Every year there’s a decent crop of players who are not amongst the 250 or so drafted overall. Players such as Malcolm Butler, Michael Bennett, Chris Harris and James Harrison all started their careers as undrafted rookies. With that being said, I went through my board recently and found the top twenty players that went undrafted and tried to give some background and explanation to them overall.

1. Lorenzo Jerome, St. Francis (#6 FS, #70 overall) San Francisco 49ers

St. Francis is a very small school passed out of Loretto, Pennsylvania that hasn’t had a player suit up in the NFL since 1952. The Red Flashes made the FCS playoffs for the first time during the 2016 season, losing in the first round to Villanova, 31-21. A bright spot for the otherwise unnoteworthy program was safety Lorenzo Jerome, who helped earn himself a spot in the draft conversation with a great week of practice and two interceptions in the NFLPA Collegiate Game, warranting a late promotion to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Despite playing at a low-level FCS school, Jerome had a very nice week in practice and another two interceptions in the game.  On tape, Jerome has great range, closing speed and ball skills, as well as awareness and timing in space. Due to below-average athletic testing at the NFL Combine and a small frame at 5’10” and 204 pounds likely caused Jerome to slip in the draft, but the 49ers got a steal as an undrafted free agent in Jerome.

2. Steven Taylor, Houston (#2 4-3 OLB, #78 overall) Remains Unsigned

Houston’s Steven Taylor was an uber-productive player during his time with the Cougars, totaling 178 tackles, 50 tackles for loss and 25.5 sacks in 45 career starts as a four-year starter. Entering the 2016 season, Taylor was on the Lombardi, Nagurski, and Butkus Award watch lists, and put up another great season of numbers. As a rush linebacker with great blitz potential and the versatility of having played defensive end and outside/inside linebacker while in college, I thought Taylor could do very well as a player who comes in during dime packages and obvious passing downs as a weakside linebacker.

However, reports have said that Taylor remains unsigned due to lingering off field and injury issues from his time in college. An NFL team that is willing to give Taylor a chance could end up getting a productive and versatile player.

3. Cole Hikutini, Louisville (#5 TE, #90 overall) San Francisco 49ers

Louisville’s Cole Hikutini spent three years as a junior college player before getting his shot at a Division I program. Hikutini initially spent two years at FCS school Sacramento State, but then transferred to JUCO City College of San Francisco, where he spent a season. Hikutini then got his big chance and went to Louisville, where he was a reliable threat for the Cardinals for two seasons.

I was much higher on Hikutini as a primary blocker and #2 tight end at the next level than most, but due to an injury in his final college game, Hikutini was unable to perform athletic drills which dropped him down and even off many boards. The Louisville offensive line was largely inconsistent this past season and Hikutini served as a primary blocker and receiver for Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. His awareness in space, footwork, and hand placement are all refined and make up his blocking technique. Hikutini sets the edge well and can open up lanes by driving defenders back and away from the runner. He also adjusts well for the football and can be used as a jump ball threat with a good ability to bring the ball in to his body with his catch radius and to high point the football.

The 49ers signed Vance McDonald to a 5-year, $35 million-dollar contract in December, but have been open about trying to trade him during the NFL Draft, so the 49ers could have found a cheap, reliable starter as an undrafted rookie in Hikutini.

4. KD Cannon, Baylor (#13 WR, #102 overall)  San Francisco 49ers

Baylor receiver KD Cannon has had a productive college career as a three-year starter, totaling 3,113 yards and 27 touchdowns in that span. Cannon is one of the better speed and deep threats in this draft with 43 catches of 20+ yards in his college career to go along with a 4.41 forty-yard dash and a 37” vertical jump at the NFL Combine. Cannon struggled with drops throughout his college career and due to the fact that Baylor has their receivers run only six of the nine primary routes that NFL teams rely on, Cannon saw a slip in the NFL Draft. However, at 21 years old with plenty of room to grow into a #2 receiver, Cannon landed in a great position to be able to do so with the 49ers.

Note: As I was submitting this to be edited and then published, Cannon was cut by the 49ers. There is likely a work ethic or off field issue that the team didn’t know about initially, as Cannon made it a week on the team despite a hefty signing bonus for an undrafted free agent.

5. Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia (#8 IOL, #105 overall) Philadelphia Eagles

West Virginia center Tyler Orlosky was a consistent player during his college career as a three-year starter for the Mountaineers, eventually playing every snap for the team in 2016. Orlosky has very strong movement skills and enters the NFL with above-average pass protection skills.

Orlosky is 24, however, and nearly lost West Virginia a game against Maryland in 2016 due to a botched snap. Overall, with Jason Kelce’s departure from the team an imminent possibility in the next few seasons, Orlosky continues the West Virginia to Philadelphia pipeline.

