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UDFA Rookie Signings & Class Rankings: AFC (2023 Fantasy Football)

UDFA Rookie Signings & Class Rankings: AFC (2023 Fantasy Football)

I affectionately refer to the UDFA carousel – after the completion of the NFL Draft’s Day 3 on the last Saturday night of April – as the “Dessert draft.” In essence, the few hours immediately following the announcement of Mr. Irrelevant are where Rounds 8-20 take place at warp-speed behind closed doors.

This process has different rules than the draft, and it does not receive anywhere near the attention. But it is nonetheless crucially important for roster-building. Last season, undrafted free agents made up nearly one-fourth of the NFL’s Week 1 rosters.

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Historically, UDFA provide the NFL with more aggregate value and snaps-played than sixth- and seventh-round prospects combined. The list of UDFA Hall of Famers includes Kurt Warner, John Randle, Warren Moon and Dick “Night Train” Lane. Austin Ekeler, Adam Thielen, and La’el Collins are among a large list of UDFA-made-good stories currently in the NFL.

Earlier this week, we dropped our NFC UDFA class rankings. Today, let’s investigate how the AFC did in this year’s “Dessert Draft.”

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

UDFA Rookie Signings & Class Rankings

Note: Ranking in parenthesis indicates how each team’s UDFA class ranked overall in the NFL.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (4)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
169 LB13 Cam Jones Indiana Akeem Davis-Gaither 6011 226 5.6
205 CB29 Kahlef Hailassie Western Kentucky Nate Hairston 6004 193 6.54
258 LB25 Isaiah Moore NC State Kirk Morrison 6020 233 6.04
271 RB22 Deneric Prince Tulsa Bernard Pierce 5115 216 9.58
343 OT28 Quinton Barrow Grand Valley St. LaAdrian Waddle 6055 317 4.35
375 WR52 Nikko Remigio Fresno State Isaiah McKenzie 5090 187 4.89
377 CB49 Ekow Boye-Doe Kansas State Aaron Robinson 5115 177 7.36
378 ED43 Truman Jones Harvard Andre Mintze 6032 250 8.36
404 RB35 Aidan Borguet Harvard Jaylen Warren 5082 205 6.54
455 QB22 Todd Centeio James Madison Levi Lewis 5104 226 7.08
463 OT37 Anderson Hardy Appalachian State Jason Spriggs 6055 301 9.26
480 OL43 Jeremy Cooper Cincinnati Josh Beekman 6020 319 4.67
492 ED56 Jamal Hines Toledo Arthur Moats 6016 242 3.44
497 CB67 Reese Taylor Purdue Tye Hill 5094 188 7.97
498 OL45 Jerome Carvin Tennessee Stephen Peterman 6041 307 3.17
QB30 Connor Degenhardt New Haven Nick Fitzgerald 6052 227 8.05
WR84 Te’Vailance Hunt Arkansas State Ty Fryfogle 6007 203 7.58
WR127 Zane Pope Fresno State Kahlil Hill 6010 194 6.01
TE36 Jamal Turner Toledo Boo Williams 6046 239 2.62
TE49 Tyler Roberts Merrimack Blake Mack 6023 237 6.32
DL51 Caleb Thomas UL Monroe Al Lucas 6005 287 8.14
CB81 Anthony Witherstone Merrimack Chevis Jackson 5116 189 5.99
CB86 Anthony Cook Texas David Rivers 6001 188 5.65
S45 BJ Foster Sam Houston State Theo Jackson 6010 203 6.9

The Chiefs, a traditional power player in the UDFA sweepstakes, bounced back with another top-5 showing in this column after atypically sinking to No. 19 in last year’s rankings.

My favorite of KC’s signings was Indiana LB Cam Jones. The Chiefs gave Jones a $15,000 signing bonus and $135,000 in guaranteed base salary. Jones was a super-productive collegiate linebacker who lacks measureables – last year, he was averaging 10.8 tackles per game prior to suffering a season-ending foot injury in October.

Jones’ instincts and physical style, however, led to a boatload of tackles and a highlight-reel full of big hits on campus. If nothing else, he’s going to be a strong special-teamer. Prospects like this typically go in R5-R6, because teams know the special-teams utility, at minimum, is locked-in. Unfortunately not the case for Jones, who was on the kick and punt return teams all five seasons he spent in Bloomington.

I think Jones makes the Week 1 roster. But he’s going to have to out-perform LB Isaiah Moore, who I had as KC’s second-highest rated UDFA, in camp. Moore is a thumper who piled up 341 tackles at NC State.

I thought Tulsa RB Deneric Prince was getting drafted following the pre-draft-testing show he put on, which included a 4.41 forty and 9.58 RAS at 220 pounds. His hopes for making the Week 1 roster rest on beating out La’Mical Perine in camp and then hoping KC carries four RB.

Interestingly, OL Jerome Carvin is reuniting in KC with former Tennessee linemates OG Trey Smith and third-round rookie OT Wanya Morris. Those three spent the 2019-2020 seasons together in Knoxville.

The Chiefs also brought in two prospects from Harvard who were inside my pre-draft top-405 – EDGE Truman Jones got a contract, while RB Aidan Borguet has to try out for his.

Jones was a Second-Team FCS All-American last year who has an ideal NFL frame and 8.36 RAS athleticism. The 5-foot-9, 207-pound Borguet led the Ivy League in total yards last fall. But he’s a so-so athlete who wasn’t used as a receiver on campus – he’s going to have to crush his tryout to convince the Chiefs he’s worth bringing to camp amid an RB room that is already teeming with numbers.

