On opening weekend of the 2010 regular season, there were 59 undrafted free agents on 53-man rosters. A number of those players made huge impacts for their teams.
Undrafted free-agent running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for 1,007 yards, the most by a rookie in 2010. Chris Ivory was pressed into action when injuries to Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas forced the undrafted rookie running back into the starting lineup for the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. In Week 5, Max Hall's first career start, the undrafted rookie QB led the Cardinals to a shocking upset win over the defending champion Saints. Undrafted cornerback Sam Shields had two interceptions in the Packers' NFC Championship Game win over the Bears.
Tough decision for the undrafted
In a normal year, undrafted free agents would be the subject of frenzied courtships, but now those players are in limbo and facing a tough choice, Albert Breer writes. **More ...**
Could some of this year's undrafted players have similar impacts in the 2011 season?
Here is my list of the top players that are still available after the conclusion of the 2011 NFL Draft, but currently are unable to sign with team due to the lockout:
1. Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware: Devlin was a Penn State transfer who played very well at the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) level, throwing for 3,032 yards, 22 touchdowns and three interceptions. Devlin has good size (6-3, 225 pounds) and arm strength.
3. Deandre McDaniel, SS, Clemson: McDaniel had a good 2010 season, recording a team-high four interceptions. A highly touted player entering the draft, McDaniel lacks top-notch speed (4.65-second 40-yard dash at combine) and has trouble in man coverage.
4. Darvin Adams, WR, Auburn: Adams was an early entry player who doesn't have great speed, but does a very good job of catching the ball in traffic.
5. Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College: If Herzlich would have been available in the 2009 draft, he would have been a top 10 or 15 pick. In May of 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, and after missing the entire season, returned to the field in 2010. Herzlich participated in practice just three times before playing in Boston College's 2010 season opener. He's a strong player (29 bench-press reps at the combine), and is very good at diagnosing plays (his four interceptions are evidence of that ability). He's a special player as far as work habits, and appears to slowly be regaining his speed and quickness.
6. Ian Williams, DT, Notre Dame: Williams was a three-year starter for the Irish. He's very strong (31 bench-press reps at combine), understands leverage, but is just an average pass rusher.
The fathers of two 2011 first-round picks -- Cam Newton and Christian Ponder -- were undrafted free agents signed by the Cowboys. Cecil Newton Sr., a defensive back, was signed out of college by Dallas in 1983, while David Ponder, a defensive tackle, was signed in 1985 and played one season for the Cowboys.
-- Gil Brandt
8. Ricardo Lockette, WR, Fort Valley State: Lockette was one of the fastest players at the combine, running a 4.37-second 40-yard dash. At Fort Valley State, Lockette displayed average hands; he'd make a great catch, then drop an easy one.
9. Orie Lemon, LB, Oklahoma State: Lemon is a strong inside player who can probably only play two downs in the NFL because he lacks coverage speed.
10. Scott Lutrus, LB, Connecticut: Clocked at 4.68 in the 40 at the combine, he runs well for an inside linebacker. However, Lutrus has a history of experiencing stingers.
11. Derrick Locke, RB, Kentucky: At 5-foot-8 and 188 pounds, Locke does not have great size. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry in his final season at Kentucky and is also a good kick returner. In high school, Locke had a 3,000-yard season.
12. Nick Bellore, LB, Central Michigan: Bellore made a ton of tackles for the Chippewas over his college career, with 90 last season and more than 400 total. He looked good in the position drills at the combine and ran a 4.84 40.
13. Joe Lefeged, DB, Rutgers: Lefeged contributed on both defense and special teams for the Scarlet Knights, serving as a returner and also especially adept at blocking kicks (four last season and seven in his college career).