The 2023 NFL Draft concluded already, but the time for acquiring undrafted rookie players has not. Let’s see how the Jacksonville Jaguars want to use their undrafted free agents. Here we are going to look at the undrafted free agent whom we think will likely make the Jaguars’ final roster.
After the NFL Draft concludes, teams shift their focus toward recruiting undrafted free agents. In fact, some teams start scouting for these players even while the draft is still ongoing. While these athletes were not selected in any of the seven rounds, many of them have remarkable talents and a genuine chance to make it onto an NFL team’s roster.
Undrafted players, together with their agents, have the advantage of choosing the best possible situation for them. They actively search for teams that have vacancies in specific positions where they can make a substantial contribution.
It’s worth noting that the previous year’s undrafted free-agent class included some exceptional players. For example, tight end Armani Rogers from the Washington Commanders, linebacker Jack Sanborn from the Chicago Bears, and kicker Cameron Dicker from the Los Angeles Chargers were all standouts. Bengals running back Jaylen Warren could also be added to this impressive list.
Now the question arises — which undrafted free agents from the 2023 class have the best chances of making it to the Jacksonville Jaguars depth chart?
Let’s look at the undrafted free agent whom we think will likely make the Jaguars’ final roster.
CB Kaleb Hayes
Despite ranking 28th in yards allowed last season, the Jaguars made little effort to address their pass defense. The team’s only notable moves in the secondary were on Day 3 of the draft, where they added Antonio Johnson, Christian Braswell, and Erick Hallett II. Consequently, Kaleb Hayes, who joined as a UDFA, has a decent shot at making the roster in 2023. Jacksonville definitely needs to improve the secondary. As such, the Jags are looking to throw as many solutions at the problem as possible.
Hayes’ athletic potential is the other half of the equation. The 5’11, 194-pound corner from Brigham Young University ran a blistering 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. He also had a 40-inch vertical and knocked out 17 reps of the 225-pound bench press on his pro day. These are the athletic traits that defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell can work with.
Kaleb Hayes runs a 4.31 40 pic.twitter.com/cWrYve8s7j
— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) March 24, 2023
In addition to his athletic ability, Hayes brings strong coverage skills to Jacksonville. In college, he racked up an impressive 26 pass breakups over four seasons at BYU and Oregon State. Sure, he didn’t have any interceptions in college. Still, he’s a speedy, powerful cornerback who has demonstrated his ability to make plays on the ball. As a result, Hayes could see early playing time as a rotational defender and contributor on special teams.
Now, take note that the Jaguars have Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams leading the cornerback depth chart. Meanwhile, Tre Herndon is set to start in the slot for the 2023 season. However, there are several open spots in the secondary. This is why many scouts believe undrafted free agent Kaleb Hayes has a legitimate chance of making the Jags’ 53-man roster.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell can work with Hayes’ athletic skills. That said, Hayes also brings coverage ability, having recorded 26 pass breakups in four seasons at BYU and Oregon State. While he has the size and athleticism to play cornerback in the NFL, he’ll need to work on route recognition and tackling to solidify his place in Jacksonville.
As for Johnson and Braswell, it’ll be interesting how they will also compete for their CB spots. Johnson played nickel at Texas A&M and could get reps in the slot, although head coach Doug Pederson said he’ll play safety. For his part, Braswell will compete with a crowded cornerback group that includes Gregory Junior, Montaric Brown, Tevaughn Campbell, and Chris Claybrooks for three roster spots in 2023.
Hayes and Braswell could both be competing for a few open roster spots on the Jaguars. The truth is that they both have a realistic shot at securing one. In addition, Claybrooks contributed heavily on special teams last season. He is entering a contract year and legal issues could harm his chances of making the team. Junior and Brown are both entering their second season but neither has shown enough to earn significant playing time. And then there’s Campbell, who played in just five games last year and could be on the chopping block if he doesn’t impress during training camp. This context may give an opening to someone like Hayes.
Ultimately, the available roster spots will likely go to the players who bring the most value to the team. Special teams play is a key factor for players at the bottom of the roster. Now, if Hayes can showcase his talent at cornerback while also carving out a role on special teams, his chances of making the team will improve.
While it’s true that undrafted free agents face an uphill battle to make it in the NFL, many have succeeded through determination and hard work. Hayes will have the opportunity to prove himself and earn a roster spot with the Jaguars.