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2023 NFL best UDFA fits: One undrafted prospect to watch on each roster

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Buffalo Bills: DJ Dale, DT, Alabama

Dale never turned into a dominant force during his time at Alabama, but he was on the field from the day he showed up till the day he left. Known as a “program guy,” per The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s The Beast, Dale is a short, burly tackle who is at his best when he can use his hands to turn every rep into a street fight at the line of scrimmage. He’s all-gas, and sometimes it runs out — he was a rotational player in college — but he offers quality football character.


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At some point during NFL Draft weekend, the dreaded “maybe it’ll be better if you don’t get picked” discussion begins for a few overlooked (but still talented) prospects. The top undrafted rookie free agents often find themselves in the middle of bidding wars between teams hoping to acquire their services, and those discussions often begin before the draft even ends.

Not all of your team’s undrafted signings are throwaways. Some are pretty strategic adds.

Here’s a favorite from every team:

Arizona CardinalsBlake Whiteheart, TE, Wake Forest

Whiteheart is a 6-foot-3, 247-pound potential H-back/flex tight end with 32 1/8-inch arms. He also can hang around the line of scrimmage as a U tight end and block with athleticism on the edge. There’s not a ton of experience here — just 13 starts in college (50 appearances) — but he was rock solid for Dave Clawson last season. If he’s a willing blocker, he’ll have a shot.

Atlanta FalconsIkenna Enechukwu, edge, Rice

A former prep wrestler with a compact frame and a bunch of length (6-4, 264 pounds; 33 5/8-inch arms), Enechukwu doesn’t have much in the bag in terms of a move set or overall twitch at the line of scrimmage. However, because of his strength, he has a chance to bother linemen when he lands his punch.

Baltimore RavensKeaton Mitchell, RB, East Carolina

Mitchell has legit “goodbye” speed (4.37-second 40 and 1.5-second 10-yard split) plus a 38-inch vertical at just 5-7, 179 pounds. The obvious limitations are in the size department. When this guy puts his foot on the ground and turns the corner, though, he darn near breaks the sound barrier. He’s gadgety but could be a lot of fun in Baltimore’s offense.

Buffalo BillsDJ Dale, DT, Alabama

Dale never turned into a dominant force during his time at Alabama, but he was on the field from the day he showed up till the day he left. Known as a “program guy,” per The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s The Beast, Dale is a short, burly tackle who is at his best when he can use his hands to turn every rep into a street fight at the line of scrimmage. He’s all-gas, and sometimes it runs out — he was a rotational player in college — but he offers quality football character.

Carolina PanthersRejzohn Wright, CB, Oregon State

A big, long corner (6-1, 193 pounds; 32 1/2-inch arms), Wright has good football IQ and an understanding of how to use his body. He was a junior college transfer to Oregon State, and he broke up 21 passes and picked off six balls in his final 25 games (23 starts). Carolina also added Oklahoma DT Jalen Redmond.

Chicago Bears: Tyson Bagent, QB, Shepherd

The 6-3, 213-pound son of a 28-time world arm wrestling champion, Bagent threw for a ridiculous 17,034 yards on 1,400 career completions at Division II Shepherd. Bagent declined the Bailey Zappe route — the current Patriots QB jumped from Houston Baptist to Western Kentucky for his final college season — and turned down interest from Northwestern, Zappe’s former Western Kentucky squad and others. Instead, he stayed at Shepherd and broke the NCAA career TD pass mark across all divisions with 159.

Cincinnati BengalsShaka Heyward, LB, Duke

A cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers Cam and Connor Heyward (and their dad, the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward), Shaka was a three-year starter at Duke. He has good size at 6-2, 235 pounds and great speed (4.53 40; 1.54 10-yard split) with elite length (34-inch arms). There’s something about those Heyward boys — they seem to find a way.

Cleveland BrownsLonnie Phelps, edge, Kansas

Phelps (6-2, 244 pounds) is pretty much maxed out physically and doesn’t have outstanding length. However, he has terrific feet and covers a ton of space on the edge as a slippery pass rusher with third-down potential. The Browns had a nice UDFA haul, as they also added Ohio State DB Ronnie Hickman and Utah LB Mohamoud Diabate.

Dallas Cowboys: Earl Bostick, OT, Kansas

The Cowboys might have my favorite UDFA class, with the likes of Oregon OL T.J. BassFresno State WR Jalen Moreno-CropperMississippi State edge Tyrus Wheat and Florida A&M LB Isaiah Land. But I’m going with Bostick here. He’s a traits-heavy former TE with 34 1/8-inch arms, and he’s athletic enough to have a chance.

