Players can go undrafted for a number of reasons. Some prospects are talented but come with performance, injury or character concerns. Some prospects have a quality college pedigree, but lack the size, speed or strength NFL teams look for at their position. Some prospects are simply late bloomers who become completely different players as they mature and take on NFL coaching.
While there is no substitute for things like talent, work ethic or instincts when it comes to undrafted free agents making it in the pros, finding a good scheme fit or a favorable roster situation are often critical components for mining diamonds from undrafted signings. Here are some prospects who were signed as undrafted free agents this year and find themselves in favorable situations as they compete for a spot.
Note: Click on a player's name for a full scouting report.
The lowdown: I care about production when I evaluate prospects, but I also understand that college production is not always a predictive measure of how a player will transition into the pros. In Boulware, I don't see the overall athleticism and physical traits needed to become a starter. However, I do see a player with outstanding anticipation, toughness, leadership and a huge chip on his shoulder. I think he will end up shining on special teams and have a quality NFL career because of it.
College: Missouri State
The lowdown: When you see Cole's body type and watch him play with such aggression on the field, it is hard not to think of current Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing. Cole is built like a pro wrestler and put on a show with his power, speed and explosiveness at his pro day this spring. Cole is a little tightly bound with average flexibility and agility, but he has an explosive burst to the ball when he's able to play downhill. He could compete for a backup job at inside linebacker and turn some heads as a special-teamer.
College: Notre Dame
The lowdown: There is no way around it -- Jones was undrafted because teams are worried about his football character and his poor combine workout. Jones looks quicker on tape than he tested and his bench-press total (22 reps) was low. Many teams believe he didn't work hard enough leading up to the combine. If Jones doesn't prove to the Giants or another team that he loves football and will do everything he can to improve, he will be gone quickly. If, however, he puts time and effort into his craft, he could become a future starter.
At 6-foot-6, 316 pounds with 35-inch arms, Jones is built like an NFL defensive tackle. When he's at his best, he's able to create disruption up front with his length and size. Damon Harrison and rookie Dalvin Tomlinson should be the go-to defensive tackles for the Giants, but Jones has the size and potential to work his way into the rotation.
The lowdown: When you look at the sheer number of wide receivers on the Ravens' depth chart, Patrick it would appear that Patrick faces a daunting uphill climb to make the roster. However, there aren't many names on the depth chart whom the Ravens are likely to be married to. Former first-rounder Breshad Perriman has yet to play to his draft slot, Steve Smith retired and Mike Wallace has only one year left on his contract.
Patrick is lanky, but has good length (6-4, 208) and he's an explosive leaper with quality deep speed. Durability has been the biggest concern for Patrick, who missed 17 games over three seasons at Utah. When healthy, he has played with great competitiveness against the likes of Adoree' Jackson, Sidney Jones, Kevin King and Chidobe Awuzie. His willingness as a blocker and ability to make contested catches could help him become an undrafted success story in Baltimore.
Colleges: Baylor (Zamora) and Arkansas (Hatcher)
The lowdown: I'm going to lump them together here because they play the same position and I think one of them could very well come away with a roster spot. In essence, they are in a head-to-head competition. At 6-3, 224 pounds, Zamora brings imposing size to the perimeter and his 4.53-second 40-yard dash time is nothing to laugh at with that size. He isn't much of a blocker at this time and wasn't asked to run much of the route tree, but during the draft process, many scouts were high on Zamora's ceiling.
Hatcher is battle-tested and mentally tough with the strength and physicality to fit into the NFL. The biggest concern with Hatcher is his below-average timed speed (4.63 40). Both players have the size and potential to potentially crack the backend of the Raiders' depth chart.