6. Carroll Phillips, Illinois (#15 EDGE, #125 overall) Jacksonville Jaguars

Illinois pass rusher Carroll Phillips was overshadowed during his college career by teammate Dawuane Smoot, but in hindsight was able to put up very similar numbers in a lesser role that had him dropping back into coverage in 2016 in new head coach Lovie Smith’s new scheme.

Phillips is a twitched-up athlete with elite first step quickness and burst and with a hard–to–stop speed rush and bend around the edge. However, Phillips is 24 and struggles at times to get off of blocks. Phillips also had a fusion in his neck due to a bulging disk that shortened his 2016 season and failed medicals for what has been reported as most teams.

Jacksonville is not an ideal fit for Phillips, as he will succeed as a stand-up 3-4 OLB and the Jaguars are transitioning into a 4-3. This isn’t mentioning the loaded defensive line in Jacksonville, which will likely knock Phillips off the roster.

7. Joe Mathis, Washington (#16 EDGE, #126 overall) Houston Texans

Washington’s Joe Mathis was having a very productive start to the 2016 season before it was cut short due to a foot injury after six games. Mathis had an injury-plagued college career that had him stuck on the bench due to inconsistencies in his overall game for several years, so having his season ended prematurely limited his chances to put positive tape out there for teams.

Mathis offers nice bend and a variety of moves off the edge but his injuries and leaving the Huskies early despite reportedly being healthy for the College Football Playoff irked decision makers at the next level. Reports said that Mathis was off of more than half of the boards in the league due to these concerns, and caused him to go undrafted. With a team that is as good at developing pass rushers as the Texans, however, Mathis should be able to carve out a role.

8. Jeremy Cutrer, MTSU (#17 CB, #131 overall) Jacksonville Jaguars

Middle Tennessee State corner Jeremy Cutrer is a feel-good story who had a winding path to arrive where he is today. Cutrer was 11 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and has beat the odds, turning the images of dead bodies and violent waters into motivation to further himself as a person and as a player.

Cutrer was a four-star recruit coming out of high school committed to LSU, but was unable to join the team due to academic issues. Cutrer began his career at Mississippi Gulf Coast (JUCO) and worked his way up to MTSU. As an overall prospect, Cutrer has versatility and ideal height at 6’2” for the NFL. He will do tremendously well in Cover 3 looks and has great recovery speed and ball skills.

Cutrer likely went undrafted due to the fact that he weighed in at 168 pounds at his Pro Day, but has openly admitted that after the events of Katrina and eating so little for so long, he has had to change his mental perception in order to bulk up. However, he is now over 180 pounds and should not have any issues in that category.

9. Najee Murray, Kent State (#20 CB, #134 overall) Cleveland Browns

Kent State corner Najee Murray was essentially the best nickel in all of college football in 2016. Murray was originally an Ohio State Buckeye, but suffered a torn ACL that ended his freshman season after six games and was dismissed from the football program after an indefinite suspension the following August.

Once with the Golden Flashes, Murray flashed tons of potential as a two-year starter, making the First Team All–MAC as a senior with 47 tackles, 14 pass breakups, and two interceptions. Per Pro Football Focus, Murray also allowed a 37.8 passer rating when targeted as a senior, tops amongst FBS corners. Due to the concerns that came up at Ohio State and the fact that Murray is undersized at 5’9” and 183 pounds, Murray went undrafted, but now has a good chance to grow into a nickel and special teams role for the Browns.

10. Damore’ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss (#20 WR, #140 overall) Miami Dolphins

Ole Miss receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow was a highly-touted Washington Husky before a 2014 incident following the Super Bowl in which he assaulted two Seahawks fans on campus which had him kicked off the team. Stringfellow initially committed to Nebraska as a transfer, but later flipped to the Rebels.

Stringfellow was a productive player during his two seasons for Ole Miss, totaling 1,219 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in a loaded Rebels receiving group. Stringfellow is an elite possession receiver, capable of making contested catches and contorting his body extremely well. He also offers nuance as a route runner and nice hip and ankle flexion to create and maintain separation.

Due to the off-field concerns from his days at U-Dub, Stringfellow went undrafted but the Dolphins, with Jarvis Landry as an impending free agent, helped their receiver depth in this draft with Stringfellow and Isaiah Ford. If Landry’s price tag grows too big for the team, a committee of Kenny Stills, Devante Parker, Leonte Caroo, Ford and Stringfellow offers high upside in a vertical passing attack. Stringfellow would have been my #7 ranked receiver based purely on tape and offers up high upside and room to grow from this point on.

11. Travis Rudolph, Florida State (#21 WR, #141 overall) New York Giants

FSU receiver Travis Rudolph has been a three-year starter for the Seminoles, totaling 2,311 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in his career. Rudolph was inconsistent overall during his time with Florida State, often emerging as the top target the team needed but at other times falling into the background.

