Our Top Undrafted Prospects, and Why They Went Undrafted

When the 256th and final selection of the NFL Draft had been used, 90 of our top 100 prospects had been drafted. When life hands your blog such a set of nice, pleasing round number lemons, you make list lemonade. I’m going to talk about those ten prospects who went undrafted, discuss why we liked them, and why I think they went undrafted.

(Note: I have designated a “Priority Free Agent” as someone who signed last night, in the hours after the draft ended. Anyone who signed today or later is an “Undrafted Free Agent” unless the term “priority free agent” was used to announce the signing.)

Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
Our Rank: #39, second-round edge rusher
Status: UDFA, Green Bay Packers
Possible Red Flags: Injury, personality, work ethic

Adrian Hubbard is an odd case. He was a starter at outside linebacker in 2012, where he proved to be a fluid athlete with good quickness who occasionally flashed incredible burst off the snap. He demonstrated a variety of skills as well, both in rushing the passer and coverage.

In 2013, though, he lost his starting job and only saw the field as a situational pass rusher. It’s not really clear why, but rumors began circulating during the draft process (including one from the NFL’s most famous amateur psychologist of them all, Trollin’ Nolan Nawrocki) that Hubbard was difficult and had a “quirky” personality, which can mean anything from a Ryan Leaf spoiled brat to an Arian Foster thoughtful and inquisitive mind. The biggest piece of evidence supporting these theories are his reduced playing time in 2013; I can’t imagine Nick Saban wouldn’t want his best players on the field.

I considered all this during day three, as Hubbard fell all the way out of the draft. In the end, after the Packers signed him, Hubbard revealed that he had a minor heart condition which caused most teams to remove him from their boards, but he was cleared to play. Again, without the same access to medical information that teams have, we can’t pull prospects from the board entirely. The best we can do is make use of what we do have, which is what we view on tape, combined with statistics and measurables to an appropriate degree. Obviously any evaluation has a subjective component, but we try not to use criteria we don’t have evidence for.

Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
Our Rank: #76, third round
Status: PFA, New York Giants
Possible Red Flags: Off-field, overrated

Kelcy Quarles and Victor Hampton were arrested last month following a fight at a club, and even though they weren’t charged with a crime, I can see why teams might be concerned that these two are not only out clubbing so close to the draft, but getting in fights as well. Hampton’s rap sheet is rather long, and teams might be worried that Quarles is out with him.

We also might have overrated Quarles due to his playing next to Jadeveon Clowney. (Similarly, teams might be underrating him, afraid of falling for another Ryan Sims situation.) He does possess good burst for his size, though.

Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
Our Rank: #79, third-round inside linebacker
Status: PFA, Chicago Bears
Possible Red Flags: Teammates, out of position

Jones is another guy we could be overrating because of the strength of his teammates. I think the more likely issue, though, is that he was largely used as a pass rusher in 2013, when he’s more suited to play a more traditional linebacker role. The film of that from 2012 is pretty good, and that’s where we think we should play. Our grade reflects that.

Zach Kerr, DT, Delaware
Our Rank: #82, third round
Status: PFA, Indianapolis Colts
Possible Red Flags: Consistency, Competition Level

Kerr’s highlight reel is great, but that’s all we really had access to; we couldn’t get full game cutups of him.  I tried to account for that in my grades, but it’s really hard to say how often he was that productive. His size/speed combination on those highlight plays was still rare enough that I thought some team would draft him.

Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State
Our Rank: #84, third round
Status: PFA, Cleveland Browns
Possible Red Flags: On-field performance, injuries

When “on-field performance” is cited as your red flag, it’s not hard to understand why teams pass on you, and I freely admit our evaluation of Barnett is out of step with the mainstream. Barnett didn’t attend the Combine due to injuries, so I had no idea who he was until Draft Breakdown included him in the first round of a mock draft. I wanted to know more, so I watched his film and saw a guy with an incredible first step off the ball. Granted, he had little else– his pad level was usually too high; he didn’t have much in the way of speed or moves– but I thought that raw ability was enough that a team would take a chance on him. I was wrong.

Victor Hampton, CB, South Carolina
Our Rank: #86, third round
Status: Unsigned
Possible Red Flags: Off-field, measurables

Hampton is a talented corner with tremendous ball skills, but his rap sheet of off-field incidents is long, and apparently troubling enough that no team yet has taken a chance on him. Our evaluation of him is almost entirely based on his on-field play; we don’t get to meet and interview the kids, so we can’t say whether or not we think they’ve learned from their mistakes or the risk outweighs the reward.

He also ran a 4.7 40 at the Combine, which was probably discouraging to teams regardless of whether the slow time was reflective of poor speed or poor work ethic (or even if it was just variance).

Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Our Rank: #89, third round
Status: PFA, Minnesota Vikings
Possible Red Flags: Measurables, medical

It’s possible we still had Richardson too high. In the early stages of the draft process he was being listed as a first-round prospect by quite a few outlets and a second-rounder by the others. We quickly discovered from the film that he wasn’t as talented as teammate Ja’Wuan James, so we moved him down, but we didn’t think he’d fall all the way out of the draft.

Today, though, we heard a rumor that Richardson has serious knee issues, which would probably warrant removing him from a team’s board entirely if they are true.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Our Rank: #90, third round
Status: PFA, Cleveland Browns
Possible Red Flags: Off-field

This one’s easy. He was kicked out of Georgia after his freshman year for a felony weapons charge. As far as I can tell, his record has been clean since, but teams are understandably wary about committing a draft pick to a player who might shoot or be shot by someone. He’s probably the most talented running back in the entire draft, though.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Our Rank: #93, third round edge rusher
Status: PFA, Seattle Seahawks
Possible Red Flags: Injuries, performance

Jeffcoat is a curious case. He shows some athleticism and good strength and quickness for the position, but he’s absurdly slow off the ball, as though he hears the snap count a bit later than everyone else. If this can be fixed, he can be a productive player. But being slow to the snap so often took him out of plays that I’m not surprised teams downgraded him for that.

Jeffcoat also has a checkered injury history– he missed significant time in college when he tore one pectoral muscle late in 2011, and the other in October 2012. That alone probably made him undraftable to a significant number of teams. We didn’t really consider it, attempting to evaluate him as a prospect based on how he’d perform in the NFL.

Dion Bailey, S, USC
Our Rank: #95, third round
Status: PFA, Seattle Seahawks
Possible Red Flags: Skill set, performance

While I was never particularly confident in this rating, our film study still suggested Bailey should have been drafted, at least. He’s a raw player who got by on athleticism, and still needs to learn the game, but he’s only 22, and young athletic players with upside usually get drafted. There may be something else going on we don’t know about and could only hope to guess.

 

You want to know what the strangest thing I found was? Trollin Nolan’s personality assessments, which so often read like so much thinly veiled racist bullshit, apparently are shared by quite a few teams. Six of the ten players he named went undrafted. Three of them were in our top 100; we also regarded Mike Davis and Colt Lyerla as pretty talented and draftable, although it’s much more understandable no one drafted Lyerla, given he didn’t even play in 2013 after being kicked off Oregon’s team.

I’m not sure what the message is here. Maybe teams excessively weigh personality concerns that are hugely speculative. Or maybe it’s as if friend-of-the-blog Dave suggested in this comment, namely that starting around the third round or so, the talent pool is flat enough that anything that gives a team any reasonable concern that a player may not even take the field is enough to remove him from a team’s draft board. (I have a theory that maybe it’s not so much that two hundred players have third round grades, but instead fifty or sixty players really are “third round” grades on talent, and injury or other concerns cause them to drop or be removed from team’s boards. And maybe sixty or seventy fourth-round grades, etc. etc. Something else to try to determine when we work on the 2015 draft.)

Thank you all for following along with us this weekend and helping make our coverage a success. That may be it for this year’s NFL Draft, but we’ll continue to write about the incoming rookies over the next few months, until it’s time to seriously talk about the 2014 season. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay up-to-date with what we’re doing.

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2 thoughts on “Our Top Undrafted Prospects, and Why They Went Undrafted

  1. A few other notes on Adrian Hubbard the football player. Alabama gave him the “President’s Award which is only handed out to a select few players from different units of the team that is for “players who have shown perseverance in making outstanding contributions to the teams success. Also, before the draft Hubbard inquired with the NFL’s junior committee over his draft projection (this happens before you declare) and was given a ‘grade’ of round 2 through round 4. The NFL’s junior committee doesn’t troll prospects on their projections as far as I know. So I think almost all of it points to the heart issue which wouldn’t have been known prior to the draft screening process.

  2. I’m looking at Calvin Barnett now and specifically he missed the combine due to having his knee scoped just before it. If you google him + the ‘C word’ you’ll find him admitting to playing through concussions. Ryan Swope was drafted in 2013 and RETIRED after suffering another concussion in rookie camp. It’s a dirty word the league doesn’t love talking about and several players have retired following concussion history (Jahvid Best is a good example). All this I found just now on a few minutes with google. Buy there are plenty of players with injury histories selected and selected highly; not many with a long history however (see: Matt Patchan, Boston College tackle). Knowing who is which is impossible without inside knowledge.

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