BBD Editor: Dan Hope
With a draft class that had been heralded as deep by people both inside and outside the league, we knew all along that there would be talented players to go unselected in the 2014 NFL draft.
Putting together an annual All-Undrafted team can be a challenge some years, as there are typically at least a couple positions where the well of draftable talent had run dry. Not this year. The difficult part of selecting this year’s best undrafted players wasn’t finding players worthy of the recognition, but rather deciding which players to leave off.
The following selections represent the prospects who bring the best skill sets and potential to the next level among the undrafted pool. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best chances to make the rosters of the teams who signed team, as some players have entered more favorable depth charts than others, but all of these players have enough ability to build a sustained NFL career.
Note: Players whose draft falls were sparked by clear character concerns, such as Oregon’s Colt Lyerla and Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy, were not considered for inclusion.
QB: Brett Smith, Wyoming (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
When Smith wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in February, it became clear that teams around the league probably did not think as highly of Smith as some within the media did. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the media who projected Smith as a middle-round talent were misguided.
An athletic quarterback with a strong arm, Smith can create plays as both a passer and runner. An undersized quarterback with improvisational skills, some even called Smith a lite version of first-round pick Johnny Manziel.
He must become more comfortable and accurate from within the pocket to make it in the NFL, but he’s an intriguing developmental project for the Buccaneers, who could keep him as their third-string quarterback behind Josh McCown and Mike Glennon.
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri (Philadelphia Eagles)
Concerns about Josey’s left knee, in which he suffered a torn patellar tendon and two torn ligaments in a gruesome November 2011 injury, are likely what led to his going undrafted. However, the injury didn’t stop Josey, after missing the entire 2012 season, from rushing for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013.
He is a small back who won’t run through much contact, but his quickness, bounce and vision allow him to be successful running both inside and outside the tackles. He also has good hands as a receiver out of the backfield.
With two smaller backs leading the depth chart in LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, the Eagles might be inclined to keep a bigger third-string back like Chris Polk. Nonetheless, Josey should have a shot to compete for a roster spot after Philadelphia traded Bryce Brown to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
FB: Ryan Hewitt, Stanford (Cincinnati Bengals)
Players like Hewitt are often the quintessential examples of players who are undrafted yet go on to have long, successful careers in the NFL. Fullbacks, especially those like Hewitt who have unspectacular measurables (6’4”, 246 lbs, 4.87-second 40-yard dash), aren’t valued highly in the league. Hewitt, however, is a player who does all the little things well.
He is a physical lead blocker, a great hands catcher who can line up both in the backfield and on the line of scrimmage and he is a special teams standout. A player who seems to always give maximum effort on the field, Hewitt will never be a star, but he can play a variety of roles.
As NFL Network’s Mike Mayock often says, Hewitt is a “find a spot” guy. The Bengals could be smart to move on from Orson Charles, who was arrested for brandishing a firearm on a Kentucky highway in April, and utilize Hewitt on offense and special teams.
WR: Brandon Coleman, Rutgers (New Orleans Saints)
There’s a number of valid reasons why Brandon Coleman went undrafted. He had subpar production at Rutgers, gave questionable effort to his team and, according to Jordan Raanan of NFL.com, he was medically flagged by NFL teams for a right knee injury.
All of that said, Coleman has the potential to be a big playmaker if he can overcome health concerns and play up to his ability. At 6’6” and 225 pounds, Coleman is a big, jump-ball target who can create mismatches on the outside and be a playmaker in the red zone.
He won’t blow by defenders with speed, but he’s a good athlete for his size, and his limited production had as much to do with poor quarterback play as anything to do with his play. He will have to perform well in training camp on a Saints depth chart that already includes Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks and Robert Meachem, but his size could make him an asset as a fourth or fifth wideout.
WR: Cody Hoffman, BYU (Washington Redskins)
A limited athlete who could struggle to separate from coverages at the next level, Hoffman’s draft stock was doomed by an incredibly deep wide receiver draft class. But while Hoffman will never be much of a deep threat at the next level, he has the skill set necessary to be a productive intermediate possession receiver for an NFL offense.
A 6’4”, 223-pound wideout, Hoffman can win with his size and strength and through crisp route running. He doesn’t have much ability to extend plays in the open field, but he’s a reliable hands catcher and long arms. He was BYU’s leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for each of the past four years.
Hoffman could be an asset to the Redskins as a possession receiver, but he’ll have to beat out significant competition. Behind Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and fourth-round pick Ryan Grant, Hoffman faces a battle with Aldrick Robinson, Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson for what should be just one or two roster spots.
TE: Marcel Jensen, Fresno State (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Even at tight end, which was one of the thinnest position groups in this year’s draft, there was NFL-caliber talent to be had in undrafted free agency. The most intriguing player found on the post-draft market is Jensen, a big tight end with good athleticism and a basketball pedigree.
