwebuike, Safety, Northwestern: Originally projected to be selected in the 3rd or 4th round, Igwebuike surprisingly never heard his name called during the draft. But the former Wildcat did not have to wait long as the Bucs quickly came calling. A 44 game starter, Igwebuike boasts a career resume of 324 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and seven interceptions. A ball-hawking safety, Igwebuike brings physicality and solid run support to a defense that last ranked 32nd in total yards allowed last year. There is no question Tampa Bay could use the help of a player like Igwebuike to help bolster their secondary depth.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS- J.T. Barrett, Quarterback, Ohio State: Perhaps no other undrafted player experienced a more interesting road to land with an NFL team then Barrett. The Colts announced that Barrett would be attending their rookie mini-camp strictly on a “tryout basis”. But later The Ohio State quarterback had a change of heart. Instead, Barrett decided to join The New Orleans Saints, who signed him to a three-year contract. Drew Brees is 39 years old and is under contract for at least the next two years. But without a 2019 first round pick, The Saints limited themselves in acquiring a potential long-term successor at quarterback.
The former Buckeye finished his college career with a 38-6 record over a four-year span. As a dual-threat signal caller, Barrett recorded 104 touchdowns through the air and racked up over 3,200 rushing yards. A team captain for three of his four years at Ohio State, Barrett displayed high character marks and leadership capabilities. But his lack of size (6’1, 225 lbs) and accuracy as a passer have always been his most significant drawbacks. The Saints arguably post the thinnest quarterback depth in the NFL, so the competition for backup duties will be wide open. Barrett will be battling fellow signal callers Tom Savage and Taysom Hill for a roster spot.
ATLANTA FALCONS- Luke McNitt, Fullback, Nebraska: The Atlanta Falcons signed 27 undrafted free agents, more than any other NFL team this season. But Atlanta has not been the best place to land as an UDFA. Only eleven undrafted players have made the teams final roster since 2012. However, one player that might have the best chance to earn a spot is Nebraska fullback, Luke McNitt. McNitt said Atlanta expressed the most interest and had several meetings with him weeks before the draft. The Falcons are one of the few teams in the NFL that still utilize a traditional lead block fullback. The team released Derrick Coleman who ranked near the bottom of PFF’s fullback rankings last year. With no fullback currently on the roster, this leaves an open competition between McNitt and fellow UDFA Daniel Marx. Given Atlanta’s extensive interest, McNitt should be the favorite to win the roster spot.
CAROLINA PANTHERS- Taylor Hearn, Offensive Lineman, Clemson: Hearn finds himself in a good spot in Carolina after the Panthers failed to draft an interior lineman to replace departed free agent Andrew Norwell. A 29 game starter during his three years at Clemson, Hearn was named third-team All-ACC in 2017. He grew up in Williston, South Carolina, just 150 miles south of Bank Of America Stadium. The Panthers signed Penn State guard Brendan Mahon and West Virginia interior lineman Kyle Bosch to compete with Hearn during training camp. Hearn’s starting experience against stronger collegiate competition should give him an advantage, but he should expect a fierce battle during camp.
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LOS ANGELES RAMS- Tegray Scales, Linebacker, Indiana: The Rams have to add depth at inside linebacker, and Tegray Scales could be the player to fill the void. Scales was one of the most productive players in the Big Ten conference, notching 18 sacks during his tenure at Indiana. A 26 game starter and leader for the Hosier defense, Scales could be an ideal fit in Wade Phillips defense. Scales is undersized by interior linebacker standards at 6-feet, 230 pounds, but made up for it with his play. His coverage skills and blitz capabilities were evidenced by his 46 tackles for loss and eight interceptions at Indiana.
Given his college production, it was somewhat surprising when Scales name wasn’t announced during the draft. Ironically, Scales has drawn comparisons to former Rams LB Alec Ogletree, who was traded to The Giants during the offseason. Los Angeles has their starters in Marc Barron and Corey Littleton and drafted linebacker Micah Kiser in the 4th round. Scales will begin his NFL career making plays on special teams. But he has a great chance to eventually contribute on defense in the linebacker rotation
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS- Tarvarus McFadden, Cornerback, Florida State: McFadden enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign in which he was tied as the nation’s leader in interceptions. A worthy accolade that had him poised to exceed bigger expectations before the 2017 season. However, at the conclusion of his junior year, McFadden recorded 30 tackles with ten pass breakups and zero interceptions. While he did not fill the stat book, McFadden allowed an impressive completion rate of 39.7 last year.
