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Rams hope to find gold in newest batch of undrafted rookies

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  • Rams hope to find gold in newest batch of undrafted rookies

    Nate Latsch

    After finding some contributors among their undrafted free-agent signees a year ago, the Rams are hoping to do the same this season.

    Running back Benny Cunningham finished the 2013 season as the team's second-leading rusher, and linebackers Ray Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates contributed on special teams. Rookie free agents all.

    Enter this year's class. The Rams signed 15 undrafted rookie free agents from schools as notable as the University of Florida to the generally anonymous in Bacone College, an NAIA school in Muskogee, Okla.

    The headliner of the group is Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson, who left the Gators with a year of eligibility remaining and looked like a possible mid-round draft pick.

    Roberson is a 6-foot, 191-pound cover corner whose stock likely dropped because of his injury history -- he had two injury-plagued seasons in his three years as a starter at UF -- and a poor performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

    He officially ran a 4.61 40-yard dash and recorded just eight reps at 225 pounds on the bench press, which ranked among the worst efforts by a defensive back in Indianapolis.

    He reportedly ran a 4.69 40 at his pro day in March.

    NFL.com projected Roberson as a third- or fourth-round pick. At the conclusion of the draft, NFL.com writer Gil Brandt ranked Roberson as the No. 1 cornerback among the players who were not selected.

    "Lean, athletic, finesse cornerback who is best deployed in off-man or zone coverage, and has potential to develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 corner if he regains his sophomore form," NFL.com draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki wrote in Roberson's draft profile. "However, he lacks desirable instincts and tackling ability, and did not elevate his game in 2013 when injuries, suspension and inconsistency marred his junior season."

    Roberson was a high school teammate of Rams second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner at powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Now those two players, along with sixth-round pick E.J. Gaines of Missouri, will try to solidify a young St. Louis cornerback crew that lost veteran Cortland Finnegan in the offseason.

    Roberson isn't a lock to make the roster, but he will compete at an area of need for the Rams and has some strong college credentials after playing in the Southeastern Conference for three seasons.

    Defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks, a 6-4, 267-pounder, starred at Division II West Texas A&M the past two seasons after transferring from Sacramento City College. He racked up 19 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles in 15 games in 2012 -- when he was named the Ron Lenz Division II National Defensive Player of the Year -- and then had 19 1/2 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 14 games in 2013.

    The Rams have a stacked defensive line with the offseason addition of free agent Alex Carrington, formerly of Buffalo, and first-round pick Aaron Donald. But St. Louis recently released tackle Jermelle Cudjo, meaning Westbrooks -- or 6-5, 280-pounder Deantre Harlan of Bacone College -- could make the roster or practice squad as a developmental prospect.

    In two years at Bacone, Harlan had 72 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. He is the first player from Bacone to sign with an NFL team since the school joined the NAIA in 2001.

    "The Rams came down several times to work him out and we had a feeling he was going to get a shot," Bacone coach Trevor Rubly said in a press release from the school. "It's a great accomplishment for him and for our program."

    Ourlads' Scouting Services draft analyst Nolan Kuzmick included new Rams wide receiver Austin Franklin, a 5-11, 189-pounder out of New Mexico State, as one of his undrafted free-agent steals.

    Franklin, who left school a year early to declare for the draft, caught 52 passes for 670 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games in 2013. He had 74 receptions for 1,245 yards and nine TDs in 2012.


    The Rams showed a financial interest in Westbrooks, Franklin and Roberson following the draft.

    According to local NFL analyst Howard Balzer, St. Louis gave Westbrooks a $20,000 signing bonus, the highest amount paid to an undrafted rookie free agent by the Rams. Franklin was next at $17,500 and then Roberson at $15,000.

    Another player who could figure into the mix in a few months is former Bowling Green tight end Alex Bayer, a 6-4, 257-pounder who caught 37 passes for 593 yards in 14 games in 2013.

