The year 2010 has been the year of the undrafted rookie in the NFL. Every week it seems like another player who was overlooked by every NFL team during the draft makes an impact and Week 9 was no different, with four undrafted players producing headlines with their play on Sunday. Chris Tripodi has the latest on this week’s unheralded rookie stars.
Javarris James (RB-Ind)
James might be better known for being the cousin of former NFL running back Edgerrin James than anything else, but his two touchdowns on Sunday helped the Colts stay in the game against the Eagles. Undrafted out of Miami, James received the goal-line work in for the Colts with Joseph Addai and Mike Hart out and Donald Brown still not 100 percent.
After a freshman season that saw him amass over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, many thought James would be the next big running back prospect out of Miami but injuries slowed him during his final two college seasons and dropped his draft stock significantly. While James may never be the star his cousin was, he has the skill set to be a solid backup in the NFL and step in when injuries hit, much like he did this weekend.
Seyi Ajirotutu (WR-SD)
With San Diego losing Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis to injury, the undrafted former Fresno State star stepped in to lead the Chargers receivers against the porous Texans secondary. Ajirotutu finished with 4 catches for 111 yards and his first 2 career touchdowns, burning Houston’s first-round pick, cornerback Kareem Jackson, for scores of 55 and 28 yards.
Ajirotutu is a smooth 6-3 receiver with the ability to stretch a defense vertically despite average speed. He went undrafted due to his inconsistent hands and focus but if he continues to polish his game, Ajirotutu has the size, speed and skill set to develop into a second receiver in the NFL. His performance against Houston solidified his spot on the San Diego roster for the rest of the season, even once they get healthy and Vincent Jackson returns from suspension.
Jacoby Ford (WR-Oak)
A second-round pick out of Clemson, Ford became just the second NFL player to have 140 receiving yards and 150 return yards in the same game. Ford returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown to get the Raiders on the board and caught 6 passes for 148 yards, including two long late-game catches that set up the game-tying and game-winning field goals.
Ford got an opportunity thanks to the Louis Murphy’s injury problems and the disappearing act pulled by last year’s first-round draft pick, Darrius Heyward-Bey, who didn’t catch one ball just a week after going over 100 yards. At just 5-9, 186 pounds but equipped with 4.25 speed, Ford is a playmaker in both the receiving game and the return game.
One of the major knocks on him out of college was an inability to win out in battles, but Ford stole an interception from Brandon Flowers that would’ve ended the game and sealed a Chiefs victory. Then in overtime, Ford laid out for a 47-yard reception down the field to essentially seal a Raiders victory. It will be interesting to see how Ford is used after Oakland’s Week 10 bye and how he might adjust to Bruce Gradkowski’s impending return.
Andre Roberts (WR-Ari)
An All-America-caliber junior season (95 catches, 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns) put Roberts on the map and despite an underwhelming senior season at The Citadel, Roberts stood out enough at the Senior Bowl and the combine to warrant a third-round pick in April’s draft. He caught his first career touchdown on Sunday against Minnesota but remains behind Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet on the depth chart.
Roberts is a sharp route-runner who knows how to use his 5-11, 195-pound frame to his advantage. He quickly reaches his 4.4 speed and while he’s a one-speed receiver, he has the ability to consistently create separation from defensive backs. Roberts is very polished for a rookie and can be effective as a third receiver, he just needs an opportunity to prove himself on the field coming out of a small school.
Michael Palmer (TE-Atl)
A longshot to make the team out of training camp, the undrafted rookie from Clemson scored his first career touchdown Sunday and doubled his career reception total with two catches. While he’s stuck behind Tony Gonzalez on the depth chart, Palmer proved once again that undrafted players can produce when given an opportunity.
Palmer is a limited athlete but shows good ability as a pass catcher, showing strong yet soft hands and a good release into his routes. His 4.94 speed prevents him from stretching the field and he doesn’t get much push in the run game, but he can be a serviceable backup tight end in the NFL with his receiving skills.
Koa Misi (LB-Mia)
Miami’s second-round pick out of Utah, Misi stepped into the starting role in Week 1 and hasn’t looked back. He had a season-high 6 tackles (4 solo) against the Ravens on Sunday and also ranks second on the team with 3.5 sacks.
Misi was a defensive end with the Utes but his skills have translated well to the 3-4 outside linebacker position. He consistently improved throughout his final three seasons in college and has done the same in the NFL. Misi struggled setting the edge on running plays during the preseason but has made major strides in that area, as well as working to perfect his pass-rush moves.
