The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, and rosters across the league are taking shape. While the majority of the hype is put on each team’s drafted rookies, there are undrafted free agents (UDFAs) that fight their way onto rosters and find a way to make an impact. While they are not household names, they may be a key cog for your team this season.
Let’s take a look at an UDFA that can make each of the 32 NFL teams for the 2021 season.
UDFAs That Can Make Each 2021 NFL Roster
Lorenzo Burns, CB, Arizona
Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville
Ar’Darius Washington, S, TCU
Baltimore was one of the more aggressive teams following the draft, luring not one but two players with six-figure signing bonuses. Ar’Darius Washington was one as an undersized, versatile safety that many thought would hear his name called on day three.
Still, his size (5’8”, 176) and average performance at his Pro Day were likely factors in the former Freshman All-American going undrafted. On the field, he is an instinctive player in both coverage and the run game, that plays like he’s much bigger.
Washington is the kind of player that can carve out a role in sub-packages, whether in the slot or lined up deep. The Ravens have room in their secondary for a versatile player like him.
Olaijah Griffin, CB, USC
David Moore, OL, Grambling State
Charles Snowden, OLB, Virginia
Pro Wells, TE, TCU
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Anthony Hines, LB, Texas A&M
Curtis Robinson, LB, Stanford
Jonathan Adams, WR, Arkansas State
Green Bay Packers
Christian Uphoff, S, Illinois State
Ryan McCollum, C, Texas A&M
Deon Jackson, RB, Duke
Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
Kansas City Chiefs
Malik Herring, DL, Georgia
It will be interesting to see where the Chiefs believe Malik Herring fits in their defense. I see him as a candidate to add more weight and kick inside. However, he will obviously have to heal from a torn ACL, and the Chiefs may choose to redshirt him for a year on injured reserve.
Whichever they decide, Herring has a strong chance of turning heads with his surprising athleticism and balance for a player around 280 pounds. He’s more capable of stopping the run than the pass at this point, but I think a lot of his best football is ahead of him.
Las Vegas Raiders
Darius Stills, DT, West Virginia
The Raiders lured in several undrafted free agents with guaranteed bonuses, but I’m not going with any of those four. Instead, I’m going with a player that is a carbon copy of what defensive line coach Rod Marinelli wants on his front.
Marinelli covets undersized penetrators on his defensive line that play with outstanding tenacity. Darius Stills is an explosive player that fires out low and shows good balance during the rep. At 278 pounds, he changes direction well and shows good pursuit speed with consistent effort.
The Raiders have plenty of room for competition on their defensive line, giving Stills a reasonable path to making this roster.
Los Angeles Chargers
Amen Ogbongbemiga, LB, Oklahoma State
Amen Ogbongbemiga is a player I thought would hear his name called late on day three as a player with a skill set that can translate immediately on special teams. The former Poke is a very athletic linebacker that shows a knack for chasing down plays in pursuit.
However, he is a bit undersized (6’1”, 231) with a narrow build, and he struggles to get off blocks. Still, he’s got a reputation as an outstanding worker, giving Ogbongbemiga a fighting chance at making this roster.
Los Angeles Rams
Paris Ford, S, Pittsburgh
The Rams agreed to contracts with 11 players after the draft, and while I’m not sure any have any easy path to this roster, Paris Ford is the one I had ranked highest of the bunch. There is no doubt that his disappointing Pro Day resulted in him going undrafted, but his tape shows a much better athlete who always competes at full speed.
Ford flies around the field with reckless abandon, and while he doesn’t always tackle with discipline, he arrives at the ball carrier with a thump. This could help him become a special-teams ace at the next level, which could give him a chance to grab a final spot on the roster.
Robert Jones, G, Middle Tennessee
Robert Jones was the obvious choice. Many had a draftable grade on Jones, and I honestly thought he’d hear his name called as early as the fifth round. He has physical limitations that will force him inside in the NFL, but he was a guard at the JUCO level, so he has experience.
In fact, Miami was willing to give him $130K as a signing bonus to ensure his services. Jones is powerful and plays with a nasty attitude. He also has good arm length, but he needs to learn to trust it more by installing a more patient approach. Still, with some technical refining, Jones can not only make this team but even compete for a starting job down the road.
Riley Patterson, K, Memphis
The Vikings were able to sign several intriguing undrafted free agents, but none has a clearer path to a roster spot than Riley Patterson. He chose to sign with Minnesota after having numerous suitors after the draft because of the coaches on this staff and the opportunity to be in an open competition during training camp.
Greg Joseph has only attempted 20 field goal attempts at the NFL level, meaning the job is far from locked up. Patterson was a four-year contributor at Memphis, where he put up 432 points (ranks 23 in NCAA history) with a career-long of 56 yards.
New England Patriots
Quinn Nordin, K, Michigan
New Orleans Saints
Dylan Soehner, TE, Iowa State
Dylan Soehner is a massive tight end that garnered honorable mention by the conference in back-to-back years despite only catching 25 passes and one touchdown in that span. Why did he garner that kind of respect in the Big 12, which is full of pass-catching tight ends?
The answer is Soehner’s ability to be an asset in the run game as a blocker. He does an excellent job driving his feet when he locks onto opponents and shows good balance in pass protection. Soehner has also been a consistent contributor on special teams at Iowa State.
This is the type of player that can grab a job as a third or fourth tight end, and the fact that New Orleans gave him a $120K signing bonus shows that they believe he has a chance at doing just that.
New York Giants
Brett Heggie, OL, Florida
The Giants haven’t been overly active bringing in undrafted free agents, but Brett Heggie has the kind of versatility teams look for in a reserve offensive lineman. He started as a left guard as a redshirt freshman before a pair of injuries end his season.
