I affectionately refer to the UDFA carousel – after the completion of NFL Draft Day 3 on Saturday night – as the “Dessert draft.” This is, in essence, where Rounds 8-20 take place at warp-speed. And behind closed doors. Undrafted players make up roughly one-fifth of NFL rosters – UDFA provide the NFL with more value and snaps than the sixth- and seventh-rounds combined.
The list of UDFA Hall of Famers includes Kurt Warner, John Randle, Warren Moon and Dick “Night Train” Lane. The UDFA ranks brought us Tony Romo, Doug Baldwin, James Harrison, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates, Arian Foster, Cameron Wake and Chris Harris. Austin Ekeler and Adam Thielen are among a large list of UDFA-made-good currently playing in the NFL.
Let’s dive into how the NFC did in this year’s “Dessert Draft.” The AFC is coming later this week.
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UDFA Rookie Signings & Class Rankings
Note: Ranking in parenthesis indicates how each team’s UDFA class ranked overall in the NFL.
1. Seattle Seahawks (1)
|179||WR26||Matt Landers||Arkansas||Jeff Janis||6043||200||9.85|
|253||FB2||Griffin Hebert||Louisiana Tech||Dan Vitale||6014||239||10|
|293||WR40||C.J. Johnson||East Carolina||Vince Mayle||6015||224||3.82|
|308||WR43||Jake Bobo||UCLA||Ben Skowronek||6040||206||2.61|
|309||CB42||Lance Boykin||Coastal Carolina||Tharold Simon||6020||200||3.4|
|317||TE16||Noah Gindorff||NDSU||Quinn Sypniewski||6055||263||—|
|334||CB44||Arquon Bush||Cincinnati||Rashad Fenton||6000||187||3|
|353||LB34||Michael Ayers||Ashland||Jake Hummel||6015||223||8.71|
|365||QB18||Holton Ahlers||East Carolina||Tim Tebow||6031||227||3.5|
|381||S29||Ty Okada||Montana State||Julian Blackmon||5106||193||9.15|
|394||CB52||James Campbell||Montana State||Troy Pride Jr.||5113||183||8.43|
|423||LB40||Patrick O’Connell||Montana||Su’a Cravens||6011||227||8.07|
|425||LS2||Robert Soderholm||VMI||Ross Matiscik||5112||241||6.8|
|443||ED51||MJ Anderson||Iowa State||LJ Collier||6025||269||3.42|
|460||DL36||Robert Cooper||Florida State||Jerrell Powe||6015||309||—|
|472||S36||Christian Young||Arizona||Donnie Nickey||6010||221||3.21|
|482||DL37||Jonah Tavai||San Diego St.||Mike Daniels||5101||283||4.95|
|—||QB28||Reece Udinski||Richmond||Stephen Morris||6035||224||2.51|
|—||RB62||Shaun Shivers||Indiana||Donnel Pumphrey||5051||187||1.38|
|—||WR74||Tyjon Lindsey||Oregon State||CT Thomas||5080||171||8.73|
|—||TE48||Caleb Warren||Rhode Island||Garrett Graham||6022||244||5.56|
|—||LB55||Cam Bright||Washington||Jatavis Brown||6000||228||8.41|
|—||S55||Mo Osling III||UCLA||Lee Hightower||6007||195||6.01|
|—||S56||Jonathan Sutherland||Penn State||Tony George||5111||202||7.55|
Seattle brought in a metric ton of talent in the draft – four prospects in my pre-draft top-60, and six in my top-125. They were only getting started. The Seahawks were the big winners of this year’s UDFA free-for-all.
The Seahawks signed 23 UDFA that I had rankings on pre-draft, tying for the NFL-lead. But the quality was even better than the quantity – Seattle’s signing of 17 players on my 500-player big board easily led the NFL. In my ranking system, there was a larger qualitative difference between Seattle’s UDFA class and the No. 2 class (Tampa Bay) than four different franchises’ UDFA groups scored in sum.
This class had a little bit of everything. The first thing that jumped out about Seattle’s strategy was its hyper-aggression in the UDFA receiver market. WRs Matt Landers, C.J. Johnson, and Jake Bobo were all top-12 UDFA WRs on my board. Seattle’s starting-three of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are locked in. But jobs are open behind that trio.
Landers, Johnson, and Bobo are three totally different flavors to try out at camp: Landers is the size/athleticism upside shot, Johnson is a big slot with strong collegiate production who lacks athleticism, and Bobo is a big boundary receiver who will need acumen and polish to overcome a lack of quickness and speed.
FB Griffin Hebert is a deep-sleeper. He has a versatile skill set, and he proved to be a souped-up athlete during pre-draft testing. In an NFL that is moving more towards versatility and 12-personnel base offenses, don’t be surprised if Hebert eventually sees the field as a TE/H-Back/FB hybrid. A year on the practice squad might be coming first.
A sneaky candidate to make the Week 1 roster is DE MJ Anderson. Seattle had an acute edge-rusher need heading into Draft Weekend. With Derick Hall being deployed as an OLB, the Seahawks only have three active DE on the roster, including Day 3 pick Mike Morris. The Seahawks will carry four on the Week 1 roster, which might make Anderson a favorite to win a gig heading into camp.
