2015 NFL Draft: Best UDFA Signings

Over the past few weeks, I have broken down my favorite picks of rounds 1-7 of the 2015 NFL Draft. Now it is time for the 8th round: Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA). Despite not being drafted, these players play a crucial role on every team in the league, year in and year out. Big names such as Arian Foster, Wes Welker, Jeff Saturday, Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates, and Warren Moon were all undrafted. 

Bouncing between teams before finding consistent playing time is common for UDFA. They often take unconventional paths to playing time, and many learn to play special teams to remain in the NFL. 

Here are my top-rated UDFA from the 2015 draft class:

OL La'El Collins, LSU - Dallas Cowboys

If there was any debate about which team has the best offensive line in the NFL, the discussion ended with the signing of La'El Collins. He was ranked fourth overall on my big board and graded as the top offensive lineman in the class. 

Police announced just prior to the draft that they intended to question Collins about the his ex-girlfriend's homicide, and his connection to the incident scared potential suitors away. Ultimately, he was never considered a suspect and avoided a criminal charge.

The possibility that the NFL reached out to teams and told them not to select Collins is doubtful but plausible. It was shocking that all 32 teams passed up a consensus 1st round talent in the 7th round, even when taking into account Collins' legal issues. 

7th round picks are more likely to be cut than to ever play meaningful snaps in the NFL. Without question, a 7th round pick should have been used on Collins. Once Grady Jarrett came off the board at the top of the 5th round, La'El Collins would have been my next pick. 

The Cowboys were the big winners in this situation, adding another elite talent to an offensive line already stacked with three 1st round picks (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick). As long as Collins performs to his potential, he will recoup the money he lost by missing out during the draft. 

DL Bobby Richardson, Indiana - New Orleans Saints

Photo Credit: bigeasybeliever.com

It was extremely surprising that Bobby Richardson was not drafted. He is a bit undersized for defensive tackle, the position he played primarily in college, at 6'3 - 285 lbs. And he has dealt with some nagging injuries in the past. However, he is far more physically talented than many of the players selected in rounds six and seven. 

Richardson has long arms (34 5/8 inches) that allow him to play taller than his height would indicate. He held his own against 5th overall pick OL Brandon Scherff and in doing so proved he is capable of battling NFL caliber offensive lineman. Richardson finished his senior season with 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, respectable numbers for a defensive tackle. 

Richardson fits best as a 5 technique 3-4 DE who can slide inside on passing downs. He will have to earn his reps and wait his turn for playing time, but Richardson has the potential to be a solid NFL player.

EDGE/TE Lynden Trail, Norfolk State - Houston Texans

In the 6th and 7th rounds, high risk-high reward guys should trump low-ceiling, safe players. Lynden Trail is certainly the former and a shrewd deal by the Texans, who swooped him up after the draft concluded. 

At 6'7 - 270 lbs with 34 7/8 inch arms, Trail possesses a rare physical skill set. However, he ran a disappointing 4.91 second 40 yard dash at the combine and played against weak competition in college, so he was not an early round pick. 

The 40 yard dash is not particularly relevant in Trail's case, though it surely played a role in his slide in the draft. Whether he can adjust to the massive improvement in talent of his opponents in the NFL is the more pressing issue. 

Players with a ceiling as high as Trail's rarely make it through seven rounds without being drafted. At the Senior Bowl, he worked at tight end as well as outside linebacker, but the Texans will keep him at outside linebacker. Trail is an intriguing prospect and one to look out for in the future. 

CB Troy Hill, Oregon - Cincinatti Bengals

Photo Credit: uwire.com

Troy Hill's teammate, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, was the more touted of the corner-back pairing upon entering the draft and was selected in the 7th round by the Browns. Hill is a talented player in his own right and deserved to be drafted. 

Hill's diminutive physical stature (5'10 - 182 lbs), underwhelming combine performance, and off-field concerns led to his free agent status. The one drill he did perform well at the combine, the 3 cone drill (6.81 seconds), is arguably the most important for corner-backs and a drill that the New England Patriots have been known to prioritize. 

Hill certainly has limitations, and likely belongs as a slot corner rather than on the outside. All things considered, the Bengals added a talented, young defensive back.

Honorable Mentions:

NFC: S Anthony Harris (Vikings), EDGE Marcus Rush (49ers), CB Garry Peters (Panthers), LB James Vaughters (Packers), RB Malcolm Brown (Rams), CB Ladarius Gunter (Packers), RB Thomas Rawls (Seahawks), DT Joey Mbu (Falcons), CB Kevin White (Falcons), WR Dres Anderson (49ers), CB Justin Coleman (Vikings)

AFC: S Cody Prewitt (Titans), LB Taiwan Jones (Jets), WR DeAndre Carter (Ravens), C BJ Finney (Steelers), C Greg Mancz (Texans), LB Zach Vigil (Dolphins), LB Mike Hull (Dolphins), DT Derrick Lott (Titans), LB Alani Fua (Cardinals)

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