The UDFA Rough: *Packed* with Diamonds

The draft has come and gone.  In the coming weeks, we’ll have a ton to say about the selections.

Paddy is “relatively happy” with the Chiefs draft haul.  I myself am convinced the Chiefs had the best draft of all 32 teams, and that this draft class will rival the 2008 draft class.  More of us will weigh in as time goes by.

But… the draft isn’t over.  There are a ton of draft prospects that I really love this year who remain unselected as “undrafted free agents.”  I’d go as far as saying this could be the best UDFA crop I’ve ever seen…

After the jump, I list my favorites.  (Spoiler alert: there’s a ton of them.)  If you know of any that fascinate you, educate us by listing them in comments…

For one, it seems like nobody in the NFL watched any games by the Utah Utes.  The Utes have a bevy of NFL potential, and three players that declared this year went undrafted.  I don’t like WR Shaky Smithson as a player (although I’m in love with his name), but this team needs to pick up more WR depth.  C Zane Taylor and NT Sealver Siliga, however, are promising NFL talent.  Taylor is a shifty, intelligent center that dominated his inferior competition.  Siliga can play at 350 lbs, but of course he’s a project. 

Notre Dame NT Ian Williams is the pick everybody’s making right now, and it’s hard to disagree with for UDFA money.  It’s not like we’d be risking anything, and he comes from a high-character program.

This team still needs safety depth, and it’s a minor miracle that Rutgers SS Joe Lefeged is still on the board.  We don’t have a single backup that’s a natural strong safety to play behind Berry, and this draft wasn’t very strong in safeties anyway — it had way too many Bernard Pollards, thumpers with questionable coverage ability.  Lefeged is very good in coverage, and has a lot of potential to blanket those tight ends that give us fits.  North Carolina DB Duenta Williams can also man safety as well as corner, providing some versatility and ending the era of Donald Washington, as I’d wished this team could have done a year ago.

Thanks to Pioli’s emphasis on improving the front seven (four picks this year!) we have a ton of interesting talent out rushbacker now: Hali is our starter, with Studebaker and a returning Vrabel on the strong side.  Sheffield is returning from injury, the team stole Justin Houstin, and Gabe Miller is an intriguing strong sider.  There’s still more talent to be had!  North Carolina State OLB Stevan Friday is your typical Wolfpacker: athletically gifted, but raw as hell (I.e. DaJuan Morgan and Tank Tyler).  And Oklahoma State OLB Ugo Chinasa plays with a skillset similar to Hali.

If you’re not sold on Rudy Niswanger backing up Rodney Hudson, there’s a pair of interesting centers left.  Auburn C Ryan Pugh is perfect for the Chiefs’ zone blocking system.  He can make noise at the second level and is a pretty good athlete.  I didn’t watch any Oregon State games other than their bowl game, but their offensive line looks really strong against all defensive stunts and blitzes.  Credit that to C Alex Linnenkohl, as the center’s responsible for the line calls.

North Carolina CB Kendrick Burney remains.  I’d written about him prior to the draft:

North Carolina CB Kendrick Burney is the biggest mystery in the draft.  Very talented, seems to dominate his Senior Bowl opponents.  Reminds me a lot of Brandon Flowers, but his 4.7 speed is devastating at the corner position.

Going back to WR for a moment, there are a trio of WRs that I’m pretty excited about.  LSU WR Terrance Toliver is the smaller, explosive receiver that this team will need to compliment Bowe and Baldwin.  Even more interestingly, Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher is one of the cleanest route-runners this draft had to offer.  If he’s a quality special teamer, I say let’s give him a try.  Fort Valley State WR Richardo Lockette is less intriguing, but he could sneak on a practice squad somewhere and be good depth in a couple years.

Count me out for two of the bigger noise-makers among the UDFA crop: Delaware QB Pat Devlin and Southern Mississippi WR DeAndre Brown.  Both players have fine dimensions physically, but neither one seems to have exhibited the commitment necessary to playing in the NFL.  Huge question marks surrounding the dedication of both athletes.  Blech.

And, of course, the crown jewell of the UDFA this year is Boston College OLB/ILB Mark Herzlich, the inspiring cancer survivor.  I don’t have much to say about him that you haven’t already read, but his outstanding character alone deserves a place in our locker room. 

Who do you all like?

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