I learned a long time ago that you can't go to sleep after the draft and pay little attention to the undrafted rookies still available to be signed. They represent the absolute cheapest pool of players.
In July, when undrafted John Randle goes into the Hall of Fame, it will be another reminder of what still awaits clubs if they do their homework.
Wayne walked over to our practice field like many undrafted rookies did before him and looked less like a candidate than the men who preceded him or for that matter followed him. If he hadn't gotten injured he might have rivaled Steve Largent's production as a pro. Not bad for a 5-foot-9 kid from Hofstra who got double-teamed in the 1998 AFC Championship Game and led the NFL for two seasons when it came to third-down conversions.
Will there be a Randle or Chrebet in the 2010 undrafted class? Below is a list of 21 undrafted players (in alphabetical order) I would keep an eye on this summer. Keep in mind, the 21 players combined were cheaper to sign than one second-round pick. I like playing those odds, and it wouldn't surprise me if one of these players became a fine NFL talent.
Freddie Barnes, WR, Chicago Bears (Bowling Green): Barnes caught 297 passes and had 30 touchdowns and will work out of the slot for Mike Martz. Not bad for a guy who is 6-foot and 215 pounds.
Kevin Basped, OLB, New York Jets (Nevada): The 6-4½, 260-pound Basped had 20 sacks and five forced fumbles for Nevada last season. He may start out on special teams and head to the practice squad but he has a chance as a situational pass rusher.
Chris Brown, RB (Oklahoma): Brown was signed by the Broncos but released on Monday. He is more quick than fast but he also found the college end zone 45 times and could be a nice third back for a team in need of one. It just won't be in Denver.
Shay Hodge, WR, San Francisco 49ers (Mississippi): Hodge caught 173 passes and 22 touchdowns and will compete for a ball in a crowd. He may be destined for the practice squad but will show the coaches his toughness and talent running the other team's plays on the scout team.
Brandon Lang, OLB, San Diego Chargers (Troy State): Troy State produces NFL talent, especially on defense. In 38 starts, Lang produced 24.5 sacks and 38.5 tackles for loss. At 6-4, 270 pounds, he should play outside linebacker in the NFL and could grow into a Greg Ellis-type backer.
Mike McLaughlin, LB, Baltimore Ravens (Boston College): McLaughlin is very tough and smart. Some might see him as a special-teams guy only but that's how undrafted Bart Scott was viewed when he arrived in Baltimore.
Joe Pawelek, LB, Seattle Seahawks (Baylor): Pawelek had more than 400 tackles in college. He also picked off nine passes and broke up another 17. He will stick as a backup if he can show a knack in pass defense from the MLB spot.
Sergio Render, G, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Virginia Tech): Render never missed a week in college, starting all 52 games for the Hokies. He can bench press 500 pounds, but he needs technique work. At the very least, he should make camp interesting. Render probably heads to the practice squad for 2010.
Blair White, WR, Indianapolis Colts (Michigan State): Blair might be my favorite undrafted player. He walked on at Michigan State and just kept getting better every year. He has size (6-2, 205) and good speed (4.42). he was one of the stars at the combine in February and tore it up at his pro day. Peyton Manning is going to love working with him.