In anticipation of a new CBA being in place by the end of this week, I wanted to give you all a reminder of some good players who never heard their name called in the April NFL DRAFT. Much of the attention in the next couple of weeks will be on Veteran free Agent signings, as 1/4 of the league’s players are eligible to sign wherever they can find work offers. But for a lot of teams like the PACKERS, STEELERS, BENGALS, etc. the search will be on for a few good men who probably should have been drafted, and will scratch out an NFL career the hard way.
If you doubt the effectiveness of finding good players through this process please remember that the Super Bowl champion PACKERS were starting 2 such rookies at the end of last season in SAM SHIELDS & FRANK ZOMBO. A little luck, some patience, good coaching & skilled eyes in the Personnel Dept. can bring good value to an NFL roster at very little initial cost. And it appears that there will indeed be a Salary Cap to struggle with in the new CBA.
PAT DEVLIN/QB/DELAWARE/6’3/225 Yes, I had him ranked way down at slot 243 on my prospect list. Which means i didn’t see him as an immediate prospect to start in the NFL. But he has some attributes that make him worth a roster spot in a training Camp. Some recent performance institute testing has revealed that he has a quick release, and a very accurate delivery. He may be more than the dink-and-dunk QB he appeared to be for the Blue Hens much of the time. He needs some TLC from a QB guru, but if he can be stashed on a Practice Squad for a couple of years he might develop into an NFL player. And don’t discount the fact that he fits the physical norm for an NFL QB.
SCOTT TOLZIEN/QB/WISCONSIN/6’2/212 He’s not an exceptional athlete and he has a bad habit of getting rattled/flustered when the pocket collapses too often. But on the other hand he is very cerebral, throws with high accuracy and from what I have seen on film and in Orlando he has above average arm strength. His ball is very catchable and he commands a huddle with is intelligence. I thought he was a 6th/7th Round prospect. He certainly appears to have more to offer a team than a guy named SORGI who has forged a nice back-up career serving as a personal caddy for the MNNING family. Without unreasonable expectations and in a West COast style Offense he could contribute in a couple of years after developing on a Practice Squad somewhere.
RICARDO LOCKETTE/WR/FORT VALLEY STATE/6’2/210 Speed kills in the NFL. Now it’s one thing to always Draft the fastest player at the COMBINE every year (yes, I’m talking to you AL DAVIS), but it’s quite another to take on a project with a late Pick or as a RFA. LOCKETTE ran a 4.37/40 at the COMBINE, which tied him for the 4th fastest time overall.The 3 faster players, and the one tied with him were all Drafted. LOCKETTE has very good size for his speed. He is a track guy trying to become an NFL caliber player, but he shows flashes of getting it. It seems to me that the rest of the transition is a matter of time and hard work to develop into a player worthy of a No. 3-4 receiver position. A team looking to add a potential field-stretching weapon should jump all over LOCKETTE next week.
DANE SANZENBACHER/WR/OHIO STATE/5’11/185 On the other end of the QR spectrum I present MR. SANZENBACHER for your approval. None of his testing numbers will impress you (although he did show quickness & change of direction in some COMBINE drills), but watching him block, play special teams and catch everything thrown his way on game tape will. I can guarantee you there are 10 NFL teams that want him added to their roster. For those of you with a football memory longer than 3 years just recall another BIG TEN kid who put together an outstanding career as a Special Teamer and a No. 4 receiver in the NFL: STEVE TASKER. He’ll also be a fan favorite (ala TASKER) as an over-achieving, underdog. One of the Ohio based teams would do well to pony up for his services. He’ll be worth a lot of local fan appeal in the state of Ohio.
