While the NFL Draft symbolizes dreams coming true for hundreds of young football players, it also carries disappointment for some. Those who are not selected harbor the tag of being an undrafted player and face an uphill climb to make an NFL roster and impact the league. Nonetheless, each draft class yields a handful of undrafted free agents who make a 53-man roster as rookies in August, and several who become contributors and even stars in the NFL. Wes Welker, James Harrison, and Tony Romo are all NFL legends who began their careers as undrafted free agents. What are a few names from this year’s crop of undrafted players you should watch? I’ll start with a player you might already be familiar with…
Justyn Ross, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Unlike many other undrafted free agents, Ross is widely known to college football fans. In 2018, Ross exploded onto the scene with a 1,000-yard receiving season in his first year as a Clemson Tiger. He rose to instant stardom and many thought he would become a first-round pick when he became eligible for the draft. Unfortunately, Ross’s career took a turn for the worse when he suffered a spinal injury that threatened his future as a football player and caused him to miss the 2020 season. While he was not as productive when he returned to the gridiron in 2021, he still showed the same savvy, hand strength, and body control that could allow him to make the Chiefs’ roster and catch some passes as a rookie.
Carson Strong, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Strong is another prospect that was once thought of as a future first-round pick. Starring in Nevada’s pass-happy offense, he showed off his cannon of an arm and beautiful deep-ball accuracy. Like Ross, Strong likely went undrafted because of medical concerns. He has had multiple surgeries on his knee and his mobility is rather limited as a result. Despite this, I believe Strong can last a long time in the NFL as a backup, as long as his knee holds up, because he is accurate to all three levels of the field and can break open the game with his arm. I could see him beating out veteran Reid Sinnett for the QB3 spot on the Eagles and making their 53-man roster.
Dai’Jean Dixon, WR, New Orleans Saints
While Ross and Strong were big-name prospects who fell due to injury, Dixon likely went undrafted simply for being overlooked. This happens to small-school players, but often players coming from lower levels make for the sneakiest late-round and undrafted steals. Dixon, who dominated the competition at Nicholls State, could be the next in line to prove he belongs in the NFL. Dixon has a really good combination of size and athletic ability, as well as an impressive catch radius. The Saints’ WR room got more crowded with the additions of Chris Olave and more recently Jarvis Landry, but Dixon has a shot at making the roster and forging a solid career in the NFL.
Britain Covey, WR/KR, Philadelphia Eagles
At 5’8″ it was going to be difficult for Covey to be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. NFL teams often set thresholds for measurables and are reluctant to make exceptions. Covey is certainly worthy of one though. He is a really quick, smooth route-runner with reliable hands. Covey has the potential to become a team’s starting slot receiver at some point in his career, but his ability to return kicks is likely his calling card and his best shot to make a roster this off-season.
Kellen Diesch, OT, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins actually assembled a really strong class of undrafted free agents, and Kellen Diesch was their top find. The 6’7″ tackle from Arizona State might be taller than usual for the position, but he uses this as an advantage more than a disadvantage to seal the edge. His athletic ability is quite impressive for his size, and he is a nice developmental option at a premium position who could slide into the back of the Dolphins’ depth chart and work his way up from there.