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#pounditThursday, May 13, 2021

5 best undrafted rookie free agents

Hunter Bryant

The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone, and despite some concerns over potential pitfalls, the virtual event was received well. Sure, there were some morbidity issues thanks to ESPN, but that had far more to do with the broadcast than the actual functionality of the draft.

For as many star players and prospects who were drafted, there were still plenty of players who went undrafted. Some of those players can develop into quality starters.

Here’s a look at the best five undrafted rookie free agents and where they landed.

5. J.J. Taylor, RB, New England Patriots

Make no mistake about it, the 5-foot-5, 185-pound J.J. Taylor went undrafted due to his size. One of the smaller players in the NFL Draft and now in the NFL, Taylor isn’t the cut-and-slash type running back you may expect. Rather, he’s a head-down, North-South runner who is fearlessly willing to take on anyone standing in front of him. What will separate Taylor at the NFL level — and why Bill Belichick was so willing to take a flier out on him — is that he’s got good hands and will make plays through the air out of the backfield. He’s very coachable, smart, and willing to work. He’s everything that Belichick and the Patriots love.

4. Lavert Hill, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

Lavert Hill’s size (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) is likely the reason he went undrafted in 2020, but the Chiefs decided to take a flier, and they may benefit as a result. Although he’s obvious undersized, Hill has a high football IQ, good instincts, strong ball skills, and a willingness to mix it up. His talent and athleticism carried him on the outside in college, but that’s not a role he’s likely to see nor succeed in at the NFL level. Rather, Hill projects more to a nickel corner where he’ll be able to match up against smaller wide receivers and use press skills to his advantage. There is still a little concern with his top-end speed, but it’s a low-risk, high-reward scenario for Kansas City.

3. Anthony Gordon, QB, Seattle Seahawks

The opinions on Anthony Gordon heading into the 2020 NFL Draft were admittedly mixed, but at worst, many expected him to be a priority free agent. Unsurprisingly, he was. Several teams rushed to sign him, but Gordon and his representation ultimately decided that Seattle was the best fit. The big knock against Gordon is his overall lack of experience (just 14 college starts), which hurts his ability to read and react to defenses. That, of course, will come over time. But there’s a lot to like about Gordon outside of that, including his accuracy, touch, and willingness to stand in the pocket. He doesn’t have the biggest arm, but he’s able to fit the ball into tight spaces and lead his receivers down the field. Gordon is just the latest in the long long of Mike Leach “Air Raid” successes.

2. Trey Adams, OL, Buffalo Bills

Once upon a time, Trey Adams was an ascending offensive tackle who many believed would be the top-ranked player at his position. Unfortunately for Adams, a torn ACL in 2017 and a serious back injury in 2018 stunted his development and dropped him down many big boards. He did return to the field in 2019, but his play was so-so at best, and that’s likely due to the aforementioned injuries. In the NFL, Adams will need to rely heavily on the strength and conditioning program in hopes of beefing back up and returning to his former glory. It’s a low-risk move for the Bills, but could pay huge dividends over time. And how could any coach not love that 6-foot-8 frame? There’s a lot to work with in Adams.

1. Hunter Bryant, TE, Detroit Lions

If you were to look at any “best of” list relating to undrafted free agents, Hunter Bryant is all but guaranteed to appear. Most experts and evaluators had Bryant with a draftable grade, but for one reason or another, that did not happen. Instead, the Lions ended up signing one of the most coveted rookie free agents of the year. The 6-foot-2, 239-pound Bryant has a good combination of size and speed, and although he excels as a pass-catcher, he’s an adequate blocker. His development at the NFL level may hinge upon finding the right scheme, but there’s a lot to work with in Bryant, who drew an NFL comp to Jordan Reed.

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