NFL Draft, NFL Offseason

Undrafted free agents who could make an early impact:

We have spent a lot of time talking about the NFL draft, handing out grades and pointing out steals from that weekend. With that being said, even after 254 picks there still was a lot of talent left out there and some prospects, who I had rated pretty high, never heard their names called on those three days. Instead they are now entering some team’s practice squad, looking to prove themselves and carve out a role. These ten names I think have the talent and/or are in a situation where they could contribute early on and be valuable pieces for their respective franchise. Every year there are some undrafted free agents I see making an early impact, who actually end up doing so – Phillip Lindsay and J.C. Jackson in 2018 for example.


Terrill Hanks

 

Terrill Hanks, LB, New Mexico State with the Dolphins Dolphins

This one really made no sense to me. Hanks was a standout player at the Senior Bowl, flashing sideline to sideline in the mold of Darius Leonard last year, who would go on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. At the combine he pulled a hamstring running the 40 yard dash, with resulted in a time just below five seconds, which is nowhere near indicative of what you see with him flying around the field. Like a lot of modern NFL linebackers, you have to keep him clean because he tries to get around blockers rather than through them, but his short-area burst and spacious awareness are excellent. The Dolphins already have a really good linebacking trio, but I had to put Hanks up there because I had a third-round grade on him in a very weak linebacker class and he should have a role on passing downs for Miami at the very least. I also like another UDFA linebacker they picked up in Maryland’s Tre Watson, who I thought didn’t nearly get the recognition during the draft process he deserved.

 

Emanuel Hall

 

Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri with the Bears Bears

With this kid I can see more why he didn’t get a call during draft weekend. There were some reports about “attitude problems” with Hall and he had some nagging injuries throughout his collegiate career. With that being said, I thought the Mizzou wideout had the best top gear of anybody not named Marquise Brown in this draft class. Hall has been referred to as kind of a one-trick pony and he dropped eight passes last season, but I thought he should have definitely been selected as one of the first picks of day four. His footwork off the line is very advanced, he is highly dangerous after the catch and if you just give him time, I guarantee you that he will get behind the defense eventually. Despite having 20+ offers by teams reportedly, Hall chose to join a loaded receiving room in Chicago with Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims and now fourth-round pick Riley Ridley. The rookie said he chose the Bears because of his trust in their receivers coach and the confidence in himself. He might not see a lot of volume, but he could make some impact plays.

 

Gerald Willis

Gerald Willis, DL, Miami with the Ravens Ravens

Alright, this has to be all about character and off-the-field concerns. Wills was a first-team All-American from Louisiana, who started his collegiate career at Florida. After multiple suspensions, he transferred to Miami, where he took a leave of absence due to family issues in 2017. When he returned to the field he was described as a new man and definitely was a new player on the field. Willis put up a ridiculous 18 tackles for loss and four sacks to go along with 23 additional pressures. While his pad level rises up too much at this point, he has heavy hands and surprising wiggle for a big guy. Willis is still far from reaching his potential largely due to the fact that he simply didn’t play as much, as he needs to play with more control instead of just creating disruption, but I think his potential is off the charts. I had this young man as my 67th overall prospect! He should be a great addition to a Ravens D-line that is loaded with big bodies and could give them a different element.

 Devine Ozigbo

 

Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska with the Saints Saints

Here is another kid who I have no idea how he went undrafted. I know this draft was loaded with running backs and I even said so in my first edition of the positional rankings, but either NFL scouts just didn’t watch enough tape on him, or they know something that I don’t. There were several quality RBs and wide receivers who never heard their names called, but I think Ozigbo is a special talent. At 230 pounds he can drive his way through defensive linemen in the whole to pick up crucial first downs, but I just don’t think people are paying attention to his lower body. Ozgbo has some of the best footwork in this class, varying stride length on the fly and showing the mobility of his hips to sustain speed through cuts. He is a bruising runner with a touch for finesse, showing soft hands become a contributor in the passing game. The former Cornhusker didn’t quite reach 500 rushing yards in either of his first three years before he went over 1000 and scored twelve TDs. I know the Saints just signed Latavius Murray, but this guy needs to see the field and could soon be their RB2.

 

Joe Giles-Harris

 

Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke with the Jaguars Jaguars

Every year the NFL overlooks a really good player who doesn’t test very well and often times it is a linebacker. Giles-Harris was a tackling-machine at Duke, recording over 300 total stops with 32.5 of them for loss. I called him an urgent, high-motor player, who brings them thump when taking on blockers and runs through tackles. When you look at his coverage, I wouldn’t ask him to sink deep or cover quick backs one-on-one, but he can shut down underneath crossers and punishes receivers for catching the ball. There is some stiffness in his hips, but I didn’t think the sub-30 inch vertical and 9’2” broad jump reflected that badly in his game. Giles-Harris is a highly instinctive and intelligent player, who has plenty of experience as a blitzer. The Jaguars haven’t had that big MIKE linebacker in base packages since Paul Posluszny retired. With them drafting Josh Allen seventh overall as that SAM backer, who they move to the edge in over fronts, they will probably still stay with two true stand-up guys, but I think Giles-Harris makes that roster and could have a role against run-heavy teams.

 

Ryan Bates

 

Ryan Bates, OL, Penn State with the Eagles Eagles

With a rather light class of interior offensive linemen beyond the top ten guys or so, I was really surprised to see Bates go undrafted. The former Nittany Lion redshirting his first year on campus before becoming a Freshman All-American starting every game between left guard and tackle. He split time between the two tackle spots over the last two years and was a third-team All-Big Ten selection. What probably cost him a draft day call was the fact that he has more of a tackle skill-set, but with only 32 ½-inch arms he doesn’t have the length you are looking for at the position. Still, he has experience in the outside zone game, where he shows the mobility to move down the line, and he was used as a puller in power run schemes. I think he will fit very well on that Eagles offense. With Stefen Wisnieski still on the open market there might even be an opening at left guard, but at least I think Bates should be that eight offensive linemen if Philly decides to dress up that many as a swing-tackle with some inside-out versatility.

 

Wyatt Rey

 

Wyatt Rey, Edge, Boston College with the Browns Browns

When you have guys like Harold Landry and Zach Allen ahead of you on the depth chart, it might take you a while to see the field, but Rey finally got his chance in 2018 and put up nine sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. He might not have the bend of Landry or the power of Allen, but he plays with good bend and well-placed hands in the run game plus as a pass rusher he shows a lot of room to develop. His pursuit from the backside is tremendous and he shows a lot of effort when hunting down QBs. I thought there were some issues with snap anticipation and surrendering contain responsibilities, but not to the point where I thought he would go undrafted. At this point he is mainly a speed rusher with some experience on stunts, but I think he could turn into a valuable rotational piece for Cleveland. Obviously he won’t challenge Myles Garrett or Olivier Vernon, but the Browns have given up some guys on the edge like Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib, making some snaps available.

 

Stanley Morgan

 

Stanley Morgan, WR, Nebraska with the Bengals Bengals

This kid is another one of those highly talented receivers, who didn’t get drafted due to off-field concerns. Morgan was arrested for marijuana possession back in 2017, but outside of that there are no reports on anything about him as a teammate or player. The thickly built six-foot receiver has experience running a full route run, which led to almost 2000 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He climbs the ladder to attack the ball at its highest point, showing excellent concentration at the point of the catch and no fear of what’s coming over the middle of the field. Nothing about him athletically might be elite, but he has adequate speed, makes plays on all three levels and shows great effort as a blocker. Outside of A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd the Bengals wide receiver depth chart is wide open, especially with the inconsistencies from former first-round pick John Ross. Morgan can run a lot of routes and shows great downfield adjustments to the ball, which mixed well with what Andy Dalton likes to do.

 

Daniel Wise

 

Daniel Wise, DL, Kansas with the Cowboys Cowboys

Players coming from a basketball-centric school like Kansas usually get overlooked and I think that’s what happened with this kid. The brother of Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise, Daniel recorded ten sacks and 28 tackles for loss over the last two year. For a big body he is very fluid with good flexibility and he shows some sudden traits. Wise allows offensive linemen to get under his pads too much and he would highly benefit from working on a spin move to counter his initial rush, but I think Wise was one of the more intriguing interior D-linemen on day three. He lined up on the edge a whole lot, beat guys across their faces on stunts and even dropped into shallow zones occasionally. I believe he has the jolt in his hands and doesn’t mind throwing his body around to create a mesh in the run game, plus he pushes linemen back into the quarterback’s lap. The Cowboys already drafted an upfield D-tackle in UCF’s Trysten Hill, but Wise should become a part of the rotation after being somewhat limited by the Jayhawks’ scheme, where he wasn’t allowed to shoot through gaps.

 

Jakobi Meyers

 

Jakobi Meyers, WR, N.C. State with the Patriots Patriots

The Patriots seem to find those lesser-known names among the undrafted free agents every year and they end up catching 30 passes or so every year. I could easily see Meyers surpass than number and be a great contributor for New England. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will love the all-around skill-set Meyers brings to the table. He doesn’t mind doing the dirty work as a blocker for his teammates, he fights back towards the ball and he made several tough catches over the middle on third down for the Wolfpack. We also know Brady loves throwing the ball in-between the numbers and Meyers led all draft-eligible receivers with 86 catches out of the slot last season. There are some athletic limitations, but Meyers wins with not being afraid to throwing his body around holding onto the catches. He should win some offensive snaps via special teams and fit right in as a slot receiver. The Patriots got another one and you almost know he will make a few big catches for them throughout the year.

 


 

Other signings I liked:

 

Brian Peavy, CB, Iowa State with the Cardinals

Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo or DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss with the Buccaneers

Lukas Denis, S, Boston College with the Buccaneers

Johnnie Dixon, WR, Ohio State with the Texans

Beau Benzschawel, OL, Wisconsin with the Lions

Josiah Tauaefa, LB, UTSA with the Giants

Bruce Anderson, RB, North Dakota State with the Buccaneers

Jonathan Ledbetter, Edge, Georgia with the Dolphins

Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State with the Colts

T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin with the Eagles

Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State and James Williams, RB, Washington State with the Chiefs

Malik Gant, S, Patriots with the Patriots

Alex Barnes, RB, Kansas State with the Titans

Savion Smith, CB, Alabama with the Jaguars

Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis with the Raiders

Matt Nelson, DL, Iowa with the Lions

Alex Bars, OL, Notre Dame with the Bears

Hamp Cheevers, CB, Boston College with the Titans

Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State and Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest with the Jets

 

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2 thoughts on “Undrafted free agents who could make an early impact:

    • I really like the kid. He made so many crucial catches for the Longhorns, was used like a swiss army knife and runs really hard with the ball in his hands. His 40 number really hurt him, but he could be a nice complementary piece!

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