    One of the more interesting stories going into training camp will be that of linebacker Aaron Hill, who starred at nearby Lutheran High School in St. Charles, walked on at the University of Minnesota and emerged as a solid contributor for the Golden Gophers.

    Hill, a 6-1, 231-pounder, had 72 tackles, including five for loss, as a senior for Minnesota in 2013. He had 192 career tackles in 47 games.

    "Aaron was one of the leaders of our team and always seemed to make a play when we needed one," Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said in a press release to announce Hill's signing with St. Louis.

    The other undrafted free agents signed by the Rams were cornerback Jarrid Bryant (South Dakota), safety Avery Cunningham (Central Michigan), fullback Kadeem Jones (Western Kentucky), linebacker Johnny Millard (Cal Poly State), offensive tackle Abasi Salimu (Nicholls State), wide receiver Jamaine Sherman (East Texas Baptist), running back Julius "Trey" Watts (Tulsa) and linebacker Tavarius Wilson (North Alabama).

    St. Louis signed Emmanuel McCray, a 6-5, 320-pound offensive lineman out of Ole Miss, but he was released just days later. The Rams have since added wide receiver Jordan Harris from Bryant University, who initially signed with the Colts but was released.

    Harris became the first player from Bryant, which is located in Smithfield, R.I., to sign an NFL contract. The 6-2, 215-pounder finished his college career with 193 receptions, 3,735 yards and 31 touchdown catches.

  • #2
    Re: Rams hope to find gold in newest batch of undrafted rookies

    Its possible to walk away with an undrafted player making the team and being an NFL leader in production at their position...happens all the time and the long history of the NFL has lots of footnotes of such players.

    Sometimes too much stock is placed on first round picks and they turn into epic failures. It is more likely that a late rounder pick becoming that special player--there is someone in New England I could point out.

    Considering what the Rams passed up in this last draft, I certainly hope they can capture lightning in a bottle

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Rams hope to find gold in newest batch of undrafted rookies

      D'marco Farr, London Fletcher, Jeff Wilkins, Kurt Warner. Just a few of our own off the top of my head that went from undrafted to Pro Bowlers ;)

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Rams hope to find gold in newest batch of undrafted rookies

        2014 Pro Days: Sleeper WR Austin Franklin impresses at NMSU
        By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
        March 6, 2014 7:59 am ET


        The 2014 draft class looks like one of the strongest in recent history. Playing a significant role in the year's overall strength are the wide receivers, arguably the deepest and most talented positional group of the class.

        Some in the NFL have said there are potential starters to be found at wide receiver in the third and fourth rounds of this year's class. One of these players could be New Mexico State junior Austin Franklin, whose talents drew reps from 14 teams out to Las Cruces Wednesday to watch his Pro Day.

        Franklin performed well at the Combine just a few weeks ago so the the number of teams traveling to see him perform is an indication of the league's excitement for him.

        The 5-foot-11 (7/8), 189 pound Franklin attempted to improve upon his 40-yard time at the Combine (4.56) but slipped due on the sandy grass field at Aggie Memorial Stadium, according to a source on the scene. Franklin improved upon his numbers in the vertical jump (39"), broad jump (10'4") and bench press (nine) and performed very well during the positional drills, catching the ball cleanly and running crisp routes, under the close scrutiny of scouts and at least one receivers coach (Indianapolis Colts).

        Those writing off Franklin due to his level of competition may want to look a bit closer at his tape. As I note in his player profile, I was impressed by his instant acceleration upon catching the ball. He's the kind of player who plays faster than he tests.

        Among the other NFL teams on hand for the workout were the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Washington Redskins.

        Comment

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        • RamWraith
          St. Louis Signs 10 Rookie Free Agents
          by RamWraith
          Monday, April 25, 2005

          By Nick Wagoner
          Staff Writer

          Some might make the mistake of thinking that when the time runs out on the NFL Draft that teams are done adding to the roster. Actually, the draft is just the beginning of the roster tweaking.

