The Gems Among The Undrafted Free Agents
By LOGAN KING
Sports Info Solutions (SIS) brings you the second annual edition of The SIS Football Rookie Handbook, with scouting reports and statistical breakdowns on over 280 college football players (a glossary for the below stats can be found here). New features for this year include unique and informative NFL team pages, research deep-dives by the SIS R&D team, and—for the first time —the NCAA version of their flagship football statistic, Total Points.
With each offseason comes the hopes and dreams of former college football stars being either fulfilled or dashed based on the results of the NFL Draft. While there are only a limited number of draft picks, their remains hope for those players who may not have been fortunate enough to be selected. Shortly after Mr. Irrelevant is selected, there is a scramble to sign top prospects who went undrafted.
These undrafted free agents (UDFAs) can provide significant value for teams, should they make the final roster. Teams can receive three years of production at a rock-bottom price for those UDFAs who are success stories. Below is a look at the top players from the SIS Football Rookie Handbook who went undrafted:
|Top Undrafted Free Agents – 2020|
|Rodney Clemons||S||Southern Methodist||6.7||Chiefs|
|Thaddeus Moss||TE||Louisiana State||6.6||Redskins|
|A.J. Green||CB||Oklahoma State||6.5||Browns|
*The meaning of prospect grades varies by position, but they are intended to reflect the value of a player relative to their own position and when compared to players at other positions (grades are based on what the player projects to become by their second season).
The overall grade scale ranges from 1 to 9, but the grades of players included in the FRH ranges from 5.8 to 7.3 (note that 5.4 is the grade for quality training camp players across all positions).
As the number one ranked tight end in the Rookie Handbook, it comes as a surprise that Pinkney went undrafted, especially given the lack of depth in this year’s TE position group. The Falcons replaced starting tight end Austin Hooper with Hayden Hurst, who ranked 8th in Total Points per snap in a limited role in Baltimore. While Hurst will take over the role of starting tight end, Pinkney should see the field a fair amount next season if he can win the No. 2 spot at the position. In the team’s first season under OC Dirk Koetter, Atlanta lined up with two or more tight ends on 23% of plays.
Based on his scouting report, Pinkney has the ability to become a 3-down starter by the start of his second season, and is able to play both the Y and H roles. While Atlanta is able to field 11 personnel using exclusively former first rounders this season, the team receives great value for the next three seasons in Pinkney, at the cost of a cheap UDFA contract.
Clemons joins Kansas City as the fifth ranked safety in the FRH. He adds to a defensive back room that includes All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu and 2019 first-rounder Juan Thornhill at safety, along with 2020 fourth round pick L’Jarius Sneed. The Chiefs ranked third in the league in percentage of defensive plays run with three or more safeties (47%).
Clemons has the ability to become a strong three-down starter by the start of his second season based on his scouting report, and he has the skills to play both free and strong safety. Thornhill may be forced to miss time this season because of recovery from a torn ACL suffered in Week 17, meaning there are open snaps at free safety. Pending the results of an uncertain offseason (which includes a position battle), Clemons may see the field with the Chiefs’ defense in 2020.
Ranking as SIS’s No. 4 tight end, Bryant signed with the Lions. Detroit’s TEs tied for 20th in Total Points in 2019, led by five-year veteran Jesse James, 2019 first round pick T.J. Hockenson, and Logan Thomas, who joined the Redskins this offseason. The Lions offense used two or more tight ends on 26% of plays last season and should remain consistent with Darrell Bevell returning for a second season as offensive coordinator.
Bryant’s scouting report states that he has the ability to develop into a low end starting H-TE by the start of his second season. Facing no competition for the TE3 role, Bryant provides a solid depth option while he grows in his rookie year. If Hockenson can’t stay healthy in his second season, Bryant should see an expanded role.
Moss ranked right behind Bryant in SIS’s tight end rankings and was signed by the Redskins. Washington’s TE group finished tied for 30th in Total Points last season and returns two contributors in Jeremy Sprinkle and Hale Hentges.
The Redskins also added Logan Thomas this offseason, who played in a backup role for the Lions in 2019. Calling the shots on offense in Washington is Scott Turner, who took over as interim OC in Carolina for the final four weeks of last season. Though it was only a small sample of games, Turner used multiple TE sets on 21% of offensive plays.
SIS’s scouting report on Moss projects him to become a low end starting Y-TE by the start of his second season. With no single dominant player at the position in Washington, there is a good chance that Moss sees the field often in his rookie season, even potentially carving out a starting role for himself.
Garrett ranked fourth among Mike linebackers in the FRH and signed with the Titans. The team enters 2020 without a Defensive Coordinator after the retirement of Dean Pees. Mike Vrabel is expected to take over defensive play calling responsibilities. However this shouldn’t change the Titans 3-4 defense. Tennessee’s primary off-ball linebackers Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown ranked 86th and 75th in Total Points among the position, respectively, in 2019.
Garrett projects to become a low-end starter at MLB by the start of his second season based on his scouting report. There is an open battle for the third off-ball linebacker spot on the depth chart with the departure of Wesley Woodyard. Though his 2019 season was cut short by injury, Garrett has a chance to contribute in a key depth role in his rookie season if he can stay healthy and win his position battle.
Green ranked 13th among corners graded by SIS and became the second of his name in the AFC North after signing with the Browns. Cleveland enters 2020 with a new coaching staff, which includes Joe Woods at Defensive Coordinator. Woods previously served in this role with the Broncos from 2017-2018. While in Denver, Woods employed a man coverage-heavy defense (top five in percentage of plays run with man coverage in both years). Though Woods’ defensive squads ranked top five in percentage of plays from base packages (4 DBs) they also ranked top five in percentage of plays from dime packages (6+ DBs).
Based on his scouting report, Green projects to become a capable starting CB who possesses both inside and outside flexibility. With the loss of Cleveland’s two primary slot defenders from last season (T.J. Carrie and Eric Murray), along with the team’s leader in Total Points at corner (Juston Burris), Green has the potential to see the field often in his rookie season, especially given Joe Woods’ extensive use of dime packages.
Other Notable UDFAs
- Tyler Huntley; QB, Utah; Grade: 6.4 – Signed with Ravens
- Kalija Lipscomb; WR, Vanderbilt; Grade: 6.4 – Signed with Chiefs
- Jeff Thomas; WR, Miami (FL); Grade: 6.4 – Signed with Patriots