|US Presswire photos|
|Derrick Locke, Pat Devlin and Mark Herzlich (left to right) should all be on NFL rosters soon.|
The lockout has made this a difficult and trying offseason for college players who went undrafted. Rookie free agents are some of the players who benefit the most from the offseason team activities that take place in May and June. Because those didn't happen, it's unlikely an undrafted free agent this season will have the impact LeGarrette Blount had with the Buccaneers last season.
As you look over my list of the top 20 available UFAs, keep this in mind: The two positions that are the easiest to come in and play right away are running back and cornerback; the two most difficult are quarterback and wide receiver.
With running backs, the hardest thing they have to learn is blitz pick-up, but otherwise the learning curve is by far the easiest. With corners, the learning process is not as great as it is at other defensive positions. A guy who is athletic and knows how to break on the ball has the chance to play early.
It's difficult for receivers because of the multitude of coverages they see and the split-second decisions they have to make each down. And obviously, the learning curve for quarterbacks is extremely high. One thing going in their favor, however, is how much passing is dominating the game in college, so the transition is easier now than it was 10 years ago, as Sam Bradford showed last season.
Here are the top 20 undrafted free agents who will be snatched up in short order:
1. Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware: Has size needed to succeed at the position, to go with accuracy and football intelligence.
2. Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College: His battle against cancer is well documented and speaks to his hunger to play. If healthy, he can play all downs.
3. Derrick Locke, RB, Kentucky: Has quickness and speed needed for success at running back.
4. DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson: Has all the traits needed to be a good safety.
5. Jake Kirkpatrick, C, TCU: A former high school basketball player who is strong and smart and has traits that remind some of Colts veteran Jeff Saturday.
6. Mario Fannin, RB, Auburn: Oustanding speed and pass-catching ability. Makes a lot of plays.
7. Nick Bellore, LB, Central Michigan: Very competitive linebacker. One of the all-time top tacklers in the MAC. Great special teams player.
8. Willie Smith, OT, East Carolina: Smart offensive tackle with long arms and good athletic ability. Excellent pass blocker.
9. Ray Dominguez, G, Arkansas: Strong guard who has the chance to start for someone in his second year.
10. Brandon Bair, DT, Oregon: Needs to add weight but has the frame to do so. Very active.
12. Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State: Slot receiver who will catch the ball across the middle and has outstanding hands.
13. Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina: Lacks great speed but makes up for it with quickness and ball skills. Very good tackler.
14. John Clay, RB, Wisconsin: Strong, inside runner in the mold of Blount.
15. Ian Williams, DT, Notre Dame: A four-year starter at Notre Dame who is very strong and athletic.
16. Ricardo Lockette, WR, Fort Valley State: Teams love speed, and he is the fastest player available of all undrafted free agents.
17. Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin: Smart quarterback with good but not great arm. Has been very successful with accuracy and ability to hit the right receivers.
18. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: Not tall, has great speed, production and hands. Possible WR/KR prospect.
19. Kyle Hix, OT, Texas: Long arms, very strong. Doesn't have good enough feet to play LT but could be good on right side.
20. Zach Hurd, G, Connecticut: He played guard at UConn but his best position might be as a RT because of his size and strength.