He doesn’t have the first-step quickness of a superstar rush linebacker and needs to polish his moves off the edge, but the Dolphins like Misi’s non-stop motor and his diligence off the field, watching tapes of Jason Taylor and soon Elvis Dumervil to look for things to add to his repertoire. Misi has the upside to be a solid NFL starter, both against the run and rushing the passer.
Sam Shields (CB-GB)
With the release of veteran Al Harris this week, the Packers are committing to the undrafted Shields as their nickel back for the rest of the season. Shields was a wide receiver until his senior season at Miami and Green Bay’s coaching staff believes he has the potential to develop into a top cornerback in the NFL once he gains a better feel for the position.
Shields is an excellent athlete who recorded his first career interception this week against Dallas. He works hard to get up the field to defend the run and breaks to the ball with receiver-like skills when the ball is in the air. Shields has displayed the same level of improvement so far this season as he did as a senior with the Hurricanes and with good size (5-10, 180) and speed (4.45) he has the potential to be a very good player in the NFL once he polishes his footwork and improves his instincts as a corner.
Kam Chancellor (S-Sea)
Drafted in the fifth round out of Virginia Tech, Chancellor saw extensive playing time in the second half of the Seahawks’ blowout loss to the Giants at home. The former Hokie finished with 7 tackles (5 solo) and a pass defensed in garbage time.
With the aging Lawyer Milloy starting alongside first-round draft pick Earl Thomas, the Seahawks view Chancellor as a potential option for next year and beyond at strong safety. At 6-3, 230 pounds, Chancellor is a hard-hitter best playing downhill against the run while his ball skills and awareness in coverage leave much to be desired. But with Thomas playing more of the prototypical center fielder at free safety, Chancellor can provide a Milloy-like complement at strong safety. Seattle would be wise to give Chancellor more playing time if they fall out of contention in the NFC West, which might be difficult to do this season no matter how hard they try.
The first weekend of November saw the status quo remain on the college field, but we have plenty of breaking news. More Senior Bowl invitations have been handed out. Additional underclassmen are ready to dip their toe into the pool of draft eligibility. And what’s the latest on Pitt’s Greg Romeus? The answers in this weeks Live Wire!
– We start off tonight with a list Senior Bowl invitations, including a few surprises. TFYDraftInsider.net has learned that offensive linemen Steve Schilling of Michigan and Nate Solder of Colorado have received invitations for the January event. So to has Hawaii receiver Greg Salas. The surprises come in a pair of Wildcats from Villanova, offensive lineman Ben Ijalana and all purpose player Matt Szczur. Ijalana has been playing better this season and was highly rated coming into the year, so his invitation was just a mild surprise. But Szczur has a future in baseball, has been sidelined with an ankle injury much of this season and was never fully committed to football. The all purpose player has produced at receiver, as a return specialist as well as taking hand-offs in the backfield, much like the last Villanova Wildcat to perform at the Senior Bowl, Brian Westbrook.
– We are hearing quarterback Blaine Gabbert and defensive lineman Aldon Smith of Missouri will test the draft waters once the season is complete. Were it not for the leg injury suffered early in the season Smith was a sure fire top twelve pick.
– Sources have told us Wisconsin running back John Clay, who came close to entering last April’s draft, will do so for next April’s event.
– Clay’s teammate JJ Watt has been back and forth as to his plans. Watt really wants to come out according to those with intimate knowledge about the situation, but may not do so unless he receives a first round grade from the advisory committee in December. Many of Watt’s opponents have has high praise for him. Michigan State offensive tackle DJ Young has told people Watt is the toughest defensive lineman he has faced.
– Sources have told us that Maryland speedster Torrey Smith has not talked much about entering the draft to date and really does not seem very interested in the subject at this point. Scouts who have been willing to speak with us about the underclassmen, emphatically state Smith is one of the few game breaking receivers with legitimate NFL potential presently playing on Saturday.
– Another underclassmen receiver building a buzz around himself is Stanford’s Chris Owusu. A nice sized target with very reliable hands, Owusu runs good routes, has terrific playing strength and deceptive speed. There’s been absolutely no word whether or not Owusu will enter the draft but we’d say speculatively there’s a good possibility considering his quarterback is likely to leave and the wide out which lines up opposite Owusu (Ryan Whalen) is a senior.
– We are hearing the injury suffered by Greg Romeus, which required surgery to repair, is very similar to the one Rob Gronkowski suffered last year. Sources have told us Romeus will try and play the final four games of the regular season.
– During our podcast this week we will have more on these stories, updates on the North Carolina investigation as well as a pair of sleeper offensive linemen building a buzz for themselves in the scouting community!
Just in time for the weekend’ s games, the Uncanny Mock makes its return as the NFL season has been marked as halfway complete.
Head Scout Brent Sobleski attempts to wade through the vast changes made in this his second regular season attempts. Those changes can clearly be chronicled by clicking HERE .
Without further adieu, let the critiques commence…
– Order is current based off each team’s records and their corresponding opponent’s winning percentage.
– An asterisk denotes an underclassman. No underclassmen are included past the first round.
|Analysis: The Bill have come so close to their first victory in recent weeks, but they still remain at the top of the draft heap. Ryan Fitzpatrick has stepped behind center and performed admirably. His talents do not preclude the worst team in the NFL from selecting the clear-cut top quarterback in the upcoming draft class, Andrew Luck.|
|Analysis: It is odd to have such an all around talented team selecting second overall. Dallas’ team chemistry is tearing them apart. They are still paper champions. As a result, they are allotted the opportunity to select the best player on the board which happens to be the man-child, Marcell Dareus.|
|Analysis: David Gettis and Brandon LaFell may be quickly improving as rookies, but the same logic which applied to Buffalo taking Luck applies here. Those respective talents simply do not stack up to the elite ability of an A.J. Green. Green added to an aging, yet still dangerous, Steve Smith would form one of the most terrifying duo’s in the NFL for opposing defenses.|
|4||San Francisco||Prince Amukamara||CB/Nebraska|
|Analysis: Quarterback may or may not be the main question for the Niners entering the off season. Troy Smith has lit a spark for some fans. It can be argued no quarterback is worthy of this selection once Luck is off the board, which leaves San Francisco added a top talent elsewhere. Amukamara would step in immediately and start as the team’s top cover man.|
|Analysis: The age of Denver’s secondary entering next season has been previously noted. So the concern will persist until addressed. Peterson is a huge physical talent worthy of learning under Champ Bailey for a season or two. He can also provide a dynamic presence as a return man for the struggling Broncos.|
|Analysis: A couple of weeks ago, someone on this site (not naming names) mentioned Fairley as an underclassman of note. That may have been the understatement of the season. Fairley is deserving and has received attention worthy of his talent. Meanwhile, Minnesota will have to return to what they do best next season after being stricken Favre-less. They can run the football and dominate along the front line. Fairley seems as good a replacement for Pat Williams as a Vikings’ fan could hope.|
|Analysis: Smith has been slowed due to a leg injury and still he has made plays, just watch his tape against Oklahoma. Detroit is slowly building a fantastic core of young players, starting along their defensive line. Smith’s freakish athleticism coming off the edge would pair with Ndamukong Suh’s ferocious strong in the middle to give opposing quarterbacks nightmares for the next decade.|
|8||Cincinnati||Robert Quinn*||DE/North Carolina|
|Analysis: Is there a more logical place for a talented prospect with off-the-field problems to land? Quinn is supremely talented and would have been considered the draft’s number one overall prospect if he could have found his way back on the field this season. He didn’t. And now he will tumble in the draft. To what degree becomes the question. The Bengals capitalize adding to an already improved defense by getting the best pure pass rusher in the nation, despite not seeing his talents in 2010.|
|Analysis: Jones proved a lot recently playing through a broken hand while setting ‘Bama’s all time receiving record in a single game. Any questions of attitude and effort were squashed (to a degree). Cleveland is a program which places the heaviest of emphasis on character. Jones could slide in this spot now as a result, while addressing the Browns’ biggest need by far.|
|10||San Diego||Cameron Heyward||DE/Ohio State|
|Analysis: The Chargers possess the league’s best offense and defense (statistically), yet they are still currently selecting 10th overall. It’s an odd conundrum, wrapped in a riddle, and slathered with confusion. The team itself can be construed as quite talented. They do have some issues along their defensive line. A prospect, such as Heyward, should slide seamlessly into their 34 front.|
|Analysis: Currently, ruminations circulating out of Mike Stoops’ program place Foles back in uniform for the Wildcats next season. The quarterback does have areas needing of improvement, but he just may be the second best prospect at his position in the nation. A position which receives the highest of value. As such it is hard to write Foles off the list at this juncture, despite his recent injury and a backup who performed well in his absence.|
|12||St. Louis||Janoris Jenkins*||CB/Florida|
|Analysis: The Rams are in contention as the best turnaround story in the NFL. They have gone about their business in the draft and improved their roster tremendously over the past three seasons. They currently have a franchise quarterback in place and talented offensive tackles. The two cornerstone pieces they currently lack? A pass rusher and a cornerback. Jenkins is flying up boards and his performance against top receiver prospect, A.J. Green, recently only solidifies his standing.|
|13||New England (from Oakland)||Mark Ingram*||RB/Alabama|
|Analysis: The Patriots have run the gamut of backs in recent years, with none stepping up to solidify the position. Ingram is a natural runner with a great anticipation for opening holes. The ‘Bama back may not be flashy, but he is an outstanding football player.|
|14||Washington||Justin Blackmon*||WR/Oklahoma State|
|Analysis: Blackmon’s recent issues off the field may not be as disconcerting as Washington’s multitude of sins on the field this season. It’s hard to compare the two, but the talent of a receiver the caliber of Blackmon may be too hard to resist for a team struggling in every facet of offense.|
|15||Jacksonville||Michael Floyd*||WR/Notre Dame|
|Analysis: It is hard to foretell who, what, and where the Jaguars will stand in upcoming years. They have played much better of late, particularly at quarterback. Their offense does lack explosiveness. Adding a talent like Floyd opposite Mike Sims-Walker, with Maurice Jones-Drew still in the backfield, gives the team many more options. And offense sells tickets.|
|Analysis: Whether it is a lack of talent up front or just bad game planning; Chicago is atrocious along their offensive line. The combination of both aforementioned issues has created a running joke in the league as quarterback Jay Cutler will be lucky to make it out of the season alive. Smith is the most athletic offensive lineman in the nation and could step in immediately and upgrade the team’s right or left tackle position.|
|Analysis: The Eagles are talented all over. They are also very young as a team. Andy Reid loves to build through the trenches and has the opportunity to take the best available. Bailey can provide pressure from both the interior and the edge along the team’s ferocious front line. A combination of Cole, Graham, Bunkley, Patterson, Laws, and Bailey make a formidable foe.|
|Analysis: One of the more tantalizing, yet inconsistent, talent in the nation is Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers. He can dominate for stretches and then disappear on a whim. His junior campaign has been his best to date, and the defensive end is developing into a premiere pass rusher. He may not be a traditional 34 outside linebacker, but coaches off the Bill Parcells’ tree love the bigger more physical edge setters.|
|Analysis: Kareem Jackson was a nice start at cornerback, but the Texans defense is still struggling in certain areas, particularly against the pass. Houston currently ranks dead last in the league when opponents choose to attack through the air. Houston can and should bookend Jackson with another comparable talent such as Brandon Harris.|
|Analysis: Already one of the best defenses in the league, the Titans could get more athletic by adding Ayers into the mix. Currently, their linebackers are solid and fundamentally sound but lack playmakers. Ayers is as good as any in the country running sideline-to-sideline, as well as providing some pass rush presence.|
|Analysis: Few know Jake Locker as well as Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll. Carroll was on the receiving end of Locker’s talents last year while still at USC. If the coach is true to his word and looks to add competition at every position, Locker’s arrival should spurn improvement at quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck’s career is coming to a close, and the Seahawks have the rest of the season to see if their acquisition of Charlie Whitehurst pans out.|
|22||Green Bay||Aaron Williams*||CB/Texas|
|Analysis: The Pack needs depth along an aging secondary, plain and simple. Statistically, the unit is not on the same level as last season. Injuries have beat up their back line. Charles Woodson can only play at a high level for so long. Williams is gaining steam among scouting circles and may be just what Green Bay doctors have ordered.|
|23||New Orleans||Bruce Carter||LB/North Carolina|
|Analysis: This is not the same Saints team of a year ago. The team is finding out just how hard it is to repeat after one Super Bowl victory. Issues and injuries have arisen along multiple facets of their roster. New Orleans is still talented enough to draft best player available. Carter is an athletic demon along a second line of defense. His speed at linebacker could become a boon for a fast unit playing within the friendly confines of a dome.|
|24||Kansas City||Ryan Mallett*||QB/Arkansas|
|Analysis: Kansas City currently ranks last in the NFL regarding passing offense. Matt Cassell’s efficiency has been impressive this season, but the quarterback has not shown the type of talent for which the Chiefs paid a hefty price two off seasons ago. Mallett’s pure passing ability makes him too tempting to pass for a team with questions still surrounding the position. Questions have arisen around Mallett by some scouts, but one team will take a chance if he slides.|
|Analysis: The acquisition of Maurkice Pouncey in this year’s draft was a step in the right direction along Pittsburgh’s underwhelming offensive line. Tackle continues to be an issue with Max Starks manning the blindside, and Willie Colon out for the season due to injury. Carimi is already a better pass blocker than both and comes out of a run dominated offense, a perfect fit for blue collar Steeler fans.|
|26||NY Jets||Cameron Jordan||DE/California|
|Analysis: Jordan’s talent is intriguing. He is more explosive than teammate Tyson Alualu, who was recently drafted 10th overall. He is not as polished or as strong at the point of attack. It makes for an interesting conversation whether he deserves to be drafted higher or not. In a class much deeper along the defensive line, the Jets gladly snatch up the 5 technique to add to their lackluster group.|
|27||Tampa Bay||Adrian Clayborn||DE/Iowa|
|Analysis: Clayborn has been a disappointment this season. It had to be said. But the Iowa product has previously shown in his career that he can be a tremendous pass rusher and presence off the edge. Part of his struggles this season may have come as opposing offenses concentrate on his play. They will not be able to do so at the NFL level with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price already in place along Tampa Bay’s interior.|
|Analysis: Anquan Boldin has been a tremendous addition to the Ravens. Veterans Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, and Donte Stallworth have struggled or been injured. Baltimore always seems to be in position to land a very talented prospect. In this instance, Baldwin falls in their laps and only adds to an improving offense.|
|Analysis: Roddy White is a one man show for Atlanta in their passing attack. He is spectacular but could be even better with a legitimate running mate, of which neither Brian Finneran or Michael Jenkins are. Broyles is an elusive receiver who excels in gaining yardage after the catch. His underneath presence would provide a perfect compliment to White’s down field dominance.|
|Analysis: The Colts have found a way to build the middle of their defense through street free agents and cast-offs. If the unit is to play at a high level on a consistent basis, they must add talent which takes the pressure from an oft-injured Bob Sanders and place the onus on other talent. Casey has the size, quickness, and experience in a Cover 2 scheme to provide a push up the middle. His presence could only help the Colts’ athletic ends get to the quarterback.|
|31||NY Giants||LaMichael James*||RB/Oregon|
|Analysis:As arguably the best team in the NFC, the Giants are afforded the luxury of selecting an explosive complimentary piece to add to an already dangerous offense. Brandon Jacobs has played better in recent weeks, but his fate may already be sealed. This is a run first offense and James provides something different as a true home run threat on every down thus complimenting Ahmad Bradshaw.|
|32||New England||Christian Ballard||DE/Iowa|
|Analysis:When it is all said and done, Ballard could very well be drafted higher than teammate Adrian Clayborn. In this scenario Clayborn is selected slightly higher, but the Patriots would gladly select the better fit for their two gap defense in Ballard.|
|34||Dallas||Derek Sherrod||OT/Mississippi State|
|35||New England (from Carolina)||Leonard Hankerson||WR/Miami|
|36||San Francisco||DeMarco Murray||RB/Oklahoma|
|42||San Diego||Jerrell Powe||NT/Mississippi|
|43||Arizona||Von Miller||LB/Texas A&M|
|44||St. Louis||Stephen Paea||DT/Oregon State|
|47||Jacksonville||Pernell McPhee||DE/Mississippi State|
|49||Philadelphia||Anthony Castonzo||OT/Boston College|
|50||Denver (from Miami)||Kendall Hunter||RB/Oklahoma State|
|52||Tennessee||Davon House||CB/New Mexico State|
||Daniel Thomas||RB/Kansas State|
|54||Green Bay||Jabaal Sheard||DE/Pittsburgh|
|55||New Orleans||Noel Devine||RB/West Virginia|
|56||Kansas City||Stefen Wisniewski||C/Penn State|
|58||NY Jets||Chris Carter||LB/Fresno State|
|63||NY Giants||DeMarcus Love||OT/Arkansas|
|64||New England||Mark Herzlich||LB/Boston College|