2. Tampa Bay Bucs (2)
|155||S12||Kaevon Merriweather||Iowa||Jaylinn Hawkins||6000||205||7.87|
|170||WR25||Rakim Jarrett||Maryland||KJ Osborn||5116||192||8.41|
|194||RB17||Sean Tucker||Syracuse||Felix Jones||5092||207||—|
|206||LB17||Jeremy Banks||Tennessee||Micah Kiser||6010||232||8.96|
|305||CB41||Keenan Isaac||Alabama State||Johnthan Banks||6014||185||7.08|
|314||OT26||Luke Haggard||Indiana||Matt McCants||6061||302||8.26|
|318||S25||Christian Izien||Rutgers||Calvin Lowry||5086||199||8.54|
|354||OT29||Silas Dzansi||Virginia Tech||Le’Raven Clark||6052||323||7.42|
|390||RB33||Ronnie Brown||Shepherd||Trung Canidate||5110||187||9.35|
|—||WR89||Kade Warner||Kansas State||Chris Collins||6007||203||3.23|
|—||WR101||Taye Barber||TCU||Mike Harley||5095||180||3.71|
|—||OL48||Eric Douglas||South Carolina||Cody Wallace||6042||295||5.73|
|—||OL68||Chris Murray||Oklahoma||Omar Smith||6014||294||2.85|
|—||LB50||Brandon Bouyer-Randle||UConn||Carter Coughlin||6024||238||9.09|
|—||LB67||Dwayne Boyles||USF||Boseko Lokombo||6020||227||7.33|
Between S Kaevon Merriweather, WR Rakim Jarrett, RB Sean Tucker, and LB Jeremy Banks, the Bucs signed four UDFA prospects who were in my pre-draft top-206.
Jarrett is a former five-star recruit who has all the makings of an NFL contributor if he can correct his drop issues. The Bucs clearly think Jarrett has a strong chance to make the Week 1 roster after shelling out $225,000 guaranteed.
I was surprised Merriweather went undrafted. His agents made a smart call signing with the Buccaneers, who had only three safeties on the active roster prior to his signing. Like Jarrett, Merriweather will enter training camp with a strong chance to make the roster.
RB Tucker, similarly, made a good landing-spot decision. He received a guaranteed $155,000 to sign with the Bucs. Tampa Bay was expected to select an RB in the draft but didn’t. The depth chart currently consists of Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Patrick Laird.
Tucker’s pre-draft process was complicated after he was shut down at the NFL Combine upon being medically red-flagged for cardiac health issues. Tucker was also held out of Syracuse’s Pro Day in March. He eventually did a shortened workout for scouts on the Monday of draft week, but it wasn’t enough to get him drafted. If Tucker can stay on the field, he could be a UDFA gem – he’s one of the most explosive backs in this class.
WR Kade Warner is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. At Kansas State last year, he had 45 receptions for 456 yards and five TD. He might snag a practice squad spot on the never-count-us-out Warner DNA, if for no other reason.
3. Dallas Cowboys (3)
|145||OT14||Earl Bostick Jr.||Kansas||Will Beatty||6055||309||9.42|
|185||FB1||Hunter Luepke||North Dakota State||Andy Janovich||6012||230||9.55|
|214||LB19||Isaiah Land||Florida A&M||Chris Garrett||6035||236||8.6|
|227||WR31||Jalen Moreno-Cropper||Fresno State||Dede Westbrook||5111||172||6.25|
|296||CB39||Myles Brooks||Louisiana Tech||Iman Marshall||6010||201||6.43|
|312||OL28||TJ Bass||Oregon||Ben Bredeson||6041||317||8.2|
|324||ED37||Tyrus Wheat||Mississippi St.||Ronnie Perkins||6022||263||7.18|
|351||WR50||David Durden||West Florida||Ricardo Louis||6014||204||9.59|
|419||ED48||Durrell Johnson||Liberty||Joseph Ossai||6032||251||6.87|
|—||WR86||Chris Coleman||Cal Poly||ArDarius Stewart||5102||192||6.98|
|—||TE33||Princeton Fant||Tennessee||Jeremiah Hall||6012||243||—|
|—||CB88||D’Angelo Mandell||BYU||Ashton Lampkin||6002||189||2.7|
Nobody outspends the Cowboys in the UDFA process and they were back at it this year. This is the fifth year I’ve ranked UDFA classes. During that span Dallas has finished No. 9 (2019), No. 2 (2021), and No. 1 twice (2020 and 2022) – in addition to this year’s bronze medal.
The Cowboys walked away from the Saturday night UDFA melee with eight signings inside my pre-draft top-351. That list is led by OT Earl Bostick Jr., FB Hunter Luepke, LB Isaiah Land, and WR Jalen Moreno-Cropper.
In a shallow OT class, it was a big surprise that Bostick wasn’t drafted. He’s a superb athlete (94th-percentile) in an NFL frame. The Cowboys won the Saturday-night bidding war for him with $220,000 guaranteed. Bostick allowed only one sack as KU’s left tackle in 2022.
And I’m still scratching my head over Luepke not getting picked. He was this class’ premier FB/H-Back prospect. In a shallow Dallas backfield that doesn’t have another player like him, Luepke has a strong shot to make the Week 1 roster. He’ll help out on special teams until he’s ready for a role with the offense.
Land is the reigning Buck Buchanan winner (FCS Defensive PoTY) after piling up a ridiculous 19 sacks and 25.5 TFL last year. He’s a rail-thin edge who Dallas will attempt to bulk-up as they teach him off-ball duties. Land could be competing with Mississippi State LB Tyrus Wheat, whose UDFA deal included a $20,000 signing bonus and a $185,000 salary guarantee.
4. Detroit Lions (4)
|146||CB21||Starling Thomas V||UAB||DaRon Bland||5101||190||6.63|
|176||RB15||Mohamed Ibrahim||Minnesota||Khalil Herbert||5080||203||—|
|212||S16||Brandon Joseph||Notre Dame||Husain Abdullah||6000||202||6.47|
|263||OT23||Ryan Swoboda||UCF||Cornelius Lucas||6094||309||9.33|
|295||OT25||Connor Galvin||Baylor||Geron Christian||6066||293||5.35|
|329||DL26||Cory Durden||NC State||Shamar Stephen||6040||290||4.96|
|389||WR54||Keytaon Thompson||Virginia||Damarkus Lodge||6037||218||5.36|
|431||WR58||Chase Cota||Oregon||Tai Streets||6032||201||9.34|
|446||LB41||Trevor Nowaske||Saginaw Valley State||Malik Jefferson||6024||237||9.86|
|481||RB41||Chris Smith||Louisiana||Jordan Canzeri||5085||194||5.52|
|—||QB24||Adrian Martinez||Kansas State||Khalil Tate||6017||221||9.46|
|—||DL40||Chris Smith||Notre Dame||Tommy Togai||6012||302||8.46|
|—||LB59||Isaac Darkangelo||Illinois||Drew White||6003||227||7.16|
|—||S58||Xavier Bell||Portland State||Luther Kirk||6012||194||6.61|
The Lions were very active on Saturday night, signing five prospects in my pre-draft top-300. Detroit clearly emphasizes this phase and is looking to replicate the success it has had with recent UDFA success stories like CB Jerry Jacobs and TE Brock Wright.
