Talent can come from anywhere, and the NFL doesn't care where it comes from as long as it's effective. Drafted, undrafted, the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia or a local park: if you can play the NFL will make a spot for you. Most of the players in the league arrived through the draft process but a significant crop of talent emerges from the undrafted ranks every year. Last year it was Seahawk Thomas Rawls filling in for Marshawn Lynch in spectacular fashion, but his story is not unique. UDFA players make tremendous plays every week for the teams that took a chance on them.
For this roundup I'll take a quick spin around the league looking at this year's UDFA additions, starting with the Bears. I'll highlight the most notable name (or names) with a brief description and add honorable mentions where I think they are due. If I don't mention a team I wasn't familiar enough with any of their additions to make meaningful assessments.
The Bears added a very interesting set of UDFA's to their already impressive haul from the draft. Quite a few of them could find a way to contribute. It's up to them to prove they can make the jump to the big leagues and plays when the pads come on this summer. The most notable additions for me are a pair of cornerbacks; Kevin Peterson from Oklahoma State and Taveze Calhoun from Mississippi State. The Bears waited until the 4th round of this year's draft to add any help at CB with Deiondre' Hall from Northern Iowa, but they have a significant enough need at the position I thought they might double dip and grab two players. Instead they added Peterson and Calhoun as UDFA's after the draft to try and create a legitimate talent pool moving in to OTA's and eventually training camp. They are different players but both bring potentially beneficial skills to the table.
If you turn on tape of Kevin Peterson against any of the top receivers he faced you'll be stunned he wasn't drafted. He's not the biggest corner (5'10", 181 pounds) but he is very skilled. To see what he is capable of watch him against Corey Coleman from Baylor in 2015. Coleman was the first WR drafted this year with good reason; he embarrassed many of the defenses he faced. Peterson gave up a long completion early but then settled in and hammered toe-to-toe with Coleman, frustrating Baylor's primary offensive weapon badly as the contest wore on. That kind of confident play against very skilled receivers could land Peterson a contributing role as a 3rd or 4th CB for the Bears this season. His areas for improvement are adding good muscle to his frame and making sure he is consistent from day to day; as his new coaches will demand that in return for playing time.
Calhoun is bigger (6', 192 pounds) and matches the physical profile of cornerbacks that Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell have had success with in the past. He is a very solid press player and aggressive in opportunities to support the run. He's not afraid to hit and uses his length well to contest passes aimed in his direction. The concern with Taveze is his ability to stay with very fast WR's down the field. He quick but not terribly fast over longer distances and must work to transition more smoothly from his backpedal to a full run. If he can improve his ability to play with balance and refine his backpedal he has the tools to be a fine corner.
Honorable Mentions: TE Ben Braunecker (could have a future as a versatile H-Back type), WR Derek Keaton (very good return skills), DE Roy Robertson-Harris (raw pass rushing talent), TE Joe Sommers (a lot of speed for TE, but he'll have to dislodge a line of players in front of him)
Notable UDFA's From Around the Rest of the League
Note: I used the following list off NFL.com to make selections
Notable: WR Amir Carlisle - I am going to trust the Cardinals know what they like in WR's by now and Carlisle made some big plays in South Bend.
Honorable Mention: QB Jake Coker
Notable: DT Cory Johnson - The Falcons need to stop the run and Johnson looks dominant doing that at times
Honorable Mention: WR Malachi Jones (had a rough QB situation in college could really benefit working with Matt Ryan) DB Brian Poole
Notable: DL Victor Ochi - More raw pass rushing talent for the Ravens D.
Honorable Mention: OT Stephane Nembot, C Matt Skura - two underrated lineman... just the kind Baltimore seems to coax meaningful contributions out of year after year
Notable: FB Glenn Gronkowski - Rex Ryan loves to troll the Patriots and having Rob's younger brother on the Bills and contributing would bring a huge smile to Rex's face
Honorable Mention: DT Justin Zimmer - all the athleticism you could possibly want from a DT, could be good with pro coaching
Notable: S Jeremy Cash, WR Keyarris Garrett, RB Devon Johnson - 3 players that almost every analyst had on their "draftable" board. All three land with the Panthers and could earn playing time. Keep your eye on Garrett; he's a talented deep ball threat who Cam Newton could come to like very quickly.
Honorable Mention: TE Jake McGee
Notable: LB Dominique Alexander - Best pass-defending ILB in college football last year
Honorable Mention: DT Nile Lawrence-Stample - Nile next to Danny Shelton would make a "no-run" line for opponents.
Notable: LB Deon King - Just makes plays. Could find a role on special teams to start and become a valuable sub in the Dexter Coakley mode.
Honorable Mention: WR Chris Brown
Notable: DE Shaneil Jenkins - Had 13.5 sacks last year and will be able to learn from some of the NFL's best pass rushers every day.