On tape, Rudolph is surprisingly very good at creating yards after the catch and does well in contested catch situations. However, Rudolph is undersized to be a boundary receiver at 5’11” and 189 pounds but also is fairly slow for the position, running a 4.68 forty-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Rudolph also struggled with his catching technique and concentration drops during his time in college. Rudolph is well-documented as a stand-up guy who would be welcome in any NFL locker room and can offer depth upside for a team like the Giants.

12. Andreas Knappe, Connecticut (#7 OT, #143 overall) Atlanta Falcons

UConn’s Andreas Knappe didn’t start playing football in Denmark until he was 18. He later caught on at some American football camps and was able to make the Huskies’ roster, becoming a three-year starter with 32 career starts.

Knappe is a behemoth at 6’8” and 325 pounds, but doesn’t struggle with leverage issues like some of the other large linemen in this class. Knappe is a physical blocker who excels in the run game and forces pass rushers to the outside often. In pass protection, Knappe’s hand placement and strength are evident, and for his size he excels at getting to the second level to free up running lanes.

Knappe likely went undrafted due to the fact that by the time his rookie season starts he will be 26, but as a jumbo package player and someone who can be a starter at right tackle in his second or third year. Knappe is a steal for the Falcons.

13. Aviante Collins, TCU (#12 IOL, #146 overall) Minnesota Vikings

TCU’s Aviante Collins had an up and down college career. Collins entered the Horned Frogs program as a three-star recruit, but saw significant reps as a freshman, starting ten games at right tackle and three at left tackle. As a sophomore, he saw less playing time, but started six games at right tackle and three at left tackle. As a junior in 2014, Collins saw a significant drop in even game action, only suiting up eight times during the season and starting one game as an injury replacement at left tackle. Collins played in the first three games of the 2015 season before being shut down due to injury. Collins received a medical redshirt and was able to make a comeback for his final season in college, starting all 13 games at right tackle.

The first thing you notice from Collins on tape is his athleticism and joint movement. Due to the fact that he’s 6’4” and a tad undersized, Collins’ ability to react first off the snap and shift his weight and center of balance so quickly is something he’s learned to adapt with. As a whole, Collins can become a nice sixth lineman that you use to open up holes at the second level and is more likely to succeed at right guard than right tackle at the next level.

14. Jarron Jones, Notre Dame (#14 IDL, #149 overall) New York Giants

Notre Dame nose tackle Jarron Jones made headlines this past fall when he dominated Miami’s interior offensive line, racking up six tackles for loss in a Fighting Irish victory. Jones was limited by injuries during his college career, as a foot injury prematurely ended his 2014 season and the following Spring suffered a torn MCL that kept him out for all of the regular season. Jones, however, was able to return in 2016 and have a bounce back year.

Despite only starting six games, Jones played in all 12 and totaled 45 tackles, 11 tackles for loss (over half coming in the monster performance in the Miami game) with two sacks and blocked kicks as well. Jones was more projection than a product and may have been taken off of some boards due to medical issues, but can be a nice rotational player for the Giants.

15. Paul Magloire, Arizona (#7 4-3 OLB, #152 overall) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Arizona linebacker Paul Magloire had a winding road to get to the NFL. Magloire originally signed with Appalachian State in 2012 as a quarterback and couldn’t catch on, so he moved to running back. After not being able to stick, he transferred to Arizona Western (JUCO) and played safety for a season. Magloire then transferred to Arizona, where he played linebacker for two seasons. He was the leader of the Wildcats defense in 2016, totaling 81 tackles and 5.5 TFLs, up from 72 tackles and 4 TFLs in 2015.

Magloire is instinctive and shoots gaps well, even if he isn’t fully developed as a tackler yet. Magloire likely boosted his stock the most amongst defensive players at the Shrine Game in January, where he showed versatility and a nose for the football along with a very nice game to cap it off. Magloire likely went undrafted due to the fact that he’s 24 but is a stand up, high-character player with room to grow from here.

16. Devonte’ Fields, Louisville (#19 EDGE, #161 overall) Remains Unsigned

Louisville’s Devonte’ Fields was once a projected first round pick following his freshman season at TCU, in which he totaled 10 sacks and 18.5 TFLs, earning the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and first-team all-conference accolades. Things went downhill from there, as Fields only played in three games during his sophomore season due to a foot injury and was suspended for an additional two. Fields was also robbed and shot near his apartment. The incident that had him kicked off of TCU’s football team was one where he pointed a gun at his ex-girlfriend, yelling “I should blast you!” and punched her in the head. From there, Fields transferred to Trinity Valley Community College for a season, from which Louisville took a chance on Fields’ talents.