Though he possesses impressive size (6’2, 204 lbs), it was his lack of speed and toughness that caused him to drop. McFadden’s tape looks more finesse than physical. At the combine, he posted a 4.67 forty time but later improved to a 4.58 at his pro day. McFadden lacks long speed and needs tackle refinement as he plays with a high pad level. But going undrafted can have a massive impact on a players attitude which McFadden has reflected during camp. Surrounded by veteran leadership and proper coaching, McFadden can perfect his game and become a better player with the 49ers.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS- Poona Ford, Defensive Tackle, Texas: The most likely reason that Poona Ford didn’t hear his name called during the draft, was due to his size. As a defensive tackle, Ford stands just under six feet tall. But don’t let the size chart fool you. Ford is deceptively productive in the run game, a factor that Seattle needs to improve upon. According to Pro Football Focus, the former Longhorn averaged an 88.6 grade against the run in the past two years. The Seahawks need help at the interior defensive line position after losing Sheldon Richardson and Michael Bennett in free agency. Ford will probably never see starter snaps but could be a valuable depth player if he’s productive during the preseason.
ARIZONA CARDINALS- Matt McCrane, Kicker, Kansas State: The Cardinals have a proven veteran on their roster in Phil Dawson. Dawson was signed in March of last year and finished 2017 with an 88.5% field goal percentage. But Dawson is now 43 years old, and a young productive kicker in McCrane could provide some competition. McCrane dominated the kicking records at Kansas State. He finished his college career as the school’s all-time leader in field goal percentage (88.4). Additionally, McCrane owns the school’s records in field goals made (57), consecutive made field goals (16) extra point percentage (99.3) and consecutive extra points (105). But the NFL is a different animal for college kickers. McCrane might not be able to unseat a veteran of Dawson’s caliber. But if he proves he has a leg for the pros, he could find himself on a NFL roster by the end of preseason.
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GREEN BAY PACKERS: Austin Davis, Center, Duke: Since 2012, four undrafted offensive linemen have found their way onto the Packers starting lineup. Davis is looking to become the next success story along the O-line. A 38 game starter at center for the Blue Devils, Davis is a robust and fundamentally sound interior lineman. He has deceptive quickness for a player at his position and is a capable blocker at the second level. Injuries have plagued Packers offensive lineman recently and Quarterback Aaron Rodgers could use some players that will stay upright. Davis will face an uphill battle fighting for snaps against fellow centers Corey Linsley and Dillion Day. He has the size (6’4, 301) and starting time to his name, but Davis will need to display versatility to stand out to the Packers coaching staff.
CHICAGO BEARS: Kevin Toliver, Cornerback, LSU: Toliver is the biggest name of The Bears free agent signings. A former five-star recruit, Toliver was highly coveted but fell short of expectations at LSU. A starter for 29 games, the former Tiger logged 49 tackles and only two interceptions over a three-year span. Injuries, inconsistent play, and a suspension caused Toliver’s stock to drop during his college career. At 6’2, 192 pounds, Toliver passes the eye test as a physical big body corner. But it will take more than his physical traits to win a roster spot. Head coach Matt Nagy has already spoken to young the cornerback about the opportunity that lies before him. With a chip on his shoulder and the right mindset, Toliver can challenge as a rotational corner on The Bears defense.
DETROIT LIONS: Josh Fatu, Defensive Tackle, USC: Fatu transferred from Long Beach City College to USC as a Junior in 2016. He became a starter for the Trojans as a senior and finished with 34 tackles, six sacks, and one forced fumble. The Lions moves in the offseason, signal a shift to a hybrid of the 4-3 and 3-4 defense. This is good news for Fatu. At 6’2, 310 pounds, the former Trojan is undersized but strong, and his best spot to flourish at the NFL level is at nose tackle.
Fatu is capable of taking up multiple blockers to free pass rushers or collapse the pocket if necessary. Last year, Detroit’s defensive line was often injured and could benefit from some much needed interior depth. With limited college production and a Raw skillset, Fatu will need to clean up his technique to be considered an option for the practice squad.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Roc Thomas, Running Back, Jacksonville State: Running back Jerick McKinnon departed for San Francisco as a free agent during the offseason. But Thomas could be the player to fill the void as the third RB on the depth chart. A former five-star recruit, Thomas was ranked as the nations No. 2 running back out of high school. He began his college career at Auburn before transferring to Jacksonville State for his final two years. Thomas erupted for 1,065 yards, 13 touchdowns and averaged six yards per carry in 2017.
Possessing good vision and quickness, Thomas makes quick jump cuts and maneuvers his way through tackles. He wasn’t utilized much as passing back in his college system so he will need to show he can be versatile. Even without running back Dalvin Cook, The Vikings still finished 7th in the league in rushing. In Minnesota, Thomas could thrive in a run-heavy offense and join a diverse and productive running back stable.
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Jake has been covering sports for the past 10 years. He has written and contributed to several sports blogs and podcasts, centralized around the NFL and the NFL Draft. Just like anyone else, Jake has always been a fan first and foremost. Sports is his passion and he enjoys creating appealing content that readers can enjoy.