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Taking a look at the Colts’ 18 undrafted free agent signings

Pac-12 Championship - Colorado v Washington Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Last week the Indianapolis Colts officially signed 18 undrafted free agents, who will participate in their rookie mini-camp this upcoming weekend.

Let’s take a look at each of the players the Colts signed and what their chances are for making the 53-man roster.

Deyshawn Bond, G, Cincinnati

A 6-1, 302 pound lineman who is from Indianapolis and played at Warren Central High School, Bond was a four-year starter along the offensive line for Cincinnati. He wound up playing in 48 career games and starting 47 of them, and though he spent a lot of time at center the Colts list him as a guard.

The Colts will always be looking for offensive line competition and Chris Ballard will continue to prioritize the trenches, so it’s not a surprise to see the Colts sign a few UDFAs up front. Bond is an interesting player who could be poised to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster, though there are only so many spots for linemen. Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, Ryan Kelly, Joe Haeg, Le’Raven Clark, Brian Schwenke, and Zach Banner will likely all make the roster, and Denzelle Good and Austin Blythe are others who may have an edge. So Bond will face some competition in trying to win a spot, but he should at least have a chance to compete.

Dalton Crossan, RB, New Hampshire

A 5-11, 202 pound back, Dalton Crossan had an impressive collegiate career in which he played in 44 games and rushed for 2,617 yards and 27 touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He also caught 105 passes for 779 yards and eight scores. He totaled 1,226 total yards and 16 total touchdowns in 2015 and then recorded 1,547 total yards and 14 total touchdowns in 2016. A former lacrosse player, Crossan choose football in college and impressed as a rusher, receiver, and kick returner.

Crossan was one of the players that Chris Ballard mentioned recently as an UDFA to keep an eye on, so he might have a decent shot at making the roster. The Colts have Frank Gore, Robert Turbin, and Marlon Mack at running back, but if they do keep four backs then the fourth spot seems wide open right now. They have a couple of young backs who will be competing this offseason, but Crossan could be right there in the middle of that competition.

Darrell Daniels, TE, Washington

In 49 games at Washington, the 6-3, 247 pound Darrell Daniels started 18 of them and caught 47 passes for 728 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 15.5 yards per catch. He moved from wide receiver to tight end in 2013 and is much more of a receiving tight end in that regard, and in 2016 he caught 17 passes for 307 yards and three scores, averaging 18.1 yards per catch.

Another one of the players that Ballard recently mentioned to keep an eye on, Daniels comes into a tight end room with the Colts that is looking for a number three behind Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope. Brandon Williams was signed in free agency and then Mo Alie-Cox was signed as a project player, but that number three tight end spot seems pretty open. So Daniels could stand a decent shot at the position, competing with Williams, Alie-Cox, and fellow UDFA Colin Jeter.

Trey Griffey, WR, Arizona

You may recognize the name “Griffey,” as Trey is the son of baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. (who ranks sixth all-time with 630 career home runs and who was a 13-time all-star and 10-time Gold Glove winner) and the grandson of Ken Griffey (who was a key piece to the Big Red Machine in the 1970s and was a three-time all-star). Trey was actually drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 24th round of the 2016 draft, but that was as a tribute to his father (who wore number 24 with the Mariners), since Trey hasn’t played baseball since before high school. He’s focused on football, and in44 games at Arizona the 6-2, 209 pound receiver caught 79 passes for 1,241 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 15.7 yards per catch. In 2016, he caught 23 passes for 382 yards and two scores.

The Colts didn’t draft any receivers this year but did sign a few as undrafted free agents, though unlike some other positions there doesn’t seem to be as much room for competition at wideout. T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Kamar Aiken, and Phillip Dorsett will probably all make the roster, and I think Chester Rogers probably will have a pretty good shot too. So that’s already five receivers, and we haven’t even mentioned Quan Bray (who would only make it if the Colts decide he’s their return man). There’s not a lot of open roster spots at this position, then, but the Colts could be looking for guys who stick out to keep working with them on the practice squad.

Thomas Hennessy, LS, Duke

Thomas Hennessy (6-2, 246 pounds) was Duke’s long snapper for the past four seasons, playing in 52 games and seeing action on 545 snaps. He helped Duke’s special teams unit convert 61-of-80 field goal attempts (76.3%) and 187-of-188 PAT attempts (99.5%) during his career as the long snapper, and he also helped Duke lead the ACC with the fewest punt return yards allowed in both 2014 and 2015. In addition, Hennessy helped the cause by recording four tackles.