UAB CB Starling Thomas V slipped through the cracks due to playing in the G5 and being on the smaller side, but this is a clever signing by the Lions. Detroit was heavily linked to corners throughout the pre-draft process, particularly after trading CB Jeff Okudah – but they never actually took one.
Thomas is a polished three-year starter with 4.38 40-yard-dash speed. He finished No. 4 among FBS CBs last year in forced incompletion rate. Thomas has a strong chance to break camp with the team considering its weak and thin corner room.
The Lions made another strong addition to their secondary in S Joseph. Joseph was a three-year starter and 2020 first-team All-American at Northwestern. He didn’t wow during his final campaign at Notre Dame, and his pre-testing underwhelmed. But Joseph should stick around because of his reliability in center field.
RB Ibrahim was ludicrously productive at Minnesota, rushing for a career 4,668 yards and 51 TD. He’s small, isn’t an elite athlete, and isn’t much of a receiver, the reason teams looked away as the draft was going.
But Ibrahim will produce as a meat-and-potatoes early-down back at the next level if he ever gets the shot. Ibrahim made a curious decision to sign with a Lions team that has Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery. But the Lions gave Ibrahim $100,000 reasons to overlook that fact.
5. Minnesota Vikings (7)
|127||LB9||Ivan Pace Jr.||Cincinnati||Denzel Perryman||5105||231||5.71|
|197||ED23||Andre Carter II||Army||Elerson Smith||6065||256||6.3|
|320||K3||Jack Podlesny||Georgia||Caleb Sturgis||6000||194||—|
|336||WR48||Malik Knowles||Kansas State||Cedrick Wilson||6022||196||—|
|356||ED40||Junior Aho||SMU||Henry Melton||6022||260||9.37|
|405||OL36||Alan Ali||TCU||Geoff Hangartner||6042||301||3.8|
|417||TE22||Ben Sims||Baylor||Jacob Breeland||6045||250||8.39|
|427||OT34||Jacky Chen||Pace||D’Ante Smith||6052||299||5.4|
|435||CB57||Jaylin Williams||Indiana||Charles Gaines||5096||184||5.55|
|449||DL35||Calvin Avery||Illinois||Kyle Love||6014||345||3.14|
|—||RB45||T.J. Green||Liberty||Maurice Morris||5110||205||8.49|
|—||RB51||TJ Cole||Ouachita Baptist||Kennedy Brooks||5111||201||6.25|
|—||WR67||Cephus Johnson III||SE Louisiana||Warren Jackson||6051||226||—|
|—||WR95||Thayer Thomas||North Carolina State||Dillon Stoner||6002||198||7.84|
|—||OT56||James Tunstall||Cincinnati||Mario Henderson||6065||304||6.85|
|—||CB72||CJ Coldon||Oklahoma||Leonard Myers||5101||186||3.94|
The Vikings – capped-out, coming off a draft where they lacked equity, and in desperate need of cheap roster cogs – was atypically aggressive in this year’s UDFA market.
Minnesota gave Army EDGE Andre Carter II, who had 15.5 sacks in 2021, a UDFA-record $340,000 in guaranteed money. That broke the mark set last year when the Eagles gave Nevada QB Carson Strong $320k in guarantees.
In Carter’s case, $300,000 of Minnesota’s commitment is a base-salary guarantee. Minnesota is so capped-out that every dollar matters – they’re tipping off to you that they intend to roster Carter II barring disaster in camp. Which makes sense. Marcus Davenport is on a one-year deal, Danielle Hunter is unhappy, and Za’Darius Smith is ostensibly on his way out – and there ain’t much behind them.
Carter II has intriguing pass-rushing upside, but he’ll be unplayable against the run until he hits the weights and substantially improves his play strength. He can be a situational pass-rushing 3-4 OLB next year with a little special teams work sprinkled in (I’ll bet money he’s at least on the FG block unit, as he was the past-three years at Army).
But Carter II wasn’t my highest-ranked Vikings UDFA signing. That would be Cincinnati LB Ivan Pace Jr., who ranked No. 2 on my UDFA board (Carter II was No. 25). I’m stunned Pace went undrafted. Last year, he posted 137 tackles, including 21.5 TFL, 55 pressures and 12 sacks. Pace was PFF’s top-graded FBS linebacker (including No. 3 in run defense and No. 1 in pass-rushing grade).
Pace was heavily dinged because he’s 5-foot-10, doesn’t have a big tackling radius, and underwhelmed during athletic testing (57th-percentile size-adjusted composite). But how does a player with this skillset not turn into at least a strong NFL special teams player? A muscle-hamster type, Pace plays with plugged-into-a-reactor energy and a take-no-prisoners bent for violence.
With LB Jordan Hicks likely gone after next season, Minnesota neglecting the position in the draft, and no attractive heir apparent on the roster, there’s not only a clear path for Pace to make the 2023 roster, but to be a potential 2024 contributor on defense.