Lastly, strange circumstances gave the Chiefs unexpected access to top-5 UDFA CB Kahlef Hailassie last week – roughly a week later than every other top UDFA signs. On the Saturday night post-Day 3, Hailassie was widely reported to have signed a contract that included a six-figure signing bonus with the Jets.

But for reasons that have not been reported, Hailassie never actually joined the Jets. New York never, at any point, added him to the official roster. Hailassie was present but helmet-less for the Chiefs’ first few rookie minicamp practices last weekend upon signing his contact with the Chiefs. What that indicates, in the context it occurred, is that a potential pre-existing injury may have been flagged during his Jets physical that scuttled the initial handshake agreement.

2. Miami Dolphins (8)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
215 CB30 Keidron Smith Kentucky Kamren Curl 6020 201 7.19
228 LB21 Aubrey Miller Jr. Jackson State Tyrel Dodson 5112 229 4.23
286 LB27 Zeke Vandenburgh Illinois State Courtland Bullard 6036 234 8.72
319 RB26 Christopher Brooks BYU Gus Edwards 6006 219 8.38
393 CB51 Ethan Bonner Stanford Kevon Seymour 6010 186 9.24
429 P3 Michael Turk Oklahoma Bryan Anger 6000 227
430 ED49 Garrett Nelson Nebraska Kenny Willekes 6032 248 7.07
464 S35 Bennett Williams Oregon Smoke Monday 6000 206 6.39
479 WR64 Daewood Davis Western Kentucky Quincy Morgan 6007 196 6.26
QB37 James Blackman Arkansas State Kyle Sloter 6052 189 6.43
TE27 Julian Hill Campbell Dalton Keene 6035 247 7.96
OL47 DJ Scaife Jr. Miami Isaac Sowells 6034 321 7.47
OL62 Alama Uluave San Diego State Jason Ball 6012 303 6.61
OT42 Alex Jensen South Dakota Lydon Murtha 6070 304
OT43 Jarrett Horst Michigan State Rashod Hill 6054 298 5.16
DL41 Brandon Pili USC Johnny Jolly 6027 316 3.59
DL53 Anthony Montalvo UCF Drake Nevis 6015 284 9.25
ED57 Mitchell Agude Miami Al-Quadin Muhammad 6037 242 7.09
ED63 Randy Charlton Mississippi St. LaDarius Hamilton 6027 265 2.54
S48 Latavious Brini Arkansas Quin Blanding 6015 211 4.72

The Dolphins only made four draft picks, a mere two of which came in the top-195. This allowed Miami to make a compelling pitch to NFL agents during the UDFA free-for-all that Week 1 roster spots were up for grabs. Just like last year.

In 2022, the Dolphins also only made four picks – Channing Tindall, Erik Ezukanma, Cameron Goode and Skylar Thompson – but made up for lost time after the draft. Interestingly, the Dolphins also finished No. 8 overall in last year’s UDFA rankings. That class featured one UDFA – CB Kader Kohou – who made 13 starts as a rookie and out-produced Miami’s entire 2022 draft class by himself.

Kohou is one of several recent Miami UDFA success stories. In the recent past, the Dolphins have also pulled Davone Bess, Chris McCain, Neville Hewitt, Jonathan Freeny, Jordan Kovacs, A.J. Francis, Preston Williams, Nik Needham and Robert Jones out of the UDFA process.

This year’s UDFA crop was led by three prospects I ranked inside my pre-draft top-300 – DB Keidron Smith, LB Aubrey Miller Jr., and LB Zeke Vandenburgh. Considering the lack of linebacker depth Miami had in its 3-4 base, the post-draft aggression in the linebacker market made sense.

It’s possible that Miller and Vandenburgh will now fight it out for a Week 1 roster spot. Miller was a four-star recruit who was on the verge of walking away from the sport after things didn’t work out during a three-year run at Missouri out of high school.

But Miller hooked up with HC Deion Sanders at Jackson State and turned his career around, posting 117 tackles, 6.5 sacks and five forced fumbles across 13 games last year. Vandenburgh is also making the leap up from the FCS, a level he dominated, with 14 sacks and 21 TFL in 2022.

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Smith spent four seasons at Ole Miss prior to transferring to Kentucky last offseason. He earned Second Team All-SEC honors in 2022. In the Florida game, Smith’s pick-6 of QB Anthony Richardson helped Kentucky stave off the Gators.

TE Julian Hill is a small-schooler with a shot to crack a thin TE room. He ran a 4.68 40-yard dash en route to a 7.96 RAS during the pre-draft process. I liked Oklahoma P Matt Turk, but this isn’t a good landing spot for him. The Dolphins guaranteed all of former Patriots Pro Bowl P Jake Bailey’s $1.1 million contract, which means he isn’t going anywhere barring disaster over the summer.

The Dolphins were also aggressive in acquiring USC DL Brandon Pili and Stanford CB Ethan Bonner. Bonner received $80,000 in guaranteed money, while Pili signed for $100,000 guaranteed.

