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Best UDFA Signings in 2019

by Michael Stewart on May. 15, 2019

Introduction: Last week we listed the Top 3 UDFA (undrafted free agents) since 1980 inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This week we’re going to take a look at some UDFA prospects that could emerge and go on to a long productive NFL career; which could include wearing the gold jacket in Canton OH. The 2019 draft was so deep that many of the prospects that ended up as UDFA signees; would have been drafted in past drafts. There’s no exact science to determine these findings, just basic statistics and perhaps a gut feeling. I went over the entire list of UDFA signings from every team in the league and came to my top 10 UDFA (in no particular order).

  1. Te’von Coney (ILB) Notre Dame-6’1/240 (signed by the Oakland Raiders):  Coney didn’t do well at his Pro Day, however; his game production should have been enough to have his name called at this year’s draft. In fact, Coney had a 90.5 coverage grade and a 91.7 run-defense grade; which along with coverage grade ranked in the top 10 among all linebackers in college football. The Raiders might have found themselves a diamond in the rough.
  2.   T. J Edwards (ILB) Wisconsin-6’1/235 (signed by the Philadelphia Eagles): Edwards was the 5th best interior linebacker in 2018 overall (90.8) and a 84.8 rating in pass coverage. Edwards has enough ability to make some noise in training camp and give the Eagles a solid performer.     
  3. Tyree Jackson (QB) Buffalo-6’7/245 (signed by the Buffalo Bills): Jackson has the god gifted attributes you can’t teach, size, speed and has a cannon attached to his right shoulder. However; he has to develop many intangibles such as: footwork, release point, read progression, patience and many other mental aspects of being an NFL quarterback. Not sure why the Bills signed him with Josh Allen on board, perhaps the Bills have a plan in place. Wouldn’t surprise me if another team takes Jackson if the Bills place him on the practice squad.  Jackson needs time to develop and if placed in the right system, could flourish.
  4. Jazz Ferguson (WR) Northern Illinois-6’5/225 (signed by the Seattle Seahawks): Ferguson has all the raw talent and intangibles that scream diamond in the rough. Ferguson’s size and speed alone should have warranted a late Day 3 selection. Ferguson’s production should have also given him an opportunity to hear his name called on Day 3 as well (66 receptions/1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns). By the way, did I mention that Ferguson’s overall numbers at the combine placed him in the 98th percentile among wide receivers.
  5. Devine Ozigbo (RB) Nebraska-6’0/225 (signed by the New Orleans Saints: Ozigbo is as hard to tackle as it is to pronounce his name as Ozigbo is a bruising runner who gains extra yards after 1st contact. Ozigbo would be solid complement to a team with an established running back already in place, who can provide short yardage production and blocking.
  6. Preston Williams (WR) Colorado State-6’3/210 (signed by the Miami Dolphins: More than likely, the main reason Williams wasn’t drafted has more to do with his off the field issues than his ability on the field. Williams was ranked 10th overall among wide receivers in 2018 with an 84.0 grade. Williams has size, athleticism and is very competitive. Williams needs to refine other parts of his game and he also needs to avoid problems off the field.      
  7. Brian Peavy (CB) Iowa State-5’9/190 (signed by the Arizona Cardinals): Peavy’s lack of size is probably the main reason why he went undrafted out of Iowa State. However; Peavy graded out as one of college football’s top cornerbacks over the past two seasons (PFF College).  The Cardinals did very well in the draft and if Peavy performs the way many scouts have suggested, the Cardinals would have found a diamond in the rough.
  8. Emanuel Hall (WR) Missouri-6’2/202 (signed by the Chicago Bears):  Hall was a surprise to be undrafted; especially with some of the other wide receivers taken over him in the later rounds. Hall was 2nd overall in 2018 with yards per route ran (4.14) and 4th in passer rating when targeted (141.8). Hall has good speed (4.39) and size, but needs to improve his route running; which could be sloppy at times. Overall, Hall was a solid choice for the Bears.
  1. Ryan Bates (OT/OG) Penn State-6’4/306 (signed by the Philadelphia Eagles: Bates earned an 81.0 overall grade across his 879 offensive snaps split between left and right tackle at Penn State in 2018, however; short arms could push Bates inside to guard in the NFL. Bates (81.0) overall grade ranked seventh among qualifying tackles in 2018, and his (76.9) run-blocking grade also ranked seventh. Moving Bates to guard in Philadelphia will provide solid depth for the Eagles and improve their pass protection.
  2. Terrill Hanks (ILB/OLB) New Mexico State-6’2/242 (signed by the Miami Dolphins): Hanks plays with a lot of energy and is always around the ball. I had him going on Day 3 somewhere between rounds 4 and 6, so seeing him go undrafted was a little surprising. The Dolphins could use the services of Hanks and what he can bring to their defense. This is a solid UDFA signing and we could see Hanks making the roster and contributing in 2019.

Final Thoughts: The 2019 NFL draft had arguably the best talent coming out of the UDFA signings in a very long time and could see many of these prospects securing an NFL roster spot by opening day. Will any of them become the next Warren Moon, Kurt Warner or John Randle, perhaps not, however; it’s not at all hard to imagine that some could wind up as solid NFL players or even All-Pros in the foreseeable future.