          St. Louis joined the fray of teams in search of undrafted free agents Monday, adding 10 players to the 11 it drafted during the weekend. Of course, there is no guarantee that these players will make the roster, but most get an opportunity to go to training camp and make their abilities known.

          With the end of the draft comes time to find hidden gems who, for one reason or another, weren’t drafted. St. Louis spent most of its picks in the draft on offensive linemen and defensive backs, alleviating some of the worry about those positions. Most of the players signed Monday were brought in to fortify the defensive line after the team elected not to use any on the spot.

          Among the defensive line additions were tackles Jeremy Calahan, Colby Clark and Matt McChesney and end Vontrell Jamison. Also joining the Rams on Monday are guard Zach Bray, linebacker Clifford Dukes, defensive back Keon Newson, receivers Dominic Robinson and Dominique Thompson and cornerback Duvol Thompson.

          Rams General Manager Charley Armey said all of the players signed were considered as potential draft picks during the weekend. He pointed to a few as potential impact players at the next level.

          Highlighting the group are tackles Clark and McChesney. Clark is 6’2, 295 pounds and McChesney checks in at 6’4, 292 pounds.

          McChesney, who comes to St. Louis from Colorado, dealt with some injury and off the field problems while with the Buffaloes. He suffered a season-ending elbow injury as a freshman in 2000 and redshirted in 2002 because of an ankle injury. He had his best season when he was finally healthy in 2004, posting 59 tackles and seven sacks.

          Clark made his reputation at Northwestern as an “Iron Man,” as he never missed a practice or game because of injury. He set a Northwestern record for starts with 47 and finished with 230 career tackles.

          Dominique Thompson is another example of a player who spent his career at a small school, but played at a high level. He had a breakout year in 2004, catching 79 passes for 1,585 yards, but he is best known for his return skills.

          Thompson averaged 22.2 yards per return on kickoffs for the Tribe during his senior year.

          Bray was Texas Christian’s best offensive lineman last year and boasts excellent size at 6’3, 303 pounds. He was the team’s starting right guard for two years and holds the school bench press record at 635 pounds.

          Calahan is a bit undersized for a defensive tackle, but he is quick off the ball and had a productive college career for Rice. He was...
          -04-25-2005, 04:38 PM
        • Rambos
          Marcus Roberson
          by Rambos
          Marcus Roberson to enter NFL draft
          Updated: January 3, 2014, 6:29 PM ET
          ESPN.com news services


          Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson will pass up his final year with the Gators and enter the NFL draft, the school announced Friday.

          SportsFlorida cornerback Marcus Roberson will forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

          After recovering from knee and ankle injuries, Roberson had 11 tackles and broke up three passes in seven games this season. He had 56 tackles, 17 pass breakups and three interceptions in his career.

          ESPN's Todd McShay and Scouts Inc. consider Roberson to be a likely late-first-round pick in the May draft.


          "I'm very thankful of everyone at Florida that helped me to get to this point in my career, from Tony Meacham, my academic adviser, to Jeff Dillman to Coach Muschamp and the entire coaching staff," Roberson said in a statement released by the Gators. "It's been a great experience here, and now that it is over I can truly appreciate everything that is in place here for players to be successful and have an opportunity to play at the next level."

          Roberson was an All-SEC second-team selection in 2012.

          The move leaves Florida extremely thin at cornerback. Roberson is the second Florida corner to declare early for the draft this year after Loucheiz Purifoy said he will turn pro in November. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley has also said he is leaving Florida early to enter the draft.

          "Marcus has informed me that he has made the decision to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "Marcus was part of our first recruiting class, and it was a pleasure watching him mature and develop both on and off the field during his time here. I look forward to watching him play on Sundays, and like all of our players, I encourage them to return to complete his degree."

          ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

          By Arjuna Ramgopal


          WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.
          Marcus Roberson (AP)

          Marcus Roberson (right) struggled with injuries at Florida, missing five games in 2013, and did not impress at the combine. (AP)

          MARCUS ROBERSON

          Position: Cornerback

          School: Florida

          Height: 6-foot-0

          Weight: 191 pounds

          Achievements: 2012 AP All-SEC second team


          What he brings: A good-sized corner, Roberson is a tough, physical player who has good ability and instincts. While he can get too reliant on his frame and commit infractions down the field, Roberson presents...
          -05-12-2014, 05:43 PM
        • MauiRam
          Which teams corralled the best undrafted free agents?
          by MauiRam
          By Gil Brandt NFL.com

          The moment the NFL draft ends, the race to sign undrafted free agents begins.

          The undrafted college free agent has been a big part of the NFL since 1950. Fourteen of these players have gone on to become Hall of Famers and countless others have made significant contributions. Despite the exhaustive scouting done on college prospects leading up to the draft, there are players who slip through the cracks -- the NFL's diamonds in the rough.

          The key is identifying players with a specific trait that leads to success at the NFL level. Most of these players lack a complete NFL-ready skill set, but they possess one or two characteristics that prove valuable on Sundays. This is a player like Cliff Harris, who went undrafted out of little-known Ouachita Baptist in 1970, but made six Pro Bowls due to his tremendous speed. Joe Jacoby wasn't great at Louisville, but had a valuable trait for offensive tackles: 35.5-inch arms. Jacoby made four Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls over a 13-year career. And then there's John Randle, who lacked the size and pure speed of conventional defensive tackles in the NFL, but made up for it with unbelievable quickness and competitiveness. Randle hit double digits in sacks in nine different seasons, made seven Pro Bowls and earned a bust in Canton in 2010.

          Through Monday, May 7, there were 459 undrafted free agents signed by NFL teams. The number of signees varies from team to team; this year, Atlanta had the most with 23, while New England had the least with four. Of these players, approximately 50-60 will be on an NFL roster for the first week of the 2012 season. (Fifty-nine made the cut in 2011.)

          I have scouted every one of these players. Based on this knowledge, I've provided my top 11 undrafted free-agent hauls by teams this offseason. These rankings are not particularly predicated on the players' college production, but rather on specific traits that lead to production on the NFL level. Every undrafted free agent represents a calculated, low-risk gamble. These are the teams playing their cards best.

          1) St. Louis Rams
          Key signees: Matt Daniels, S, Duke; Rodney McLeod, DB, Virginia; Scott Smith, DE, Texas Tech; Alex Hoffman-Ellis, LB, Washington State.


          I especially like Daniels because of his intelligence and production as a four-year starter at Duke. He displays NFL-caliber speed and reaction skills as a safety. Although Duke isn't much of an NFL factory, Daniels showcased special talent in his collegiate career. McLeod played safety at Virginia, but can transition to corner due to his speed and quickness. Hoffman-Ellis has the unrelenting competitiveness to be a great special teamer in the pros.

          2) Atlanta Falcons
          Key signees: Louis Nzegwu, DE/OLB, Wisconson; Micanor Regis, DT, Miami; Ray Kibble, DL, Kansas State.

          All three of these players have special...
          -05-12-2012, 11:51 AM
        • HUbison
          Rams stock up on undrafted rookies
          by HUbison
          Rams stock up on undrafted rookies

          BY JIM THOMAS

          Rams' new head coach Jeff Fisher watches over his team during the veterans mini camp on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, at Rams Park in Earth City. Photo by Emily Rasinski, staff photographer

          Rams general manager Les Snead says that in any given year, about 16 percent of the starting players in the NFL entered the league as undrafted rookies.

          If Snead's math holds up, and the Rams' scouting department did its homework, three to four players from this year's crop of rookie free agents will end up starting in the league. Although the Rams have yet to release their list, 23 undrafted rookies have either signed or agreed to terms with the team so far. A few more are expected to be added to the list before the team's rookie minicamp next week.

          That's more undrafted rookies than the Rams usually sign, but only because the NFL decided to increase the offseason/training camp roster size to 90 players or 10 more than usual shortly before the draft. Even so, the Rams have signed so many undrafted rookies that they've had to release some veterans to stay within the 90-man limit.

          Five players were released Monday: tight end Demarco Cosby, defensive tackle John Henderson, cornerback Nate Ness, running back Quinn Porter and cornerback Chris Smith.

          Cosby, from Central Missouri State, spent two weeks on the Rams' practice squad last year.

          Henderson spent the entire 2011 season on the practice squad.

          After an earlier stint on the practice squad, Ness appeared in four late-season games but registered no stats.

          Porter shared kickoff return duties with Jerious Norwood last season, averaging 22.2 yards on 25 returns, with a long of 32 yards.

          After an earlier stint on the practice squad, Smith appeared in three late-season games, registering one tackle from scrimmage and two special teams tackles.

          Coach Jeff Fisher is a firm believer in mining talent from the ranks of the undrafted. "It's a very, very important process," he said.

          There are several potential nuggets among the rookie free agents already headed to St. Louis. (The Rams are expected to release the official list today.)

          For example, the Rams had a draftable grade on Duke safety Matt Daniels, who was team MVP in 2011 and the first Blue Devils safety to earn All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors since 1995. He's 6-0, 212, and ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds at Duke's pro day. He had 126 tackles, two interceptions and 14 pass breakups last season, and has a reputation as a physical tackler.

          Perhaps the most surprising draft development at Louisiana State was that tight end DeAngelo Peterson did not get drafted. But he will be thrown into the tight end mix with the Rams. At 6-3, 243, Peterson lacks ideal size and has...
          -05-01-2012, 06:11 AM
        • Rambos
          Rams stock up on undrafted rookies
          by Rambos
          BY JIM THOMAS

          Rams general manager Les Snead says that in any given year, about 16 percent of the starting players in the NFL entered the league as undrafted rookies.

          If Snead's math holds up, and the Rams' scouting department did its homework, three to four players from this year's crop of rookie free agents will end up starting in the league. Although the Rams have yet to release their list, 23 undrafted rookies have either signed or agreed to terms with the team so far. A few more are expected to be added to the list before the team's rookie minicamp next week.

          That's more undrafted rookies than the Rams usually sign, but only because the NFL decided to increase the offseason/training camp roster size to 90 players — or 10 more than usual — shortly before the draft. Even so, the Rams have signed so many undrafted rookies that they've had to release some veterans to stay within the 90-man limit.

          Five players were released Monday: tight end Demarco Cosby, defensive tackle John Henderson, cornerback Nate Ness, running back Quinn Porter and cornerback Chris Smith.

          • Cosby, from Central Missouri State, spent two weeks on the Rams' practice squad last year.

          • Henderson spent the entire 2011 season on the practice squad.

          • After an earlier stint on the practice squad, Ness appeared in four late-season games but registered no stats.

          • Porter shared kickoff return duties with Jerious Norwood last season, averaging 22.2 yards on 25 returns, with a long of 32 yards.

          • After an earlier stint on the practice squad, Smith appeared in three late-season games, registering one tackle from scrimmage and two special teams tackles.

          Coach Jeff Fisher is a firm believer in mining talent from the ranks of the undrafted. "It's a very, very important process," he said.

          There are several potential nuggets among the rookie free agents already headed to St. Louis. (The Rams are expected to release the official list today.)

          For example, the Rams had a draftable grade on Duke safety Matt Daniels, who was team MVP in 2011 and the first Blue Devils safety to earn All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors since 1995. He's 6-0, 212, and ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds at Duke's pro day. He had 126 tackles, two interceptions and 14 pass breakups last season, and has a reputation as a physical tackler.

          Perhaps the most surprising draft development at Louisiana State was that tight end DeAngelo Peterson did not get drafted. But he will be thrown into the tight end mix with the Rams. At 6-3, 243, Peterson lacks ideal size and has average speed (4.76) for the position. On a team without a great passing game, he caught 18 passes for 179 yards last season.

          The Rams attempted to address their shortage of linebackers by adding undrafted rookies Sammy Brown...
          -05-03-2012, 09:11 AM
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