3. New York Jets (9)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
251 WR34 Jason Brownlee Southern Miss Mohamed Massaquoi 6020 198 8.96
307 S24 Trey Dean III Florida Jordan Fuller 6020 200 8.62
316 WR44 Xavier Gipson Stephen F Austin Bo Melton 5094 189 7.93
321 OL29 Brent Laing MN-Duluth Hjalte Froholdt 6036 304 5.94
341 QB17 Tim DeMorat Fordham Kyle Allen 6034 219 7.31
357 RB29 Travis Dye USC Justin Jackson 5095 201 0.15
436 ED50 Deslin Alexandre Pitt Karon Riley 6034 264 8.42
439 QB21 Lindsey Scott Jr. Incarnate Word Vernon Adams Jr. 5102 207
451 TE23 Luke Ford Illinois Trevon Wesco 6056 268 3.25
491 LB47 Maalik Hall SE Oklahoma State Leon Joe 6004 235 8.89
RB56 Wayne Taulapapa Washington Ricky Person Jr. 5097 205 7.33
WR78 E.J. Jenkins Georgia Tech Juwan Johnson 6060 245 7.37
WR107 TJ Luther Gardner-Webb Carlos Henderson 5112 189 5.87
WR119 Jerome Kapp Kutztown Keelan Cole 6014 191 7.43
TE45 Josh Falo USC Randall Telfer 6053 248 5.04
DL56 Chibueze Onwuka Boston College Jerry Johnson 5111 286 5.57
DL62 KD Hill Mississippi Ralph Holley 6004 299 6.31
LB56 Caleb Johnson Miami Jermaine Grace 5113 228 7.17
LB66 Ian Swenson UConn Cameron Judge 6011 217 8.73
CB68 Keenan Reid Rutgers Tre Brown 5094 183 6.35
CB84 Derrick Langford Jr. Washington State Tharold Simon 6015 205 6.12

The Jets fell a few spots down the rankings after their previously-mentioned agreement with Western Kentucky DB Kahlef Hailassie mysteriously fell through. Hailassie was reportedly set to receive $167,500 guaranteed from the Jets.

Despite that defection, the Jets finished with a top-10 UDFA crop. New York is trying to continue the momentum from last year’s strong UDFA collection, which featured RB Zonovan Knight and S Tony Adams.

This year’s group was headlined by Southern Miss WR Jason Brownlee. Brownlee, in my opinion, should have been drafted. But circumstances conspired against him. Brownlee started at the JUCO level and then spent his last three years at USM, where he had 21 TD catches and consistent-if-not-eye-popping season yardage outputs of 610, 643, and 891, respectively.

The context of his situation makes those numbers even more impressive – the Golden Eagles’ QB situation was brutal over those three seasons. In 2020 and 2022, a combined eight players attempted at least 15 passes for USM. In 2021, due to a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it confluence of injuries and unappealing QB options, an incredible 15 different players attempted a pass for the Golden Eagles.

Brownlee has NFL size all day at 6’2/198 with an 80 ⅜” wingspan. His 4.59 forty isn’t impressive, but he’s a strong overall athlete whose jumps were both 94th-percentile-or-higher. Quicker than fast, Brownlee’s 79th-percentile 10-yard split speaks to his acceleration. At USM, Brownlee ran a ton of fly routes (16.8 YPC in 2022). He’s a proven downfield winner who can make the contested catch. New York will now try to teach him the rest.

In a fun bit of symmetry, EDGE Deslin Alexandre is reuniting with former Pitt teammates OL Carter Warren and RB Israel Abanikanda on the Jets. Alexandre is a well-rounded player with NFL-caliber measurables. Barring an enormous camp, I think he’s going to spend 2023 on New York’s practice squad.

RB Travis Dye is extremely polished. He has strong vision, and receiving is a part of his well-rounded skillset. But he’s a poor athlete with durability questions who faces an uphill climb to carve out an NFL career.

Lastly, I thought it was interesting that the Jets, who got size/athleticism king TE Zack Kuntz in Round 7, picked up WR/TE EJ Jenkins, who ran a 4.62 at 6’6/245. Jenkins has always been a better athlete than a football player. Can he show the Jets enough promise this summer to latch onto a practice squad spot for further development?

4. Baltimore Ravens (11)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
187 RB16 Keaton Mitchell East Carolina Raheem Mostert 5082 179 6.18
193 WR27 Dontay Demus Jr. Maryland Arrelious Benn 6025 212 7.85
267 OL24 Tashawn Manning Kentucky Cosey Coleman 6032 327 6.24
332 TE17 Travis Vokolek Nebraska Ko Kieft 6060 259 7.95
407 CB54 Corey Mayfield Jr. UTSA Raleigh Texada 5102 190 6.95
422 CB55 Justin Ford Montana Rodarius Williams 6000 190 3.3
445 CB58 Jeremy Lucien Vanderbilt Stanley Wilson 6002 199 5.98
453 RB39 Isaiah Bowser UCF Brandon Wilds 5117 217 8.88
469 OL42 Brandon Kipper Oregon State Andrew Stueber 6054 318 2.8
475 ED54 John Waggoner Iowa George Selvie 6050 259 5.02
QB39 Nolan Henderson Delaware Trevone Boykin 5114 202 7.09
RB44 Owen Wright Monmouth Andre Ellington 5090 214 5.64
WR88 Kris Thornton James Madison Jeff Thomas 5067 177 7.23
OL65 Jaylon Thomas SMU Kofi Amichia 6032 304 8.47
OL66 Marcus Minor Pitt Stephen Schilling 6041 310 8.31
DL48 Levi Bell Texas State O’Bryan Goodson 5114 262 9.54
DL64 Trey Botts CSU Pueblo Tracy Sprinkle 6024 284 7.63
CB82 Nehemiah Shelton San Jose State Matt Hankins 6001 183 1.18
S39 Jaquan Amos Ball State Tanard Jackson 6001 196 6.12

For just the second time in my five years ranking UDFA classes, the Ravens miss the top-10. Just like in 2019, when they also finished No. 11, it was by the slimmest of margins. As an organization, Baltimore emphasizes the UDFA process.

