One the draft concluded, the Saints were already well prepared for this out-of-the-ordinary undrafted free agency process. That preparation lead them to landing 13 UDFAs so far, all of which will be vying for a sport on the Saints’ 53-man roster to start the season.
New Orleans has been a particularly friendly UDFA destination with multiple making the roster or appearing throughout their first season. The last ten of which have some from just the last three seasons.
2019: WR Deonte Harris, WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey, DT Shy Tuttle, OL Ethan Greenidge, DE Carl Granderson
2018: WR Keith Kirkwood, S JT Gray, DT Taylor Stallworth
2017: OL Cameron Tom, CB Arthur Maulet
With that track record, it is reasonable to expect that at least a pair of the Saints’ 13 additions to start the season with the team while others head to the practice squad hopeful of a shot at a later time or with an eventual new team. With an eye toward making the team, here are the five UDFAs that have the best chance to get their pro start sooner rather than later.
OL Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon
Oregon OL Calvin Throckmorton was a great addition to the #SeniorBowl. I thought he was one of the better lineman today. Strictly at left tackle, Throckmorton absolutely handled bodies due to his power and finishing toughness. The lack of length in pass protection was evident. pic.twitter.com/GXCCLpCvoN— Gavino Borquez (@GavinoBorquez) January 22, 2020
Doc Throck, as he was called at Oregon, carries some of the most important elements to sticking in the New Orleans offensive line; versatility and intelligence.
Throckmorton played just about every position along the Ducks’ trenches and did so with great success. Over the last three seasons he only allowed one sack. That sack came in 2018, the season where he played four of five offensive line positions. Despite jumping all around the line, only being responsible for a single sack is pretty impressive.
He gets hit for his short arms often times as well as his athletic testing. However, it has been a bit overblown as he projects more as an interior offensive lineman that can play tackle in a pinch. That versatility, even only in a pinch, can end up being a huge value to New Orleans who sometimes finds their way in that pinch a bit more than the organization would like.
One of the better stories about Throckmorton comes from Senior Bowl week where he was a late add on the Tuesday game week. He packed up, headed to Mobile, and by Wednesday when he hit the practice field, knew the playbook. Those smarts, particularly in this unique offseason setting, are invaluable.
WR Marquez Callaway, Tennessee
Marquez Callaway looks like a legit redzone target. He continuously Moss’d DBs pic.twitter.com/CS0pR9auyr— Joe Horns Cell Phone (@JoeHornsPhone) April 28, 2020
There will be a lot of competition for the fourth and potentially fifth wide receiver depth chart spots, but Callaway should be deep in the conversation.
While he does not hit the popular Dominator score (contributing 25% of the team’s passing yardage in a receiver’s best year) he is not far behind at 22% in 2019. Really not that bad considering he did not have the advantage of manufactured yardage at Knoxville, catching only one screen pass in 2019. His athletic testing is very encouraging as well. At 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds, he already checks boxes for his physical profile, but running a 4.55 unofficial 40 at the Combine while registering a 38.5” vertical and 126” board jump shows the explosion he packs into his game. That explosion is evident when he gets his chance as 50-50 balls.
Many Volunteers fans found themselves calling for more targets for Callaway all season. His 21.2 yards per catch average is eye-popping. Worth noting though that had the second-highest depth of target in his class at 19.8 with only 4.6 yards after the catch. While that gives the impression he is not extremely productive after the catch, his return abilities give another perspective into that aspect of Callaway’s game.
LB Joe Bachie, Michigan State
Joe Bachie, ladies and gentlemen pic.twitter.com/NqrYcCFZHQ— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) September 21, 2019
To many, Bachie was a early day three selection at the latest. He ended up going undrafted likely because of his PED suspension in 2019. Now that he has landed with a team, it will be his reputation as a run stopper and volume tackler that he hopes get him on an NFL roster.
Bachie totaled over 100 tackles in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons and was well on his way to a three-peat in 2019 with 72 tackles before his suspension came through. He did pile on at least nine missed tackles in each of those seasons, but also did not have many efficient tacklers around him either.
Where Bachie can show improvement to help his chances will come in coverage. He has shown his ability to drop back in certain spots of the defense, but in terms of being a sideline-to-sideline coverage guy, he just has not shown that yet. If he can boost that element of his game, he could help himself ascend the depth chart to an roster spot at the top of the season.
With the uncertainty surrounding Kiko Alonso’s recovery timetable, there may be an extra spot available at the second level early. Bachie’s skillset as a run stuffer and two-down guy could be a welcome piece of depth should Alonso need additional time.
DL Malcolm Roach, Texas
MALCOLM ROACH WITH ANOTHER SACK ON 3RD DOWN.— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) November 29, 2019
Have yourself a day, young man! pic.twitter.com/fffZD4izAX
In 2018 it was Taylor Stallworth. In 2019, Shy Tuttle. Now, Roach has the potential to be the third straight Saints defensive lineman to make the roster as a UDFA.
Roach packs a promising combination of size and athleticism. At 6-foot-2 and 297 pounds he put on a show running a 4.84 40 at the NFL Combine. He also impressed during the position drills in Indianapolis as well. He will bring important versatility with him into camp as an edge defender in college who is poised to move inside in the pros. His game could end up serving a role much like Mario Edwards Jr’s.
A Baton Rouge native, Roach has a lot to play for over the summer en route to a potential roster spot. He has worked with Delvin Breaux in the past who speaks very highly of him, and has many ties to the state of Louisiana. Even though he did not choose to sign with the Saints because of that, one has to imagine landing with the team would be an incredible outcome for the young lineman.
RB Tony Jones Jr., Notre Dame
Jones has gotten a lot of attention by the fanbase since landing in New Orleans. Some comparisons have been thrown around between he and former Saints RB Mark Ingram. While Ingram clearly had the better college career than Jones, there are some real similarities between the two coming into the league
Mark Ingram: 5’9”, 215 pounds, 4.62 40, 31.5” vert, and 118” broad jump
Tony Jones Jr.: 5’10, 220 pounds, 4.68u 40, 32.5” vert and 119” broad jump
Both backs have also gotten the “bowling ball” moniker thrown around about them, they both play a very physical brand of running back, and they are both more than serviceable as blockers as well. Jones also stakes his claim as a special teams asset tying for third in coverage tackles in 2017 with nine. With that, it is not that hard to see how Jones makes this list. His 6.0 rushing average in 2019 certainly helps as well.
Fun fact about Jones. He forced a fumble off of an interception in against Georgia in 2019. That means that Jones has caused more fumbles than he has committed as a runner. He never fumbled during his college career despite touching the ball a total of 298 times. Perhaps that is the most important delineation between he and Mark Ingram.
Jones has a pretty clear path to the roster as well as the third running back. However, he will have to beat out Dwayne Washington who is returning to the team as the incumbent. Special teams is what has set Washington apart before, can Jones close the gap?
How do you feel about the Saints’ UDFA class? Who has the best shot at the roster? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA