|Michael Dwyer / Associated Press|
|Mark Herzlich successfully overcame cancer and returned to play major college football.|
Every year as the Mr. Irrelevant selection is announced to end the draft, all 32 teams hit the phones hard trying to quickly sign the undrafted rookies. Signing bonuses can go as high as $35,000. There are always a number of undrafted players that go on to have excellent careers.
My own experience was with Wayne Chrebet, the receiver from Hofstra. No one thought enough of the 5-foot-9, run-and-shoot receiver to draft him, but he started for the Jets on the opening day of his rookie season, he had the hottest-selling jersey in New York for years and he led the NFL in third-down conversion routes one year.
If, and when, the labor issues get solved, here's a list of the players I would try and sign immediately. I guarantee more than one will make a team and most of the rest will be on a practice squad. I would budget $100,000 in signing bonuses to sign as many of these guys as I could as soon as the lockout is lifted.
1. Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College: Herzlich battled back from cancer. He is not 100 percent yet, but played well enough to be drafted. He will make a team and could play Mike or Sam linebacker. He would have been a first-round pick if he came out before he got the cancer. He had 11 interceptions and 40 plays behind the line of scrimmage in college.
2. Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina: He ran slowly at the combine, but he makes plays. Watch the Senior Bowl practice tapes. He has a knack for being around the ball. Explain how a slow guy had 11 interceptions and averaged 30 yards per interception return.
3. Jake Kirkpatrick, C, TCU: He's better than some of the centers drafted, and is one tough guy. This is another player from the Senior Bowl that teams missed out on. He only played one year of high school football. Go watch how well he battles a nose tackle.
4. Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware: He completed more than 65 percent of his passes, threw for more than 6,500 yards and 42 touchdowns in college, and he ran 4.8 at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine.
5. Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin: He completed 68 percent of his passes with 32 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions, and had a 21-5 record as a starter. He's worth more than a look.
7. Kai Forbath, K, UCLA: He made 40 consecutive field goals from under 50 yards, and a total of 85 of 101 attempts.
8. Henry Hynoski, FB, Pittsburgh: Hynoski was born to be a lead blocker. He also had 40 receptions in college. At 6-feet tall and 257 pounds, he will contribute on special teams and make the short-yardage goal-line package better.
9. Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU: Toliver put forth an outstanding performance at LSU's pro day. He was also the offensive MVP of the 2011 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M.
10. Colby Whitlock, DT, Texas Tech: A four-year starter and a candidate for a backup three-technique in a 4-3 defense. He's 6-foot-2, 302 pounds, and has short arms but has some penetration skills. He broke 5.0 in the 40 at the combine.
11. Deandre McDaniel, SS Clemson: He was at the Senior Bowl, but he might have some off-the-field issues. The 6-foot, 217-pound player had 35 college starts, 296 tackles, 20 pass breakups and 15 interceptions.
12. Joe Lefeged, S, Rutgers: Another Senior Bowl safety with high character and very good speed (4.4 at the combine). Lefeged had 238 tackles in college, eight forced fumbles, and was a solid special teams guy.
13. Chas Henry, P, Florida: In 54 college games, Henry had 165 punts, none blocked, a 43-yard average and 68 kicks inside the 20-yard line.
14. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC: O'Dowd has an injury history, but got through 2010 without a problem. He has 36 starts in a big-time program. I signed Casey Wiegmann coming out of college as an undrafted rookie with a medical history and he played for double-digit seasons.
15. Andre Smith, TE, Virginia Tech: Smith is an in-line blocking tight end with just 39 college receptions, but could establish the off-tackle point of attack for the running game. If he can run, he plays special teams.
16. Ryan Winterswyk, DE, Boise State: Winterswyk made 43 college starts, and is a real try-hard guy with production. He has 168 tackles, 47 tackles for a loss and 22 sacks. His motor never stops. At the very worst, he makes camp more competitive.
17. Quentin Davie, OLB Northwestern: He's a 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker that could be a nice Sam 'backer. In 50 college games, he had 116 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss and nine sacks. His five forced fumbles is also a positive.
18. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: The "little big man" deserves a chance. He had more than 4,300 yards rushing with 29 touchdowns at 5.9 yards per carry. He also had 98 receptions and could be a Darren Sproles-type pro.