The Falcons didn’t have any major undrafted free agents contribution in 2020; in fact, Tyler Hall is the only notable UDFA — eleven of the team’s UDFA players were on offense, and nine were on defense — from last year’s class that is still on the roster that could play significant snaps in 2021. But New Orleans has relied more heavily on those UDFAs in recent years, and it could be a sign to come for Atlanta. Per the tweet below, the Falcons were in the bottom third of the league in snaps from rookies both drafted and undrafted from 2017 to 2020, while the Saints are in the top third of the league in snaps by players drafted/ signed as a UDFA.
A look at snaps played by players drafted/signed as a UDFA for their original teams versus the franchises record from 2017 to 2020 pic.twitter.com/qn71cbCvMY
— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) April 5, 2021
The Saints had around 5,000 more snaps from rookies drafted and undrafted than the Falcons, but that’s because, for a while, New Orleans had a superior draft and develop philosophy than Atlanta. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith will surely be counting on young players to play significant minutes and roles because it is the most conducive way to win and considering the organization’s standing with the salary cap. Here are three UDFAs that the Falcons could get valuable snaps out of from to 2021 draft class.
OT Royce Newman, Ole Miss
In 2019, Newman was thrust into the starting left guard role, where he started 12 games after being a backup at Ole Miss. Last year, he kicked outside to right tackle, where he started all 10 games against an SEC schedule. The versatility is there, but his projection in the NFL is inside at guard. The former four-star recruit is a better run-blocker than he is in pass protection, but Newman steadily improved in that area of his game in Oxford. Like most UDFAs, Newman will likely not be a high-level starter, but he could be a stopgap option at guard and in drastic circumstances at tackle. Though he has been climbing up draft boards, Newman could possibly fall out of day three of the draft, where he would be a preferred UDFA.
CB Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas
Central Arkansas will see several of its players drafted or signed as UDFAs, and Rochell could find his way into being a day three selection after the 10 career interceptions. He struggled in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, but his sudden change of direction is impressive despite the poor showing. He leverages his fluidity well in man coverage, something Dean Pees will prefer. The former Bear has good size and above-average athleticism, with the length and light feet at the line of scrimmage and throughout routes to thrive at least as a gunner on special teams.
OLB Chris Garrett, Concordia
Garrett might be the one priority free agent the Falcons could throw money at because he’s a fast riser up many draft boards. The former Bear has been tormenting Division II with 49 tackles for loss, 36.5 sacks, and a Division II record 15 forced fumbles over the past three seasons. He relied on his explosive first step and twitchy athleticism to pressure the quarterback but showed a few counters that displayed his ability to win in multiple ways — inside counter and long-arm to counter oversetting tackles. His hand usage could always improve, but the weight concern is more daunting. Garrett’s love for the game and incredible desire to succeed in the NFL is on display in his tenacity as a competitor on the field. He has all the tools to be a special teams ace, but he could find himself being selected in the winding hours of the draft.
Photographer: Steven Erle/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire