Championship teams are made on day three of the NFL draft and during the UDFA signing process. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. Most fans have already counted out these players but I took the time to dive in and discuss my favorite prospect that your favorite NFC team has signed. This was a deep NFL Draft and some fans will be pleasantly surprised with the UDFA’s their team has elected to bring in.
Arizona Cardinals: Lucas Crowley, C, North Carolina
Lucas Crowley is someone that really stood out to me early in the NFL Draft process. I had tuned in to an early season Tar Heels game and Crowley was blowing the Illinois interior defensive lineman right off the ball. Crowley is really quick off the ball and flashes above average hand technique. Crowley should be able to compete for the backup center role behind Cardinals’ starter, A.Q. Shipley.
Prediction: Lucas Crowley doesn’t quite make the final 53 but shows enough to stick on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad as he continues to develop.
The Falcons have signed UDFA offensive tackle Andreas Knappe, who was one of the most-improved college OTs from 2015 to 2016. pic.twitter.com/PDrs4mPK54
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 7, 2017
Atlanta Falcons: Andreas Knappe, OT, UCONN
Andreas Knappe is a mountain of a man at 6’8” and 325 pounds. Knappe flashes above average quickness and heavy pop within his hand usage. Knappe will turn 26 in June but didn’t start playing the game of football until the age of 18. I think Knappe could develop into a swing tackle due to his size, athleticism and intelligence. The size and athleticism should be enough to catch the eyes of the Falcons coaching staff and should allow Knappe to stick on the Falcons practice squad.
Prediction: Andreas Knappe lands on the practice squad with the potential to develop into a key offensive line depth piece.
Carolina Panthers: Bryan Cox Jr, EDGE, Florida
It’s no secret that the Panthers need to upgrade their pass rush, and Bryan Cox Jr. can help with just that. Cox possesses an explosive first step and plays with the explosive attitude that had coaches salivating over him as he slipped into the UDFA pool. Cox Jr. is the son of coach Bryan Cox, who was also a three-time pro bowl linebacker during his time in the NFL. Cox has the bloodlines, motor, and athletic ability to stick on the back end of this 53 man roster.
Prediction: Bryan Cox Jr. ends up beating out guys like; Ryan Delaire, Wes Horton and Larry Webster to secure a situational pass rushing role.
— MonsterOfTheTriState (@SCAR_179NY) May 2, 2017
Chicago Bears: Rashaad Coward, NT, Old Dominion
Rashaad Coward is a tough and powerful two gapping defensive lineman. Coward really took the NFL by storm after blowing up at his pro-day workout. Coward weighed in at over 320 pounds and ran a 5.17 forty. Coward is stout against the run and two-gapping nose tackles aren’t that easy to find, especially in free agency. With Eddie Goldman on the roster and the recent signing of Jaye Howard, Coward definitely has his work cut out for him to make this Bears roster.
Prediction: I think that Rashaad Coward will show enough versatility as a two-gapping defender to beat out a couple guys on this roster. Coward could be a pleasant surprise for Bears fans as a rotational depth piece.
Dallas Cowboys: Lewis Neal, DL, LSU
Lewis Neal isn’t going to blow you away with his athletic profile, but he plays team orientated ball and has a non-stop motor. Neal is strictly a gap-shooting defensive lineman and that’s what makes this fit with Rod Marinelli so intriguing. Neal receives a ton of praise for his work ethic on and off the field – this is exactly what you look for in your UDFA’s. Teams want motivated, hard working individuals that will push the guys in front of them.
Prediction: The Cowboys don’t have a defensive line filled with Pro Bowlers, but they either have money invested in the guys or spent a draft pick on them. This will make it difficult for Lewis Neal, who has limited upside, to crack their final 53-man roster. Neal will find a spot on someone else’s roster or stick on the Cowboys practice squad.
My chart from the Des Lawrence piece yesterday. He could add needed depth on the boundary. pic.twitter.com/cEzJ5YARmI
— Brett Whitefield (@BrettWhitefield) May 8, 2017
Detroit Lions: Des Lawrence, CB, North Carolina
Des Lawrence is a long corner who has showed ability to get in the face of opposing wide receivers. I view Lawrence as a zone corner with limited upside due to his shaky athletic profile. Lawrence flashes route recognition skills and reactionary instincts that could be appealing to defense that runs a zone-heavy scheme. The Lions aren’t set at corner by any means, but they do have five guys that I believe will end up on the finals roster including 2017 draft pick, Teez Tabor. This will make it extremely difficult for Lawrence to stick on the Detroit Lions final roster.
Prediction: It could come down to the final cuts for Des Lawrence, but I think he ultimately ends up having to pack his bags and find a new team.
Green Bay Packers: Johnathan Calvin, EDGE, Mississippi State
Johnathan Calvin just plays like I envision a Green Bay Packer to play. He’s instinctive with his hand in the dirt and has a quick get off that mitigates some of his athletic deficiencies. Calvin plays with physical and heavy hands and it sounds like a car crash at the point of attack. Calvin wasn’t that productive in college and I don’t expect him to be productive in the NFL. However, the effort and physicality may stick out to the Packers coaching staff.
Prediction: I think Johnathan Calvin would have to beat out guys that the team actually has something invested in. The odds are definitely against Calvin, but like I said, he kind of looks like a Green Bay Packer.
UDFA cornerback Aarion Penton has signed with the Rams.
His 2016 grade was on par with some of the top CBs drafted last week. pic.twitter.com/nFgokHre31
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 6, 2017
Los Angeles Rams: Aarion Penton, CB, Missouri
Aarion Penton is extremely fun to watch due to his ball skills and physicality despite being under 180 pounds. Penton has the speed and physicality to contribute on special teams and that will only help his case for the final 53-man roster. The only problem I have with this fit is that the Rams already have similar players in E.J. Gaines and Lamarcus Joyner. Will Wade Phillips want a bunch of defensive backs under 5’10 on the football field at the same time?
