Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Travis Rudolph (15) during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Who were the top 10 early entrants who went all seven rounds without hearing their name called in the 2017 NFL Draft?
The decision to leave early for the NFL Draft is a life-changing one for college football stars. It’s especially life-changing if there’s a chance the player might not get selected, wasting a final year of eligibility and hoping to catch on as an undrafted free agent.
According to the AP‘s Ralph D. Russo, there were 28 early entrants who went unselected in this year’s NFL Draft. Some of the names were surprising while others came from smaller schools in both the FBS and FCS.
Out of those 28 early entrants who weren’t drafted, a majority of them have singed on with teams as undrafted free agents while others have received camp invites. We take a look at the top 10 early entrants who didn’t hear their name called but who have a good chance of making a 53-man roster in the fall.
Apr 16, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Garrett Sickels (90) adjusts his helmet during a warmup prior to the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. The Blue team defeated the White team 37-0. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports
DE, Penn State
Signed by: Indianapolis Colts
The 2016 season was a good one for Penn State which came out of nowhere to win the Big Ten over powerhouses such as Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan. Not many expected James Franklin’s team to do a complete 180 from 2015, but the Nittany Lions did just that.
As for junior defensive end Garrett Sickels, the 2016 season was his best yet. He soared to the top of the depth chart for a defense that played superb football for most of the season. He finished with career highs in tackles (47), tackles for loss (13) and sacks (6.5).
Sickels was named a second-team All-Big Ten performer by the coaches and third-team by the media.
It may have been a slight surprise to see him declare for the draft after his junior season, but with the performance he had, it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary. He should make a push for the 53-man roster with the Colts this fall despite going undrafted.
Nov 28, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive tackle Charles Walker (97) against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Sooners defeated the Cowboys 58-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Signed by: New Orleans Saints
Charles Walker was one of the most interesting prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. Sure, he was considered an elite talent before the season and was on just about every award watch list there was, but he played just four games before suffering a concussion.
After that concussion against TCU, he sat out a few games due to lingering effects but then decided to remain out for the rest of the season to prepare for the draft. The announcement was shocking seeing as he had some juice left in the tank after recovering from the injury, but he didn’t want to further jeopardize his draft stock with more injuries.
Well, whoever gave him that advise may be in Walker’s doghouse right now since he went undrafted and signed with the New Orleans Saints shortly after. He was considered a dark-horse late-round steal, but teams didn’t want to take a chance on him.
There is a good reason he wasn’t drafted. First of all, he opted to sit out the rest of the year instead of help his team make a playoff push. Second, there’s a possibility the concussion issue is still bothering him.
As a sophomore in 2015, he had 36 tackles, 10 for loss and six sacks. In four games as a junior, he had seven tackles, two for loss and four pass deflections.
Dec 29, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Jerod Evans (4) celebrates after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Virginia Tech defeated Arkansas 35-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
QB, Virginia Tech
Signed by: Philadelphia Eagles
How did teams looking for a late-round quarterback pass up on a guy like Jerod Evans from Virginia Tech? He accounted for nearly 4,500 yards of total offense in 2016 to go along with 41 total touchdowns.
Evans was criticized for being a run-first quarterback. No, he wouldn’t drop back with no intention to pass the ball, but if his first read wasn’t open, he would often decide to use his legs, rather than his strong arm, to move the ball. Field vision and patience isn’t something teams can teach and that’s why he was likely passed on.
However, the Eagles figured that he was worth at least a spot as an undrafted free agent and why not let him work his way up the depth chart? He has the talent and he proved that at Virginia Tech last season as a JUCO transfer.
The Dallas-native had an impressive 2016 season for the rising Hokies, passing for 3,552 yards and 29 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. He completed nearly 64 percent of his throws and proved that accuracy is not an issue. He also ran for 846 yards and 12 scores.
Although his numbers prove he’s not necessarily run-first, he does need to develop more patience in the pocket and utilize the talent in that arm of his.
Oct 31, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones (9) makes a reception during the first quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
WR, Texas A&M
Signed by: Arizona Cardinals
It was tough to pick between Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones here, so I decided to go with the guy that looks like a prototypical NFL receiver. Both were five-star recruits out of high school and both decided to leave early for the NFL Draft only to go unselected.
Seals-Jones is a bigger target, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 243 pounds. He looked to be an imposing red-zone force in the SEC out of high school, but his dominance never translated to the collegiate level. It’s not because he lacked the skill set, but rather he may not have shown the drive.
“He looks great in that uniform but he can’t get open. Usually you fear guys with that kind of size when they make it down near your end zone but he never competed hard enough down there when we played him.”
That’s not exactly what you want to hear if you’re looking for a receiver to become your next red-zone target. However, if the Cardinals can tap into his potential, he could be something special in Arizona for the next few years.
Nov 21, 2015; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Stanley Boom Williams (18) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Charlotte 49ers in the second hafl at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Signed by: Cincinnati Bengals
Nicknamed ‘Boom’, Stanley Williams left the program as the seventh all-time leading rushing in Kentucky history. He finished his Wildcat career with over 2,500 rushing yards and had a monster junior campaign.
The Bengals took a chance on him after the draft even though he was considered one of the top running backs available in the later rounds. His frame may have been the reasoning behind him going undrafted. In fact, Williams stands 5-foot-9 and just 196 pounds which was enough to scare NFL teams off.
It was a bit of a surprise to see him declare for the NFL Draft following his junior campaign, but he talked with his family and decided this was the perfect time. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry and picked up a total of 1,170 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. He showed tremendous burst and speed throughout his career, but his size was the only issue.
