With the NFL lockout over I thought I would take a look at the players that went undrafted back in April’s NFL draft and pick a few I think can still be very successful at the next level.
On opening weekend of the 2010 regular season, there were 59 undrafted free agents on 53-man rosters. A number of those players made huge impacts for their teams. Undrafted free-agent running back LeGarrett Blount rushed for 1,007 yards, the most by a rookie in 2010. Chris Ivory was pressed into action when injuries to Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas forced the undrafted rookie running back into the starting lineup for the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. In Week 5, Max Hall’s first career start, the undrafted rookie QB led the Cardinals to a shocking upset win over the defending champion Saints. Undrafted cornerback Sam Shields had two interceptions in the Packers’ NFC Championship Game win over the Bears. Could some of this year’s undrafted players have similar impacts in the 2011 season ?
Here are a few I think will do very well.
Got to start with this guy….
Mark Herzlich, Linebacker, Boston college. NEW YORK GIANTS
Still in shock over the fact 32 teams decided not to draft Mark. With his mentality and ability I would be shocked if he failed at the next level. Let’s face it he’s already overcome worse things in his life than not getting drafted and I don’t think the word CAN’T is in his vocabulary. The Giants were wise to pick him up and I think the media superpower in New york will love him. I also believe he and Greg Jones who they drafted in the 6th round will have a great career together at linebacker. Tom Coughlin will love his attitude.
Here’s a video of his story. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-network-total-access/09000d5d81f57ead/Game-Changers-Herzlich-s-story
Like many, I thought Mark would have gone in the top 15 had he decided to turn pro a few seasons ago and I am frustrated that he wasn’t drafted at all. I thought at least one franchise would have taken a chance on him during the draft. Herzlich participated in practice just three times before playing in Boston College’s 2010 season opener. He’s a strong player (29 bench-press reps at the combine), and is very good at diagnosing plays (his four interceptions are evidence of that ability). He’s a special player as far as work habits, and appears to slowly be regaining his speed and quickness. I think the Giants will get someone who can lead by example in the locker room and be an instant special teamer with massive upside and eventual pro bowl potential. He’s still regaining his strength and speed from his illness and the guy has inspired so many to the point that I think almost every fan would like to see him on their roster. I think fans would pay see him continue this inspiring story. Imagine if the guy makes it to a superbowl and helps win it. I honestly think I would finally get started on writing a screenplay and put my Ebbw vale media college course skills into action. I know Mickey rourke is playing Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas in an upcoming movie so maybe I could ask around hollywood and see who will take this role on. Maybe Herz could play himself. Who would you cast in the role ? I know if it was the Jeremy Shockey story I would cast Chris Hemsworth, the Australian actor that played Thor. I honestly could have passed him for Shockey at times during that movie,, But anyway, Back to football !!!
Kendric Burney. Cornerback, North Carolina. CAROLINA PANTHERS.
At the start of Burney’s senior season I had him as a top 20 pick in this years draft. He was a top Thorp award candidate and a pre season second team all American. I was very disappointed at his six game suspension and to be honest I wasn’t all that impressed when he returned for the Tar heels final five games. He had 24 tackles and just 1 interception. That’s a far cry from his 5 interception junior all ACC season. I think the suspension hit Burney hard and I think he just has to put it all behind him now and concentrate on what he can do for the Panthers. I was very impressed with him at the senior bowl. He had a good, solid week but apparently not good enough to get drafted. I remember Mike Mayock comparing him to current Chiefs corner Brandon Flowers. That’s very high praise indeed. Theres no doubt with 44 career starts that pro scouts know him well. He’s small in stature at 5,9″ 181lbs and with his sub par senior year I wasn’t expecting higher that round 3 but to go undrafted was a shock. There were many that went before him that to be honest just did not compare. On the whole Burney is a savvy experienced cornerback. He’s rarely out of position and is an active defender willing to mix it up with the big boys to make plays near the line of scrimmage. I think he can eventually be a solid nickel corner in the NFL. It’s good to see him stay in state with the Panthers and I think he will be a fan favourite immediately.
Dane Sanzenbacher, Wide receiver, Ohio state. CHICAGO BEARS.
The first thing I thought of when I heard the Bears had signed Sanz was how he would fit the Mike Martz offense and how he reminded me of a few players that have played in the offense. His great hands will be a huge asset if he can make the roster. It’s a receiving corps that I think he could make the cut with for sure and like I said. I love how he could fit. Sanzenbacher is the type of player coaches want on a roster. A well-spoken and intelligent leader, he was a buckeye team captain in 2010. He was named team MVP and was the recipient of the Bo Rein Award as the Buckeye’s most inspirational player. Jim Tressel said the double-hardware was a first in his 25 years of coaching. Will catch anything that’s thrown his way and has amazing ability to jump and make the catch. A very clutch player also and despite his frame he is as tough as nails. I think he will be a very valuable slot receiver and I think Jay Cutler will be looking for him on third down when he gets a feel for him. I really hope he makes the roster as it would mean he will travel over here to the U.K for the Bears game against the Buccaneers this October.
Kris O’Dowd, O line, USC, ARIZONA CARDINALS.
Russ Grimm will know what he’s getting with Kris and I think there’s an opportunity for him on that offensive line in Arizona. He’s an extremely smart player. He has good technique and great feet and he’s very explosive. Just in shock that he wasn’t drafted. I can’t wait to see what he can bring to challenge Lyle Sendlein and Ben Claxton. It will serve the Cards well to have that competition in camp. With Kevin Kolb as the new starter it will help if O’Dowd can get comfortable with him immediately. He will have the same opportunity to do that as Sendlein and Claxton. He could be a good back up at either Guard position also.
Pat Devlin, Quarterback, Delaware, MIAMI DOLPHINS.
The Dolphins have former UCLA head guy and former fins wide receiver coach Karl Dorrell as a first year quarterbacks coach and Brian Daboll as a first year offensive coordinator. Daboll is coming off the Colt McCoy project in Cleveland so he has had recent experience helping groom a rookie QB. With Chad Henne yet to secure the starting job I feel there’s a great opportunity for Devlin with the Fins.
When Miami took to the practice field on the first day of training camp earlier this week next Davone Bess or Dan Carpenter could have been among them.
Bess and Carpenter were undrafted college free agents in 2008. They not only made the final cut but also have since gone on to exceed normal expectations. Carpenter is the team’s Pro Bowl kicker and Bess has become one of the NFL’s top slot wide receivers. Pat Devlin is not as big as his predecessor with the Blue Hens, Joe Flacco, but he took a similar career path, having started his career at Penn State before transferring. At 6-3, 225, Devlin is three inches shorter than Flacco with an accurate arm, as his senior season showed. He threw 22 touchdowns to just three interceptions while completing 261-of-384 passes for 3,032 yards.
Derrick Locke, Running back, Kentucky, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES.
The Vikings originally wanted to sign Locke but he failed a physical in Minnesota due to a chronic condition in his spine and was off most teams’ boards during the draft because of the ailment. He has a lot of speed when healthy, but I think almost everyone was betting heavily against him having a long career and this is the only reason I can see why he wasn’t drafted.
Locke joins Noel Devine, Greig Cooper, and Dion Lewis as rookie running backs in Philly this year and when I think of all those guys in their prime at the college level it’s a bit mind-blowing to try to comprehend how they all ended up together like this and when you add Mike Vick, Shady McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson into the mix I think a few defensive coordinators can expect some sleepless nights before they play against Philly. I like how Andy Reid took a chance on Vick two seasons ago and now on Derrick Locke and Vince Young this season. I think a few things that went on with him and his sons off the field may be at the core of him pushing to give these guys a chance.
Here are a few I think could do well but don’t rank as high as the players above..
Ryan Bartholamew, O Line, Syracuse, BALTIMORE RAVENS.
Damien Berry, Running back , The U, BALTIMORE RAVENS.
Jake Kirkpatrick, O Line, TCU, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS.
Joe Lefeged, safety, Rutgers, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS.
Brett Swenson, Kicker, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS.
DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson, Safety, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS.
Sealver Siliga, D Line, Utah, SAN FRANCISCO 49ers.
Ian Williams, D Line, Notre Dame, SAN FRANCISCO 49ers.
Jeramiah Masoli, Quarterback, Ole Miss/Oregon, SAN FRANCISCO 49ers.
Charlie Gantt, Tight end, Michigan state, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS.
Zach Etheridge, Safety, Auburn, OAKLAND RAIDERS.
Terrence Toliver, Wide receiver, LSU, HOUSTON TEXANS.
Kyle Hix, O Line, Texas, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS.
Noel Devine, Running back, West Virginia, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES.
Weslye Saunders, Tight end, S. Carlolina, PITTSBURGH STEELERS.
John Clay, Running back, Wisconsin, PITTSBURGH STEELERS.
Alex Linnenkohl, O Line, Oregon state, CHICAGO BEARS.
Ricardo Lockette, Wide receiver, Fort vallet st, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS.
Jeron Johnson, safety, Boise st, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS.
Pierre Allen, D, Line, Nebraska, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS.
Scott Lutrus, Linebacker, Connecticutt, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS.
Armon Binns, Wide receiver, Cinncinnatti, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS.
Ryan Donahue, Punter, Iowa, DETROIT LIONS.
Kai Forbath, Kicker, UCLA, UNSIGNED.
Scott Tolzien, Quarterback, Wisconsin, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS.
Thanks for reading my latest column for sportcitychefs.com. I really can’t wait to do many more during the season. I travel over to the states for some NFL, High school and NCAA football this September and again later in the season. I will be keeping a diary of my travels and will be writing about it for sportcitychefs.com. I will also be covering the London game this October where the Buccaneers return to London to face the Chicago Bears.
Tredegar, Wales, United kingdom.