The NFL Draft is now about a week in the books, and we’ve had some time to digest the results. Whether we came away happy with our team’s draft haul and prematurely proclaim them Super Bowl champions for 2018, or we’re frustrated that our team traded up one spot for a QB, the draft process didn’t end there.
Like many of you involved with #DraftTwitter, I caught myself time and time again saying to myself, “How is this guy still on the board?!” Well, one reason for that could be the fact that the 2017 NFL Draft class was one of the deepest in recent memory, quality talent was bound to slide outside the draft board. In this year’s class alone, I had four players in my top 100 go undrafted, with another handful inside my top 200 see the same result.
If your favorite team did their homework and due diligence throughout the draft process, they were quick to pick up the phones and start calling these undrafted prospects as they were aware of the talent which was now up for grabs. While every prospect wants to get drafted, there is a benefit if not. Once the draft commences, it is now on them to choose where they want to play, rather than being forced to play in the cold Windy City or perhaps the unappealing venue of East Rutherford, New Jersey. For them, it’s basically like a college recruiting process all over again, but they don’t have a year or two to make a decision, more like minutes to an hour.
In what is likely to be my last 2017 NFL Draft piece, below I have compiled my top 20 undrafted free agents. For the most part, I based it off my big board, but I also took team fit into consideration, along with the likeliness that player is to see the field within the next couple of seasons and what role they will play.
When lined up in the slot, Kent State CB Najee Murray allowed a 37.8 QB rating, best of all FBS cornerbacks.
20. Najee Murray (CB, Cleveland Browns)
As you see in the graphic above, Najee Murray was one of the best slot corners in the entire FBS last season as he allowed a minimal 37.8 QB rating when targeted out of the slot. The Kent State product was originally an Ohio State Buckeye and played 6 games in Columbus as a freshman until an injury sidelined him and ultimately forced him to transfer. Murray reportedly ran a 4.44 at his Pro Day, and has that prototypical size you look for in a slot corner. The Browns still have the reliable Joe Haden on the outside, and if they’re drafting of Howard Wilson in the 4th round pays off, he’ll be the compliment to Haden soon enough. Where does that leave an opening? In the slot for Najee Murray.
The Patriots have signed UDFA tight end Jacob Hollister, who earned one of the highest receiving grades among TEs in this draft class. pic.twitter.com/1xdYDuKP10 — PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) May 2, 2017
19. Jacob Hollister (TE, New England Patriots)
It was hard not to include all the Patriots’ undrafted signings on here, because you know one way or another they’re going to develop into quality players in the league. Half joking. I’ve started doing some early work on 2018 QBs, and while watching Josh Allen of Wyoming, Jacob Hollister doesn’t go away. By that I mean he makes big play after big play. A name I wasn’t familiar with until about a week or two before the draft, Hollister is an athletic, move tight end who should flourish in Bill Belichick’s scheme, as most TEs tend to do. This past season Hollister averaged a whopping 16.8 yards per catch with the Cowboys.
Undrafted?? My story just keeps getting better…
— Dylan Cole (@dylancole31) April 29, 2017
18. Dylan Cole (LB, Houston Texans)
A workout warrior in his own right, Dylan Cole gained national attention at his Pro Day after posting absurd numbers which included 32 reps on the bench press, a 39” vertical jump, along with a 4.52 40-yard dash and a good showcase in the agility drills. Cole has the monster production to match his superb athleticism. Following the tremendous performance, he busted onto the draft scene, and many thought he would be an eventual draft pick. As it turned out, Cole went undrafted, but he has a strong possibility of catching on with the Houston Texans as a depth linebacker and special teams contributor. On film, Cole displays a nose for the ball and should fit in nicely with the Houston Texans.
17. Jessamen Dunker (G, New York Giants)
We all knew coming into the draft that the biggest weakness for the New York Giants was the offensive line. While they did address that (not until the 6th round), an undrafted guy like Jessamen Dunker has a strong chance to break his way into their rotation. Dunker was one of the most highly touted non-FBS prospects in the entire draft class, and his play even warranted an invite to the Senior Bowl. A superb athlete, Dunker is still raw, but he offers more upside on the offensive line than what you’re used to seeing in the undrafted pool.
16. Ricky Seals-Jones (WR, Arizona Cardinals)
Many thought the Cardinals would address wide receiver fairly early with Larry Fitzgerald’s retirement looming, and both John Brown and Jaron Brown set to hit the free agent market. Ricky Seals-Jones was a coveted 5-star recruit upon committing to Texas A&M. He has that polarizing size at 6’5”/243, but his issue has always been he struggles to get open. With a little more refinement, Seals-Jones can turn into a serious weapon in Arizona. If Fitz and both Browns find their way out of Arizona following the season, he can creep his way up the depth chart.