It’s possible that Illinois NT Calvin Avery could rally for a roster spot. He was one of this class’ few true 0-tech space-eaters. Southeastern Louisiana’s Cephus Johnson was an interesting dart-throw. Johnson was an athletic 6-foot-5, 220-pound collegiate quarterback who dabbled at receiver who the Vikings intend to transition to WR full-time. Knowles is a skilled returner with track speed. His odds of getting drafted were neutered when he wasn’t able to test due to a knee injury.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (8)
|131||CB19||Mekhi Garner||LSU||Chris Cook||6020||212||8.98|
|160||OT15||Trevor Reid||Louisville||Zach Tom||6041||311||9.61|
|171||CB24||Eli Ricks||Alabama||Akayleb Evans||6020||188||5.07|
|277||WR37||Jadon Haselwood||Arkansas||Jerricho Cotchery||6021||215||7.79|
|310||LB29||Ben VanSumeren||Michigan State||Chazz Surratt||6020||231||9.65|
|325||WR45||Joseph Ngata||Clemson||Jalen Camp||6032||217||7.31|
|—||RB46||Toa Taua||Nevada||Eno Benjamin||5084||204||1.26|
|—||TE38||Jordan Murray||Hawaii||Jacob Hollister||6035||242||6.69|
|—||TE39||Brady Russell||Colorado||Marcus Baugh||6027||247||6.46|
|—||CB75||Bentlee Sanders||Nevada||Duke Shelley||5081||173||2.22|
The Eagles join the Cowboys as the only two teams in the NFL who have finished in the top-10 all five years I’ve ranked UDFA classes. Last year, three UDFAs made the Eagles’ 53-man roster: Reed Blankenship, Josh Sills, and Josh Jobe. Philly’s 2022 UDFA class led the NFL with $1.8 million in guarantees. In the years prior to that, T.J. Edwards, Britain Covey, Nate Herbig, and Cory Clement were plucked from the UDFA bin.
This year, Philly destroyed the draft, per usual – earning one of my “A+” grades – then returned to their aggressive ethos in the UDFA sweepstakes. The Eagles’ yearly strategy in this process is eschew quantity for quality – pay through the nose for prospects they believed should have been drafted.
Same deal this year: CB Mekhi Garner, OT Trevor Reid, and CB Eli Ricks were all ranked inside the top-175 of my board. (And WR Jadon Haselwood, LB Ben VanSumeren, and WR Joseph Ngata were all in the top-325).
Philly’s cornerback room is long in the tooth, one reason the Eagles were heavily linked to corners in the pre-draft process. But the only one the Eagles took during Draft Weekend was CB Kelee Ringo, who may ultimately shift to safety at the next level.
That was the impetus behind the signings of Garner and Ricks. Both are long boundary corners who cut their teeth at the highest level of college football. Garner is a 6-foot-2, 212-pounder with a 38-inch vertical and 89th-percentile size-adjusted athletic composite. Ricks, also 6-foot-2, was a projected first-rounder as recently as a year ago, but he had a down season at Alabama and then posted a poor 50th-percentile composite. Both players have wingspans over 78 inches.
On physical tools alone, in a shallow OT class, I was really surprised the 6-foot-4, 311-pound Reid wasn’t picked. He has an insane 85-inch wingspan – that’s 7-foot-1! – with a 96th-percentile athletic composite. Those guys don’t grow on trees.
7. Carolina Panthers (10)
|181||CB27||Rejzohn Wright||Oregon State||Kevin Toliver II||6020||193||—|
|246||RB21||Camerun Peoples||Appalachian State||Latavius Murray||6010||217||6.98|
|262||DL21||Jalen Redmond||Oklahoma||Lamarr Houston||6023||291||7.86|
|289||ED33||Eku Leota||Auburn||DeAngelo Malone||6030||252||—|
|338||OL30||JD DiRenzo||Rutgers||Connor McGovern||6045||306||9.4|
|340||LB32||Bumper Pool||Arkansas||Bryce Hager||6021||235||—|
|454||LB42||Austin Ajiake||UNLV||Jonathan Casillas||6014||223||7.83|
|487||CB65||Mark Milton||Baylor||Jordan Miller||6010||186||5.71|
|488||WR65||Josh Vann||South Carolina||Shi Smith||5102||190||5.25|
|—||QB41||Taylor Powell||Eastern Michigan||Dane Evans||6001||202||0.91|
|—||OL49||Nash Jensen||North Dakota State||Brendan Mahon||6037||322||7.49|
|—||ED59||Travez Moore||Arizona State||Jeffrey Gunter||6027||253||7.61|
|—||CB90||Colby Richardson||LSU||Kiondre Thomas||6001||186||5.3|
|—||S53||Nico Bolden||Kent State||Willie Pile||6033||208||8.8|
Many teams use the UDFA sweepstakes to shoot the moon on athletic projects. Carolina’s class, in contrast, was filled with good players who got pushed out of the draft because of so-so athleticism.
That group starts with CB Rejzohn Wright and RB Camerun Peoples. Wright is a long boundary corner who excelled at Oregon State over 24 starts (following his transfer up from JUCO, where he was featured on Netflix’s “Last Chance U”). But questions about Wright’s athleticism led to him slipping out of Round 7. Wright’s brother, Nahshon, who also hailed from Oregon State, was a 2021 third-rounder of Dallas’.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Peoples is an imposing grinder who gets after it in pass-pro. He ran for a career 2,830 yards and 33 TD on 6.2 YPC. Peoples lacks high-end speed, but he could hang on a roster for his willingness to do an NFL backfield’s dirty work.
Oklahoma DT Jalen Redmond is a former mega-recruit who was wildly inconsistent in college. Redmond has a shot to stick around as a situational pass-rushing three-tech, but don’t expect anything more. He posted 18 TFL and 7.5 sacks over the past two seasons with the Sooners.