Baltimore’s current roster will attest to that, featuring former UDFAs Tyler Huntley, Anthony Brown, Gus Edwards, Pat Ricard, Patrick Mekar, Michael Pierce, Josh Ross, Kristian Welch and Ar’Darius Washington.

The Ravens won a frenzied post-draft bidding war for RB Keaton Mitchell, whose father, Anthony Mitchell, is a former Raven who earned a Super Bowl ring after originally signing as a UDFA.

Keaton reportedly received strong offers from the Cardinals, 49ers and Jets, as well. San Fran’s interest wasn’t surprising – If everything clicks, Mitchell is another Raheem Mostert. He is a homerun hitter who boasts 4.37 wheels. If the Ravens keep four RB, there’s a really strong chance that Mitchell is making the roster. But will they keep Mitchell over Justice Hill if they don’t?

WR Dontay Demus Jr. was Baltimore’s other UDFA signing within my pre-draft top-200. A local product out of Maryland, Demus boasts good size and a strong athletic profile. He has good feet for his size, and his hands are reliable, with a career single-digit drop-rate. Demus went undrafted because he regressed in 2022. But the door is open to steal Baltimore’s WR6 gig with a strong camp.

The 6-foot-4, 335-pound Manning’s lack of athleticism cost him a chance to hear his name called during Draft Weekend. But Baltimore wasn’t alone in their admiration for his game. I was told in the pre-draft process that Manning was a pet favorite of Lions HC Dan Campbell this class. That makes sense – Manning is a north-south phone booth scrapper who might gnaw a kneecap to stay attached.

The Ravens exited the draft with very little interior depth, especially since we know that late-round OG Andrew Vorhees will spend the campaign on IR. So it would appear likely that one of Manning or UDFA C Jake Guidone will make the 53. Guidone, a former tight end, is undersized but athletic.

5. Cleveland Browns (12)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
162 ED21 Lonnie Phelps Kansas Malcolm Koonce 6023 244 8.45
167 S13 Ronnie Hickman Ohio State J.J. Wilcox 6004 203
220 LB20 Charlie Thomas Georgia Tech Tony Fields 6026 216 8.21
233 LB22 Mohamoud Diabate Utah Dorian O’Daniel 6034 225 9.11
369 RB31 Hassan Hall Georgia Tech Malik Davis 5102 196 8.66
432 S32 Tanner McCalister Ohio State Nate Ebner 5104 191 8.28
457 ED52 Jeremiah Martin Washington Daeshon Hall 6033 265 6.59
TE29 Thomas Greaney Albany Matt Bushman 6056 249 4.24
CB83 Caleb Biggers Boise State Qwuantrezz Knight 5102 202 5.59

The Browns’ UDFA crop was short on quantity. But it was stocked with quality, with two prospects in my top-170 and four in my top-240.

Cleveland may have gotten a pass-rushing specialist and special teams ace on the cheap when it signed EDGE Lonnie Phelps (cheap being a relative term – Phelps’ $250,000 in guarantees was near the top of this year’s UDFA class).

Across the last two years with Miami (OH) and Kansas, Phelps piled up 25 TFL and 15.5 sacks. He was never used in coverage in college and needs to be used in a similar situational role in the NFL. But he absolutely could develop into a quality NFL rotational player if you confine his usage to downhill mayhem.

The Browns did well to coax local product, Ohio State S Hickman, to stay home. It was a surprise to see Hickman go undrafted after last year’s breakthrough, where he allowed only a 43.3% reception rate and 39.2 NFL passer rating against on targets.

Hickman’s 88.9 PFF coverage grade in 2022 was near the tops of this safety class. He has good size and length, but questions about his tackling efficiency (16.7% missed tackle rate last year) and speed. Hickman electing not to do any testing during the pre-draft process raised the athleticism red flags even higher.

Georgia Tech RB Hassan Hall got $125,000 guaranteed from Cleveland. Hall got on the field early at Louisville, but he was phased out in 2020-2021, so he transferred to the Yellow Jackets for his final season. Hall ran for 521 yards and one TD in and caught 28 passes for 165 yards last year. He has good speed, as well as receiving and returning chops.

It’s also notable that Cleveland shelled out $250,000 guaranteed for Utah LB Mohamoud Diabate. I had a seventh-round grade on both Diabate and fellow UDFA signing LB Charlie Thomas pre-draft. There probably isn’t roster room for both, but there should be a 53-man spot for whichever of the two has the better camp.

6. Los Angeles Chargers (14)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
125 DL11 Jerrod Clark Coastal Carolina John Jenkins 6032 334 5.26
261 CB35 Cameron Brown Ohio State Derion Kendrick 6000 199 3.48
291 S23 AJ Finley Mississippi Zayne Anderson 6023 201 6.95
322 LB30 Mikel Jones Syracuse Kendyll Pope 5115 229 1.51
328 CB43 Tiawan Mullen Indiana Sojourn Shelton 5084 181 5.11
490 RB42 Tyler Hoosman North Dakota Jon Hilliman 5112 214 7.96
RB57 Elijah Dotson N. Colorado Larry Rose III 5092 202 5.23
WR97 Terrell Bynum USC Jonathan Giles 6000 188 5.1
TE26 Michael Ezeike UCLA Jordan Akins 6052 241 4
DL59 Terrance Lang Colorado Mike Ulufale 6040 282 5.2
ED62 Brevin Allen Campbell Mike Love 6031 265 6.5
CB96 Amechi Uzodinma II Ball State Tre Bugg 5106 189 3.63

The Chargers’ crown jewel from this crop was my No. 1 overall UDFA, Coastal Carolina NT Jerrod Clark. I’m confused why he wasn’t drafted. There weren’t many true space-eating nose tackles in this entire draft class. Certainly none who were over 330 pounds with 82-inch wingspans who move like Clark does.