Denver BroncosThomas Incoom, edge, Central Michigan

Incoom is a bulkier, slightly less fast version of Lonnie Phelps. A Valdosta State transfer to Central Michigan, Incoom is explosive off the snap and has enough mass to hang in during certain run situations. He and Phelps had Round 4-5 grades from The Athletic draft expert Dane Brugler.

Detroit Lions: Starling Thomas V, CB, UAB

The Lions snagged a draft steal in the secondary with Alabama’s Brian Branch, but Thomas could make Detroit feel more comfortable about not drafting a pure cornerback. Just two years ago, the Lions signed CB Jerry Jacobs as a UDFA out of Arkansas, and he’s now a starter. Thomas, who runs a 4.38, checks almost no boxes with his size, but he’s tougher than hell and plays like it. Just like Jacobs.

Green Bay PackersMalik Heath, WR, Ole Miss

Another big, powerful receiver from Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss offense, Heath (6-2, 213 pounds) also played in Mike Leach’s system — he transferred from Mississippi State in ’22. Matt LaFleur won’t be able to confuse him if he tries. Despite not having elite speed or burst, Heath knows how to get open and has enough frame strength to compete as a sturdy X.

Houston TexansAli Gaye, edge, LSU

Born in Gambia, Gaye moved to the U.S. in 2011 at age 12 and — having played soccer all his youth in West Africa — didn’t find football until the eighth grade. Gaye (6-6, 263 pounds) was a late qualifier who had a long path to LSU, but he also comes with 34 1/4-inch arms. He makes for a helluva story and brings a great work ethic.

Indianapolis ColtsEmil Ekiyor Jr., G/C, Alabama

Ekiyor might be my favorite UDFA signing this year. Even knowing the inconsistencies of Alabama’s offensive line in 2022, I was surprised Ekiyor wasn’t picked. A long, well-built guard who can play center, he had frustrating moments on film (he wasn’t alone), but he has the talent to start in the NFL.

Jacksonville JaguarsLeonard Taylor, TE, Cincinnati

Taylor was a highly recruited edge prospect in high school who told the big boys (Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, most of the SEC) no because he wanted to play tight end. This is still a developmental piece, but Taylor — a basketball star in high school — has the traits to be exciting. He’ll also chip in on special teams and do anything else he’s asked.

Kansas City ChiefsDeneric Prince, RB, Tulsa

Well, this could be fun. Prince, who started out at Texas A&M, runs a 4.41 40 and has leave-the-pack speed with long, powerful strides at 5-11, 216 pounds. He also had only 316 carries in college, so he should be coming in fresh. The Chiefs landed a strong UDFA class, also signing talented LBs Isaiah Moore and Cam Jones and traits-heavy OT Quinton Barrow.

Las Vegas Raiders: McClendon Curtis, OT, Chattanooga

Add him to the Ekiyor pile: I’m also surprised Curtis wasn’t drafted. The 6-5, 324-pounder has 35-inch arms and has started at both guard spots and left tackle. He more than held his own at the Senior Bowl. There’s work to do, but this could be a total steal for the Raiders in time.Los Angeles ChargersJerrod Clark, DT, Coastal Carolina

Clark is a mountain of a human: 6-3, 334 pounds with nearly 34-inch arms and an 82-inch wingspan. That’s from a guy who entered college as a 230-pound tight end. This is not your father’s big-bellied two-gapper.

Los Angeles RamsRashad Torrence II, S, Florida

Torrence, who just turned 21, had offers from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Clemson and a bunch of other heavy hitters coming out of high school in Atlanta. While he’ll never be confused with being “fast,” he plays with total body control and was always around the ball at Florida. I’ll be interested to see if his game can translate to NFL speed. The Rams also added top-rated long snapper Alex Ward, because of course they did.

Miami Dolphins: Aubrey Miller, LB, Jackson State

There’s a lot of “if he was just a little bit more …” with Miller because he’s right on the verge of being an interesting NFL prospect as a smart, fiery stack linebacker. He’ll have to overcome size and speed limitations, but he could be a huge asset on special teams. He never stops fighting.

Minnesota VikingsIvan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati

OK, so I take back anything I said before this spot: Pace is my favorite undrafted signing. He’s only 5-10 and lacks overwhelming speed, but the guy is the definition of a “football player” in every way. He transferred into an already gritty Bearcats locker room in 2022 and became one of the toughest guys there despite his physical stature. The Vikings also added traits-heavy Army edge Andre Carter II.New England PatriotsMalik Cunningham, QB, Louisville

The Patriots could have fun with Cunningham. He is pretty much the exact opposite of Mac Jones and Zappe, in that he’s an inconsistent passer with electric feet. There could be an entertaining contrast when New England gets into its full-team workouts.

