It may be hard to believe, but after seven rounds of the NFL draft concluded and 253 players were selected, NFL-caliber players remain unclaimed and are looking to begin their pro careers. Going undrafted does not mean you are undeserving.
Two of the best players in franchise went undrafted, in fact, as Vikings Ring of Honor members John Randle and Mick Tingelhoff were both slighted by NFL teams during the draft; Randle is now a Hall of Famer. Furthermore, the following NFL stars were also initially judged as not worthy of being drafted: WR Miles Austin, S Ryan Clark, WR Victor Cruz, RB Arian Foster, TE Antonio Gates, LBs James Harrison and London Fletcher, QB Tony Romo and WR Wes Welker.
So who are the undrafted players this year that will soon become NFL stars? We don’t know that yet, but here’s a list of candidates to watch…
C Mike Brewster: An experienced, four-year starter for Ohio State, Brewster was a surprise undrafted player for me. He ranks second in school history with 49 consecutive starts and he’s known as a fiery and scrappy competitor.
LB Vontaze Burfict: The fall from prominence Burfict experienced over the past year is remarkable. He was once considered an elite LB prospect and potential 1st-round pick, but a rash of issues have since arisen and ultimately Burfict went undrafted this past weekend. Burfict was benched as a senior, committed several personal foul penalties, is considered a bad locker room influence and then bombed at the Combine and at his pro day. But he plays with aggression, physicality and passion.
CB Donnie Fletcher: Supposedly a subpar senior season and Senior Bowl performance hurt Fletcher’s draft stock, but he does have good size for the position (6-0, 201 pounds) and scouts like his ability to make plays (11 career INTs). Some say he’s pigeon-holed as Cover 2 player, so perhaps that caused him to slide?
CB Cliff Harris: An electric athlete with elite return skills, Harris is no doubt a better returner than defender. He did intercept Stanford’s Andrew Luck four times, though, and there’s nothing wrong with having great athletes on your team. Character concerns may have hurt his draft stock, as he had multiple run-ins with the law, multiple suspensions at Oregon and was ultimately dismissed from the program.
CB Leonard Johnson: A member of the North squad at this year’s Senior Bowl, Johnson was a solid-not-spectacular performer down in Mobile. A lot of scouts pigeon-hole Johnson as a Cover 2 CB, which could’ve hurt his draft stock. He’s also not an exceptional athlete, which is a tough label to overcome for a CB. I thought he’d be a mid-round selection at best, late-round selection at worst. But he went undrafted, and some team could find some good value in bringing him to camp.
CB Chase Minnifield: The kid has NFL bloodlines (father played), lots of experience, and moderate production while playing at the University of Virginia. He had 9 INTs during final his two seasons and has return experience as well. Minnifield is described as hard worker, versatile and a good character guy. Scouts say he’ll support the run, but he also needs to get stronger and tends to grab and clutch receivers down the field. Doesn’t have great athleticism overall, but is a smart player and could develop as a sub-package player with special teams ability.
QB Kellen Moore: If you look at his statistics and won-loss record in college, there’s no way to view him as an undrafted prospect. But there’s more to it than that, and as a result Moore was not chosen with a draft pick this year. He was also on the North squad at the Senior Bowl, and I saw first-hand that he doesn’t have a strong arm, has an awkward hitch in his delivery and doesn’t have the stature you associate with NFL QBs. But I would also say that you rarely see a QB get rid of the ball on time as consistently or with such an easy rhythm, and I was also impressed with Moore’s accuracy.
RB Chris Polk: Lack of production is certainly not the reason Polk went undrafted. He became just the third Washington player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season multiple times and he finished his career as the second-leading rusher in school history with 4,049 yards. Polk is also just one of seven Pac-10 (now Pac-12) players to rush for more than 4,000 yards. He took a medical redshirt in 2008 for shoulder injury and reports say he runs high and doesn’t have breakaway speed.
Tags: 2012 NFL Draft
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