15. Bryan Cox (EDGE, Carolina Panthers)
One of my favorite EDGE prospects in the entire draft class, I was shocked to see Bryan Cox Jr. go undrafted. Finding his way inside my top 250 list, Cox was a standout at the Shrine Game as he was forcing constant pressure on the opposing QBs. The Panthers are lacking youth at the defensive end slot, and even after drafting Daeshon Hall in the 3rd round, that remained. Both Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson are nearing the end of the line, so Cox would easily claim a depth role on this Panthers’ defense. Cox is a quality player who lacks premier athleticism, but does everything else good enough to warrant a future spot in the rotation, if not in year one.
14. Jadar Johnson (S, New York Giants)
The 2nd New York Giant to appear on this list, Jadar Johnson was inexperienced at Clemson, but looked good enough during his one year as the starter to warrant a late round draft selection. To New York’s pleasure, he went undrafted and now provides them with some competition for Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams at the free safety position. Johnson was the 217th ranked player on my big board, based on his upside. He’s got size, length, speed, instincts and ball skills. I’d be surprised if he didn’t make the Giants final 53 man roster.
13. Connor Harris (LB, New York Jets)
Finding himself just outside my top 200 prospects as I had him slated at 201, Connor Harris is a hard-nosed linebacker who brings production and physicality to the next level. The Jets picked up a pair of tone setters in their secondary with their first two draft picks in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, they added that same type of player with the addition of Connor Harris. Harris adds much needed depth to a thing ILB unit.
2 linebackers that should be off the board by now- Connor Harris & Ben Boulware. No excuse for overlooking either
— Shaun (@FCSScout) April 29, 2017
12. Ben Boulware (LB, Carolina Panthers)
As we all know, the Clemson Tigers upset the Alabama Crimson Tide in this past season’s National Championship game. While Deshaun Watson gets most of the credit, Ben Boulware warrants some as well. What do you want in the middle of your defense? Leadership and toughness, which is exactly what Boulware provides. He has all the intangibles you look for in an NFL linebacker. There’s no doubt in my mind he will find his way onto Carolina’s roster and serve as a reliable depth guy, and eventual fan favorite. The 172nd ranked prospect on my big board.
The Jaguars have reportedly signed Utah edge defender Hunter Dimick. His overall grade of 90.6 ranked first among Pac-12 edge defenders. pic.twitter.com/UjxIwQf2RK — PFF College Football (@PFF_College) April 30, 2017
11. Hunter Dimick (EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars)
Even though the Jaguars drafted pass rusher Dawuane Smoot in the 3rd round, I had Hunter Dimick not too far behind him in my EDGE rankings. Dimick isn’t the most physically talented of pass rushers, but he has a non-stop motor and his effort is never lacking. His sack production at Utah is beyond impressive. Dimick can be a persistent pass rusher inside the rotation who will wear out opposing tackles.
— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValencia_WiB) January 30, 2017
10. Lorenzo Jerome (S, San Francisco 49ers)
The San Francisco 49ers had themselves a solid draft, and then continued to build on that by bringing in quality talent from the undrafted pool. Lorenzo Jerome was the 164th prospect on my big board and built quite the case for himself after proving himself as a turnover machine in the Senior Bowl where he forced a fumble and picked off two passes. Jerome comes from a poor level of competition, but if he can adjust to the NFL’s game speed, there’s no doubt the 49ers have themselves a starting caliber free safety. Jerome has the instincts and ballhawk mentality to be a coveted piece in San Francisco’s secondary.
Louisville UDFA DI DeAngelo Brown has reportedly joined the Titans. His pass-rush productivity of 6.2 in 2015 was T-11th best of ACC DTs. pic.twitter.com/faYLzY5etM
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 30, 2017
9. DeAngelo Brown (DL, Tennessee Titans) I wasn’t quite familiar with DeAngelo Brown, until the Senior Bowl where he impressed in one-on-one pass rush drills. Brown is a big bodied nose tackle on the interior who can clog running lanes. He plays with good pad level and power at the point of attack and will be a complimentary player on running downs, if he can manage to stick on Tennessee’s roster, which won’t be an easy task as they are loaded with defensive line depth. <blockquoteclass=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”> My highest graded undrafted player was Tyler Orlosky. 95th on my board. Has efficient footwork and impressive upper body strength. — Ethan Young (@NFLDrafter) April 29, 2017
8. Tyler Orlosky (C, Philadelphia Eagles)
In what shaped up to be one of the worst offensive line classes in recent memory, I was shocked to see Tyler Orlosky go undrafted. This was a guy who I had ranked as the 3rd best center in the draft, and actually commonly mocked to the Philadelphia Eagles. Orlosky is a starting caliber center, and will be sure to compete for the job with aging veteran Jason Kelce, who has shown clear signs of regression over the past couple of seasons. Orlosky was a team captain at West Virginia and should be able to compensate for Kelce’s lost leadership as the anchor of the offensive line.
