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2024 NFL rookie minicamps: Here’s why these 10 undrafted free agents have a great chance to make rosters

Too often, immediately after the draft, too many on the outside simply expect players to perform in the order their drafted. For many reasons (scheme fits, roster construction, draft pick purpose, etc.), that’s just not how NFL teams generally operate in the draft. Instead, once the draft ends and rookie minicamp begins, anything can happen from how rookies fit into a potential NFL roster.

Every year, between 15 and 20 undrafted free agents make NFL rosters every year. This year should be no different, as there are more than a few players picked after the draft who have a chance, if not an inside track, towards making a 53-man roster and making an impact in their rookie season.

Austin Reed, QB, Bears

Austin Reed was maybe the most surprising quarterback to go undrafted, per NFL teams, but he landed in the ideal situation for competition towards a roster spot. He enters a Bears quarterback room that includes Brett Rypien on an entirely non-guaranteed, minimum contract, and Tyson Bagent, last year’s mid-season UDFA-turned-starter, who despite that run isn’t guaranteed to be anything in the quarterback room. Finally, it helps that Reed has trained with Caleb Williams all draft process and has become friendly with Williams. The Bears have done everything they can to make Williams feel comfortable heading into his rookie year, and keeping Reed in his quarterback room could be a part of that comfort.

Blake Watson, RB, Broncos

Denver has a strong running back room, led by Javonte Williams and including fifth-round pick Audric Estime, veteran Samaje Perine and last year’s UDFA running back success Jaleel McLaughlin. But Watson offers pass-catching and change-of-pace explosiveness that can make him at worst the fourth running back in their rotation. Plus, as he develops as a pass blocker (along with Javonte Williams’s development in the area) could push Watson from the fourth/fifth running back in the rotation into competing with Perine as one of the team’s key rotational running backs.

Jacobs was one of the most shocking players not to be drafted considering he’s a high-end linebacker athlete from a great linebacker-producing school in Penn State, and on-film he showcases his coverage ability, blitzing upside and range as box tackler. But in Kansas City, he’ll be competing with only former undrafted players from the 2022 and 2023 draft class, and he has not only a great chance to be the teams’ fourth linebacker, but a favorite to be it and a key part of their defensive front seven plans this year.

The Dolphins added a host of weapons on the offensive side of the ball in the draft, but it was their focus on adding quality DBs late and after the draft that showed where they want competition during training camp. While they drafted one safety in Patrick McMorris late in the draft, they easily could have taken Perry and it not be a surprise. The Dolphins, a team looking to challenge for a Super Bowl, won’t care about late round vs. free agents if it means creating great competition in camp, and Perry’s athleticism, range, and safety versatility could make him at worst their fifth safety and at best challenge to be their top safety backup.

Joshua Cephus, WR,Β Jaguars

Jacksonville has a firm top-three receivers in Christian Kirk, newly acquiredΒ Gabe Davis and newly drafted Brian Thomas Jr. But after releasing Zay Jones, Jacksonville’s receiver room is filled with talented options but no unequivocal fourth through sixth receiver. Fellow undrafted free agent David White Jr. has a good chance as well, considering his special teams upside as a gunner and core-four player, but it’s Cephus who could quietly develop into the team’s fifth , if not fourth, receiver in time. The sure-handed, efficient route-separating Cephus will compete with Parker Washington for slot/Z-receiver snaps in camp, with Cephus having every opportunity to win the job.

Twelve months ago, Leonard Taylor falling to the third day of the NFL DraftΒ would’ve been shocking. Now, after questions about if he can maximize his immense talent pushed him out of the draft, the Jets got a steal of a talent to learn and develop with their veteran defensive line room. Taylor, based on film grades, was ranked as high as the third or fourth defensive tackle in the draft by teams, and hopefully he can reach that tremendous potential in a Jets defensive line room that features Quinnen Williams, veterans with limited long-term upside like Solomon Thomas and Leki Fotu, and an upside but not surefire impact player like Javon Kinlaw.

The Lions had a need to bolster their receiver room this offseason and added just one player: Williams shortly after the draft. Williams will have to beat out recent seventh-round draft pick Antoine Green, special team impact player Tom Kennedy, and last year’s traded-for receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. But if not for a slow 40-yard-dash time and NFL teams worried about his transition to NFL speed, Williams could have gone as early as the third or fourth round. Now, he’s the favorite to be the team’s backup slot receiver, and it wouldn’t surprise at all if he earned WR3 snaps by the end of the 2024 NFL season.

Jalen Coker, WR, PanthersΒ 

Carolina clearly needed to turnaround its receiver room after last year, and trading for Diontae Johnson and drafting just one receiver wasn’t going to be enough. Despite being early-round picks in the past, Terrence Marshall andΒ Jonathan Mingo aren’t guaranteed anything in the receiver rotation, and potentially not even on the roster. Coker, an immensely productive FCS receiver with elite jumping ability (42.5 inch vertical leap, best at the NFL Scouting Combine) and smooth, naturally separating route upside will certainly compete to not only make the Panthers roster, but potentially challenge to be the long-term option alongside first-round pick Xavier Legette.

Dallin Holker, TE,Β Saints

New Orleans has done a fantastic job the last four years in maximizing its tight end room with a consistent stream of late-round/undrafted free agent or free agent additions, keeping it a productive part of their offense. But with Jimmy Graham seemingly officially done in New Orleans, Juwan Johnson in the last year of his deal and Taysom Hill potentially nearing the end of his surprisingly long tenure (and not really being a tight end for them), Colorado State’s Dallin Holker, who was the second most productive tight end in FBS last year behind only Brock Bowers, has an excellent chance not only to make the roster, but to contribute as an H-Back/TE2 for Derek Carr.

Garret Greenfield, OT,Β Seahawks

The Seahawks struck gold in 2022 by drafting their franchise left and right tackles, but they’ve needed to plug in different options for their depth, between resigning George Fant in the latter part of his career, keeping Stone Forsythe, and drafting long-term, not yet ready to play developmental tackle Michael Jerrell.Β Garret Greenfield, a four-year starting left tackle for South Dakota State, tested as one of the best athletes at the position at the NFL combine and has shown left and right tackle versatility for NFL clubs in the draft process at the combine and Shrine Bowl. If he can show true swing tackle upside, Greenfield can be the team’s third or fourth tackle and be one injury away from playing a huge role in keeping Geno Smith productive.

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Author: Eric Galko
May 8, 2024 | 1:10 pm

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