The Indianapolis Colts signed several undrafted free agents recently. The moves that general manager Ryan Grigson made after the draft have left fans feeling much better than they did about the actual draft itself for the Colts, and I feel the same way. The undrafted free agents were great signings by Grigson, and I think a major part of the reason is because of - and I hate to admit this - the extra few weeks leading up to the draft. Grigson said that the extra time was "borderline torture" but that it gave him time to prepare for the undrafted players, and it seems to have paid off very well for him. I've taken a look at each player and given a brief description of them, then offered my take on the outlook for that player with the Colts.
Qua Cox, CB, Jackson State
At 6-0, 185 pounds, Cox was a star corner for Jackson State and in his junior season he led the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) with five picks. In his senior season, he racked up 32 tackles and 6 pass breakups.. He was a two-time first team All-SWAC player and was a late invite to the Senior Bowl this year. He was a three-year starter at Jackson State and his brother Patrick spent three seasons in the NFL and is now in the CFL as a safety. The folks over at Draft Diamonds called Qua Cox "the most underrated player in the 2014 NFL Draft" and one scout told them that at the Senior Bowl Cox "looked very fluid, and does not lack confidence going up against the best wide outs in the country."
Outlook: Of all the UDFAs the Colts signed, Cox might be the one I'm most interested in seeing take the field. I would like to see him bulk up some and I could even see him moving to safety, but I could also see him fitting in as a nickel or dime corner and I think he has one of the best chances of any of these guys to stick around. He brings nice skills at corner and a developmental guy who could contribute on special teams (likely as a cover guy and/or as a return guy) while either being moved to safety or while being a solid dime corner. Qua Cox is a guy who really intrigues me.
Marcus Hall, G, Ohio State
Of the five starting offensive linemen for the Ohio State Buckeyes last season, the Colts now have two of them. The 6-5, 315 pound player started 31 career games at Ohio State (appearing in 46) and started 25 games over the past two years. He started 13 out of 14 games as a fifth year senior and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention for his play. He played alongside Colts second round draft pick Jack Mewhort at Ohio State and played with Colts fifth round draft pick Jonathan Newsome at Glenville High School in Ohio. Unfortunately, Hall is perhaps best known for making an obscene gesture towards the Michigan crowd in the second quarter of a game last fall after being ejected. Land-Grant Holy Land's Luke Zimmermann wrote of Hall that, "You can't teach size, and at 6'5 312 pounds, Hall's got it. But whether or not he can grow his football IQ and improve his consistency and technique at the next level remains the question."
Outlook: While the Colts could certainly use help along the offensive line, they don't need more linemen, they need better linemen. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that even at a position where the team could use help, I think Hall faces a steep climb to make the roster. I think Hall is an interesting player and I think he stands a chance at making the practice squad, but he'll have to compete in camp to make his presence felt and to earn a spot, even if it's just on the practice squad.
Jonotthan Harrison, C, Florida
The 6-4, 299 pound center started 39 career games for the Florida Gators, playing in 51 career games. In 2013 he started all 12 games at the position and was the only Gators linemen to start 12 games at the same position that season. He was named a team captain by his teammates for his senior season. He also started all 13 games at center in 2012 and appeared on the Rimington Award (the nation's best center) watch list in 2013. He was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in 2014 and he has the strength to go up against defensive linemen and hold his own, standing out as a run blocker. He was a team leader at Florida and a long-time starter and dependable player.
Outlook: We all know the deal with the center position, and by that I mean it has a lot of question marks. We won't know whether Khaled Holmes is the answer or not until we actually see him play, but the backup center position will become key then as we simply don't know what the starter (Holmes) is capable of. To me, if you're looking for a sleeper among the undrafted free agents to make the Colts roster, it's Harrison. He doesn't have to beat out Holmes, he just has to beat out Thomas Austin for the backup center spot. And while I thought Austin played well last preseason, that's something I think Harrison can do.
Tyler Hoover, DE, Michigan State
Hoover has great size at 6-7, 290 pounds, and he enjoyed a successful career at Michigan State. In 43 career games (21 starts), he racked up 93 tackles (9 tackles for loss), 7.5 sacks, 6 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. He started 11 games in 2013 and was named the Michigan State's recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Outlook: Hoover projects as an end in the Colts 3-4 defense, and that means he'll be going up against guys like Cory Redding, Arthur Jones, and Fili Moala for a roster spot. That's not to discredit Hoover as a player, just instead to highlight that it won't be an easy task for him to make the roster. If he impresses enough, the Colts would certainly have room to keep him, but they don't have to have him as a defensive end and I think best case for Hoover is that he makes it onto the practice squad to continue to get some work. Also, he'll be wearing number 63 for the Colts, which will take some getting used to.
Kameron Jackson, CB, Cal
Someone received some bad advice. A record number of underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft, and there were a lot of them who went undrafted - one of them was Kameron Jackson. The small corner (at 5-9, 175 pounds) started 14 games (playing in 30) at Cal, totalling 75 career tackles, 9 passes defended, 4 picks, 2 tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery. He once had a 3-interception game, but in the other 29 games of his career he picked off just one pass. He played in all 12 games in his junior season in 2013 and started 11 of them, even being named Cal's defensive player of the week for one of them.
Outlook: I don't think it's very good. Perhaps Jackson will surprise us in camp, but I just can't help but think that he should have stayed in school another year to try to continue to improve his game. At this point, he's just a guy who doesn't have the size nor the skills to warrant consideration for the final roster, and I would say even the practice squad is a long shot for him. If the Colts want a corner, there are plenty of other guys on this list alone better than Kameron Jackson.
Zach Kerr, NT, Delaware
Kerr, 6-2 and 310 pounds, started every game for Delaware each of the past two seasons after transferring from Maryland after being ruled academically ineligible for the 2011 season. In 2013, Kerr notched 57 tackles (5.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, 4 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. He could fit in either a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense but is a better fit in the 3-4 as a nose tackle, which is exactly where he'll play with the Colts. Kyle Posey of Bolts from the Blue looked at Kerr pre-draft and said of him that, "He's a versatile player that could turn out to be a true gem in this draft. I expect him to go sometime on Day 3, likely the 5th or 6th round, but he's far more talented than that."
Outlook: Kerr is a talented nose tackle who should provide some great competition. The question might end up coming down to two things: 1) how much the Colts plan to or want to play Arthur Jones at nose tackle and 2) how confident the team is in Josh Chapman. I think that Kerr is talented enough to stick around as a depth nose tackle, but it could ultimately come down to the Colts' plans at the position.
Seth Lobato, QB, Northern Colorado
Lobato is a 6-6, 223 pound quarterback who walked-on as at Colorado before he transferred to Northern Colorado. The former college basketball player threw for over 8,000 yards and 53 touchdowns in his college career for Colorado, though he struggled with accuracy and interceptions during that span as well. He was viewed as a late-round or priority free agent and is considered a quarterback with potential but who needs work.
Outlook: Obviously, the best case scenario for Lobato is to play tremendously in training camp and beat out accomplished veteran Matt Hasselbeck for the backup quarterback spot. The Colts won't be keeping three quarterbacks due to them having Andrew Luck as the starter, so Lobato will be competing for the backup spot. I really don't think anyone will beat out Hasselbeck this year, but I think Lobato has a very real chance to replace Chandler Harnish as the practice squad quarterback and as the one who the Colts work on grooming to be Luck's backup next year after Hasselbeck. Truth be told, the real quarterback battle will likely be between Seth Lobato and Chandler Harnish for the practice squad quarterback spot.
Keon Lyn, CB, Syracuse
Lyn appeared in 38 career games with Syracuse, making 89 career tackles (5 for loss), 20 passes defended, 3 picks (1 TD), 2 forced fumbles, and 1 sack. The three-year starter for the Orange missed most of his senior season with a fractured kneecap. He wasn't able to participate in Syracuse's pro day so he held his own pro day later on, and the Colts reportedly attended.
Outlook: Lyn's biggest challenge in making the roster will be the other cornerbacks already on the roster. Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Darius Butler are likely secure in their spots, and then Josh Gordy will likely make the roster as well. That leaves what will likely be one or two spots, and there are quite a few UDFAs that can compete for them. I don't think Lyn has the best chance at making the roster, but an impressive performance in camp could earn him a spot. That said, however, I wouldn't consider it likely and I think when it's all said and done Lyn will be left on the outside looking in.
Dewey McDonald, S, California University of Pennsylvania
As a senior with Cal University (PA) in 2013, McDonald was named team captain and totaled an impressive 89 tackles (6 for loss), 3 picks (3 TDs), and 8 passes defensed. In his career, he racked up 12 picks and finished with the second-most career interception return yards among active Division II players. McDonald, 6-0, 220 pounds, transferred from Fairmont State after his freshman year and spent his last three seasons with Cal.
Outlook: Obviously, the Colts could use another safety as a backup and as insurance, and he was the only true safety that the Colts signed as an undrafted free agent (though it remains to be seen whether they'll attempt to switch any corners to safety). McDonald certainly produced in his collegiate career and looks to be a player who's skills would translate to the NFL level with a bit of work. There's an opening for him to make the roster as a safety, and he has upside. He's another guy to keep an eye on as a possibility to make the roster.
Gregory Moore, WR, Lane College
Gregory Moore is a 6-4, 197 pound receiver who starred at Lane College during his senior season, catching 59 passes for 910 yards and 11 touchdowns. He began his career at junior college (Mesabi Range) but transferred to Lane for his sophomore season, where he started 9 games. He's a guy with good speed and versatility and obviously he brings height to the table as well.
Outlook: The wide receiver position is a loaded one for the Colts this year, but they're always looking toward the future and Moore has the potential to make it in the NFL as a successful slot guy, as he brings great route running and speed to the Colts. The problem he'll have is making the team over guys like Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill, and Griff Whalen, who likely will be among those competing for the final spot or two at the position. After that, competition for the practice squad would be present too. Moore has talent and potential, but the receiver one is a loaded one for the Colts, and I don't see any undrafted receivers doing enough to earn a roster spot.
Nnamdi Obukwelu, DE, Harvard
Obukwelu appeared in 39 games at Harvard over his career and racked up 109 tackles (21 for loss), 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. In his senior season in 2013, the 6-3, 275 pound lineman was named to the first team All-Ivy League team. He also won the George "Bulger" Lowe Award, given annually to the best defensive player in New England. In 2013 Harvard's defense finished seventh in the nation in rush yards allowed, giving up an average of just 97.3 yards on the ground per game. His coach, Tim Murphy, said that, "He controlled he line of scrimmage. He made the linebackers at times look tremendous because he was gobbling up double teams non-stop. He had an impact, a tremendous, dominant year, which is what we had eventually expected was the type of player he would be.''
Outlook: As I wrote earlier about Tyler Hoover, it will be hard for any defensive ends to come in and make the roster due to Cory Redding, Arthur Jones, and Fili Moala already being at the spot, but if a guy is impressive enough he could stick around as a fourth, especially if the Colts intend to play Jones at nose tackle quite a bit. If the Colts were to keep four defensive ends, I think it would be because one of the undrafted guys played really well in preseason and training camp, and while I'm not sure either of them will make the roster, I do like Obukwelu's chances at doing so better than Hoover.
Cody Parkey, K, Auburn
Parkey, a 6-0, 190 pound kicker, converted 14-of-19 field goals in his senior season, as well as 62-of-63 extra point attempts and 69 touchbacks, which led the country. At one point in his career he recorded a streak of 90 consecutive PATs converted, which led the SEC and ranked seventh in the country. He was a three year starter at Auburn and ranks in the top five of all of the school's career kicking records. He was named the most outstanding specialist at the Senior Bowl. He has a very strong leg but he needs to get more accurate.
Outlook: Honestly, Parkey's only chance at making the team is by an injury to Adam Vinatieri in preseason or camp, and considering that he doesn't kick that much during that time, it seems very unlikely. Teams only keep one kicker, and Vinatieri is unquestionably the team's starter - as he's one of the best to ever play the game and was terrific in 2013. Parkey doesn't even have a remote chance at making the team as a kickoff specialist because punter Pat McAfee does a very good job at that as well. Really, Parkey will be trying to impress another team enough to make their roster in 2013, or if not that then he'll be trying to impress the Colts enough to give him a shot after Vinatieri retires.
Eric Pike, OT, Towson
At 6-5, 298 pounds, Eric Pike was a four-year starter at left tackle for Towson, starting 49 career games. He was a co-captain of the team during his senior season and was named an FCS All-American. CBS's Jason La Canfora mentioned that he might go on the third day of the draft, but instead he went undrafted.
Outlook: Pike doesn't have a shot to replace Anthony Castonzo as the team's left tackle, but he could potentially have a chance to beat out Jack Breckner for the backup spot. Even then, especially for the backup linemen, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano love versatility and so Pike will need to show them that he can play other places or show them that he is a very good option to back up Castonzo. I think his chances at making the roster are pretty slim.