7. Aarion Penton (CB, Los Angeles Rams)
One of my favorite players from the Senior Bowl, Aarion Penton has the skillset to be a decent slot corner in the NFL, although his height and lack of length may hold him back. Still, the Rams have proven to not look at those physical features as LaMarcus Joyner is a guy who has had success playing in that secondary. While they signed Nickel Robey-Coleman to play in the nickel, Penton is a guy who could sit on the practice squad for a year, or even add depth to the corner position before taking over that starting role which is attainable.
6. Paul Magloire (LB/S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
If you watched his tape, or even just tuned into the Shrine Game, you would’ve noticed Paul Magloire real quick. The Arizona Wildcat and former Appalachian State transfer has a true nose for the ball which shows up on film. He’s where he needs to be, and gets there in a hurry. A top 150 prospect on my board, Magloire’s versatility is what makes him even more special as a prospect. The Buccaneers have a guy who can contribute in the LB corps, and also play some safety if need be. He fits the mold of that LB/S tweener which has revolutionized the game over the past few years.
5. Kyle Kalis (G, Washington Redskins)
In my mind, one of the most overlooked prospects in the #DraftTwitter community. Kyle Kalis is an experienced starter coming out of Michigan, and doesn’t possess any major blemishes to his game. A reliable, sturdy presence on the interior, Kalis plays with sound technique and advanced fundamentals. With both guard spots locked down in Washington, he can be a nice depth piece and perhaps eventually take over for Shawn Lauvao at that left guard spot. If he doesn’t make it, however, look for Kalis to pursue a career in the WWE. He was my 8th ranked guard prospect in this year’s NFL Draft.
4. Ishmael Zamora (WR, Oakland Raiders)
It wasn’t a huge shock to see Ishmael Zamora go undrafted after seeing his animal abuse video go viral. With that aside, Zamora’s talent and upside surely warranted a draft selection. I actually mocked Zamora to the Raiders in my 7 round mock draft as he serves a perfect fit in Oakland. After Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, the Raiders don’t have much depth in the WR corps. Zamora has tons of upside and fits that X receiver role due to his physical and athletic traits. If he pans out, this Oakland offense will be scary. My 96th overall prospect.
3. Jeremy Cutrer (CB/S, Jacksonville Jaguars)
One of my draft crushes of this year’s draft class, I was disappointed to see Jeremy Cutrer go undrafted. If you want a treat, watch Cutrer’s tape against Alabama in 2015. Cutrer is listed at corner, but I think he projects much better at the safety position. A tall, lanky presence out of the secondary, Cutrer is a physical thumper with great instincts. While he does need to add some weight as he is noticeably thin on the field, Cutrer could find himself developing into a focal point of Jacksonville’s secondary along with Jalen Ramsey. Cutrer was ranked 93rd on my big board.
UDFA! You woke up something that’s not human! Thank you 🏽 — jojo mathis (@joe_sahil_IV) April 30, 2017
2. Joe Mathis (EDGE, Houston Texans)
The foot injury must be extremely concerning, otherwise there’s no way this guy goes undrafted. Had he stayed healthy during the 2016 season, Joe Mathis is a Day 2 pick. Mathis plays with an edge and offers a balanced skillset as he is a stout run defender, but also a fierce pass rusher. While he doesn’t possesses premier athleticism, he makes up for it with his relentlessness. If he can get 100% healthy, Mathis provides a tremendous rotational pass rusher on a defense which already features the likes of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Mathis ranked 62nd on my big board.
Thankful for not being drafted cause now imma make y’all feel my pain — KD CANNON (@IAmTheOne_9) April 30, 2017
1. K.D. Cannon (WR, San Francisco 49ers)
After a fairly impressive draft haul, the 49ers continued to win Draft weekend with their UDFA signings. K.D. Cannon was my highest ranked player to go undrafted as he was 54th on my big board, and also a top 5 WR in this class. While Cannon is a major projection at the next level as Baylor wide receivers tend to enter the league unpolished, he has legitimate deep speed and can develop into one of the league’s premier deep threats. In such a depleted WR the 49ers currently have, it would be no surprise to me Cannon finished the season as their #2 WR.