30 Oct 2020

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Which NFL teams had the best UDFA hauls of 2020?

Every year there are prospects who, rather surprisingly, go undrafted. This year is no different. While every player wants to hear their name called during the draft, in a way, going undrafted is a benefit compared to being drafted in the 7th round, in the sense that they have a choice between multiple teams.

Compared to last year, the 2020 UDFA class seems a little weaker, but there are a few teams that have put together some pretty good hauls. With that being said, let’s go over the teams I believe collected the most talent post-draft.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have had some success with UDFA’s throughout the years, most notably QB Tony Romo, WR’s Miles Austin & Cole Beasley, K Dan Bailey, and now starting RT La’el Collins. This year’s crop seems capable of producing a couple of success stories, but out of the 15 signees, we’ll go over the few who have the greatest chance.

LB Francis Bernard, Utah: Francis Bernard was actually one of my favorite LB’s in the class talent-wise. While he has the skill-set of a thumper, he is a former running back who displays sideline to sideline speed as well as some coverage chops. Age is the most probable reason he went undrafted, as he went on a 2-year mission (as a Latter-Day Saint) following high school, and as a result, started his college career at BYU (before transfering to Utah) late. Will likely contribute as a special teamer year one and may find himself a role as a rotational depth linebacker.

RB Rico Dowdle, South Carolina: Rico Dowdle has a nice blend of size, vision, and power. Had an injury-riddled college career and did fumble too much which are two things that likely gave front offices pause. Dowdle doesn’t have much wiggle but his physical style can help him win in space. Was never “the guy” in the Gamecocks backfield and will come into the league with fresh legs.

TE Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State: Taumoepau is a small-school prospect who fits the profile as an H-back tight end. While his athleticism is not the greatest, he was Portland State’s top receiver during his stint with the squad. He finished his senior season with 36 catches, 474 yards, and two touchdowns. Taumoepau will likely struggle to get separation against man coverage, but he could be a check-down option that knows how to read the defense and when to sit down against zone defensive calls, in the same vein as former Cowboy’s long-time tight end Jason Witten.

RT Terence Steele, Texas Tech: Terrence Steele was a mainstay up front for the Red-Raiders, starting for four straight years. During his freshman season, he started 10 games on the left side and moved over to the right for the final two games where he stayed throughout the rest of his college career. Steele has great size at 6’6, 312 LBS. His length is exactly what you want in an NFL tackle, but he does rely on it a little too much. Steele is not the most functional athlete and committed a lot of penalties as well. He projects as more of a run-blocker in a power-scheme, though his lack of athleticism will likely prevent him from being anything more than a depth piece if that.

RB Darius Anderson, TCU: Darius Anderson is a tough one-cut runner. He tends to run with a high-pad level, and because of that isn’t really a power back, but will bounce off of weak tackle attempts and has the balance to keep his legs turning through contact. Anderson has spotty vision which is his worst trait. He too often tries to take it to the outside and does not stay patient allowing the offensive line to create lanes. He had decent receiving production as a senior with 128 yards on 22 receptions, but his lack of pass-protection ability limits his potential as a 3rd down back. The Cowboys only have four other running backs on the roster, so it would seem he has a good shot of making the team if he could beat out Jordan Chunn & Rico Dowdle, but players are not only battling their teammates for a spot, they are battling guys on other teams that are going to get cut as well, so it won’t be easy.

Denver Broncos

On paper, the Denver Broncos had one of the best drafts this past April. At least in my opinion. They also scored 7 undrafted free agents signings, three of whom caught my attention.

RB LeVante Bellamy, Western Michigan: Bellamy is a small but explosive running back who had a productive career for Western Michigan. His speed and athletic traits make him a big-play threat whenever the ball is in his hands, but he doesn’t have the power nor blocking prowess to be a 3-down back at the next level. The Broncos already have a damn good running back room with Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, and Royce Freeman, but he still has a good shot to make the roster if they decide to keep four backs. If that is the case, the Broncos will be hoping he can develop into their 3rd down/receiving back.

S Douglas Coleman III, Texas Tech: Douglas Coleman finished his senior season with 8 interceptions which is tied for the 2nd most in Big-12 history, 3rd nationally in 2019. While he played free safety as a senior, Coleman played a lot of nickel throughout his career at Texas Tech. He projects best as a free-safety and has a good chance of making the Broncos roster, who really only have 2 proven safeties on the team in Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons.

