15 Undrafted Rookies To Watch As NFL Season Kicks Off
15 Undrafted Rookies To Watch As The NFL Season Kicks Off
2013 may go down as the year of the undrafted rookie free agent. This year, we've seen more players than ever get passed over on draft day just to play their way onto a team's roster this summer.
Now, more than ever, NFL teams are looking for young players to step up and make the roster. Not only are the young players a good investment for their future talent, they're a good investment period. Rookies, especially those that went undrafted, make a lot less than their veteran counterparts. If you can get a portion of the production at a fraction of the price, that just makes good sense in today's salary cap driven NFL.
That reality opens the door more than ever for rookies to find a way to make a team. These unsung, unlikely professionals usually fall into one of two categories. One group is deemed either too small or too slow by the experts. If you find yourself in that batch, you make the team by playing and working harder than your competition.
The other group are the guys who have the talent, but have shown a penchant for wasting it due to off-field issues. If you were a disappointment in college, all you need to do is stay quiet off the field and let your play do the talking when you're on it. I know -- easier said than done for some players.
There are going to be more undrafted free agents than ever that will get a chance to show the world what they can do this season. These are 15 players who were passed over on draft weekend that will make a splash this in the NFL this year.
15. John Lotulelei, LB - Seattle Seahawks
Linebacker John Lotulelei led UNLV with 120 tackles last year. He immediately impressed the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff with his work ethic and determination to make the 53-man roster. The Seattle defense is one of the best in the league, and making the roster for the Seahawks was no small task for Lotulelei.
14. Jaron Brown, WR - Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals were so impressed with Jaron Brown that they kept only four receivers on their 53-man roster. A big, outside receiver who stands 6-foot-2 tall and weighs 205 lbs, Brown caught 87 passes and eight touchdowns in 50 games at Clemson.
The Cardinals are looking to improve on a dismal passing performance last season. They added Carson Palmer, a huge upgrade at quarterback. Now all they need is for someone to step up as a secondary receiver alongside All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. Brown may just be the man for the job.
13. Da'Rick Rogers, WR - Indianapolis Colts
Wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers has all the talent necessary to make a splash in the NFL, but his off-field issues have haunted him since he was a prized high school recruit. After bouncing from the University of Tennessee to Tennessee Tech, he was dropped from most teams' draft boards when he acknowledged that he failed several drug tests in college.
The Buffalo Bills signed him after the draft and gave him a chance to make the roster, but Rogers failed to impress for a team that was looking for someone to step up at receiver. Now, he gets what may be his final chance with a spot on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad.
12. Jeff Tuel, QB - Buffalo Bills
The Bills may or may not have first-round pick E.J. Manuel at their disposal in Week 1. If they don’t, fellow rookie Jeff Tuel will take the reigns in his place. Tuel, who passed for 5,932 yards and 33 touchdowns at the Washington State, has the arm strength and size to be an NFL quarterback.
11. Daren Bates, LB - St. Louis Rams
Daren Bates led Auburn in tackles in 2012 and thought he was going to be a safety in the NFL. But, the St. Louis Rams saw his potential, brought him into camp and told him to pack on a few pounds so he could try out at linebacker.
The league covets linebackers who can make plays in the passing game, and Bates will get every opportunity to make a name for himself on an under-the-radar Rams defense.
10. Tony Jefferson, S - Arizona Cardinals
So, have you heard that the Arizona Cardinals have a good rookie safety who plummeted down draft boards this spring? No, I'm not talking about the Honey Badger Tyrann Mathieu, I'm talking about Tony Jefferson.
Jefferson fell out of favor during the drafting process because of his small size — he's only 5-foot-11 — but the Cardinals are desperate at safety and Jefferson will get a chance to show what he can do this year.
9. Alvin Bailey, T - Seattle Seahawks
Alvin Bailey was one of three undrafted free agents to make the Seahhawks' roster this year. A strong, athletic tackle out of Arkansas, Bailey excels at protecting the passer, something paramount to the Seahawks now that they have a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson.
8. Tyler Bray, QB - Kansas City Chiefs
Tyler Bray was one of the most surprising players to go undrafted in this spring's draft. Bray, who had an up and down career at Tennessee, has all the assets you look for in an NFL quarterback. His decision-making could use some improvement, but he showed his upside, not to mention his strong arm, with a three-touchdown performance in the Kansas City Chiefs' final preseason game.
7. Marlon Brown, WR - Baltimore Ravens
That void created an opportunity for undrafted rookie free agent Marlon Brown. A prototypical No. 1 receiver at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Brown led the Ravens with 10 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason.
6. Joseph Fauria, TE - Detroit Lions
Joseph Fauria, nephew of fan-favorite New England Patriots tight end Christian Fauria, caught six passes for 72 yards and one touchdown in the preseason for the Detroit Lions. With starting tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler in the final year of their contracts, Fauria could play his way into a bigger role with the team.
5. Kenbrell Thompkins, WR - New England Patriots
The Patriots have a void at receiver this year. They lost four of their top five pass catchers from last year and all five if you include the perpetually injured tight end Rob Gronkowski.
They drafted several receivers to try out for a starting job, including second-round pick Aaron Dobson and fourth-rounder Josh Boyce. But, it wasn't either of those two who showed the most potential in the preseason. Instead, it was the precise routes and soft hands of undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins who stood out from the crowd.
4. LaAdrian Waddle, T - Detroit Lions
A big-bodied offense tackle out of Texas Tech, LaAdrian Waddle fell down draft boards because teams felt like he would struggle making the transition to the NFL game from the unconventional Texas Tech offense.
But, you can't teach size or strength. At 6-foot-6 and 321 pounds, Waddle has the physical tools to play right tackle right away, and the team even thinks he can be groomed into a starting left tackle down the road.
3. Matt McGloin, QB - Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have issues at quarterback. Well, technically, the Oakland Raiders have issues at a lot of positions, but especially at quarterback.
Terrelle Pryor won the job by default this summer, but the coaching staff can't be too confident in his ability to help them keep their jobs. Matt McGloin played well in preseason and leap-frogged fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson, relegating him to the practice squad. If Pryor or Matt Flynn don't play well enough to keep him on the bench — and that's not a big if — McGloin will get a shot this year.
2. Kwame Geathers, DL - San Diego Chargers
Another one of the talented Geathers family of defensive linemen, Kwame Geathers played his way onto the San Diego Chargers this summer. A force against the run, he's just what the Chargers are looking for at nose tackle. He'll initially be in a rotation with fourth-year man Cam Thomas, but will have the chance to play his way towards a starting role by the end of the year.
1. Zach Sudfeld, TE - New England Patriots
When the Patriots opened camp, they knew they were going to need to find someone to replace the production at tight end. Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells were the top contenders for the job, but both were sent packing because of the emergence of Zach Sudfeld. A receiving tight end out of the Gronkowski mold, Sudfeld was impressive in his preseason action.
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