Prediction: The Rams need help at corner and they refused to spend draft capital on that position. Penton sneaks onto the roster and provides an impact as a sub-package defensive back.
— Kevin Brown (@nfldraftnik) May 10, 2017
Minnesota Vikings: Aviante Collins, OL, TCU
One of my favorite fits and UDFA signings definitely belongs to Aviante Collins and the Minnesota Vikings. The bloodlines, athleticism and versatility are all there for Collins. Collins has experience at both tackle positions and projects nicely to the inside due to his athleticism and balance which allows him to stay on top of all his blocks. I think Aviante Collins is good enough to beat out 2016 draft pick Willie Beavers.
Prediction: Aviante Collins will beat out Willie Beavers for a 53 man roster spot and will even make the travel squad due to his versatility. Excellent signing by the Minnesota Vikings.
New Orleans Saints: Cameron Tom, C, Southern Mississippi
Cameron Tom joined the Saints after starting three years at Southern Mississippi. Tom has a good punch and typically gets leverage in his block attempts. What jumps out on tape, however, is his lack of quickness off the snap. If you want to be a quality center in today’s game, you need to be quick to engage your man off the snap. Still, Tom has the experience and skillset to be an effective run blocker and depth guy at the next level.
Prediction: With Max Unger’s foot injury, that may create an opening for Tom. Although, the Saints still have seasoned vet Senio Kelemente as a versatile depth piece, along with Jack Allen who signed with the team last year as an UDFA. Best case scenario for Tom, he beats out Allen and earns a depth roster spot. Most likely, he’ll end up cut or perhaps on the team’s practice squad.
New York Giants: Chad Wheeler, OT, USC
The Giants offensive line is so bad and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Chad Wheeler start for this team at some point this season. Wheeler had an awful athletic profile and some off-field issues working against him, but he probably should’ve been drafted somewhere on day three. He’s got experience at multiple positions and will probably spend most of his time at the offensive guard position.
Prediction: If Chad Wheeler ends up starting over Bobby Hart at some point this season I’ll be the least bit surprised. However, I think the plan will be to get Wheeler reps at either center or guard and he will have the opportunity to make the roster as an interior offensive line depth piece.
Philadelphia Eagles: Tyler Orlosky, C, WVU
Tyler Orlosky was one of the more interesting players who fell into the undrafted category. Orlovsky was my third ranked center with an early day three grade and I expected him to get drafted even earlier than that. Orlosky was a team captain and is an absolute workhorse in the weight room, according to a couple different WVU football sources. He doesn’t move well laterally and is probably limited to the center position, but I thought of Orlosky as a reliable starting center and even more so as a backup.
Prediction: The Eagles actually have a solid offensive line when Lane Johnson is in there. The interior is filled with depth, starting with Allen Barbre and Brandon Brooks. The Eagles also have Jason Kelce, Stefan Wisniewski handling the center positions with Chance Warmack and Isaac Seumalo as serviceable depth pieces. This will make it extremely difficult for Orlosky to make this roster, but there is a need for reliable backup centers in the NFL and he will find a spot somewhere.
— Al Sacco (@AlSacco49) May 7, 2017
San Francisco 49ers: Cole Hikutini, TE, Lousiville
This spot was reserved for K.D. Cannon but he was shockingly cut after two days of rookie mini-camp. Hikutini is a player I was much higher on than most and was extremely surprised to watch him go undrafted. Hikutini has the size, athletic profile and natural receiving ability to cause a headache for opposing defenses. The 49ers are loaded at tight end and its not necessarily because of talent. Vance McDonald is a below average tight end with significant money tied into his contract. The 49ers also spent a pick on George Kittle and have Garrett Celek and Blake Bell as depth pieces. Not to mention a Kyle Shanahan favorite, Logan Paulsen.
Prediction: Cole Hikutini has his work cut out for him and I don’t think he makes this roster despite the need for receiving threats. Hikutini either catches onto the practice squad or another 53 man roster but you have to feel pretty good about the upside that comes with this UDFA signing.
Seattle Seahawks: Tyrone Swoopes, TE, Texas
The Seahawks have a somewhat underwhelming UDFA group. Swoopes is converting over from quarterback and the Seahawks love those type of players. Swoopes profiles nicely as a tight end and I think he has the potential to eventually develop into and NFL caliber receiver somewhere down the road.
Prediction: I expect Swoopes to stick on the Seahawks practice squad.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Paul Magloire, LB, Arizona
Paul Magloire is an interesting prospect who has experience at both safety and linebacker. Magloire has the speed and nose for the football allowing him to make plays in the open field from the linebacker position. The instincts, motor and work-ethic of Magloire should allow him to compete on special teams and make this 53-man roster.
Prediction: Magloire becomes a special teams standout in the pre-season and makes the roster as a back up WILL linebacker.
— FOX Sports Radio1340 (@1340AMFOXSports) May 1, 2017
Washington Redskins: Fish Smithson, S, Kansas
Fish Smithson was one of the more underrated prospects coming into the 2017 NFL Draft. Smithson possesses elite instincts and was fairly productive with a weak supporting cast. Anytime you throw on the Kansas tape, Smithson immediately stands out as not only one of the best players on the Jayhawks, but one of the best players on the field. Smithson went undrafted due to his small frame and average athleticism. However, his above average instincts and leadership should allow him to stick on the Redskins who desperately need a single high free safety.
Prediction: Fish Smithson has a huge preseason to beat out Washington Redskins veteran Will Blackmon.