Would you believe Clark started his collegiate career as a tight end? He wasn’t done growing, and he of course eventually would go on to become one of the country’s biggest defensive tackles. I had a Round 4-grade on Clark. And I wasn’t even the highest in the industry on him! The Draft Network had a Round 3 grade on Clark (and’s Lance Zierlein gave him a Round 5 evaluation).

CB Brown was converted by Ohio State from wide receiver to cornerback as a freshman. Brown’s career was slowed first by that transition, and thereafter by injuries. He needed a big pre-draft process and he didn’t get it, posting a 3.48 RAS. Still, he has good size, he’s a willing run defender, and his ball skills will play up if he can start snapping his head around to contest at the catch point, a work-in-progress area right now.

The other secondary addition I liked was Ole Miss S AJ Finley. Finley is an average athlete in a big package who had a strong collegiate career. He carried that into Shrine Game week, with an impressive showing in Las Vegas. The Chargers’ lack of secondary depth gives both Brown and Finley a fighting chance to make the 53.

7. Tennessee Titans (15)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
200 OT18 John Ojukwu Boise State Darrin Paulo 6054 309 8.72
284 WR38 Jacob Copeland Maryland Velus Jones Jr. 5111 201 8.19
327 WR46 Kearis Jackson Georgia Trent Sherfield 5113 196 7.56
337 ED38 Caleb Murphy Ferris State Tyreke Smith 6030 254 5.07
366 ED42 Thomas Rush Minnesota Jackson Jeffcoat 6031 251 9.07
426 CB56 Steven Jones Jr. Appalachian State Duron Lowe 5097 188 4.52
444 S33 Tyreque Jones Boise State Jamien Sherwood 6020 195 4.15
RB53 Charles McClelland Cincinnati Raymond Calais 5106 192 2.36
WR81 Tre’Shaun Harrison Oregon State Johnnie Lee Higgins 5112 188 6.53
DL47 Shakel Brown Troy Jullian Taylor 6032 295 9.46
DL49 Keenan Agnew Southern Illinois John McCargo 6002 295 7.66

The Titans are another one of those organizations who have had consistent success in the UDFA market. The current roster features UDFA Daniel Brunskill, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Azeez Al-Shaair, Denico Autry, Teair Tart, Aaron Brewer, Jack Gibbens and ​​Ryan Stonehouse.

This year’s UDFA crop was headlined by OT John Ojukwu. Ojukwu is a strong athlete (8.72 RAS) with outstanding length (83 ⅝” wingspan). The two-time All-MWC First-Teamer allowed no sacks and only one QB hit over 436 pass-pro snaps in 2022.

During Draft Weekend, the Titans failed to address their miserable WR corps outside of using a seventh-rounder on size/athleticism small-school project WR Colton Dowell. The rest of WR room has a projected starting trio of Treylon Burks/Nick Westbrook-Ikhine/Kyle Philips with Racey McMath/Reggie Roberson/Dowell/Chris Moore behind them.

So it was no surprise that Tennessee aggressively targeted WR Jacob Copeland and WR Kearis Jackson post-draft. The Titans lured Jackson with $78,000 guaranteed. Jackson returned kicks and punts in Athens. Jackson isn’t big, and he isn’t a burner (4.55 forty), but his mature approach and special-teams utility give him a shot.

Copeland has the higher ceiling of the two. The former Maryland Terrapin and Florida Gator ran a 4.42 forty at 201 pounds with an 8.19 RAS during the pre-draft process. But Copeland’s college career underwhelmed – his athleticism was apparent, but he remains a raw route runner with iffy downfield utility. Copeland struggles in contested situations, in large part because he’s always at a positioning disadvantage on account of awkwardness finding the ball while moving.

The Titans gave Minnesota OLB Thomas Rush $175,000 guaranteed. Rush was a team captain at Minnesota. He impressed at his Pro Day workout prior to the draft, submitting a 90th-percentile size-adjusted athletic composite.

8. Denver Broncos (17)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
217 OT19 Alex Palczewski Illinois Blake Brandel 6064 303 7.78
259 ED30 Thomas Incoom Central Michigan Dorance Armstrong 6022 262 8.54
326 OT27 Demontrey Jacobs USF Jamon Meredith 6065 312 8.38
342 DL27 PJ Mustipher Penn State Naquan Jones 6036 320 1.65
440 RB38 Emanuel Wilson Fort Valley State Jordan Mason 5104 228 6.84
441 OT36 Henry Byrd Princeton Alex Leatherwood 6047 310 9.8
495 CB66 Art Green Houston Dane Belton 6012 198 9.49
QB44 Judd Erickson San Diego Max Browne 6050 227 0.81
RB43 Jaleel McLaughlin Youngstown St. Phillip Lindsay 5082 192 3.91
WR76 Dallas Daniels Jackson State Nyqwan Murray 5102 184 0.9
WR82 Taylor Grimes Incarnate Word Chansi Stuckey 5100 186 4.18
TE52 Nate Adkins South Carolina Cheyenne OGrady 6026 252 3.27
LB58 Seth Benson Iowa Jeff Allison 5117 231 3.3
CB78 Darrious Gaines Western Colorado Kevin Rutland 6010 193 2.38

New HC Sean Payton was notoriously aggressive on the telephone lines during the late-rounds of the NFL Draft recruiting UDFAs – a non-enforced rule that every NFL team breaks – while he was with the Saints. Surely, joining the organization of UDFA legends WR Rod Smith and CB Chris Harris, he would continue his post-draft success.

