DENVER BRONCOS- Jeff Holland, OLB, Auburn: In the AFC West you can never have enough pass rushers. Denver has their duo in Von Miller and first-round pick Bradley Chubb, But over the next few months, linebacker Jeff Holland could add his name to the mix. Holland was projected as a fourth or fifth round selection but wound up going undrafted. The former Tiger led the Auburn defense with 10 sacks in 2017. Holland is not a great run defender but can make a living as a rotational rusher on third down. He does not posses the ideal size (6’2, 249) or speed (4.79) that teams covet at the edge position. But Holland has already been turning heads during minicamp with his playmaking abilities.
With fellow LB Shane Ray expected to miss three months due to wrist surgery, Holland will be receiving a bulk of additional reps. It could be a “right place, right time” scenario for Holland if he continues to build momentum during the preseason.
OAKLAND RAIDERS: Eddy Pineiro, Kicker, Florida: Pineiro signed with Oakland as an undrafted free agent out of Florida, but almost heard his name called during the draft. According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matt Kawahara, The Raiders thought about selecting Pineiro in the mid-rounds of the draft. Pineiro finished his college career as Florida’s most accurate kicker (88.4 percent). He led the SEC in touchbacks on 79 percent of his kickoffs and converted all five of his career field goal attempts from 50 plus yards. The Raiders interest in Pineiro should get the attention of current kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. Raiders Special Team Coordinator Rich Bisaccia, said the kicking battle between Pineiro and Tavecchio will remain competitive throughout training camp.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Tony Brown, Cornerback, Alabama: No team has added more undrafted free agents to their roster every year than the Chargers. In fact, the bolts hold a current streak of 21 consecutive seasons that they have added at least one undrafted player. Brown finds himself in a crowded but talented secondary unit with the Chargers. The Crimson Tide Alum went undrafted after initially being projected as Day 3 pick. Brown has excellent speed as he displayed with his 4.35 forty-yard-dash at the combine. At 6’0, 199 pounds, he offers good size and speed, coupled with high-end athleticism and solid tackling skills. Brown will have to stand out among one of the deepest cornerback groups in the NFL. He is monster in run support and as a gunner on special teams. A player of Brown’s versatility could be a valuable asset on The Chargers practice squad.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Ben Niemann, Linebacker, Iowa: Niemann finds himself in a good position with the Chiefs, as their linebacker depth is currently in flux. Kansas City parted ways with longtime starter Derrick Johnson and added Anthony Hitchens in free agency. Niemann didn’t receive an invitation to the Combine but turned in a solid pro day. He finished his final season at Iowa with 77 tackles; five passes defended, two forced fumbles and one sack. He is a workhorse with good instincts as well as displaying solid football IQ. The early outlook for Niemann has him landing on the practice squad for his rookie season. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to eventually see him climb up the depth chart and onto the active roster.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Matthew Thomas, Inside Linebacker, Florida State: Thomas was a former five-star recruit that underwhelmed during his first two years due to injuries and suspensions. But during his junior and senior seasons, Thomas amassed 162 tackles (20 TFL), three sacks and one forced fumble. He has excellent size (6’3, 232) and speed (4.5) for the position at the NFL level. Thomas displayed his athletic capabilities, testing in the 97th percentile in SPARQ at the combine. Surprisingly, The Steelers did not select a linebacker during the draft, even though it was their most significant need. Without Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh’s defense drastically struggled. The Steelers could use a player like Thomas, and he has great opportunity to make the final roster.
BALTIMORE RAVENS: Christian LaCouture, DT, LSU: It’s been a rough road to the NFL for LaCouture. The LSU product nearly declared for the NFL back in 2015, before returning for his senior year. He suffered a torn ACL just before the beginning of the 2016 season. LaCouture returned in 2017 and finished with 66 tackles, six sacks, and five pass break-ups. LaCouture doesn’t have the kind of dominant traits against the run or the pass. But at 6’5, 307 pounds he has the prototypical size for a rotational defensive end at the next level. The Ravens could use some additional depth along their defensive line. LaCouture could become more versatile if he can add more size to play the defensive tackle position. Time will tell what LaCouture will be able to produce, but for now, he is a camp body with a chance to make the practice squad.