From there, he regained his starting job in 2019, seeing time at both right and left guard before becoming the starting center last fall. He’s got terrific size (6’4” 310) for the interior, and the Giants need more pieces on their line, whether it’s the starting five or depth.
New York Jets
Hamilcar Rashed, OLB/DE, Oregon State
The Jets class of undrafted signees should have plenty of opportunities considering the lack of talent on this roster. I genuinely feel that several players have a strong chance at making this team. Linebacker Milo Eifler is an explosive player with the upside to be groomed into a contributor on the defense at some point.
Hamilcar Rashed could also instantly help on special teams. Kenny Yeboah is a raw, athletic tight end, and the Jets need as many weapons as they can get for Zach Wilson. Still, Rashed is my pick as an edge rusher. The Jets got little pressure off the edge a year ago, as their leading sack man was Quinnen Williams with seven from the interior.
The next best mark was 3.5 sacks by Tarell Basham, who is no longer on the team. Rashed is an extremely athletic edge rusher that had 14 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss in 2019 alone. There is room on the roster for a guy like Rashed, even if it’s just as a pass-rush specialist while they attempt to beef him up.
Jamie Newman, QB, Wake Forest
I am a huge fan of wide receiver Trevon Grimes and thought he would be drafted as early as the fifth round. At 6’4” with near 31.5-inch arms, he’s a big target that separates reasonably well for a receiver his size making him a reliable target.
Still, Philadelphia has used a lot of resources on pass catchers over the past several years, which may limit his chances in camp. That’s why I went with Jamie Newman. He’s one of only three quarterbacks on the roster and has some untapped potential that could be groomed into a future second-string signal-caller. It’s going to take patience as his decision-making needs to speed up and improve in general. Still, Newman has an NFL arm.
Shakur Brown, CB, Michigan State
There were others that liked Shakur Brown more than me coming into this draft, but I still felt he would be drafted at some point on day three. He’s an aggressive player that springs into action the second he diagnoses a route or play.
Brown doesn’t have great size or recovery speed, which makes me think that he is destined for the slot. However, his best football is still ahead of him if the Steelers can be patient, and we saw a glimpse of that development in 2020 when he picked off five passes and knocked down nine more in just seven games.
San Francisco 49ers
Justin Hilliard, LB, Ohio State
Justin Hilliard is another player I had a day-three grade on, and his injury history and age (24) likely played a big part in him going undrafted. Still, the guy has play speed that eclipses his test numbers and versatility to back up multiple positions early in his career.
He is also a willing participant on special teams, and it says a lot about how the staff found reps for him over the past year despite having well-established players at all three linebacker positions. Hilliard obviously had a lot of respect in the Ohio State locker room, and if that kind of player shows up at training camp, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the San Francisco roster.
Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State
Seattle was very active following the draft and secured several players with a realistic shot of cracking the roster. Running backs Josh Johnson and B.J. Emmons are both talented and could force their way onto a team that can’t seem to get it right at the position since Marshawn Lynch left.
Cornerback Bryan Mills is the kind of tall, long-armed corner that Seattle covets, but he needs a lot of refinement and may have to prove he can contribute on special teams to earn the Seahawks’ patience. Still, I went with Tamorrion Terry because he’s a highly talented wide receiver.
He flashes big plays that led me to believe he could be a top-three receiver on a roster but lacks discipline in a variety of areas with his game. Of all the players on this list, I believe Terry is the one with the most control over whether or not he makes a roster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sadarius Hutcherson, G, South Carolina
There’s not much room for young players to carve out a spot on this roster, but I really like Sadarius Hutcherson’s chances. Tampa Bay doesn’t have a ton of depth on their offensive line giving him a fighting chance. Hutcherson is a powerful player that plays with great pad level.
He’s a great leader and displays an admirable work ethic which was evident at his impressive Pro Day. His feet can get heavy, and his arm length forces him to lunge at times, but with patience, he can be developed into an NFL-caliber guard.
Tory Carter, FB, LSU
This came down to Tory Carter and defensive tackle Naquan Jones. Jones is a big, long-armed run stuffer that can plug up the middle. He doesn’t offer much more than that, but in this scheme, he can be a nose tackle in the base defense if he learns to play with better pad level consistently.
Still, Carter is the one I’m going with here. Tennessee made him a priority signing by giving him a $50K signing bonus (highest of any of their UDFA), which means they wanted him in Tennessee. With that in mind, and considering he’s the only fullback on the roster, I’d say Carter has a strong chance at sticking on this team.
To say he’s a physical player is an understatement. He yearns for contact when he’s on the field, both as a lead blocker and special teamer.
Washington Football Team
Sammis Reyes, TE, Tulane
Sammis Reyes is the wild card of this list, and for those who don’t know much about him, don’t be concerned. No one does. The Chilean-born former basketball player put on a show at Florida’s Pro Day to prove he can be the latest hoopster to transition to the gridiron.
After playing basketball at Tulane, Reyes turned his attention to football and preparing to make an NFL roster. At his Pro Day workout, he measured 6’5” and 260 pounds while running a 4.64 and putting up 31 bench press reps. He also showed that rebounding elevation that will make him a go-to target in the red zone with a 40-inch vertical jump.
It’s a very intriguing skill set that led to Washington giving Reyes a signing bonus of just under $393K, by far the biggest bonus of any undrafted player this year. Still, prior to his pre-draft workouts, his football experience consisted of a week of high school practice before deciding to stick to basketball.
He’ll also be 26 this fall. His window for success may not be large, especially considering the amount of patience his development will take, but it will be fun to watch.