8. New Orleans Saints (13)
|211||LB18||Anfernee Orji||Vanderbilt||Sione Takitaki||6011||230||9.23|
|254||CB34||Anthony Johnson||Virginia||Jason Pinnock||6015||205||4.88|
|330||RB27||SaRodorick Thompson||Texas Tech||John Kelly||5115||207||4.51|
|363||DL29||Jerron Cage||Ohio State||Matt Toeaina||6020||311||2.42|
|371||OL33||Mark Evans II||Ark. Pine Bluff||William Sherman||6026||303||3.59|
|386||OL34||Alex Pihlstrom||Illinois||Austin Schlottmann||6053||302||9.26|
|391||LB38||Nick Anderson||Tulane||Quincy Williams||5093||230||7.4|
|403||WR56||Shaquan Davis||South Carolina State||Seth Williams||6044||216||7.57|
|489||TE25||Joel Wilson||Central Michigan||Noah Togiai||6035||242||4.33|
|—||WR70||Sy Barnett||Davenport||Andre Debose||6000||190||9.44|
|—||OL60||Adonis Boone||Louisville||Arie Kouandjio||6050||307||2.9|
For the first time in the five years I’ve ranked UDFA classes, the Saints did not finish in the top-10. In recent years, New Orleans has fished WR Rashid Shaheed,TE Juwan Johnson, and All-Pro special-teams ace J.T. Gray out of the UDFA process. Can they get by this year with what on the surface appears to be a less-impressive group?
It wasn’t for a lack of spending. The Saints gave more than $200,000 guaranteed to both WR Shaq Davis and LB Anfernee Orji.
I wasn’t quite as high on WR Davis as the Saints were, but his signing by New Orleans should come as no surprise. The Saints love to take low-cost fliers on receivers like this: Long, stretched-out prospects with athletic traits. David has a ridiculous 82 ⅜” wingspan that is more like an edge rusher than a wide receiver.
LB Orji has the athletic traits to surprise at the next level. But he’ll need to be polished. His instincts aren’t there yet, and his leave-on-my-shield style can find him out of position or drawing penalty flags. But on traits alone, I expected his name to be called late-Day 3.
CB Johnson is a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder with good size, length, and ball production. He posted seven interceptions and 26 breakups over his career. But Johnson’s mediocre athleticism and tendency to get grabby when beat (21 career penalties) made teams skittish.
9. Los Angeles Rams (16)
|252||LS1||Alex Ward||UCF||Camaron Cheeseman||6040||240||5.35|
|256||S20||Quindell Johnson||Memphis||Reed Blankenship||6001||201||7.31|
|297||RB24||Tiyon Evans||Louisville||Peyton Barber||5095||225||6.78|
|362||S28||Rashad Torrence II||Florida||Paris Ford||6000||193||4.81|
|448||S34||Jaiden Woodbey||Boston College||Marcell Harris||6006||222||5.8|
|459||K4||Christopher Dunn||North Carolina State||Nick Folk||5080||175||—|
|467||CB62||Timarcus Davis||Arizona State||Curtis Brown||5111||180||7.75|
|483||LB46||Matthew Jester||Princeton||Andy Katzenmoyer||6031||252||9.32|
|—||QB27||Braxton Burmeister||San Diego State||Marcus Vick||6000||200||8.45|
|—||WR100||Tyler Hudson||Louisville||Devin Aromashodu||6010||196||2.92|
|—||TE31||Christian Sims||Bowling Green||Quintin Morris||6023||243||7.09|
|—||OL63||Sean Maginn||Wake Forest||Givens Price||6033||298||7.87|
|—||CB91||Jordan Jones||Rhode Island||Jeremiah McKinnon||5104||174||6.24|
|—||S41||Tanner Ingle||North Carolina State||Arthur Maulet||5086||179||—|
|—||S50||Collin Duncan||Mississippi State||Calvin Lowry||6000||197||5.04|
Here’s what I liked about what the Rams did this year: For the first time in years, you saw a self-diagnosis of the problems on the hole-filled roster and a process-long strategy to address them. This wasn’t a sexy process. It was the opposite. It was a meat-and-potatoes approach that netted the hit-it-down-the-fairway-at-volume result that the Rams so desperately needed.
Handcuffed by a lack of equity during the draft, the Rams deferred to a high-floor mantra with its14 picks. A draft class that large can hurt a team’s ability to argue to agents that its UDFA clients should sign with them. But the Rams did solid work signing eight guys on my pre-draft 500-board.
Unless LS Alex Ward has a disastrous camp, he’s making the team as the Rams’ new long snapper. In most recent drafts, we’ve seen a long-snapper selected. We didn’t get one this year. That made Ward, the best long-snapper in the group, available to the Rams on the cheap.
It would also appear that UDFA K Christopher Dunn has a strong shot to win the team’s kicker job, giving Los Angeles a rookie-heavy special teams core in addition to R7 P Ethan Evans (both returner jobs will also likely be occupied by rookies).
I compared S Quindell Johnson to Reed Blankenship – now, Johnson is looking to copy Blankenship’s path to early NFL success from the UDFA ranks.
RB Tiyon Evans has intriguing developmental traits. He’ll have to beat out 2022 UDFA Ronnie Rivers in camp, and then cross his fingers that the Rams keep four RB (Kyren Williams and Zach Evans, Day 3 picks from the last two drafts, are locked-in behind Cam Akers).
10. San Francisco 49ers (18)
|166||OL14||Joey Fisher||Shepherd||Netane Muti||6041||296||9.66|
|339||RB28||Khalan Laborn||Marshall||Tre Mason||5085||204||8.47|
|346||CB45||D’Shawn Jamison||Texas||Shaun Prater||5092||184||5.87|
|360||ED41||Spencer Waege||North Dakota St.||Chris Wormley||6046||295||9.58|
|370||FB3||Jack Colletto||Oregon State||Derek Watt||6025||237||5.7|
|456||WR62||Jadakis Bonds||Hampton||Dez Fitzpatrick||6026||205||4.86|
|461||LB43||Mariano Sori-Marin||Minnesota||Dannell Ellerbe||6020||236||7.32|
|494||OL44||Ilm Manning||Hawaii||Julian Vandervelde||6021||294||7.95|
|—||WR105||Shae Wyatt||Tulane||Chris Finke||5102||188||6.05|
|—||WR126||Isaiah Winstead||East Carolina||Ventell Bryant||6031||210||—|
|—||OL56||Corey Luciano||Washington||Drew Hodgdon||6032||307||6.75|
|—||S46||Avery Young||Rutgers||Deionte Thompson||5113||198||3.3|
The gem of the 49ers’ UDFA haul is OL Joey Fisher. Fisher is jumping up from the D-II level, but he’s got the athleticism and play strength to do it. He posted 4.90 40-yard dash with a hulking 40 bench press reps during the pre-draft process. Fisher needs to add weight (292 pounds), but he’s a strong fit in San Francisco’s zone-blocking scheme and should be a developmental priority.