New Orleans SaintsAnfernee Orji, LB, Vanderbilt

If Orji were a bit bigger or faster, he’d have been drafted. He’s a linebacker only, meaning he’s not long enough to be an edge or play anywhere but out of a stack-LB spot. But he’s good in that stack linebacker role and was huge in helping Clark Lea establish some confidence at Vanderbilt.

New York GiantsHabakkuk Baldonado, edge, Pitt

As a powerful, albeit undersized and slower-moving defensive end in Pitt’s even front, Baldonado had a breakout 2021 for Pat Narduzzi with nine sacks and 11 1/2 tackles for loss. He had a knee injury in 2022, but if he’s healthy, this could be a locker room presence the Giants want to keep. The Giants also added talented West Virginia WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton.

New York Jets: Trey Dean III, S, Florida

Dean is a big, powerful safety with crazy agility — a 6.69 3-cone at his size (6-2, 200 pounds) is phenomenal. He feels like a potentially perfect fit with Robert Saleh’s scheme in New York. Oh, and according to his former Florida teammate, he was the Gators’ best trash-talker.

Philadelphia EaglesEli Ricks, CB, Alabama

The Eagles are perpetually in a position to roll the dice on unproven players with unquestionable talent. That is Eli “Pick Six” Ricks. He looked like a future superstar at LSU as a true freshman in 2020 … and pretty much disappeared after that, even after his transfer to Alabama last season. At 6-2, 188 pounds and with nearly 33-inch arms, Ricks is worth the shot Philadelphia’s taking to see if the burgeoning star might reappear.

Pittsburgh SteelersTrevor Downing, C/G, Iowa State

Downing, despite being light (6-3, 299 pounds), has started full seasons at center and both guard spots. He’s better at guard, but his lack of length is going to be an issue there. If he can keep getting stronger, he has the smarts to stick.

San Francisco 49ersJack Colletto, FB/TE, Oregon State

This could be Kyle Juszczyk’s understudy. Colletto is not quite the athlete the current do-it-all 49ers fullback is, but it’s kind of close. The 6-2, 237-pounder was the 2022 Hornung Award winner, given annually to the most versatile player in college football. He arrived at Oregon State as a quarterback before moving to a linebacker/fullback/running back role. San Francisco also added talented Shepherd guard Joey Fisher.

Seattle SeahawksC.J. Johnson, WR, East Carolina

Johnson is a big, powerful slot receiver who is going to have to find more ways to win on the outside if he’s going to stick. However, he is a really good route runner and knows how to use his power early in routes versus undersized DBs. He creates separation his own way. If it translates to the pros, he could be fun.

Tampa Bay BuccaneersSean Tucker, RB, Syracuse

Sean Tucker’s Twitter account at Syracuse is reason enough for him to be on this list. He also rushed for 3,182 yards and 27 touchdowns on 589 carries at Syracuse and could be an interesting option in the backfield as Tampa Bay starts fresh. The Buccaneers also signed talented Maryland WR Rakim Jarrett.

Tennessee TitansJohn Ojukwu, OT, Boise State

Ojukwu has a great frame (6-4, 309 pounds; 34-inch arms, 38 5/8-inch wingspan) with room to keep going. He was a five-year starter at Boise State (51 combined starts at left and right tackle), though he could — and probably should — be a guard in the NFL. If his power holds up in the trenches against NFL defensive linemen, he could surprise Tennessee.

Washington CommandersMitchell Tinsley, WR, Penn State

Tinsley blew up with Zappe at Western Kentucky in 2021 (1,402 yards, 14 touchdowns) and turned that into a Penn State offer. He wound up leading the Nittany Lions last season with 51 receptions as a dependable slot.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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On 5/9/2023 at 9:41 AM, Crazy Legs said:


Buffalo Bills: DJ Dale, DT, Alabama

Dale never turned into a dominant force during his time at Alabama, but he was on the field from the day he showed up till the day he left. Known as a “program guy,” per The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s The Beast, Dale is a short, burly tackle who is at his best when he can use his hands to turn every rep into a street fight at the line of scrimmage. He’s all-gas, and sometimes it runs out — he was a rotational player in college — but he offers quality football character.


If he can be developed into a 1DT through an off-season NFL weight lifting and proper diet program over a couple of years, this could be interesting.

  • Agree 1

Do Your Part to Improve The Range -- Please put the TRIO OF TRUMP FLUFFERSTM  on IGNORE

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