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NFC UDFA class grades

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I call the UDFA free-for-all after the completion of Day 3 the “Dessert draft.” The UDFA carousel on Saturday night in essence takes care of Rounds 8-20 at warp-speed.

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Undrafted players comprise roughly one-fifth of NFL rosters and provide the NFL with more value and snaps than the sixth- and seventh-rounds combined. In three-consecutive years, the Chargers found Austin Ekeler, the Broncos discovered Phillip Lindsay, and the Jaguars struck gold with James Robinson during the UDFA sweepstakes.

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The list of Hall of Famers who went undrafted includes Kurt Warner, John Randle, Warren Moon and Dick “Night Train” Lane. Recent notable UDFA include Tony Romo, Doug BaldwinJames Harrison, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates, Arian Foster, Cameron Wake and Chris Harris. Current UDFAs making an impact in the NFL include Adam Thielen, Robby Anderson, Alejandro Villanueva, La El Collins, michael pierce, Shaquil Barrett, Mario Addison, Cory Littleton, Malcolm Butler, JC Jackson, and Anthony Harris.

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This year’s UDFA crop is especially intriguing. Because the NCAA’s 2020 pandemic eligibility waiver allowed graduated seniors to return to school, the 2021 NFL Draft had only 657 declared prospects. By contrast, the year before, in 2020, 1,932 prospects declared. This class, with eligibilities exhausting of players granted the extra year, we had over 2,000 declarees. That means a deeper UDFA pool.

Let’s dive into how the NFC did in this year’s “Dessert Draft.” The ranking in parenthesis following each team below indicates how each ranked overall in the NFL. Speaking of that, check back Friday for my AFC UDFA class rankings.

1. Dallas Cowboys (1)

Pos

Rank

Name

Comp

RAS

HT

wt

iOL16

167

Alec Lindstrom

JC Tretter

8.35

6033

299

WR29

200

Dontario Drummond

Ron Dugans

5.7

6007

217

CB30

210

Isaac Taylor Stuart

Eli Apple

9.61

6014

201

LB20

230

Aaron Hansford

Drue Tranquill

7.61

6025

239

S17

233

Markquese Bell

Kamu Grugier Hill

8.95

6020

212

S19

253

Juanyeh Thomas

Darrick Forrest

8.48

6006

213

WR39

263

Ty Fryfogle

Travis Fulgham

7.2

6011

209

WR44

307

Jaquari Roberson

Cedrick Wilson

9.02

6007

182

ED35

325

Mika Tafua

Malcolm Koonce

9.03

6027

249

iOL39

387

James Empey

Greg Mancz

2.58

6034

297

TE25

452

Peyton Hendershot

Brevin Jordan

8.4

6036

246

S38

467

La’Kendrick Van Zandt

Andrew Wingard

8.09

5114

210

CB53

474

Quandre Mosely

Derrick Baity

6016

185

ED47

493

Big Kat Bryant

Aaron Lynch

2.86

6040

254

QB36

Terry Wilson

Vad Lee

6022

204

RB50

Aaron Shamplin

Matt Breida

8.28

5093

194

RB59

Malik Davis

Kyle Hicks

5.95

5097

202

WR79

Dennis Houston

Jhajuan Seales

7.58

6011

198

OT56

Amon Simon

2.88

6046

303

LB73

Storey Jackson

6.29

6017

224

K7

Jonathan Garibay

6010

215

No team invests in undrafted talent like the Cowboys. This is my fourth year ranking UDFA classes for NBC. During that time, Dallas has spent more UDFA money than any other organization. Is it any wonder that the Cowboys have finished with a top-10 UDFA class all four years? The Cowboys ranked no. 9 in 2019, no. 1 in 2020, no. 2 in 2021and have once-again assumed the top-overall spot in 2022.

This year, the Cowboys signed six prospects I had draftable grades on (top-262), as well as the highest-ranked UDFA-graded prospect on my board (Ty Fryfogle). I had a R5 grade on C Alec LindstromR6 grades on WR Dontario Drummond and CB Isaac Taylor Stuartand R7 grades on LB Aaron HansfordS Markquese Belland S Juanyeh Thomas.

I’m still surprised Lindstrom didn’t get drafted. Especially after a similar undersized pivot prospect, Drew Dalman, returned huge investment for the Falcons last year on a R4 pricetag. Like Dalman, Lindstrom is a smart, athletic, undersized interior lineman with deep NFL bloodlines running through his veins.

Drummond is a weird prospect. He’s a 215-pound slot receiver that only runs a 4.65. He was forced to go to “Last Chance U” – East Mississippi Community College – out of high school, and didn’t pop-off at Mississippi until his last year when he could play slot full-time following Elijah Moore‘s departure. But he’s a sure-handed, tackle-breaking machine who gets after it blocking. Drummond also has return chops.

Taylor-Stuart was a top-40 overall recruit coming out of high school. He has an ideal blend of length and speed (4.42). He’s a fabulous all-around athlete who owns a second-degree blackbelt off the field. But Taylor-Stuart needs to find a position (corner or free safety?), refine his technique, and improve his instincts. If the light ever turns on, he’ll be a player.

Dallas’ UDFA class had everything: Draftable talent, depth, athleticism (nine tested in the RAS 80th-percentile or better), and well-reasoned shots at positions of need.

