Falcons: Which UDFAs have the best chance at making the final 53-man roster?

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For most prospects, getting drafted by an NFL team is a dream come true, but some go undrafted for various reasons — size, level of competition, technique, off-the-field concerns, etc. Those undrafted free agents are usually signed to deals to fill out the team’s 90-man roster, which is eventually trimmed to 53 men for the regular season. Most try out and are quickly cut, but some have gone on to find success in the NFL, and a few have had Hall of Fame careers.

Warren Moon, Marion Motley, Kurt Warner, Dick Lane, Willie Brown, and John Randle are all enshrined in Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame but originally went undrafted. There are also players who haven’t made it to the Hall of Fame but had extremely productive careers — Rod Smith, Priest Holmes, Tony Romo, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates, and Brian Waters are just a few. The Rams had the largest UDFA class a season ago, signing 17 players; the Falcons topped that number by signing 20 of their own UDFAs, so which of those have the best chance of making the final 53-man roster? This is way too early, but it’s just a benchmark to refer to as the offseason progresses.

Javian Hawkins

Most of those named on this list will only make the final roster by contributing on special teams, but Javian Hawkins is the exception. Even though he opted out of the 2020 season with four games left, the former Cardinal led the team in rushing, tallying 822 yards and seven touchdowns on 133 carries — averaging 6.2 yards per carry. I pegged him as a late-round pick, which I may have overvalued, but here is my breakdown:

Arthur Smith won’t run power with a back like Javian Hawkins; instead, a wide zone concept better suits what Hawkins does well. He is a north and south runner with breakaway speed and elite lateral quickness — a big play waiting to happen. Smith’s running back by committee approach would surely benefit from someone like Hawkins, who would pair nicely with a bruiser like Javonte Williams. According to Pro Football Focus, the former Louisville Cardinal was also excellent in pass protection. On 231 pass-block snaps, he never allowed a single sack.

Bryce Hargrove

Purely based on positional depth, Hargrove — and other interior linemen — has a good chance at making the final roster. He’s a mountain of a man, who played an impressive number of snaps at left guard for Pittsburgh. He thrives in the run game, routinely pushing defenders off their spot and establishing the line of scrimmage. His football IQ and awareness are on display in pass protection as he handled stunts, twists, and blitzes just fine. Hargrove’s technique needs refining, but Dwanye Ledford and Arthur Smith are great teachers of offensive line play.

Dorian Etheridge

Special teams, special teams, special teams… as I said, most of those who make the 53-man roster as UDFAs will have to contribute in the third, lesser-mentioned phase — special teams. Etheridge was a four-year starter and team captain at Louisville, where coaches still praise his intelligence. He’s a reliable tackler in the open field and a solid box defender, but he projects as a special teamer. He possesses the exact character that Terry Fontenot vowed to bring in, and the former Cardinal seems like a solid bet to make the roster because of the positional depth and third-phase value.

Photo: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

 

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