Ranking the best undrafted free agents in the NFL: Justyn Ross and Kennedy Brooks make a list based on talent, situation

The 2022 NFL Draft is over, and the crazy undrafted free agent streak is almost officially over (see where all the prospects ended up, here.) That means it’s time for undrafted free agent rankings. By now, everyone knows that a handful of UDFAs end up making a name for themselves.

Let’s rank this year’s UDFA class by talent, of course, and also by situation, which for these players is absolutely critical.

11. TE Jalen Wydermyer (Invoices)

Wydermyer was the first-round tight end in the far-too-early 2022 fictional drafts after last spring and summer. If we are technical, it took him until November to “fall” from the first round in simulations on the Internet, for Grinding Simulations. Statistically, Wydermyer’s final season at Texas A&M was in line with his first two years at College Station. But the falls were more frequent. He then tested himself as a low-level athlete on his pro day, an immediate red flag for all teams. That’s why he wasn’t drafted.

Wydermyer has three-man ability, though he’s not a strong blocker and has a well-rounded if unspectacular profile as a receiving option. And there are rumblings, under new offensive coordinator Ken Dorseyof increased interest in two tight sets of the Brian Daboll era in Buffalo. Dawson Knox and acquisition of free agents OJ Howard reside at the top of the depth chart at the position. After that, there’s only the 2019 seventh-round pick left. Tommy Sweeney. All are in the final year of their current contracts with the Bills. Hello, opportunity.

10. EDGE Luiji Vilain (vikings)

Vilain was a four-star rookie and the No. 5 weak side defensive end in the 2017 class behind only Jaelan Phillips, hunt young, Joshua Kaindoh and K’Lavon Chaisson. He never lived up to expectations in Michigan because he was buried behind people like Rashan Gary, Chase Winovitch, Kwity Paid and Aidan Hutchinson. Vilain was transferred to Wake Forest and the skills were on full display. He finished with eight sacks and nine tackles for loss as a passing specialist.

Now in Minnesota there is an overabundance of rushers. And the depth pieces are young. Luckily for Vilain, none of Janarius Robinson, DJ Wonnumor Patrick Jones II were too encouraging at the start of their professional careers. Vilain is a long, slippery pass thrower with 34-inch arms with good handwork and explosiveness off the ball.

9. RB Kennedy Brooks (Eagles)

The Eagles have about 40 running backs on the roster, which is why Brooks is further down that roster than individually he should be. He’s a human being with an incredibly unshakeable poise. He averaged nearly four yards AFTER contact in 2021 and forced 60 missed tackles. And Brooks was that type of runner in 2020 and 2019 at Oklahoma. He’s gone three consecutive seasons and averaged 7.0 yards per carry over his 472-carry career.

In short, Brooks is a damn good natural runner. He’s not fast, he’s not a weird athlete. He runs with stellar vision and rarely, if ever, falls on first contact. Philadelphia has shown a willingness to run fullbacks lately, and Brooks may be that UDFA who is ultimately the primary backup early in the NFL’s career. He has that vibe going for him.

8. RE Dai’Jean Dixon (Saints)

Dixon was that guy at Nicholls State. He rushed for over 1,000 yards twice and caught at least seven touchdowns in each of his final four seasons in college.

He won’t run away from anyone in the NFL. But at 6ft 2in and over 200lbs, he mostly walked perimeter isolation routes – no chafing, stacked formations to aid separation – and was productive despite being the clear focal point of the Nicholls State Offense. Plus, he plays like a fierce rebounder above the rim.

Yes there is Michael Thomas and new first round wide Chris Olave to the catcher in New Orleans. But the Saints are an organization that hasn’t been shy about giving plenty of opportunities to late, undrafted free agents – Colston Brands, Deonte Harris, Mark Callaway, etc. – and Dixon has a Thomas body. His excellence in the back-shoulder game pairs well with the aggressive nature of the quarterback James Winstonalso.

7. DT Prince Emili (bills)

Buffalo charged the defensive line during free agency, signing likes of Tim Settle, Daquan Jones, Jordan Phillips and rusher upside down Shaq Lawson. What did the bills not add? A three-way penetrating technique to be the main backup of the ascending penetrator Ed Olivier.

This is precisely what Emili can be on Buffalo’s defense. And while the defensive front seems too crowded for a UDFA to sneak onto the roster, consider this — in 2021, the Bills had nine defensive linemen and edge rushers playing at least 20% of defensive snaps, the most large number of players in the league. A deep rotation up front is a Sean McDermott calling card.