Jensen’s not going to stretch the field with his speed, but he has ideal size for the position at 6’6” and 259 pounds with 34 7/8” arms. He’s a raw talent who wasn’t particularly productive at Fresno State, but he has intriguing leaping ability as a receiver and is physical as a blocker.
The Jaguars signed three undrafted free agent tight ends to compete for their third-string job at the position, but Jensen is the most talented of the group.
OT: Antonio Richardson, Tennessee (Minnesota Vikings)
Projected by most draft prognosticators to be a second- or third-round pick (he was actually mistakenly reported to be the Seattle Seahawks’ second-round draft choice by CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora), Richardson shockingly went undrafted.
Richardson’s fall likely stemmed from concerns regarding his knee which, to give credit where due, NFL Network’s Charles Davis projected in February could lead to Richardson going unselected. If Richardson can overcome his health concerns, however, he has the potential to develop a starting-caliber NFL offensive tackle.
The Tennessee product has played with inconsistent technique, but he is a massive, powerful offensive tackle who can dominate with strength and is explosive off the snap. A developmental project, Richardson would be a great young choice to be Minnesota’s swing backup at tackle if he checks out medically.
OT: Matt Patchan, Boston College (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
It’s not much surprise that the NFL decided to pass on Patchan, a 24-year-old rookie who started just one full season in an injury-riddled, six-year collegiate career, but despite his red flags, Patchan has the potential to develop into a starting-caliber offensive tackle and end up being an undrafted steal.
Patchan is a skilled pass blocker who has great foot skills for the position, which also allow him to make an impact at the second level as a run blocker. If evaluated purely from a purely physical standpoint, the 6’6”, 302-pound lineman was worth a top-100 draft selection.
The Buccaneers traded up with the Bills in Round 5 to select Purdue offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile, so they certainly have confidence in the ability of Pamphile, an athletic project, to emerge as their swing backup at offensive tackle. That said, Patchan has the talent to push him for that role.
G: James Hurst, North Carolina (Baltimore Ravens)
A four-year starting left tackle at North Carolina, Hurst has the skill set and enough size and length to stay on the edge for an NFL offensive line. But building an offensive line is more about finding a way to get the best five players on the field, and with Richardson, Patchan and Hurst all being among the top five undrafted free agent blockers, Hurst would be the top candidate to move inside.
Had he not unfortunately fractured his fibula in his final collegiate game, he likely would have been a mid-round selection. He doesn’t have exceptional size or athleticism, but he is a good technician who has held his own against top pass-rushers and creates movement well as a run blocker up front.
Projected to be one of the team’s compensatory selections in my Round 4 mock draft, the Ravens got great value in landing Hurst on the undrafted market. He has the skill set to challenge Ricky Wagner for the starting right tackle job.
G: Anthony Steen, Alabama (Arizona Cardinals)
Often overlooked on an offensive line that in his junior season included four NFL draft picks around him, Steen has the talent in his own right to make it as an NFL guard. Considered to be a potential mid-round draft selection, Steen’s stock was hurt by a shoulder injury that required surgery in December.
If Steen can bounce back and return to full health, he has enough ability to factor into the team’s competition at right guard, where Arizona is set to turn either Paul Fanaika or Earl Watford. At just 6’3” and 314 pounds with short arms (30 1/2”), Steen isn’t the most physically imposing lineman, but he is a gritty blocker who uses his hands well, has good footwork and was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide.
C: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma (Tennessee Titans)
Despite limited depth at the position in this year’s draft, a few centers with draftable qualities went unselected. That might say more about the players themselves than it does depth in this case, but Ikard has enough potential to make it as an NFL center.
What stands out most about Ikard, more than they do for any other center in this year’s draft class, are his movement skills. He has quick feet to slide along the line of scrimmage with ease, can mirror athletic interior penetrators and can explode to the second level.
Ikard has limited strength and gets driven back too easily, which is likely what led to him going undrafted. Nonetheless, he should have a good shot to make the Titans roster as a backup center who has experience playing guard.
See page 2 for defensive and special teams selections.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alabama, All-Undrafted Team, Anthony Steen, Antonio Richardson, Auburn, Boston College, Brandon Coleman, Brett Smith, Brigham Young, BYU, California, Chandler Catanzaro, Chris Davis, Christian Jones, Clemson, Cody Hoffman, Daniel Sorensen, Deandre Coleman, Delaware, Derrell Johnson, Dion Bailey, East Carolina, Ethan Westbrooks, Florida State, Fresno State, Gabe Ikard, Henry Josey, Jackson Jeffcoat, James Hurst, Kansas State, Marcel Jensen, Marcus Heit, Matt Patchan, Memphis, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Rashaad Reynolds, Rutgers, Ryan Hewitt, Shayne Skov, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, Tom Hornsey, UDFA, Undrafted Free Agents, USC, West Texas A&M, Wyoming, Zack Kerr