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Blog Entry

Have a need? UDFAs to fit every position, scheme

Posted on: July 22, 2011 11:26 am
 
Undrafted free agency is a lot like walking into your favorite superstore. Sure, you walk in with specific needs but sometimes the deals are so good on items that you didn't necessarily think you couldn't live without that you find yourself filling up your cart.

The undrafted prospects from the 2011 crop feature quite a menagerie of talents and fits in schemes. As is often the case, the best talent lies at relatively easy-to-find positions like running back, wide receiver and inside linebacker. I'd rate Auburn RB Mario Fannin, Miami RB Graig Cooper and Virginia Tech RB Darren Evans, for example, as more likely to make an NFL roster than any of the defensive ends remaining, but we all know that the needs of clubs will make pass rushers a priority once they're officially allowed to "shop."

My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter does a nice job of detailing the top five prospects at each position in this article here. However, as we all know there are specialists at each position that may or may not fit your team's speficic needs. As such, I wanted to highlight a few players per position whose size/speed or unique skill set makes them a particularly good fit for whatever your team is still looking for.

This post is based on the offensive prospects still available.

There is a surprising amount of talent still available at quarterback. For teams operating out of the West Coast Offense that requires a quick release, good short to intermediate accuracy and the ability to read defenses quickly, Delaware's Pat Devlin is a solid choice. For clubs that want a more mobile, strong-armed passer Josh Portis of California (PA) is the optimum player available. Personally, I love the gunslinger mentality that Minnesota's Adam Weber brings to the table, though he does not possess the ideal physical characteristics for the position.

I listed a few running backs already that I like. Both Fannin (if he can get over his fumble problems) and Cooper (if healthy) could surprise as everydown backs one day. As undrafted free agents, Arian Foster (led the NFL in rushing yards last year), LaGarrette Blount (led all rookies in rushing yards last year) and Chris Ivory (finished second among rookie rushers last year) proved, that claim isn't nearly as preposterous as it might appear initially.

For clubs needing a bruiser, Wisconsin's John Clay and Virginia Tech's Darren Evans make sense. Kentucky's Derrick Locke is my top choice as the scat back speedster of the prospects remaining. Fannin has the softest hands of any back available.

At wide receiver, LSU's Terrance Toliver is a step above the rest in terms of pure talent and size. Cincinnati's Armon Binns is a long-strider with size and deceptive speed. For a gutty slot receiver, however, my money would be on Oregon's Jeff Maehl or Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher. Looking for a pure speed threat? Fort Valley State's Ricardo Lockette is a verified 4.3 guy. Want to take a flyer on a developmental guy with a freakish combination of size and athleticism? Western Oregon's Demario Ballard at 6-6, 219 pounds and running a verified 4.50 takes the cake.  

Tight end has morphed into one of the NFL's most specialized positions. It wasn't that long ago that teams only had one tight end that played most of the time. Now, we're seeing blocking specialists, receiving specialists and other matchup nightmares designed to test the defense in every which way. If you're looking for a blocker, you're in luck as arguably the best blocking tight end in the entire class remains available in Virginia Tech's Andre Smith. Need a hybrid receiver? Nebraska's Mike McNeill is your guy.

Teams often use late round picks to nab the developmental offensive linemen with upside. However, East Carolina tackle Willie Smith has the size and athleticism I look for in a developmental blindside blocker. I am not a huge fan of the remaining talent at offensive guard, but center is one of the deeper positions available, in my opinion. USC's Kris O'Dowd fell out of the draft due to medical concerns, but he's been a standout whenever on the field. Utah's Zane Taylor and Mississippi State's J.C. Brignone always impressed me with their high football IQ and grittiness. They could surprise if given a shot. Former Stanford center Chase Beeler has been working out with Alex Smith and the 49ers players during the lockout and will presumably sign with his old head coach Jim Harbaugh once the CBA is agreed upon.

If your team has a need on the offensive side of the football, there remain plenty of players that can help. Sure, most of these players won't wind up as starters, but a few (and quite possibly several) will provide quality depth for some NFL team this fall.
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