Darius Polk, CB, Kent State
Polk really finished his collegiate career in a strong manner, as his junior and senior seasons really helped him to emerge. In his junior year he was named the East Division MVP in the MAC Championship Game and in his senior season he was named to the second team All-MAC team, in addition to being named team captain by his teammates. In 2013, the 5-11, 190 pound corner led Kent State with 7 passes defended and finished fourth on the team in tackles with 60. His coach, Paul Haynes, said that, "I think Polk had a very productive (senior) year. The great thing about him is I think he got better every game, and his leadership was exceptional. He's the type of guy that, regardless of what happens in football, is going to be successful in life."
Outlook: The Colts are in need of depth at corner, but Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Darius Butler are locked in at the position, and Josh Gordy likely will make the roster too. As I mentioned with Keon Lyn, the biggest obstacle to making the roster for Darius Polk will be the other cornerbacks, and while there might be a spot or two open for undrafted guys, I don't think that Polk is the most impressive of the group nor does he have the most upside to work with. He could impress in camp, but I consider his chances at making the roster to be a long shot.
Erik Swoope, TE, Miami
In perhaps the most interesting move the Colts made over the draft weekend, they signed a guy who has never played organized football at any level. Swoope, a 6-5, 220 pound former basketball player for the Miami Hurricanes, started 27 out of 110 games and scored 291 career points, grabbed 186 career rebounds, 37 steals, 31 assists, and 25 blocks in 1,190 minutes played. He shot 51.9 percent from the field and 57.7 percent on free throws. Despite having never played organized football, several teams (including the Broncos) had worked out Swoope before the draft. The Colts press release said of him that, "Although he has not played organized football at any level of his athletic career, Swoope's athleticism gives him the chance to make the transition to football similar to the paths of San Diego tight end Antonio Gates and New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham." It is commonly known that basketball players can transition to make good tight ends.
Outlook: I have no idea what to make of Swoope because, honestly, I've never seen him play football. No one has. But here's what I do know - many tight ends started out as basketball players and many basketball players have translated well to tight end. So I'm not ruling Swoope out and I'm excited to watch the guy play and adjust to the game. But I also know that the Colts have two very good tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, so the spots open for tight ends to make the roster is likely down to two from there. Can Swoope beat out Weslye Saunders or Jack Doyle for one of the backup roles, will he start on the practice squad, or will it be neither of those options? I wish I could give you more, but I just don't know. It will definitely be something to watch going forward.
Eric Thomas, WR, Troy
The man who broke the Sun Belt Conference's record for most career touchdowns (29) signed with the Colts, joining the man who previously held the record, T.Y. Hilton. Eric Thomas, a 6-1, 209 pound receiver, caught 66 passes for 993 yards and 12 touchdowns (good for the 10th most in the country) in his senior season and at one point caught a touchdown in eight straight games. He was named first-team All-Sun Belt and participated in the Senior Bowl, the NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl, and the Medal of Honor Bowl. He ranks in the top three in Troy career records in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Thomas visited the Colts prior to the draft.
Outlook: The production is certainly there. But what about the skills and the roster spot? Now that's a little more uncertain. I think that Thomas could translate to the NFL (though he'll need to continue to work, as will all of these UDFAs), but I have a hard time seeing him beat out Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill, or Griff Whalen for the final spot or two at receiver, and on that note I don't think he'll beat out Gregory Moore either. I guess it depends on what they're looking for, as Moore is a better slot receiver but Thomas a better outside guy, and either way I doubt Thomas makes the roster.
Zurlon Tipton, RB, Central Michigan
Tipton has great size at 6-0, 221 pounds, and scored 34 career touchdowns, ranking fourth in Central Michigan history. He was named to numerous award watch lists entering his senior season in 2013 (when he was named a team captain), including the Doak Walker Award watch list (awarded annually to the nation's top running back). In the first quarter of the season opener against Michigan, however, he broke his ankle. Stunningly, he came back just two months later and rushed for 398 yards on 74 carries (5.4 yards per carry) while scoring 8 touchdowns. In 2012, he rushed for 20 touchdowns and 1,492 yards. He is a well-rounded running back with good skills, though his durability going forward is a concern due to numerous injuries, including the broken ankle.