2. New Orleans Saints (3)

Pos

Rank

Name

Comp

RAS

HT

wt

RB10

156

Abram Smith

Marlon Mack

6.61

5115

213

S14

171

Smoke Monday

Barry Church

6.46

6016

207

WR25

181

Dai’Jean Dixon

Andre Holmes

5.9

6030

205

CB26

201

Vincent Gray

Keenan Lewis

7.2

6020

195

CB38

277

DaMarcus Fields

Josh Lay

6.19

5115

192

S23

316

Jack Koerner

Greg Blue

9.19

6003

209

LB29

348

Nephi Sewell

Shaun Bradley

7.04

5114

224

TE22

363

Lucas Krull

Briley Moore-McKinney

9.07

6061

253

LB40

472

Isaiah Pryor

Garret Wallow

7.63

6013

220

iOL47

479

Eric Wilson

Eric Heitmann

8.68

6035

306

WR73

480

Dee Anderson

Jaleel Scott

8.15

6052

218

iOL48

485

Lewis Kidd

John Molchon

8.05

6060

311

QB42

Preston Haire

5111

200

WR120

Rashid Shaheed

5105

185

iOL68

Derek Schweiger

6034

314

OT50

Sage Doxtater

6063

350

DL50

Nyles Pinckney

6011

286

DL88

Elijah James

1.85

6042

297

ED57

Jacoby Jones

3.42

6023

267

LB56

Joel Dublanco

6.84

6025

243

LB88

Bryce Notree

5.63

6024

233

S86

CJ Holmes

1.52

5105

184

K9

John Parker Romo

5110

174

P6

Daniel Whelan

6060

215

The Saints are one of three NFL teams that have finished in the top-10 of my UDFA rankings all four years. The Saints, who check in No. 3 overall this year, finished no. 1 in 2019, no. 3 in 2020, and no. 7 in 2021. Sean Payton was notoriously aggressive on the telephone in the late-rounds recruiting UDFAs during his tenure, and the Saints kept to the same ethos this year without him.

The Saints signed four players I had draftable grades on, including two R5s (RB Abram Smith and S Smoke Monday) and two R6s (WR Dai’Jean Dixon and CB Vincent Gray).

In his only season as a full-time starting RB after shifting over from LB, Smith posted a Baylor-record 1,601 rushing yards on 6.2 YPC. Smith is a profit-taking runner that’s rarely finished behind the line. He exhibits good patience and tempo, along with crisp cuts into the hole in Baylor’s wide-zone system.

In this RB class, Smith finished top-10 last year in both overall PFF grade and yards after contact per attempt. He’s a little stiff in the lower half, remains raw as a receiver, and lacks joystick agility and high-end speed – but I think his early-down efficiency will translate to the NFL.

I was surprised Monday didn’t get picked in the draft. He’s long and athletic, and a proven playmaker in the SEC (three-straight years with a pick-6). Monday will be able to contribute on special teams immediately. He’s a willing contributor in run defense and can be played in the box. But while he has the athleticism and ball skills for coverage, Monday is a risk-taker who can leave himself susceptible to getting burned. That’ll be the primary thing New Orleans works with him on this summer.

Dixon has great size and ball skills but will need to improve as a route-runner to make a difference at the next level. Gray is blessed with length, and possesses the instincts Monday arguably lacks. But Gray lacks take-on play strength, and needs to improve his ball skills (zero career INT despite playing WR in high school).

In all, the Saints signed 12 UDFA that made my Thor500 big board. That group had an average size-adjusted RAS athletic composite slightly above the 75th-percentile. Those are the projectable developmental stabs you want to add during the Dessert Draft.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (5)

Pos

Rank

Name

Comp

RAS

HT

wt

QB5

93

Carson Strong

Jared Goff

6033

230

CB15

118

Josh Jobe

Cordrea Tankersley

5114

189

CB23

170

Mario Goodrich

Levi Wallace

5.03

6002

191

DL17

224

Noah Ellis

Danny Shelton

6042

351

RB22

270

Kennedy Brooks

Bilal Powell

5.99

5105

209

iOL24

279

William Dunkle

Kraig Urbik

4.82

6047

347

WR50

333

British Covey

Braxton Berrios

5.92

5080

169

S29

398

Reed Blankenship

Daniel Sorensen

eight

6006

203

iOL42

437

Josh Sills

Adam Grant

7.91

6055

322

OT40

468

Jarrid Williams

Max Sharpening

7.62

6055

323

CB60

Josh Blackwell

Xavier Crawford

8.25

5106

183

S69

Jordan Happle

5116

202

S73

Jaylan Foster

0.47

5096

185

The third team in the NFL that has finished in the top-10 of these rankings four-years running? That would be the Eagles. Like the Cowboys and Saints, Philly prioritizes the UDFA process and is willing to pay through the nose to land players they believe should have been drafted.

Per Spotracthe Eagles gave Nevada QB Carson Strong a UDFA-record $320k in guarantees. To illustrate how intense the bidding for Strong’s services must have been, consider that the previous record for guaranteed money to a UDFA was a “mere” $200k. The guaranteed money Strong received was equivalent to what the Bears gave OT Braxton Jones, a fifth-rounder taken with the No. 168 overall pick.

The Eagles were far from done. They reportedly gave out three other signing bonuses between $217k-$240k (RB Kennedy BrooksD.T. Noah Ellis and C. B.Mario Goodrich), as well as four additional six-figure guarantees (OG Josh SillsOG William Dunkle, CB Josh Jobeand CB Josh Blackwell).

Expect that strategy to pay off with multiple long-term contributors. Strong was a Day 2 talent if not for questions about the health of his knee – is it degenerative, or not? – as well as maturity issues. But boy if he doesn’t have a big league arm. He was the only top-100 player on my board that didn’t get picked… it wasn’t a surprise that there was a bidding frenzy for his services once the draft concluded.

Brooks, in contrast to some other UDFAs from blueblood schools, has always been more than the sum of his parts. He only posted a 4.59 forty, but Brooks runs with exemplary patience, tempo and vision. He’s got a real shot to crack the roster.

Goodrich is another guy that outplays his measurables –…



Source: sports.yahoo.com

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