For all the hype that surrounds the NFL Draft year after year, the moves teams make after the seven rounds are completed are often just as important.
Every season teams unearth undrafted free agents who prove to be gems who make a significant impact as rookies.
The best organizations are those who supplement their draft picks with strong UDFA signings, with J.C. Jackson’s contribution to the 2018 Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots (six passes defensed and three interceptions) one of the most recent of the multitude examples of undrafted guys quickly proving valuable.
Which players have the best odds of being UDFA difference-makers in 2019? Here we look at five whose names were not called in Tennessee, but will be on the lips of announcers regularly during the upcoming season.
5. Greg Dortch – WR, New York Jets
Dortch had plenty of fans in the pre-draft process and the fact he did not hear his name called across three days raised eyebrows.
However, he could hardly have asked for a better landing spot. Though he is strictly a slot receiver, Dortch has a clear path to becoming an immediate contributor for a Jets team shorn of talent at receiver below Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa.
Undersized but with the ability to produce electrifying plays with his elusiveness when he gets the ball in his hands in space, Dortch can be an explosive big-play threat as a slot receiver and as a returner, having fielded both punts and kicks at Wake Forest.
Dortch had 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore for the Demon Deacons. He is unlikely to come anywhere close to replicating that production as a rookie but should have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth on a playmaker-deficient team.
Greg Dortch after the catch. Broke the DBs ankles with that little jab step pic.twitter.com/HgCCKi4xql
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) October 28, 2017
4. Andrew Beck – TE, New England Patriots
In a post-Rob Gronkowski world, the Patriots appear poised to rely on Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Benjamin Watson, who came out of retirement to sign with New England, at tight end.
That is not exactly the most inspiring pair and below them there is little in the way of players capable of filling the void.
The door is therefore open for Beck, whose skills as a blocker will have helped entice Bill Belichick make him their highest-paid UDFA.
With his strength at the point of attack as a blocker and a fondness for bowling people over once he gets the ball in his hands, Beck shares some of same traits Gronk possessed.
Beck obviously does not have anywhere close to the same athletic ability as Gronkowski and did not produce consistently in college. However, he has the skill set to be a solid if unspectacular pro at tight end and could soon become a prominent part of the offense if those above him disappoint.
Here’s a look at UDFA Andrew Beck, the only tight end the Patriots added this weekend. He was mostly a blocker at Texas but might have some untapped receiving potential. Very good athlete. pic.twitter.com/9eThdzKC6c
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) April 28, 2019
3. Devine Ozigbo – RB, New Orleans Saints
With Mark Ingram now on the Ravens, the Saints need somebody to step up and provide a complement to Alvin Kamara.
They signed Latavius Murray to help fill the void left by Ingram, but he is a running back whose upside is limited and who is entering the final season on his 20s.
New Orleans would likely be better served putting their faith in a long-term option in Ozigbo, who went undrafted despite averaging seven yards per carry in his final season at Nebraska.
Blessed with an impressive combination of power and foot quickness, Ozigbo comes into the pros with little tread on the tires having only carried the ball 419 times across four seasons.
Murray may initially get what was Ingram’s share of the workload but, should Ozigbo earn his chance, expect the former Cornhusker to make the most of it playing behind an excellent offensive line in a high-powered attack.
This is a savvy play by Devine Ozigbo.
– Footwork is the key, outside cut and explode off the outside foot to bounce this outside, good contact balance breaking two tackles
– Slight hitch in step to allow blocks to develop and then bursts through hole
– Hit the 2nd gear pic.twitter.com/aF7CTzqY7Q
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) April 19, 2019
2. Wyatt Ray – EDGE, Cleveland Browns
Ray’s senior season breakout at Boston College was not enough to get him drafted, allowing the Browns to land a player with the talent to contribute to an already stacked pass rush.
Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon and Genard Avery will provide the bulk of the edge pressure for Cleveland in 2019, but Ray – who had 11.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2018 – could develop into a valuable rotational guy.
Opportunity will be an obvious issue for Ray, who was criticized for a lack of a pass-rush plan and slow releases out of his stance in the lead up to the draft. Yet if he gets even a few snaps a game then Ray can make an impact with his length and arc speed.
Boston College EDGE Wyatt Ray (6'2 250) with a nice stab-snatch here for the sack. pic.twitter.com/wfUhu31PUW
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) September 19, 2018
1. Daniel Wise – DL, Dallas Cowboys
There is plenty of competition on the Dallas defensive line but Wise is an intriguing addition to a strong group with a history of production at Kansas.
With 43 tackles for loss and 17 sacks in four seasons, the slightly undersized was a consistent penetrative force up the middle for the Jayhawks.
Daniel Wise's quickness and first step is great. Dude just wins off the line at times.pic.twitter.com/TGwdAK9qor
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 14, 2019
The Cowboys used their highest pick of the draft on another interior defensive lineman in Trysten Hill. However, in an ideal world most teams would like to be three deep at every position up front and Wise should get plenty of shots to prove his worth.
If his college production is any indicator, it would be wise to bet on him capitalizing on such chances.