But Payton’s first UDFA crop in Denver was middle-of-the-road, not the sort of fill-the-shopping-cart-at-the-thrift-store experience he grew accustomed to in New Orleans. Denver did sign two UDFA that I had draftable grades on in OT Alex Palczewski and EDGE Thomas Incoom.

You can’t get any more experiences than Palczewski, who tied the FBS record with 65 career starts (he had a medical redshirt year and used the NCAA’s 2020 exemption from the COVID season). Palczewski, who played 4,390 snaps at Illinois, earned All-Big Ten honors in four different seasons. His pass blocking has improved, including a strong showing against Wisconsin’s Nick Herbig. Palczewski has good size and length along with a 7.78 RAS.

Incoom, a Valdosta State transfer, is coming off a First-Team All-MAC season (he was also a Phil Steele honorable mention All-American). Incoom’s combination of size and athleticism (8.54 RAS) are worth betting on, and he’s already a solid run defender. But he racked up his 11.5 sacks last year mostly on athleticism and hustle, and is going to need to diversify his pass-rushing plan of attack at the next level.

9. Las Vegas Raiders (20)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
157 OL12 McClendon Curtis Chattanooga Ben Cleveland 6056 324 7.73
243 LB23 Drake Thomas NC State Dominique Alexander 5112 223 6.3
275 OT24 Dalton Wagner Arkansas Kris Farris 6083 320 4.4
458 CB60 Azizi Hearn UCLA Marcus McCauley 6004 206 9.31
465 CB61 Jordan Perryman Washington Roc Alexander 5115 198 8.44
486 ED55 George Tarlas Boise State Jeremy Mincey 6031 253 4.62
TE47 John Samuel Shenker Auburn Ravian Pierce 6027 242 2.5
ED58 Brock Martin Oklahoma State Darius Hodge 6017 240 2.76

The Raiders’ UDFA class was thin on overall numbers, but Las Vegas did well to sign a trio of UDFA prospects in my pre-draft top-275.

I graded Chatanooga OL McClendon Curtis as a fifth-rounder. The Raiders clearly liked the former high school hoopster as well, winning Curtis’ bidding with $210,000 in guaranteed money, of which $185,000 is guaranteed salary. Curtis was a Second-Team FCS All-American last year.

Curtis is facing a jump up in competition, but his versatility will bolster his argument for a 53-man spot. He has experience starting at both guard and tackle, and his strong combination of frame, length, and athleticism are a fit at either spot. He allowed only 20 pressures over 874 career pass-pro reps.

This is the perfect landing spot for him. The Raiders have a mediocre starting offensive line (ranked No. 18 in the NFL in a recent PFN column) and precious little depth behind it. Despite that, the Raiders didn’t draft an offensive linemen.

The same goes for OT Dalton Wagner, who chose the Raiders over several competitive offers. He’s an enormous presence at 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds with a 83-inch plus wingspan (Curtis’ wingspan is also 83-plus inches). Wagner is heavy-footed – 4.4 RAS – but he’s a pass-pro technician who only surrendered 31 pressures over 669 pass-pro snaps the past two seasons.

LB Drake Thomas had a wonky profile as an undersized (223 pounds) linebacker with average athleticism (6.3 RAS) who struggles in coverage. But he’s a really good run defender (top-5 PFF run-defense grade in the FBS last year) and a skilled blitzer. He also played 372 special-teams snaps in college. Thomas will have to prove his utility there to make the Week 1 roster.

10. Indianapolis Colts (22)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
164 OL13 Emil Ekiyor Jr. Alabama Nate Davis 6025 314
392 OT31 Harris LaChance BYU Joe Haeg 6064 304 7.64
398 RB34 Titus Swen Wyoming Travis Homer 5096 201
400 DL32 Bobo Woods Illinois Peria Jerry 6016 294 8.84
408 RB36 Darius Hagans Virginia State Bryant Koback 5113 205 9.5
433 OL40 Henry Bainivalu Washington Joshua Ezeudu 6055 306 4.57
496 WR66 Cody Chrest Sam Houston State Jeff Smith 6002 193 9.77
QB26 Kyle Vantrease Georgia Southern Cooper Rush 6021 218 4.92
QB33 Logan Bonner Utah State Nick Starkel 6003 223 6.04
WR114 Braxton Westfield Carson-Newman Jester Weah 6025 205 6.93
WR123 Zavier Scott Maine Marvin McNutt 6006 219 9.16
DL50 Caleb Sampson Kansas Demarcus Christmas 6031 306 4.21
LB61 London Harris Texas State Kennan Gilchrist 6007 231 7.91
LB70 Guy Thomas Colorado Devonte Fields 6023 232 5.08
CB99 Tyler Richardson Tiffin Donald Celiscar 5103 193 3.44

The Colts had one of my favorite draft classes in the NFL – earning one of my “A+” grades – but didn’t fare as well in the UDFA portion. Indianapolis signed only one prospect inside my pre-draft top-390.

But Indy managed to get up to No. 22 in my UDFA class rankings because of the quality of the one marquee UDFA they did sign: Alabama OG Emil Ekiyor Jr.

I understand the NFL’s reticence on Ekiyor Jr. I went through my own cycle of that over the spring – I struggled with him. Initially, I ranked Ekiyor Jr. lower, grading him as a seventh-rounder. He’s an unorthodox sub-6’3 guard who doesn’t have elite athleticism. Not my type.

