The New Orleans Saints still haven’t announced an official list of undrafted free agent signings, so I had to refer to the team’s officially-incomplete roster at NewOrleansSaints.com. Any inaccuracies on this list are due to a failure of research on my part.
So let’s get into this week’s Weekend Content, where I’m presenting a power ranking of the dozen undrafted free agents currently on the team roster:
12. Offensive tackle Nate Wozniak, Minnesota
It’s unfortunate, but somebody has to be ranked last, and in this case it’s the big tight end who was immediately converted to playing offensive tackle. Props to Wozniak for telling the Atlanta Falcons, “no thanks” and signing with the Saints after the draft, but he’s got a tough road ahead of him.
11. Defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth, South Carolina
It’ll take some time before Stallworth can prove his power level, but for now he’s stuck behind a more-accomplished peer in Henry Mondeuax and the Saints’ young, ascending defensive line rotation - Sheldon Rankins and Tyeler Davison figure to start with David Onyemata seeing heavy action, and last year’s preseason darling Mitchell Loewen returning from an injury.
10. Defensive back J.T. Gray, Mississippi State
It’s not clear yet where J.T. Gray will line up, which is a problem. He filled in at slot corner, box safety, rover/money/star linebacker, and other odd jobs in college and doesn’t yet have an official designation for the Saints. But that broad-ranging skills set matches what was asked of Kenny Vaccaro last year, so Gray at least has an immediate path to fitting the defense.
9. Linebacker Colton Jumper, Tennessee
The Saints have a bunch of linebackers, but just a few really good linebackers at the top and some older fringe players behind them - names like Nathan Stupar and Craig Robertson. Jumper played well against the run in college and could push one of those guys off the roster if he stands out on special teams and can show quick close on the ball during the preseason. More than anything, he needs to show he can affect the game in pass coverage.
8. Linebacker KeShun Freeman, Georgia Tech
We’ve got a strongside linebacker with size (6-foot-2, 240-pounds) and production (20.5 tackles for loss in college) who could ably step in behind A.J. Klein or Hau’oli Kikaha while making plays on special teams. That’s not a skills set the Saints have an abundance of. Freeman was a recent signee with the Saints after trying his hand in two weekends of rookie minicamps with the Saints and Baltimore Ravens, so the must have seen something they like.
7. Interior offensive lineman Cory Helms, South Carolina
Versatility isn’t exactly an asset at every position, but it is along the offensive line. Helms has started at center and guard for two different programs (South Carolina and Wake Forest) and could take advantage of the uncertainty found in Senio Kelemete’s absence. Cameron Tom and Will Clapp figure to have better odds to make the final roster, but Helms shouldn’t be ruled out.
6. Defensive tackle Hendry Mondeaux, Oregon
Henry Mondeaux can play! He’s a taller lineman (6-foot-4, 280-pounds) in the mold of Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner who had 10 sacks the last three years as a starter. I could see him really competing with Loewen for the fourth interior lineman spot as a nice developmental project now that Onyemata is nearing his fullest potential (and a contract year in 2020).
5. Fullback Ryan Yuracheck, Marshall
Yuracheck didn’t really impress at his pro day workout, but he showed in college to be a reliable passing target on underneath routes the last three years as a starter - catching 126 passes and 24 touchdowns. He’s a competent enough blocker, and should be good competition for Zach Line for that gig. I think he offers some skills the Saints don’t really have.
4. Cornerback Linden Stephens, Cincinnati
The Saints made it clear that they liked Stephens back at the East-West Shrine Game, and he ended up joining the team as an undrafted free agent. It seems like they find a 6-foot-0, 190-pound UDFA every year who plays well in the preseason and earns more action as the regular season wears on - think Ken Crawley’s career path.
3. Wide receiver Keith Kirkwood, Temple
Kirkwood had a quiet rookie minicamp, but it was a confident quiet. He was one of the cornerstones for Temple’s passing offense and, according to people close to the program, one of the coaching staff’s favorite players. He’s a player who has enough talent and a clear mind to impact soon and grow into a bigger role over time. Don’t sleep on him.
2. Tight end Deon Yelder, Western Kencuky
It was awesome to see a tight end getting open down the seam and making over-the-shoulder catches in midair last weekend. It’s been quite some time since that’s happened on the Saints’ practice field, much less in games, but Yelder accomplished it. He’s the front-runner to get a roster spot out of the current crop of undrafted rookies, but he didn’t capture my heart the way the next contender did:
1. Quarterback J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Has any undrafted rookie made a better first impression than Barrett so far? He did everything asked of him well at rookie minicamps, which admittedly wasn’t much. We’ll get a better judge of his power in upcoming organized team activities, like the traditional post-practice quarterbacks challenge. But for now the leading spot is Barrett’s to lose.
Alright, that was fun. Which undrafted rookie are you enamored with?