Written by Bobby Greco
The draft is over and the undrafted players have been signed. Now it’s time to see if your team has any gems, sitting at the bottom of the depth chart. Every year your team probably has a UFA that makes the final roster and they might even make an impact. However this year’s draft class was so deep with talent, that some very good players slipped through the cracks and ended up going undrafted. That being said, I think there will be a surplus of UFAs who not only make their team but make an impact. Here’s my list of players whose names I think we will be getting used to hearing.
Thaddeus Moss TE LSU, Washington Redskins: Of all the players who went undrafted, this is the one that shocked the most. I know he didn’t have the most productive college career, but when he was given the opportunity he displayed great hands and body control. Not to mention he was a key piece to LSU’s blocking scheme, in both the run and pass game and showed he could block an outside rusher 1on1, which is very impressive for a tight end. He did have a lot of injuries in the past, but looked to be over them that fact this past year and had a full healthy season. I just think his upside is tremendous and with TE being a weaker position for Washington, I think Moss has a real shot to contribute in the offense. Not to mention his Hall of Fame pedigree in dad Randy Moss, if Thaddeus can have a quarter of his dad’s receiving skills, he could be a real threat at TE.
Michael Warren RB Cincinnati, Philadelphia Eagles: This is one of the most underappreciated players in all of college football and it carried over to his draft stock. He may not be the prototypical running back and doesn’t wow you with his testing results, but this is about being a football player. Warren has helped lead a resurgence at Cincinnati with back to back 11 win seasons and did it with consistent production. Each of the last two seasons Warren posted 1,200 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns. He finished both seasons with higher statistics than D’andre Swift, AJ Dillon, and Cam Akers, he also had more career yards than JK Dobbins. I say this because all of these mentioned RBs were drafted and drafted early. The Eagles truly get a gem here, someone who can complement Miles Sanders and brings a Marshawn Lynch edge to the Philly backfield.
Anthony Gordon QB Washington St, Seattle Seahawks: Gordon might be a no-doubter because right now he is the only other QB on the roster. That aside, in what was a weaker QB class it is shocking he didn’t get drafted. Gordon was 2nd in the nation in passing yards, with over 5,000 yards. I get he played in the Mike Leach air raid system and only played one season, but 5,000 yards is a major accomplishment no matter what. He also gets a boost with the success of Gardner Minshew last season, proving that his game can translate. Gordon is also a more accurate passer than Minshew, so he should not have difficulty picking up the pro game. I think the Seahawks really got a steal and they know it, because they are not in a rush to get another backup. Learning from Russell Wilson doesn’t hurt his prospects either.
Jared Pinkey TE Vanderbilt, Atlanta Falcons: Pinkney is a big athletic TE, who has a lot of playmaking potential. Given that and the fact tight end is probably the thinnest position for the Falcons, there is a real chance he not only makes the team, but he could also end up starting. This past season wasn’t the most productive for him, so this is really a potential based pick. However he is a player that really popped out of your screens, when watching Vanderbilt and he was always up for making a play. His athleticism and speed at the position can become a real problem for defenses to stop if he can develop to his full potential.
Bronson Rechsteiner FB Kenesaw St, Baltimore Ravens: This kid is a baller and plays with a very nasty demeanor, will fit the Ravens run scheme perfectly. A do-everything fullback, he can run the ball very well, is a good receiver, and an absolute snowplow of a blocker. You can see he prides himself on flattening defenders. Comes from the pro wrestling Steiner family, Rick is his and I think he has that wrestling mentality. He plays aggressive in every aspect of the game and I think he has the potential to become the next Kyle Juszczyk. I really believe if he went to a bigger school, he would have been a household name.
Michael Divinity Jr LB LSU, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This is a player who had 1st round talent, but has had many off-field incidents and ended up not being drafted. If the Bucs can make him grow up and get his act together, then they will get a very good player out of it. He can play sideline to sideline and very good vs the run. He just needs to mature and stay out of trouble. If he can do that, he will be a very good contributor and could possibly become starter caliber.
Army’s Three Free Free Agents, Cole Christianson LB LAC, Elijah Riley CB PHI, Connor Slomka FB JAX: I’m separating these players because I feel strongly that they each have a very good chance of making their respective teams. I also think it’s important to highlight our service academy players, as I hope you will start seeing more of them get opportunities thanks to the new law passed by President Trump, which will allow service academy athletes to try going pro right after college. I wanted to get a true take on what makes each of these players and service academy athletes in general ready to make an impact at the next level, so I had the honor to interview Army Head Coach Jeff Monken to get a clearer picture. Side note for young coaches, if you are looking for a role model and a true example of a leader, Coach Monken is as good as it gets.
First I asked Coach Monken how his players were getting ready to join their new teams and how they were feeling about everything that’s ahead. His answer really spoke to me, because it gives us a look into what makes these kids special. He said, “They are excited for the opportunity, excited to represent West Point, the football program, the entire U.S. Army, their families and themselves and on top of that getting the opportunity to play football at the game’s highest level.” This answer is just inspiring to me because it helps you understand how much these players are representing and how excited they are just for the opportunity to play.
Next we talked about each player and what they bring to their teams. When talking about Cole Christianson, Coach said the Chargers are a “prototypical middle linebacker and a great leader” He even joked about how every time they were on the road, at some point they would hear someone talking about Cole say “Here comes Captain America”. If you ever saw him play and what he looks like, that comment isn’t hard to see. Coach Monken had similar sentiments for Elijah Riley, saying that Philadelphia is getting a “very physical corner, who can help his team several ways.” He added “ Undersized guys may not be able to play in a box as much and be as effective on the run, but he's been able to do all that for us.” he also thinks Elijah should be a big contributor on special teams. I told Coach Monken that Elijah reminded me of Richard Sherman, to which I got a chuckle and the response “ Boy will he love hearing he’s like Sherman”. So Elijah if you read this, I really see a lot of Richard Sherman in your play. Finally we talked about Connor Slomka and how valuable he could end up being. Coach Monken really made the point, “ there just aren’t many college football teams that use a traditional fullback anymore”. He also talked a little bit about Connor’s skill set and why to the right team he can be a very important piece to the offense. “ He’s just a tough, physical get the tough yards kind of guy, who can run block and pass protect.” Coach Monken also made sure to speak about Connor’s rushing ability, saying “ he's got great size, strength, really good feet, and good speed”. Personally I felt the same way about Connor and think Jacksonville got a real diamond in the rough here. Overall I got the feeling that these players are introduced to so much more responsibility, that it gives the focus needed to excel in tough situations like fighting for a roster spot.
I’m very excited for all of these players and they are each in a position not only make a roster, but make an impact. This was an incredibly deep draft and unfortunately a lot of good players slipped through the crack, but I really believe these players can become good NFL players.