Towards the end of the seventh round, teams start narrowing down who might be available after the draft and who to go after. Usually the New Orleans Saints sign between ten and fifteen players to come in and compete, and that was no different after the 2013 NFL Draft.
As of right now, the Black & Gold have signed 13 undrafted free agents (UDFAs) to contracts. Those players include:
- Elliott Mealer, C, Michigan
- Tim Lelito, OL, Grand Valley
- Eric Martin, DL, Nebraska
- Ryan Griffin, QB, Tulane
- Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
- Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina
- Rod Sweeting, CB, Georgia Tech
- Rayford Shipman, OLB, Central Florida
- Keavon Milton, TE, UL Monroe
- Ryan Lacy, CB, Utah
- Shawne Alston, RB, West Virginia
- Glenn Foster, DL, Illinois
- Josh Hill, TE, Idaho St.
As any Who Dat knows, UDFAs are what help build this team more than any other, and don't be surprised if a few even make it on the final roster as plenty have done before.
Which ones are the players who will stick around and become Pierre Thomas' or Jo-Lonn Dunbar's? Which ones are just "camp bodies?"
No one can tell for sure yet which one, if any, will make the final roster, but there are some very good candidates in this bunch, especially the linebackers.
Chase Thomas, Eric Martin, Ray Shipman and Kevin Reddick all have a very good chance at making the Saints' final roster given the lack of quality depth there is behind the starters. Thomas will be an instant fan-favorite with his style of play. The guy might not be "freakishly athletic," but his football IQ, motor, and instincts are all pluses in my book. He could give sixth-round pick Rufus Johnson a run for his money for a roster spot. Or both could make it.
Unlike Thomas, Martin and Shipman are not ready to compete in the NFL their rookie season, but do possess some "freakish athletic" ability that, if molded right, could make them key contributors down the road for the Black & Gold.
Martin (great name, huh?) hits like a Mack truck and held his own, as best he could, against offensive tackles despite him only weighing 237 lbs. The difference between that playing weight and him playing at around 255 lbs. could mean the difference between winning and losing those battles against athletic lineman like Reid Fragel. His speed and power would be lethal at a heavier weight. Other than that, his coverage skills are not good, but that is more a product of inexperience than talent.
Shipman is a former Florida University basketball player and is still learning the position, but all of the talent is there. He was productive in spurts at Central Florida.
Reddick is in the same boat as Thomas. At his full potential, he should win a backup role over Ramon Humber, Chris Chamberlain and Will Herring, but it's desire that's the question. He runs hot and cold, and that could be a reason why he went undrafted. He is more of a run defender than coverage linebacker, but he needs big bodies to keep him clean while he flows to the ball. He won't go through blocks; he will go around them and get run out of the play.
Miss Chris Ivory already? Meet Shawne Alston. Runs the same way as ol' #29 and even has a little fumblitis problem like Ivory. He just doesn't have the dreads but, hey, there is always Travaris Cadet's.
On the offensive line, the Saints signed a pair of interior lineman who are very interesting prospects. Tim Lelito and Elliott Mealer are both overachieving, blue-collar guards and centers who will be in camp for nothing more than to add depth on the line before cuts are made, but New Orleans loves putting lineman on the practice squad. That's probably going to be the case with the best out of these two.
Keavon Milton is an interesting prospect at tight end, or defensive end, or offensive line, or wherever the Saints decide to try him out at. He was a TE at UL-Monroe but has been worked out at DE and along the interior OL during the draft process. That versatility is what will cause him to become one of Payton and Loomis' long-term projects, along with the other TE they picked up in UDFA, Josh Hill.
Hill is more in the receiving tight end mold of a Jimmy Graham or Michael Higgins. He is a Boise St. transfer who is 6'5" 246 lbs. and can run a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash. His blocking is his Achilles heel, but it did improve toward the end of last season.
Ryan Griffin of Tulane was a really good pickup after the draft. It's an actual steal if you consider that many local media-types were calling Griffin to be drafted to the Saints in the 6th round. If he had, not one person would have batted an eye at that news and actually applauded the pick probably.
Griffin should have been drafted, like a few on this list this year, but his fall is the Saints' and his gain. Learning from Payton and Drew Brees? Ask Chase Daniel how lucrative that made him this off-season.
Glenn Foster, out of Illinois, is a late riser in this draft process after a stellar Pro Day in which he ran a 4.78 in the 40 and had a 40" vertical, all while weighing in at 286 lbs. He was hidden as a defensive tackle with the Illini but in Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense, his athleticism and burst can really be shown off at defensive end.
Last, but certainly the least, are the cornerbacks that the Saints picked up after the draft. Ryan Lacy and Rod Sweeting. These two guys, along with Thomas, Reddick and Griffin, are players that I fail to reason with the fact that they went undrafted. Lacy and Sweeting, just like the other guys, are guys whose intangibles are off the charts, but there are supposed holes in each player's games.
I've watched four games of Lacy's and still can't find any quarterback, including Matt Barkley, who would consistently challenge the Ute. Those were all Pac-12 games also. The biggest knock on him is his height. He is pushing 5'9" and, in the bigger corner world that exists today with big receivers blah blah blah, he is pushed down the ranks. The very few times that Barkley did throw at him was when Robert Woods and, one time, Marqise Lee were lined up on him. Ask those guys how that turned out.
Sweeting is a different story than Lacy. His height isn't an issue or his speed, like some thought it would be, but he ran a 4.38 at the Combine so that can be the issue why he went undrafted. If I had to put my finger on it, I'd probably say it was his lack of physicality and inability to turn and run with receivers despite his speed, but that just takes rough training camp and technique drills to shore that up.
All in all, when your team has very few draft picks, you tend to get a little more intrigued by the talent they bring in after the draft. And since the Saints are pretty damn good at finding capable players there, the excitement and intrigue over these guys is justified.
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