But Ekiyor grew on me as the process progressed. Ekiyor Jr. was a three-year starter under Nick Saban who has much better length than you’d expect from his height (82 ⅝” wingspan). He’s springy off the snap and always wins the leverage game. I do expect him to stick on the active roster.

Especially in lieu of the overall passive approach to this year’s UDFA stage, I was surprised that the Colts gave Houston LB Donavan Mutin $100,000 guaranteed. I didn’t rank Mutin in my top-70 linebackers.

But I am happy for him. In November 2021, against Memphis, Mutin was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a local hospital with an undisclosed head or neck injury. Mutin was having a fabulous season prior to that injury. Unfortunately, he didn’t bounce back to form in 2022. But here’s hoping that the Colts can return Mutin to his pre-injury trajectory.

11. Buffalo Bills (23)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
245 WR33 Jalen Wayne South Alabama Cornell Powell 6014 210 6.59
260 OT22 Richard Gouraige Florida Max Scharping 6047 306 1.52
313 DL25 DJ Dale Alabama Deadrin Senat 6010 302 2.33
424 RB37 Jordan Mims Fresno State Isaiah Pead 5104 206 1.46
434 WR59 Braydon Johnson Oklahoma State KD Cannon 5114 195 8.39
WR102 Tyrell Shavers San Diego State Jamal Custis 6043 211 4.36
OT58 Noah Henderson East Carolina Victor Salako 6051 311 1.01

The Bills’ UDFA class wasn’t deep, but it did feature two prospects in my pre-draft top-260 – WR Jalen Wayne and OT Richard Gouraige.

Wayne is the nephew of former Colts legend Reggie Wayne. He had 58 catches for 816 yards and nine TD last season for South Alabama. Wayne will turn 24 this weekend and he’s only an average athlete.

But he has good size, and better know-how. Route-running runs in the gene pool, and Wayne’s prowess in that area led to consistent separation in the G5. He also is experienced on special teams.

Gouraige reunites with 2022 teammate O’Cyrus Torrence in Buffalo. Gouraige’s versatility – with 25 starts at left tackle and 17 at left guard in his college career – is going to help his odds of making the 53-man roster.

Gouraige allowed only one sack in 343 pass-pro snaps last year. Poor athletic testing cost Gouraige a shot at getting drafted, but his polished technical acumen will likely punch his a ticket onto the practice squad.

DT Dale is a limited, sawed-off interior player with a relentless motor and plus-play strength. The ceiling is low, but the floor is high – he could ultimately be the same sort of trusted rotational cog in the NFL that he was under Nick Saban.

12. Houston Texans (26)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
231 ED27 Ali Gaye LSU Taco Charlton 6055 263
282 RB23 Xazavian Valladay Arizona State Jason Huntley 5112 204 9.46
373 OT30 Kilian Zierer Auburn Stone Forsythe 6072 307 7.84
470 WR63 Jared Wayne Pitt Laquon Treadwell 6026 209 9.24
485 OT38 Tyler Beach Wisconsin Daniel Loper 6056 304 7.3
WR79 Jesse Matthews San Diego St. Dazz Newsome 5107 189 3.36
OL50 Dylan Deatherage Western Michigan Ryan Groy 6050 302 9.44

After spending a metric-ton of equity in this year’s NFL Draft, Houston apparently decided to play things more conservatively in the UDFA market.

The best of the bunch was LSU EDGE Ali Gaye. This is the classic type of UDFA you take a chance on. Gaye has a built-in-a-lab frame and length, he plays hard, and he flashed promise as a pass-rusher in Baton Rouge.

But his instincts are a work-in-progress – Gaye picked up the sport late after moving to the USA from Gambia at 12-years-old. He also plays high, an unfortunate habit for an edge defender who lacks play strength as is. Especially in Houston, he’s worth rostering next season on developmental potential alone. But there’s much work to be done.

I also like Arizona State RB Xazavian Valladay’s odds of making the team. I thought Valladay was underrated during the process. Houston agreed, giving him $175,000 in guarantees. Valladay rushed for 1,192 yards and 16 TD across 12 games for ASU last season. He’s also a strong athlete (9.46 RAS) and a skilled receiver. There’s a clear path to a roster spot here if Valladay flashes in camp – the Texans’ current RB3 is Mike Boone.

13. Cincinnati Bengals (27)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
209 OL18 Jaxson Kirkland Washington Cole Boozer 6065 321 4.9
273 LB26 Shaka Heyward Duke Zach Brown 6025 235 7.94
376 DL30 Devonnsha Maxwell Chattanooga Tom Johnson 6015 290 5
416 WR57 Shedrick Jackson Auburn Ken-Yon Rambo 6012 193 9.26
RB48 Calvin Tyler Jr. Utah State Karan Higdon 5075 204 2.86
RB60 Jacob Saylors East Tennessee State Javian Hawkins 5101 199
WR104 Mac Hippenhammer Miami (OH) Daniel Braverman 5112 177 2.94
LB52 Jaylen Moody Alabama Rufus Alexander 6006 225
S42 Larry Brooks Tulane Mykkele Thompson 5115 200 6.99

Uninspiring crop from the Bengals. But I did really like one of their signings – OL Jaxson Kirkland. Kirkland was the only prospect in Cincy’s UDFA class that I had a draftable grade on.

The 6-foot-7, 321-pound Kirkland was a five-year starter in the Pac-12. He’s experienced at both guard and tackle. Kirkland is a mediocre athlete and he’s always going to play too high, but he’s a good pass-blocker who plays with strong technique.

If Kirkland can stay healthy at the next level, he has a strong shot to stick around this roster for a while. The Bengals didn’t use any of their eight picks on the offensive line, and La’el Collins suffered a torn ACL in December. Orlando Brown Jr.’s signing helped solidify the starting unit, but there are jobs open behind it.