Outlook: Tipton is a guy I really liked after looking at him a bit more, as I think he's a good back who certainly produced at the college level and who has the skills to be a nice complementary back at the pro level. Running backs take such a beating in college, however, that they tend to wear down, and add that to injury concerns and Tipton is a guy who I'm not sure you can count on moving forward. For now, however, he looks like a solid back and if the Colts choose to keep four running backs, I think Tipton will earn the spot.
Josh Walker, G, Middle Tennessee State
Throughout his entire college career, Josh Walker never missed a game. The 6-5, 323 pound lineman was an All-Conference USA player in his senior season and was a team captain. He is a solid lineman who is best when he's not on the move.
Outlook: To me, the one thing that really set Walker apart was his durability, not his play in particular. As I mentioned with Marcus Hall, the Colts don't need more guards, they need better guards. I don't see Walker beating out Lance Louis or Joe Reitz as the backup guards, and even more so I don't see Walker beating out Hall either. I don't think either of them will make the final roster, but if one of them will, I would expect it to be Hall.
Tony Washington, WR, Appalachian State
In 49 career games at Appalachian State, Tony Washington caught 139 passes for 1,837 yards and 10 touchdowns while also rushing 13 times for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also excelled as both a kick and punt returner, ranking 11th in the FCS in kickoff return average and 21st in punt return average. In Appalachian State's final year in the Southern Conference, Washington was named first-team all-conference as both a receiver and as a returner. Additionally, Washington gradueaded from Appalachian State with a cumulative 3.80 GPA and was one of just 16 winners of the 2013 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Award.
Outlook: The best thing that Tony Washington might have going for him is his ability to return kicks and punts. He'll likely get a shot to do that in camp and in preseason, and that's where he could earn his way onto the team. I don't see him beating enough people out at wide receiver to make the roster there. If, however, he stands out in the return game, the Colts might decide to keep him there. I mean, heck, they kept receiver David Reed around purely as a returner and he sucked at it, so why not Washington if he's good? I could really see the Colts keeping Tony Washington if he impresses as a returner.
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Entering the 2013 season, many people ranked Loucheiz Purifoy as a first-round talent and one of (if not the) top corners in the 2014 draft. The 6-1, 189 pound corner played in 37 career games for the Gators (19 starts), making 102 career tackles (4.5 for loss), 12 passes defensed, 5 forced fumbles, 2 picks, 2 sacks, and a fumble recovery. He also is a very good special teams contributor and led the team as a freshman in 2011 with 22 special teams stops. Alligator Army's Andy Hutchins wrote that, "Purifoy, whose first-round hype entering 2013 was built on measurables and projection, regressed as a full-time corner in the 2013 season" and also concluded that, "He never made good on that first-round hype on the field. And off the field, Purifoy's last 16 months have been a disaster." A lot of off-the-field issues, mainly drug-related issues, resulted in Purifoy going undrafted.
Outlook: Of everyone I looked at on this list (20 guys), the guy who impressed me as the guy with the most talent was clearly Loucheiz Purifoy. He has great skills for a corner, and while they aren't quite as good as many thought they'd be entering last season, he's still a talented corner who probably would have gone in the 3rd-4th rounds if not for his off-the-field issues. That's a huge question mark and honestly is the biggest thing standing in the way between himself and making the Colts roster. If he can stay out of trouble, I think he'll be able to play his way onto the roster in some capacity, where he'll be able to keep developing. Of course, that also depends on his play in camp and preseason, but if he stays out of trouble, I think the biggest obstacle to making the roster will be out of the way.
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Regardless of your opinions on Ryan Grigson's draft class (hint: most experts think it wasn't very good), the undrafted free agent group that he brought it was without question a great one. He really nailed it out of the park when bringing in these 20 players, and the great thing about undrafted free agents is that it gives you the room to take a risk on a player who you might not otherwise take a risk on (like Purifoy) because, honestly, the actual risk is pretty small. It's impossible to tell how many of these players will actually make the roster, but there certainly are more than a few who will be strong competitors for it. And, just as a type of a cheat sheet, here are the six I'm really keeping my eye on: Qua Cox (CB), Jonotthan Harrison (C), Dewey McDonald (S), Zurlon Tipton (RB), Tony Washington (KR/PR), and Loucheiz Purifoy (CB) - and, of course, I want to see how the basketball player translates to a football player too (Erik Swoope).