TERRENCE TOLIVER/WR/LSU/6’4/210 I remember watching him during practices at SHRINE week in Orlando, and thinking ‘smooth as silk’ watching him run his patterns. His 4.59/40 from the COMBINE was disappointing, but not shocking. He is one of those long legged, long striding players who take a while to gain momentum and speed. He also disappears at times and doesn’t look like he cares all the time. In fact he reminds me some of EARLY DOUCET, who got called out by MIKE NOLAN at the SR Bowl a few years ago. If some team thinks they can get his intensity level closer to his talent level signing him could pay long term dividends. When he plays hard and works at his craft he can catch the ball over defenders and make plays. His size should make him an obvious Red Zone weapon. He’ll get signed based on potential, but based on what he has shown overall in his career the leash and patience level may be pretty short with most NFL coaching staffs.
DERRICK LOCKE/RB/RS/KENTUCKY/5’8/185 Down in Mobile during Senior Bowl week LOCKE was the player that many thought NOEL DEVINE would be. He was quick, and elusive. He also showed fine straight line speed, which was confirmed with his official 40-time of 4.40 registered at the COMBINE. He shows decent hands and could bring some value as a Return Specialist. To my eyes he fits the niche of the undersized, explosive guys that NFL teams must find spots for on their rosters, as they search for guys who can make big plays off the bench. He was overshadowed at Kentucky by RANDALL COBB, but is a weapon in his own right. His ego was apparently bent of shape when he wasn’t drafted, as evidence by some nasty remarks about not being interested at all in the UFL. But if he gets a decent shot with an NFL team I think he might a very difficult guy to cut come September.
MARIO FANNIN/RB/AUBURN/5’11/225 You could have knocked me over with a feather when MARIO went undrafted. He was a versatile, hard working piece of the Auburn Offense last year. He runs hard, catches out of the backfield and is better than average in pass-pro. What shocked me was him running a 4.38/40 in Indy (2nd best amongst RB) and still not getting a sniff. I see a guy who will play Special Teams without hesitation and fill multiple rolls in a West Coast style offense.His agent’s phone should be quite busy when the signing period begins. He should be a very hard player to cut from a roster when it comes time to fill the last half-dozen roster spots on the right team.
WESLYE SAUNDERS/TE/SOUTH CAROLINA/6’5/270 Talk about the ultimate waste of talent in 2011 meet MR. SAUNDERS. This exceptional athlete, and physical specimen, is about to go down in flames as a football player before he even gets a chance to earn himself a nice living as an NFL player. His physical gifts are unchallenged, but between injuries and off-field indiscretions he has become almost untouchable to most NFL teams. It will not surprise me if he goes unsigned by any of the 32 NFL franchises right now. He is probably going to have to do penance in the CFL or UFL, and he’d better resign himself to that concept right away and try to latch on with a team. If he stays out of trouble, and produces on he field in some venue, then an NFL team may come sniffing in a couple of years. His talent says “draftable” but i can’t tell you I’d want him on my team at this stage of his life.
WILLIE SMITH/OT/EAST CAROLINA/6’5/310 Heading into the COMBINE it looked like SMITH had the kind of size, athleticism & potential to make a move up the prospect ladder. But his performance in Indy was uninspired to say the least. His 5.50/40 might have been recordable with a sun dial. Only 6 players had 40 times slower than his. And he failed to blow anyone away during any drill work. He is a decent athlete and can move his feet a little. He also looks like he could bulk up a bit for a power running scheme. Only a few OT prospects weren’t Drafted in April so his name is on a very short list of potential RFA. But on tape he looks like a decent player who could develop with some hard work and solid coaching. Despite his short comings expect to see his name on a signing list near you soon.
RYAN BARTHOLOMEW/OC/SYRACUSE/6’1/302 So how does a guy who bench presses like a fiend, and runs a sub-5 second 40-time not get Drafted? Good question, but the position he plays and his short arms explain quite a bit. Even so, OC is not a glamour position manned in most instances by glamour athletes. If SCOTT WELLS can forge a solid career in Green Bay, I see no reason BARTHOLOMEW can’t do the same given a chance with the right team. It won’t be an exciting announcement when he signs on with someone soon, but it he gets to a Training Camp and displays the energy and want-to that I believe he will, then he’ll have a shot at an NFL roster this Fall.