Fields had a productive 2015 season, totaling 11 sacks and 22.5 TFLs, returning to the form that had him amongst the best in the nation as a freshman. In 2016, his production dipped to 6 sacks and 9 TFLs, but he was named first-team all-conference nonetheless.

On tape, Fields wins with an elite first step and bend around the edge, where he wins with almost exclusively speed. Due to the fact that Fields doesn’t have a variety of pass rush moves and has had documented off-field issues, he was likely taken off of most draft boards as a result. However, he should be able to grow into a nice rotational rusher for a franchise if signed.

17. Riley Bullough, Michigan State (#11 ILB, #162 overall) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Michigan State’s Riley Bullough was a leader of the defense for one of the best groups in the nation. He was voted as the team’s “Most Inspirational Player” his final two years of starting and comes from a rich bloodline of NFL talent, as grandfather Hank was a Spartan offensive lineman that went on to coach for the Green Bay Packers, uncle Chuck and father Shane each had over 300 tackles during their time in East Lansing, and brother Max, now with the Houston Texans, was a productive starter.

Bullough fits very well into the NFL archetype of a “roamer” at linebacker. Bullough does a good job of shoots gaps and understanding of the game and being able to be the leader of a defense. However, there were some inconsistencies to his tackling and tendencies that caused him to slip. Overall, Bullough can carve out a niche for special teams and in dime packages for an NFL team looking for a player who will put it all on the line for the team.

18. Channing Stribling, Michigan (#22 CB, #163 overall) Cleveland Browns

Michigan’s Channing Stribling was a two-sport athlete in high school, receiving Division I offers to play basketball, but decided to go to Ann Arbor instead. Stribling only had 40 tackles combined his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons, but finally got a starting chance in 2016: making the second-team All-Big Ten with 28 tackles and a team-leading 4 interceptions and 13 passes broken up.

Stribling fits in very well in a Cover 2–heavy scheme with his size and length. Stribling likely slipped down boards due to his poor athletic testing and his slow recovery speed, but he can become a nice depth option for a team like the Cleveland Browns.

19. Darreus Rogers, USC (#25 WR, #168 overall) Seattle Seahawks

USC receiver Darreus Rogers had an injury-plagued college career. After grayshirting, Rogers missed much of the spring practices in 2013 with shoulder and hamstring injuries. As a freshman, he missed three games with an ankle injury, but played in 11 games, catching 22 passes for 257 yards. He played in 13 games as a sophomore, starting three, this time catching 21 passes for 245 yards and 4 touchdowns. As a junior, Rogers continued to grow back into a large role with the Trojans, starting 11 games and catching 28 passes for 289 yards with 3 touchdowns. As a senior, Rogers finally showed off the skills that made him at one point a highly-touted recruit, finishing second on the team with 56 catches for 696 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Overall, Rogers’ career was inconsistent and up and down, but in 2016 his tape was on-par with second round draft pick Juju Smith-Schuster. Rogers is surprisingly tough and strong at the catch point while also being able to create separation off his breaks. Rogers likely went undrafted due to failed medicals, the fact that he is 24, and that his athletic testing was poor. He can likely become a quality depth player for an NFL team.

20. Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska (#26 WR, #169 overall) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp lead the Cornhuskers in receiving during his final three years in college and was a highlight reel machine. During his redshirt freshman season he played in every game, catching 20 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown. In 2014, he caught 44 passes for 747 yards and 5 touchdowns, winning ESPN’s College Football Play of the Year for a fantastic behind-the-back grab. As a junior, Westerkamp received second-team All-Big Ten accolades after setting a school record with 65 receptions for 918 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Westerkamp suffered a back injury that caused him to be limited in all but two of the team’s games, but he still caught 38 passes for 526 yards and 5 touchdowns. Westerkamp hurt his knee in practice before Nebraska’s bowl game and missed January’s East-West Shrine Game, so he was out of sight and out of mind for many evaluators. However, Westerkamp is, as I mentioned, a highlight-reel player who can run crisp routes out of the slot for an NFL team.

Five Other Names I Liked
1. Erik Magnuson, Michigan (#13 IOL, #171 overall) San Francisco 49ers
2. Cameron Tom, Southern Mississippi (#14 IOL, #172 overall) Los Angeles Rams
3. Kyle Kalis, Michigan (#15 IOL, #174 overall) Washington Redskins
4. Josh Tupou, Colorado (#18 IDL, #175 overall) Cincinnati Bengals
5. Roderick Henderson, Alabama State (#19 IDL, #176 overall) Tennessee Titans

About The Author Riley Auman

Riley is a geographically challenged Astros, Suns and Bucs fan. He's a high school student and soccer player who's been following the draft closely since 2012.