CB Essang Bassey, Wake Forest: At 5’9, 191 pounds, Bassey projects as a nickel corner at the next level. His 45 deflections and 5 career interceptions suggest he has good ball skills, but he is boom or bust in this regard. He is aggressive which leads to pass break-ups, but his aggressiveness also leads to giving up catches. He does have quick feet and fluid hips, so his mirroring skills can improve if he cleans up the technical issues. Bassey is likely to at least make the practice squad but could be battling Bryce Callahan and Duke Dawson for the nickel spot depending on what the Broncos see in him.

Kansas City Chiefs

Staying in the AFC-West, the Kansas City Chiefs signed a lot of guys who were slated to be drafted. The most recent Super Bowl champions will be looking to inject a young core to keep their winning ways afloat and not succumb to the common theme of teams underwhelming following a Lombardi winning season. With a haul of a whomping 18 players, a few may have a shot of helping them achieve that goal.

OL Yasir Durant, Missouri: Yasir Durant played offensive tackle for the Missouri Tigers, that was following a stint at junior college where he played both guard and tackle and ranked #3 in the JUCO circuit post the 2017 season. Durant has the size of a tackle (6’6, 330 lbs) but the Chiefs GM Brett Veach made statements which suggest it’s probable he kicks back inside. “He played a bunch of tackle, but we do think that sliding him to guard might be his best position. Any time you can get a couple 6-6 guys inside there protecting Pat (Mahomes) will be beneficial.” Durant’s 150k guaranteed is the 4th most among all undrafted free agent deals this season; a spot on the active roster is very likely.

IOL Darryl Williams, Mississippi State: Williams played both center and guard for the Bulldogs. At only 6’2, he isn’t the biggest lineman, and he isn’t the most mobile either. That being said, he’s experienced, strong, and played at both interior lineman spots which gives him potential as a utility O-lineman in the NFL. He has a great chance of at least making the practice squad.

CB Javaris Davis, Auburn: The cousin of retired but long-time NFL vets Vontae and Vernon Davis, Javaris is an extremely athletic but undersized 5’8, 183-pound corner. Davis had 2 interceptions in each of the four seasons that he saw action. He ran a 4.39 and is a quick, twitchy athlete who’s skills translate to the slot. He does lack length, size, as well as play strength, so his best-case scenario will likely be as a sub-package contributor down the line.

CB Lavert Hill, Michigan: Lavert Hill is slightly bigger than Davis but also slightly undersized at 5’10, 190-pounds. He also lacks length, and unlike Davis does not have ideal long-speed. Hill had decent ball production with the Wolverines but bigger, stronger receivers will give him problems and make his ability to play the ball not mean much if they can bully or just take advantage of the length disparity. I’m not very high on Hill but some are. His path to making the roster will be through special teams year one.

P Tommy Townsend, Florida: Punter Tommy Townsend will have a good shot at making the roster. He will be battling 2nd-year pro Tyler Newsome for the job after the Chiefs released long time starter Dustin Colquitt. Townsend took over punting duties for the Gators after his brother Johnny was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 2018 draft. Johnny was considered a better prospect and put on one of the worst displays of punting I have ever seen during his rookie year. Tommy will be hoping to not duplicate his brothers’ struggles and become the Chief’s future at the position.

WR Maurice Ffrench, Pittsburgh: Maurice Ffrench is a speedy, catch it and make things happen with the ball type of receiver. He was overshadowed in this deep class but has the skill-set of a guy you can scheme touches for. His speed and YAC ability are his greatest strengths, while his tendency to catch with his body and route-running ability on intermediate to deep routes are his question marks. Ffrench definitely fits the mold of the type of receivers the Chiefs and the Andy Reid led offense covet, but he will have to fight hard to make a Kansas City roster that is littered with skill-position talent.

Who’s class was best?

Obviously, we can only judge draft classes or undrafted free agents hauls on-paper; they haven’t played a single down. In that regard, I’d say the best collection of talent among the three teams listed is in Dallas. The undrafted free agent pool, in general, was a little underwhelming, but Francis Bernard and Terrence Steele were two of the best players available of any position (to me) and they got both. What are your thoughts on whos haul was the best? The Cowboys, the Chiefs, the Broncos, none of my choices maybe? Let me know in the poll below.

Poll

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