RB Khalan Laborn is a sawed-off, muscled-up bowling ball with athletic traits who is coming off a dynamite season for Marshall (1,513 yards and 16 TD). But he and fellow UDFA RB Ronald Awatt are in for a fight in camp to try to break into the Elijah Mitchell-Jordan Mason-Tyrion Davis-Price trio currently sitting behind Christian McCaffrey on the depth chart.
It was humorous that San Francisco signed the all-purpose Jack Coletto. I wish that had been a pre-draft prop – the 49ers love guys like this. Coletto won Oregon’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a state-title-winning high school quarterback. But after two years at that position in college – the first in JUCO – he was moved by Oregon State to an H-Back role on offense and to linebacker duties on defense.
Over the last five years at OSU, Colletto played 452 snaps on offense, 201 snaps on defense, and 568 snaps on special teams. If Colletto can justify a 2023 roster spot through his special teams work, San Francisco can offer the perfect mentor in Kyle Juszczyk.
11. New York Giants (19)
|152||WR22||Bryce Ford-Wheaton||West Virginia||Donovan Peoples-Jones||6034||221||9.97|
|302||ED34||Habakkuk Baldonado||Pittsburgh||Oshane Ximines||6036||251||8.13|
|367||LB35||Troy Brown||Mississippi||Zakoby McClain||6006||223||7.44|
|402||CB53||Gemon Green||Michigan||Greedy Williams||6010||183||6.64|
|409||QB20||Tommy DeVito||Illinois||Collin Hill||6010||210||7.9|
|420||DL33||LaTrell Bumphus||Tennessee||Michael Dogbe||6031||277||8.71|
|—||QB32||Haaziq Daniels||Air Force||Kenny Hill||6002||209||7.61|
|—||QB43||Hunter Johnson||Clemson||Chris Rix||6025||199||8.33|
|—||RB52||Ike Irabor||Union||Darrynton Evans||5104||204||8.18|
|—||FB6||Ryan Jones||East Carolina||Ryan Yurachek||6012||240||5.42|
|—||WR72||Garett Maag||North Dakota||Robert Davis||6035||206||8.53|
|—||WR115||Carlos Carriere||Central Michigan||P.K. Sam||6053||205||3.32|
|—||WR116||Tarique Milton||Texas||Lavelle Hawkins||5105||199||6.06|
|—||TE42||Kemore Gamble||Central Florida||Cethan Carter||6034||234||5.68|
|—||OL61||Ahofitu Maka||UTSA||Marcus Martin||6026||310||6.34|
|—||OT50||Khalil Keith||Baylor||Tremayne Anchrum||6040||314||4.6|
|—||DL45||Ami Finau||Maryland||LaBryan Ray||6017||283||4.47|
|—||DL55||Caleb Sanders||South Dakota State||Tueni Lupeamanu||6003||287||8.91|
|—||LB53||Dyontae Johnson||Toledo||Gerald Hodges||6021||235||4.3|
The most intriguing of the Giants’ UDFA signings was WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton. New York clearly wanted to address its receiver corps during Draft Weekend, but circumstances – including a four-receiver run of picks in front of them in Round 1 – dictated that the only receiver the Giants selected over Draft Weekend was Jalin Hyatt in Round 3.
In a receiver class as bereft of potential starting NFL boundary prospects, I was aghast that Ford-Wheaton didn’t get taken on Day 3. Ford-Wheaton was inconsistent throughout his collegiate career, for sure. But you can’t teach his athleticism in a 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame – including a 4.39 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical.
This team has so many true slot receivers, including Parris Campbell, Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson, and now Hyatt. Its starting boundary WRs Isiah Hodgins and Darius Slayton are mediocre, and there isn’t much behind them. If Ford-Wheaton flashes any ability in camp, he’ll likely be kept as a pet development project.
The rest of New York’s haul faces longer odds to make the roster. There might be an LB spot on the 53 for whichever UDFA looks best in camp amongst Habakkuk Baldonado, Troy Brown and Dyontae Johnson. I had Johnson rated lowest in that group by margin, but the Giants clearly like Johnson after giving him $175,000 in guarantees.
QB Tommy DeVito will crack the 53 only if he can convince the team to carry three QB. New York’s top-two QBs – Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor – are locked in.
12. Chicago Bears (21)
|232||QB12||Tyson Bagent||Shepherd||Garrett Grayson||6026||213||8.99|
|333||LB31||Micah Baskerville||LSU||Marcus Freeman||6005||221||1.57|
|399||OL35||Lorenz Metz||Cincinnati||Chandler Brewer||6090||316||8.24|
|412||OT32||Chris Toth||Aurora (IL)||Trey Pipkins||6061||307||8.2|
|462||RB40||Andrew Clair||Northwestern||Darwin Thompson||5086||201||8.36|
|466||ED53||Jalen Harris||Arizona||Gaines Adams||6043||257||8.66|
|499||OT39||Gabe Houy||Pittsburgh||Nat Dorsey||6063||325||4.45|
|—||QB29||N’Kosi Perry||Florida Atlantic||Kelly Bryant||6024||199||6.24|
|—||FB5||Robert Burns||UConn||Lex Hilliard||5111||222||8.79|
|—||WR117||Aron Cruickshank||Rutgers||John Ursua||5093||165||6.64|
|—||WR129||Jadan Blue||Virginia Tech||K.J. Hill||5106||192||1.91|
|—||TE34||Lachlan Pitts||William & Mary||David Wells||6054||253||7.44|
|—||TE46||Sammy Wheeler||Kansas State||Cole Hikutini||6044||232||4.52|
|—||OL46||Nick Amoah||UC Davis||Alex Mollette||6023||306||7.72|
|—||OL55||Josh Lugg||Notre Dame||Braden Hansen||6066||306||2.46|
|—||OT41||Bobby Haskins||USC||Kyle Murphy||6057||297||5.5|
|—||OT48||Alfred Edwards III||Utah State||Obinna Eze||6070||318||6.88|
|—||DL52||D’Anthony Jones||Houston||Fred Washington||6003||276||4.54|
|—||LB64||Jordan Wright||Kentucky||Dominique Stevenson||6033||243||4.92|
|—||CB100||D’Jordan Strong||Coastal Carolina||Jason Goss||5094||187||1.44|
|—||S38||Macon Clark||Tulane||Jonathan Crawford||5116||203||6.48|
The Bears’ new administration has opted for quantity-over-quality in the UDFA carousel in each of its first two years, honing in on flawed evals with developmental traits or isolated skills and giving those guys a shot on the field to make the argument they’re worth the investment to marinate.
The best of this year’s bunch is QB Tyson Bagent. Bagent was a prolific high school and college quarterback. But his strange recruiting process – nobody was interested despite his prep success – forced him to the D-II level.
I thought Bagent had done enough during his pre-draft process – with a solid showing at the Senior Bowl and a strong gamut of pre-draft athletic tests – to hear his name called on Day 3. Bagent will compete with Nathan Peterman in camp to be Chicago’s QB3.
Chicago’s lack of depth along the offensive line and in the linebacking corps offer LB Micah Baskerville, OG Lorenz Metz and OTs Chris Toth and Gabe Houy the real hope of making the 53.
WR Aron Cruickshank needs to make the team on the back of his return ability. But he’s skilled enough in that area to have a shot. And keep an eye on RB Andrew Clair and FB Robert Burns. Chicago’s backfield situation is more crowded today than it was pre-draft, but Clair and Burns were overlooked talents who can hang in the NFL.
Clair showed receiving chops earlier in his career at Bowling Green, but he got stuck behind Evan Hull after transferring to Northwestern. Burns is a former elite RB recruit who didn’t start to figure things out until UConn shifted him into a FB role in 2022. UConn HC Jim Mora said Burns was the country’s best FB last season.
13. Arizona Cardinals (24)
|294||TE15||Blake Whiteheart||Wake Forest||Chris Herndon||6037||247||8.99|
|298||LB28||Kyle Soelle||Arizona State||Joe Odom||6031||231||9.27|
|352||DL28||Jacob Slade||Michigan State||Jonathan Bullard||6031||285||8.76|
|382||RB32||Emari Demercado||TCU||Lavon Coleman||5093||213||8.23|
|447||CB59||Quavian White||Georgia State||Shaun Jolly||5084||185||5.3|
|—||WR73||Daniel Arias||Colorado||Limas Sweed||6034||208||7.63|
|—||TE37||Joel Honigford||Michigan||Brian Leonhardt||6050||260||3.75|
|—||LB49||Marvin Pierre||Kent State||Jon Alston||6014||222||9.08|
|—||S49||Kendell Brooks||Michigan State||Rudy Ford||5115||206||8.34|
The Cardinals didn’t get any UDFA that I had a draftable grade on, but they did bring in five on my top-500 board.
My favorite of that group is TE Blake Whiteheart, who has some receiving chops. One of Whiteheart and fellow UDFA TE Joel Honigford has a chance to crack the 53 – the team’s depth behind TEs Zack Ertz and Trey McBride is poor.
Local ASU LB Kyle Soelle has always been an intriguing size/athleticism proposition, but the light didn’t start to flicker on until last season, when he posted 110 tackles. If Soelle shows the developmental arrow is still pointing upward in camp, he’s got a strong chance to crack a thin LB room.
The Cardinals were clearly more bullish on DT Jacob Slade than me, giving Slade $200,000 guaranteed. Slade projects as a 3-4 DE in the NFL. The Cardinals’ dearth of viable options behind Rashard Lawrence and Jonathan Ledbetter open the door for Slade to crack the 53 with a strong camp.
Arizona didn’t draft an RB despite having the NFL’s worst backfield. That made this a strong landing spot for RB Emari Demercado. Demercado has to beat out Ty’Son Williams and maybe Corey Clement to be on Arizona’s Week 1 roster.
14. Green Bay Packers (25)
|240||OT21||Kadeem Telfort||UAB||Cornell Green||6074||322||1.59|
|311||ED35||Brenton Cox Jr.||Florida||Eli Harold||6036||250||6.33|
|345||WR49||Malik Heath||Mississippi||Kendrick Rogers||6023||213||6.58|
|413||S31||Christian Morgan||Baylor||J.R. Reed||6004||200||8.67|
|468||LB44||Jimmy Phillips Jr.||SMU||Alfred Fincher||6012||232||3.44|
|—||WR77||Duece Watts||Tulane||Dai’Jean Dixon||6012||196||7|
|—||TE40||Camren McDonald||Florida State||Isaac Nauta||6042||237||2.52|
|—||OL54||Chuck Filiaga||Minnesota||Lucas Nix||6055||321||7.88|
|—||OT45||Isaac Moore||Temple||Rasheed Walker||6061||299||0.55|
|—||DL54||Jason Lewan||Illinois State||Sam Roberts||6062||293||8.55|
|—||ED60||Keshawn Banks||San Diego St.||Kendall Coleman||6032||251||2.11|
|—||S47||Benny Sapp III||Northern Iowa||Ibraheim Campbell||5110||200||4.4|
The Packers’ knack for finding eventual starters in the UDFA process – Robert Tonyan, Yosh Nijman, and Allen Lazard in recent years – will be put to the test with this crop, which checks in No. 25 in the NFL.
But this year we saw a similar strategy deployed by Green Bay to what they’ve done in the past: The Packers avoid UDFA bidding wars and don’t pay out much money. Last process, Green Bay finished tied for third-lowest in the NFL in UDFA signing bonus money given out, and they were one of only five teams who put $0 into guaranteed salaries.
This strategy boxes the Packers out of the top talents left on the board. So we’re going to find out if they still can spot diamonds buried deep in the rough.
My favorite of the Packers’ signings was UAB OT Kadeem Telfort. Telfort is coming up from the G5, and he’s not a good athlete. But he’s blessed with an ideal NFL frame at 6’7 ½ and a ludicrous 86-inch wingspan. Telfort played 800-or-more snaps each of the past two seasons and posted PFF grades of 71.8 and 75.2. Don’t be surprised if he hangs around.
15. Washington Commanders (29)
|288||WR39||Mitchell Tinsley||Penn State||Willie Snead||5116||199||7.41|
|442||WR60||Kazmeir Allen||UCLA||Demetric Felton||5083||183||1.88|
|—||QB35||Jason Shelley||Missouri State||Connor Shaw||5102||197||7.26|
|—||RB47||Brad Roberts||Air Force||Nick Brossette||5107||210||3.98|
|—||WR69||Brycen Tremayne||Stanford||Hart Lee Dykes||6041||204||7.11|
|—||OT40||Mason Brooks||Mississippi||Tyler Johnstone||6054||302||—|
|—||LB51||Merlin Robertson||Arizona St.||Markus Steele||6023||226||6.8|
|—||S57||Kendall Smith||Illinois||Kenny Robinson||6010||211||5.2|
I gave Washington’s draft class a D- grade. The UDFA class gets the equivalent of the same.
In the draft, Washington took defensive backs with the first two picks and used five-of-six picks after that on the trenches. The Commanders took no receivers during Draft Weekend. That was the one position they decided to splurge on in the UDFA free-for-all.
The biggest addition was Penn State WR Mitchell Tinsley. Tinsley transferred to PSU from WKU last offseason – he was never teammates with Jahan Dotson on campus, rather, Tinsley was brought to PSU to replace him.
Obviously no such thing will be happening here. But Tinsley has a very good shot to crack this roster. After starters Dotson, Terry McLaurin, and Curtis Samuel, the Commanders have very little at the WR position.
WR Kazmeir Allen will also have a shot to crack the 53. A former running back, Allen transitioned to receiver midway through his career at UCLA. He underwhelmed in athletic testing, but he has a versatile skillset to experiment with if he can overcome that.
The rest of the group isn’t much to write home about. I liked RB Brad Roberts’ tenacity and power at Air Force. But he isn’t big enough for fullback duties, and the roster he’s joining is now full of the same type of short-yardage grinder that he is – more talented versions.
16. Atlanta Falcons (29)
|387||ED44||Ikenna Enechukwu||Rice||Bryan Cox Jr.||6040||264||7.71|
|395||WR55||Justin Marshall||Buffalo||Marquez Callaway||6030||210||7.7|
|476||QB23||Chase Brice||Appalachian State||Kellen Clemens||6023||236||—|
|—||QB40||Austin Aune||North Texas||Jake Rudock||6020||215||6.73|
|—||QB42||Matt McDonald||Bowling Green||Matt McGloin||6020||211||1.77|
|—||WR68||Keilahn Harris||Oklahoma Baptist||Keke Coutee||5091||183||—|
|—||WR83||Xavier Malone||Henderson State||Stanley Berryhill III||5090||180||6.31|
|—||TE32||Gunnar Oakes||Eastern Michigan||Jared Pinkney||6041||252||6.07|
|—||OL59||Jacob Gall||Baylor||James Ferentz||6020||296||4.75|
|—||LB68||Mike Jones Jr.||LSU||Keishawn Bierria||5114||227||4.98|
|—||S52||Ja’von Hicks||Cincinnati||Nasir Greer||6007||205||6.28|
|—||S59||Clifford Chattman||UTSA||Corey Hall||6051||201||5.93|
I always find it such a waste when organizations at a talent disadvantage don’t maximize the UDFA process. That certainly describes the team above, as it does the Falcons.
EDGE Ikenna Enechukwu has an NFL frame, NFL length, and NFL speed and burst. He posted at least 4.5 sacks each of the last two years. But Enechukwu’s stiffness makes him a bit of a tweener.
His lack of lateral agility would work better inside. But unless he gains another 30-plus pounds, that isn’t going to be viable. Even as a 3-4 DE, Enechukwu is badly in need of bulk and additional play strength. He’ll be worth a practice squad slot to park in the team’s dining facility and weight room for the next calendar year.
The only other additions that I can drum up any enthusiasm for are WRs Justin Marshall and Keilahn Harris. Atlanta’s receiving corps beyond WR Drake London is unsightly. That throws the door wide open for either Marshall or Harris to win a 53-man gig if they impress in camp.
Marshall is my favorite of the two. He and Enechukwu were the only two prospects in this crop in my pre-draft top-450. Marshall did damage in MACtion last year, posting 64 receptions for 837 yards and nine TD.
A true boundary receiver, Marshall is a strapping 6’2/205 with long speed (4.48) and requisite explosion. He wins downfield. On 172 career targets over 14.1 aDOT, Marshall had strong showings of an 8.3% career drop rate and a 51.0% career contested catch rate. I’m calling my shot: Marshall makes this team and sees the field as a rookie.
Harris is a prolific small-school slot receiver – 80 catches for 1,050 yards at Oklahoma Baptist last year – who is about to make an enormous leap up in competition. I liked Harris as a deep-deep-sleeper earlier in the process, prior to his ghastly pre-draft testing – including a 4.68 forty at 5’9/183. He’s quicker than that in pads, but he’s going to have to be significantly so to hang around.