LB Hayward, who posted 93 tackles in 2022, ran a 4.53 forty at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds. He’s the cousin of Steelers teammates Cam and Connor Heyward, and the nephew of the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. Blessed with length (nearly an 81” wingspan) and athleticism (7.94 RAS), Heyward was also productive in college, logging 246 tackles and 26.5 TFL over 39 games.

Speaking of NFL legacies, WR Jackson is the nephew of Bo Jackson. His calling cards are 4.3 wheels and explosive acceleration into it. But Jackson only had more than 16 catches in a season once. That was in 2021, when he had 40 for 527 yards. His usage was slashed last year in a poor passing offense, with only 16 catches in 12 games. Can the Bengals polish him enough to make use of the track speed?

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (28)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
299 CB40 Kaleb Hayes BYU Nate Hobbs 5114 194 9.75
358 TE18 Leonard Taylor Cincinnati Richard Rodgers 6046 250
380 WR53 Jaray Jenkins LSU Zach Pascal 6016 204 4.1
388 DL31 Jayson Ademilola Notre Dame Breeland Speaks 6031 280 7.51
450 WR61 Elijah Cooks San Jose State N’Keal Harry 6036 219 8.52
WR118 Oliver Martin Nebraska Eddie Berlin 6003 199 9.15
OT46 Samuel Jackson UCF Andrew Rupcich 6052 323 7.83
ED61 DJ Coleman Missouri Ricky Elmore 6050 264 5.78

Jacksonville was clearly concerned with its secondary depth. On Saturday of the NFL Draft, the Jaguars selected three late-round defensive backs. Once the draft concluded, they made BYU CB Kaleb Hayes the centerpiece of a meager UDFA haul.

Hayes spent his first three years of college at Oregon State before transferring to BYU for the final two. He broke up 19 passes over those latter-two campaigns with the Cougars. The 5-foot-11, 194-pounder blazed a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine along with a 40-inch vertical en route to a sparkling 9.75 RAS.

TE Leonard Taylor was never featured in the Cincinnati passing offense, but he’s got plenty of field experience along with an NFL frame. There’s also a spot available for whoever performs better in camp between UDFA WRs Jaray Jenkins and Elijah Cooks due to Jacksonville’s thin receiving room. Both profile as possessions receivers at the next level.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (31)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
364 OL32 Trevor Downing Iowa State Brad Meester 6034 299
384 QB19 Tanner Morgan Minnesota Cody Kessler 6003 204 3.61
437 FB4 Monte Pottebaum Iowa Lousaka Polite 6012 242 8.77
ED66 David Perales Fresno State Trent Harris 6022 248 3.44

The Steelers celebrated their grand slam NFL Draft by taking Saturday night’s UDFA period off. Not exactly – but close.

This was a good landing spot for Iowa FB Monte Pottebaum. The Steelers’ 2022 starter at fullback, Derek Watt, remains a free agent. The reported plan is for Pottebaum to compete with Connor Heyward for the vacant spot. Pottebaum has already succeeded in becoming a Steeler fan favorite. “Monte the Mullet” was celebrated by the Steel City from the moment he signed for both his hairdo and for the fact that he grew up rooting for the Steelers.

The only two other signings of note were Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan and Iowa State OL Trevor Downing.

Morgan also made a good decision, signing with a team that only has QBs Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky on the roster. Morgan is accurate and experienced (9.454 yards and 65 TD), and he knows how to run an offense. But he lacks athleticism and arm strength, and has a long history of concussions. Luckily, a college coaching job is almost assuredly waiting for Morgan on the other side once the flame of his NFL dreams are extinguished.

Downing was a good collegiate interior lineman who is experienced at both guard and center. But can he overcome his undersized, 6-foot-3, 299-pound frame at the next level? My assumption would be that Downing gets stashed on the practice squad for a year spent in the weight room. But with not much depth behind C Mason Cole, the door is open for Downing to steal a spot if he impresses in camp.

16. New England Patriots (32)

Rank Position Name School Comp HT WT RAS
323 QB16 Malik Cunningham Louisville D’Eriq King 5117 192
WR99 Ed Lee Rhode Island Chris Rowland 5083 180 6.54
TE28 Johnny Lumpkin Louisiana Justin Rigg 6053 264 6.63

The Patriots aren’t an organization that sustainably invests in the UDFA process. This year, they were typically non-aggressive. With one notable exception.

The Patriots gave Louisville QB Malik Cunningham $200,000 in total guarantees, with $170,000 coming in guaranteed salary. That would seem to indicate that New England is heading to camp with the intent of keeping Cunningham on the regular season roster.

Cunningham needs a lot of work in the pocket to become an NFL-viable passer. But he’s a tremendous athlete who posted a 97th-percentile 10-yard split and 95th-percentile 40-yard-dash among quarterbacks. The season before last, Cunningham ranked No. 1 among FBS QBs with 1,031 rushing yards.

Talking to the press after his signing, Cunningham suggested that he’s open to trying another position if it improves his odds of seeing the field (ie making the team). This opens the possibility of experimenting with him as a receiver. As a quarterback, Cunningham would ostensibly be duking it out with Trace McSorley for third-string duties behind Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe.

Perhaps the Patriots’ plan is to roster Cunningham as exactly that while they develop his slash-skills in practice? Intriguing idea in theory. But New England seemed to have a similar one with D’Eriq King last UDFA process, which it soured on very quickly. Can Cunningham capitalize on his opportunity?

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