CINCINNATI BENGALS: Junior Joseph, Linebacker, UConn: Joseph may have landed in the best spot to start his NFL career. The Bengals love finding linebackers after the draft. Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey, and Brandon Bell all went undrafted, and the trend may continue with the former Huskie. Joseph was a three-year starter at UConn and recorded 91 tackles (6.5 for loss) and four sacks in 2017. A physical linebacker, he shows quick burst and good reads off the snap to make the tackle. While highly productive at his position, Joseph is undersized (6’1, 242 pounds) and lacks ideal speed (4.83). Effective as a run-stopper, he projects more as a two-down linebacker at the next level. Facing tough competition at the position, Joseph’s first step toward a roster spot will likely begin on special teams.
CLEVELAND BROWNS: Desmond Harrison, Offensive Tackle, West Georgia: It was hard to ignore the performance that Harrison displayed at the NFL combine. At 6’6, 292 pounds, the West Georgia alum exhibited rare athletic traits for a player his size. Harrison ran a 4.90 forty recorded a 1.72 ten-yard split and showed the foot quickness of a starting caliber tackle. But Harrison’s college career came with some red flags. He flashed on tape, but scouts believed that he dominated a lower level of competition. Numerous failed drug tests arose during Harrison’s time as a junior college recruit.
He performed well enough at the Senior Bowl and the combine to raise his draft stock as a mid-round selection. So the Browns may have gotten a bargain when Harrison went undrafted. As a true”boom or bust” player, Harrison finds himself in an interesting spot in Cleveland. Following the retirement of All-Pro left tackle, Joe Thomas, there will no shortage of competition. Harrison has a great opportunity to make the roster as a backup blindside protector.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Skai Moore, Linebacker, South Carolina: The Colts invested highly in improving their front seven when they selected three linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft. But Moore is an intriguing undrafted prospect that was projected as a late-round selection. After missing the 2016 season due to a herniated disc in his neck, Moore returned and dominated as a fifth-year senior. In 2017, PFF College graded the former Gamecock with a 49.9 rating when targeted, which was the lowest among this year’s linebacker class. Moore finished his college career with 351 total tackles and was South Carolina’s tackle leader in each of his four years as a starter.
Moore is undersized (6’2, 226) and doesn’t possess elite athleticism, but his instincts, intelligence, and productivity could offer great value to Indy. With the Colts shifting to a 4-3 defense, Moore will have to prove he can produce when dropping into zone coverage. The 23-year-old could make a nice home on special teams and eventually develop into a sub-package linebacker.
HOUSTON TEXANS: Terry Swanson, Running Back, Toledo: Swanson played three seasons behind Kareem Hunt during his time at Toledo. After Hunt turned pro, Swanson became the starter rushing for 1,363 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2017. Houston showed interest in Swanson prior to the NFL Draft bringing him for an official visit. During his pro day, the former Rocket registered some impressive numbers. He posted 4.48 speed with a 32-inch vert, 10 foot broad and bench pressed 24 reps of 225. Swanson is deceptively strong and possesses good vision and breakaway speed. Texans running back Lamar Miller has been a disappointment since joining the team two years ago. D’Onta Foreman is questionable to be ready for week 1, and Tyler Irvin is recovering from a torn patellar tendon. With the Texans running back stable in question, Swanson has an excellent opportunity to make an ample impression during camp.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Allen Lazard, Wide Receiver, Iowa State: At 6’4, 227 pounds, Lazard possesses the big body size that offensive coordinators and quarterbacks covet. Lazard posted impressive numbers recording 241 catches for 3,360 yards and 26 touchdowns during his four years as a starter. After receiving an invite to the Senior Bowl, the former Cyclone lit up practices but failed to deliver during the game. Mel Kiper and Bucky Brooks were very high on Lazard’s potential and was projected as a Day 3 selection. But lack of explosive speed and issues with drops during Lazard’s evaluation process, caused his stock to drop.
The Jaguars lost Allen Robinson in free agency and released Allen Hurns to save cap space. That leaves Jacksonville with wideout’s Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief as the early projected starters. That is good news for a receiver with Lazard’s potential. Another reason to believe that Lazard will make the roster, was the commitment that Jacksonville made to the young wideout. The Jags gave Lazard $40,000 in guaranteed money when they signed him as an UDFA. The team also made him a promise to not add any other wide receivers during the undrafted signing period. The lack of depth at wide receiver will give Lazard an opportunity to earn the fourth or fifth wideout slot.
