When you hear the term "undrafted free agent," you probably don't think of teams rushing to add potential difference makers, but that's exactly what happens every year after the final pick of the draft has been made. This year was no different; the 2013 NFL Draft ended at 7:27 p.m. ET on Saturday, and shortly thereafter, teams began snapping up prospects who had been passed over by every squad in the league in the preceding hours and days.
The process actually started earlier on the draft's final day. James Martin, who represented Arkansas State safety Don Jones and Illinois State linebacker Nate Palmer, said he started fielding calls about those two as early as Round 5, with about 20 teams expressing interest in signing Jones if he went undrafted. Unfortunately for those teams, Jones and Palmer were both selected -- Palmer by the Green Bay Packers in Round 6 and Jones by the Miami Dolphins in Round 7.
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That shows you just how competitive the market can be for these prospects. And the reason for that is clear when you consider that players like Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz and Houston Texans running back Arian Foster were initially plucked from the great undrafted masses. Moreover, there are 15 undrafted free agents in the Hall of Fame -- compared to just 13 former No. 1 overall picks and eight Heisman Trophy winners. Everyone's hoping to hit that kind of historical pay dirt.
The Cowboys kind of started that trend back when I was working for them in the 1960s. Over my years with the team, we scooped up guys like Cornell Green, Cliff Harris and Nate Newton -- who earned 17 Pro Bowl nods between them. Ultimately, it's just one more way to find a guy -- maybe even the kind of guy, like Foster or Romo, who can change your franchise forever.
With that in mind, I've ranked the top 10 undrafted free-agent hauls of this year. As with my Hot 100 list, these rankings are based on how I've graded each prospect. I've also highlighted a few key signings for each team listed.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars did a great job here. I especially like the Scott signing. I think he's someone who can operate the spread or the Pistol offense. He has a very, very strong arm. Hazel has outstanding measurables and played both football and basketball at Western Michigan. Barnes weighed more than 350 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine and still ran a 5.3-second 40-yard dash.
2) Buffalo Bills
The Bills were looking for receivers, and that's what they got; Kaufman is a good possession type of guy, while Rogers has great speed. Tuel, who has the measurables and arm strength you want in a quarterback, was stuck on a very poor team in college. Pough looked good in workouts and at the combine.
3) New Orleans Saints
Anyone who read my piece on no-name prospects to watch knows how I feel about Griffin. He's very smart and has a quick release, which will be good for what they do in New Orleans. Reddick and Thomas, meanwhile, were both in my final Hot 100 + 25 list , with Reddick landing at No. 91 and Thomas slotting in at No. 93. Thomas isn't exceptionally fast, but he does have an outstanding ability to key and diagnose.
4) Minnesota Vikings
Line is an excellent receiver and blocker with good ball-carrying skills. Vandenberg has the size and strength you're looking for in a developmental quarterback, as well as a ton of physical talent. While he didn't play well as a senior, he was dealing with a new offensive coordinator and system. Smith is a tall, possession-type receiver who could excel in the red zone.
5) Miami Dolphins
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Key signees: Clay Belton, QB, Findlay; Terrell Sinkfield, WR, Northern Iowa; Alonzo Highsmith, LB, Arkansas.
The speedy, athletic Belton is smart and has good arm strength; he's the kind of developmental quarterback everybody wants. Sinkfield made headlines in March for running a reported 4.19-second 40-yard dash. Though that too-good-to-be-true time was almost certainly just that, Sinkfield does have good size and speed. Highsmith's greatest value is likely to be as a standout special teams player.
6) Philadelphia Eagles
Wing has a good chance to make it in the NFL. The Australian has this unique method of getting the ball to land at the 5-yard line and bounce back. Maysonet gained 1,964 yards and scored 21 touchdowns last season. The running back should be a pretty valuable player in the system that the Eagles are instituting. Shepard played receiver at LSU, but based on what he did at his pro day, I would speculate that the Eagles will use him as a defensive back.
7) Houston Texans
8) Cleveland Browns
I thought Cave was maybe the second- or third-best center prospect in this draft class. While Cleveland is set at center with Alex Mack, Cave is big enough to contribute at guard. Faulk is a big guy with strong and long arms, which he uses to push people around.
9) Kansas City Chiefs
Bray has as much natural talent as any quarterback in this draft class; he just needs to keep his head on straight and improve his leadership skills. McDougald is a good athlete who has a very, very good chance of sticking as a backup and, eventually, landing a role as a starter. Hammond, on the other hand, won't start, but as a big receiver with good speed, he should find a way to contribute. Harris, who eschewed a chance to play football at Arkansas State so he could play basketball at UWM, has outstanding measurables.
10) New England Patriots
Grissom was a top-notch high school wrestler, and wrestlers often make for good defensive linemen. The three-year starting nose tackle can be a good player against the run. Sudfeld moves well for a big guy. He's the type of player New England routinely molds into a contributor. The same goes for Stankiewitch, a smart overachiever who looks like a good developmental project.