When you think about speedy undersized NFL backs to make a name for themselves, you think of someone like Darren Sproles. Can he carve out a role like that with the Bengals?
Nov 5, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Indiana Hoosiers running back Devine Redding (34) celebrates his touchdown catch during the second half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Indiana defeated Rutgers 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Signed by: Not yet signed
Even Indiana fans are knocking Devine Redding for leaving a year early to pursue his NFL dreams, but after two straight 1,000-yard seasons, he felt it was time. However, his performance at the NFL Combine may have been enough to scare some teams away.
Sure, his 16 reps of 225 on the bench showcased his strength, but some teams were worried about his 4.7-4.8 range 40-yard dash. While it’s not exactly slow, it’s not the ideal speed range you want from a running back who is already bordering on undrafted status.
It’s shocking to see that he has still yet to receive a camp invite from an NFL team nor a contract as an undrafted free agent. He’s one of the only early entrants who is still on the market and it may be more of him deciding on a potential fit rather than having no offers — although I could be wrong there.
Redding and Jordan Howard (Bears’ starting RB) served as a devastating one-two punch in 2015 and both rushed for over 1,000 yards. In 2016, Redding took over and ran for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns, but averaged just 4.4 yards per touch. He did increase his receiving workload, though.
Oct 17, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back Joseph Yearby (2) runs with the ball against Virginia Tech Hokies during the first half at Sun Life Stadium. Miami won 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Signed by: San Francisco 49ers
It was surprising to see the 2017 NFL Draft pass by without hearing Joseph Yearby’s name called, but it was an even bigger shock to see that he received only a camp invite from the 49ers. He’s one of the better running backs to go undrafted this year and Miami fans were furiously petitioning the hometown Dolphins to sign him.
However, he went all seven rounds without hearing his name called despite being considered one of the nation’s elite running backs prior to the 2016 season. He had just rushed for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore and was set to smash those career-highs.
Unfortunately, Mark Walton took over as the lead back, rushing for over 1,100 yards as a sophomore and forced Yearby to take a back seat.
That’s not to say Yearby didn’t have an impressive season, though. He rushed for 608 yards on 102 carries and finished with a career-high seven rushing touchdowns. He only recorded 10-plus carries in three games and finished with two 100-yard performances. He still averaged 6.0 yards per carry.
If the 2015 season was any indication of the type of bruising back he would be, the 49ers may have just gotten a steal.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Artavis Scott (3) runs the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Signed by: Los Angeles Chargers
Clemson has had some impressive receivers through the years. Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins are making names for themselves as top NFL wide outs while Martavis Bryant and now Mike Williams are getting into the mix. Artavis Scott is hoping he can be the next to join the list.
Heading to Los Angeles to join the Chargers is a good situation for Scott as they’re in dire need of talented wide receivers. Scott is just that. He will also be joining his Clemson teammate, Mike Williams, in L.A. as he was the Chargers’ first-round draft pick.
Scott was considered “too slow” by some scouts for a slot receiver and not big enough to be an outside receiver. He was stuck as a tweener without much separating himself from the rest of the receivers in this year’s draft. He did run a 4.61 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but apparently that wasn’t enough to open scouts’ eyes.
The 5-foot-10 receiver from Clearwater, Fla., saw his numbers diminish over his final two seasons at Clemson. As a freshman, he had 76 catches for 965 yards and eight touchdowns. As a sophomore, he caught 93 passes for 901 yards and six scores and last year he had 76 receptions for 614 yards and five touchdowns.
Los Angeles may use him on special teams as a kick returner, though.
Nov 5, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Travis Rudolph (15) scores the winning touchdown against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the second half at Carter Finley Stadium. Florida State won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
WR, Florida State
Signed by: New York Giants
Last year before the season, Florida State receiver Travis Rudolph went viral after a picture of him was taking eating lunch with a boy who was eating alone during school lunch. He became an idol for young kids and earned the respect of the casual college football fan.
Little did people know that Rudolph was one of the best sophomore receivers in the ACC, catching 59 passes for 916 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. How did he follow up that impressive sophomore campaign? Just by catching 56 passes for 840 yards and seven more scores.
Rudolph finished his Florida State career with 153 catches for 2,311 yards and 18 touchdowns, proving to be one of the most sure-handed receivers in the conference. Grabbing 153 receptions in just three years is an impressive feat, but somehow it wasn’t enough to get him selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Shortly after the draft concluded, the New York Giants announced they’d be signing him as an undrafted free agent. He might be guilty of having a smaller frame (6-foot-1, 189 pounds), but he can get the job done.
Sep 16, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver KD Cannon (9) scores a touchdown on a reception during the fourth quarter against the Rice Owls at Rice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Signed by: San Francisco 49ers
To be completely honest, I was shocked to see that no teams thought KD Cannon was worth a draft selection in 2017. He was considered a mid-round prospect, but slipped all the way to undrafted status to the chagrin of Baylor fans everywhere.
Those who should be really disappointed should be the fans of NFL teams that needed a speedy receiver. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash during offseason workouts and impressed NFL scouts, but he somehow went overlooked in the draft.
San Francisco got the biggest steal in undrafted free agency, in my opinion, and landed Cannon to go along with Joseph Yearby. Two guys who have a good shot to make the roster, but Cannon should be a lock for that, in my opinion.
Not many guys can have a breakout bowl game and boost his draft stock with a 4.42 40-yard dash and still go undrafted. He posted 14 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns in Baylor’s Cactus Bowl appearance, finishing with 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year — his second 1,000-yard season in three years.
Cannon is going to be an impact player and one of the biggest surprises in a few years.