TENNESSEE TITANS: Akrum Wadley, Running Back, Iowa: Wadley became the feature back for the Hawkeyes in 2016. Averaging 5.6 yards per carry, he finished his college career rushing for 2,526 yards and 26 touchdowns as a starter. Despite being one of the more consistent running backs over the past two seasons, Wadley went undrafted. Fumbles were an issue for Wadley as he lost five of the eight balls that he put on the ground. Scouts were concerned when Wadley weighed in at 189 pounds on his pro-day. Additionally, his speed was a bit of a disappointment, as he only managed a 4.54 forty-yard-dash.
But Wadley finds himself in a great spot to rebound in Tennessee. The Titans posses a one-two punch with Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry, but Wadley’s chances of making the roster are favorable. He will enter training camp battling fellow running back David Fluellen for the third spot on the depth chart. Wadley’s versatility as a pass-catcher and special teams contributor should eventually win him the job.
BUFFALO BILLS: Levi Wallace, Cornerback, Alabama: PFF named Wallace as one of the top-10 undrafted players that could make an impact in 2018. In his senior year, he led the SEC in pass breakups (18) with three interceptions and did not surrender a touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Wallace yielded a 44.3 passer rating when targeted, which was 8th best among draft-eligible cornerbacks. His size (6’0, 179) and speed (4.63) are not ideal. Wallace has a slender build and lacks downfield speed where he struggles against bigger receivers. However, he displays quick feet, proper closing burst on coverage and is mentally built for the game. Buffalo boasts a deep and talented secondary with Tre’Davious White, Vontae Davis and Phillip Gaines at the forefront of the position. When training camp begins, Wallace will be in competition with four other defensive backs battling for a roster spot.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: J.C. Jackson, Cornerback, Maryland: Malcolm Butler, was an undrafted player in 2014 and went on to become the hero of Super Bowl 49. Jackson is looking to follow a similar path. He began his college career in Florida, but after a medical red-shirt season, he was kicked off the team in 2015. Jackson was arrested and charged on four felony counts in participation of an armed robbery at a home. He was later acquitted of the charges.
Jackson later transferred to Maryland where over the next two years he recorded 80 tackles, 17 pass breakups, and four interceptions. At 5’10, 201 pounds, Jackson approaches the game with a physical attitude and the ability to challenge receivers in coverage. According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, the 22-year-old looked very impressive during minicamp and was already running with the first-team defense. Following Butler’s departure, The Patriots will be searching for a player to help New England’s pass defense that ranked 30th in the league in 2017. Jackson needs to continue refining his skills, but has NFL caliber traits to eventually challenge for a starting role.
NEW YORK JETS: Dimitri Flowers, Fullback, Oklahoma: A four-year starter for The Sooners, Flowers blocked for the likes of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine during his college tenure. Flowers is a highly versatile back that is more than just a lead-blocker. The 22-year-old recorded 886 receiving yards, averaging 16.4 yards per catch and 13 touchdowns at Oklahoma. The Jets utilize H-backs more than other NFL team which makes Flowers a good fit in New York’s system. His main competition will be incumbent Lawrence Thomas, who also displays versatility contributing on offense, defense, and special teams. But Flowers may have the edge over Thomas due to his receiving capabilities on offense. Look for the competition between both players to be close as training camp and preseason progress.
MIAMI DOLPHINS: Jalen Davis, Cornerback, Utah State: Davis is looking to be the latest player to prove that size doesn’t matter in the NFL. At 5’9, 185 pounds, Davis was a four-year starter for The Aggies and registered some impressive numbers. He recorded 123 tackles (58 tackles for loss) eleven interceptions and eight sacks during his college career. Despite his impressive stats, Davis did not receive a combine invite. But he shined at his pro day. The 22-year-old posted 4.4 speed along with a 36-inch vertical and ten-foot broad jump. Size will limit Davis to nickel duties and should put him in direct competition with fellow cornerback Bobby McCain. Last season, six undrafted players made Miami’s final roster. Davis can add his name to this years list if he turns in a solid preseason.
Thanks for Reading
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.
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