At just over 6-0 and around 290 pounds, Emili leapt into space at Penn Pro Day with a vertical of 36.5 inches. He’s a high-energy rusher that matches what the Bills want on their defensive line.

6. CB Dallis Flowers (Foals)

The flower landing in Indianapolis should come as no surprise, as the Colts under general manager Chris Ballard have been an organization that adores oddball athletes more than most. At 6-1 and 196 pounds, Flowers nailed his pro day training, running 4.43 with a blisteringly fast 6.96 three-cone drill and a 10-11 wide jump.

Is it gross in the cover of the film? Absolutely. Were there times when his athleticism allowed him to make ridiculous plays in football? Yeah. The Colts have Kenny Moore and a lot of uncertainty in their secondary school. Flowers likely won’t be the No. 2 cornerback in Week 1, but in the Indianapolis scheme, he’ll be in a scenario where his athleticism can be fully maximized.

5. TE Gerrit Prince (jaguars)

Evan Engram. Dan Arnold. Chris Manhertz. Luke Farrell. That’s the Jaguars’ tight depth chart at the moment. The coaches may not say it right now, but there are jobs available for this position. Let’s not forget, new coach Doug Pederson used Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert together often when they were all together in Philadelphia.

Finally given a full-time role in 2021, Prince was a sensational game waiting to happen for the Blazers offense. He caught 36 passes for 699 yards with 10 touchdowns. He came off the line, ran his routes and exploded with the ball in his hands after catching it like a big, thick receiver. It really is. Since I’m not afraid Trevor Lawrence is to rip it at the seam, Prince feels like an undrafted prospect who can stick with the rebuilding Jaguars.

4. S Sterling Weatherford (Colts)

Weatherford was the shed Kyle Hamilton in that class. Same size and similar drive to go along with comparable versatility on film, I don’t know how and why Weatherford wasn’t selected.

Now he lands with the Colts, a club that chose explosive safety Nick Cross in Round 3. However, Indianapolis lacks a stellar and incredibly deep safe room at this point in their team building process. Weatherford switches directions like he’s 20 pounds lighter and at least three inches lighter. He’s super lanky against the run and is an effective blitzer.

At his height — 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds — he can be a designated defender to line up on tight ends catching passes in the Colts defense. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley certainly knows how to deploy “oversized” safeties given his three seasons with Chancellor of Kam in Seattle and time spent with Derwin James with the Chargers.

3. AR Jashaun Corbin (giants)

Saquon Barkley will start the 2022 season healthy. How long he can stay healthy is another story. Beyond him, the Giants have matt breida, Gary Brightwelland two undrafted former free agents signed by the previous regime in the backfield.

Corbin is playing much faster than the 4.60 speed he exhibited on the Florida State pro day, and his contact balance and elusiveness are above average. Corbin is a very naturally gifted runner who seemingly finds creases when they materialize in front of him and has those helpful accelerators to generate big plays on the field. Given the uncertainty after Barkley at running back in Daboll’s offense, I like Corbin’s chance to not only make the Giants roster, but also contribute to the freshman.

2. WR Justin Ross (Chiefs)

Ross’ 2021 film, after returning from spinal fusion surgery, was solid. Not spectacular. Not rough, he shouldn’t be drafted. Solid. And at a hair under 6-4 and 205 pounds, he has a hulking and somewhat lanky frame that helps him consistently win over his head. The running element of his game is understated, although he’s not a sudden or change of pace type that will create separation with his athleticism or nuance.

Kansas City suddenly has a lot of away competition – and of course Travis Kelce is still around — but no one yet is guaranteed to be the No. 1 receiver in 2022. Given his size, challenge catching ability and incredibly reliable hands, Ross is part of the team would not be at all surprising. He’s a more refined version of his former Clemson teammate Cornell Powellwho the Chiefs picked in the fifth round last year.

1. CB Mario Goodrich (Eagles)

Goodrich had a case as the lightest outside cornerback in that draft class, but was still undrafted. Suddenness and elite change of direction ability are at the heart of quality play in this position. Checking that box is vital for Goodrich as he embarks on his journey to make the Eagles after going undrafted.

The Eagles added exactly no cornerbacks in the 2022 draft after countless mock drafts led them to choose one in the first round. There are Darius Kill, Avonte Maddox, Kary Vincent Jr., Josiah Scottand Craig James in their corner room at press time.

Goodrich isn’t blazingly quick and has had a good number of receptions in 2021, but he and his lightning-fast feet have a real shot at staying with the Eagles.

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