Notable: WR Quinshad Davis - The Lions lost a big WR this off season (what was his name?) and Davis (a favortie from my sleepers list) could replace at least a small piece of his red zone production
Honorable Mention: WR Jay Lee - another talented Baylor WR; they turn them out at a crazy rate
Green Bay Packers
Notable: LB Beniquez Brown - The Packers need help at ILB and Brown showed some significant flashes there in college
Honorable Mention: WR Geronimo Allison - Had a good Shrine game and could be better as a pro than he was in college
Notable: K Ka'imi Fairbairn, FB Soma Vainuku, TE Stephen Anderson - Five years from now, Fairbairn could be the best kicker to come out this draft, Vainuku will be a battering ram in the run game and Anderson is a very good receiver as a move/speed TE
Honorable Mention: Ufomba Kamalu - 6'6', 284 pound DE out of Miami who can watch JJ Watt and learn
Notable: LB Curt Maggitt - Has some real pass rush potential coming off the edge
Honorable Mention: RB Josh Ferguson, TE Darion Griswold
Kansas City Chiefs
Notable: WR Mitch Mathews - The Chiefs use their BYU pipeline again to land a huge WR (6'5") who could be a nightmare in the red zone.
Los Angeles Rams
Notable: DB Michael Jordan - Has legitimate physical potential to end up as a starting-caliber outside corner. He's not there now but there is plenty of opportunity on the Rams D... and his new head coach was an NFL DB.
Honorable Mention: RB Aaron Green, WR Marquez North, WR Nelson Spruce
Notable: LB Jake Ganus - A UAB transfer just like the Bears Jordan Howard, Ganus was a tackling machine in his only year at Georgia
Honorable Mention: RB Brandon Ross, RB Jhurell Pressley - could be thunder and lightning as backups for Adrian Peterson... if he ever comes out of a game.
New England Patriots
Notable: CB V'Angelo Bentley, CB Jonathan Jones, CB Cre'Von LeBlanc - All three are aggressive corners with plenty of game who like to tackle. Only knock on them was their size (all 5'10 or under).
New Orleans Saints
Notable: CB De'Vante Harris, CB Ken Crawley, G Landon Turner, - Harris and Crawley are CB's that flew under the radar a bit but could work very well as nickel CB's. Turner was a top guard heading into the predraft process but slipped badly during it.
Honorable Mention: C Jack Allen,WR Jared Dangerfield
New York Giants
Notable: WR Darius Powe* - Powe was not on the NFL list but there was a great story about him on SB Nation yesterday, so I had to include him. Big guy that Eli could take a shine to like he did Hakeem Nicks.
Honorable Mention: DE Romeo Okwara, TE Ryan Malleck, RB Marshaun Coprich, WR KJ Maye
New York Jets
Notable: OL Kyle Friend - Just a hammer of an O-lineman. Could earn a backup spot and learn behind Nick Mangold
Honorable Mention: WR Jalin Marshall, WR Robby Anderson, DE Julien Obioha
Notable: OL Denver Kirkland, DE James Cowser, DT Darius Latham - Kirkland is a mauler at G, Cowser shows some sneaky pass rush talent and if Latham gets focused he's a physical monster (6'4", 320)
Notable: WR Hunter Sharp - solid and experienced WR who also brings value as a returner
Honorable Mention: DE Aziz Shittu, RB Byron Marshall, DT Destiny Vaeao
Notable: WR Canaan Severin - A big, talented WR who could make some noise in Martavis Bryant's absence due to suspension
Honorable Mention: DL Devaunte Sigler - just the kind of tank the Steelers like in the middle of their DL
San Diego Chargers
Notable: QB Mike Bercovici - If somebody can calm Bercovici down a bit and get some consistency out of his decision making he could be a valuable backup. He can really sling it when he wants to.
Honorable Mention: WR Deandre Reaves - Excellent return man out of Marshall
San Francisco 49ers
Notable: WR Devon Cajuste - Don't know if he's a big WR or a small TE, but if he goes to school on some tape of Anquan Boldin's catches he could be very dangerous
Notable: LB Montese Overton - The kind of wildly athletic player that Seattle could find a use for. Strangely they had him listed as DE on their rookie camp roster (he's only 222 pounds).
Honorable Mention: QB Trevone Boykin, S Tyvis Powell
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable: S Elijah Shumate - a player I thought the Bears might target in the UDFA process. He won't blow you away physically but he was pretty consistent
Honorable Mention: RB Peyton Barber
Notable: DB Morgan Burns - a very talented return man who has a real chance to earn snaps in the base defense as an extra CB
Notable: WR Reggie Diggs - Not fast, but has an uncanny knack for coming up with contested catches. This 6'4" WR was highly productive during his time in Richmond.
Any players I missed that you have your eye on? Potential contributors from your alma mater? Give them a shout out in the comments section below.