It’s rare to find an undrafted free agent that seems to be almost guaranteed a roster spot when it’s just May, but Thomas Hennessy might come close. The Colts cut Matt Overton last week and will need to replace him, and currently Hennessy is the only long snapper on the roster. So he’s not yet guaranteed the spot, but he seems to be the clear frontrunner to be the Colts’ long snapper in 2017.

Bug Howard, WR, North Carolina

The 6-4, 221 pound Howard played in 53 games during his time at North Carolina, catching 146 passes for 2,048 yards and 18 touchdowns (averaging 14 yards per catch). His 18 touchdown receptions rank as the sixth-most in school history. In 2016, he caught 53 passes for 827 yards and eight scores, averaging 15.6 yards per catch.

As mentioned earlier when discussing Trey Griffey, there’s not a ton of roster spots that will likely be open for the Colts at the wide receiver position. So Howard faces an uphill battle in that regard, but teams are always looking for young receivers to keep working with - so, if Howard impresses, the Colts will likely notice.

Colin Jeter, TE, LSU

Colin Jeter (6-6, 251 pounds) originally began his collegiate career at Kilgore College (Texas) before transferring to LSU in 2014. During his three seasons at LSU, he played in 35 games and started 17 of them, catching 23 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns. He was a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection.

Unlike Darrell Daniels, Colin Jeter is more of a blocking tight end. That could be intriguing for the Colts, who have an all-around tight end in Jack Doyle and a receiving tight end in Erik Swoope. They could opt to go with a blocking tight end as the number three guy to balance that out, but they’ll mainly be looking for players who produce. Either way, the number three tight end spot does seem to be open for Jeter to compete.

Jerome Lane, WR, Akron

One of two Akron wide receivers signed by the Colts as undrafted free agents this offseason, Lane (6-3, 226 pounds) played in 37 games during his collegiate career, catching 101 passes for 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns (averaging 17.8 yards per catch). He had a very good 2016 season in which he caught 62 passes for 1,018 yards and six scores. He began his time at Akron as a linebacker and played defense in 2014, recording 14 tackles, five sacks, and five tackles for loss.

Once again, it might be hard for these undrafted free agent receivers to make the roster initially because of the other guys ahead of them on the depth chart with the Colts. But, with that said, I think Lane could have an especially intriguing case if he impresses as a receiver in camp, because of his defensive background. That could be valuable and could help him contribute on special teams, which could give him an early advantage over some of the other UDFA wideouts.

Chris Lyles, CB, Mississippi College

Lyles began his collegiate career at Hinds Community College (Mississippi) before transferring to Mississippi College, where he played in 17 games and recorded 25 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception, and two passes defensed. In 2016, he produced the bulk of that as he recorded 25 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery, a pick, and two passes defensed. He also participated in track and field. It should be noted that Lyles is the only one of these undrafted free agents (officially announced as signings by the Colts last week) to not be on the Colts’ roster on their website. Most likely that’s just an error on the part of the website team, but it’s at least worth noting.

The Colts will likely be looking for young corners to work with and help develop, and so Lyles should have the opportunity to show what he can do. He’ll be making the jump from a smaller school to the NFL level, though, which could be a significant adjustment.

Christopher Muller, G, Rutgers

Christopher Muller (6-6, 315 pounds) played in 50 games during his collegiate career at Rutgers, starting 49 of them. He made 48 of those 49 starts at right guard and never missed a game during his collegiate career, starting 49 games in a row to end his career. He was named a team captain in 2016.

Like Deyshawn Bond, Muller will be competing for a backup spot at guard - and if there’s a spot to be competing for up front, it’s at right guard, which is where Muller played at Rutgers. It’s presumed that Joe Haeg and Brian Schwenke will be the main contenders there for that spot with Denzelle Good also perhaps a contender, and it’s likely that Bond and Muller will be competing for depth. The Colts will always be looking for offensive linemen, but Muller will really have to show that he’s worth continuing to work with in order for him to stick around.

JoJo Natson, WR, Akron

The Colts signed two receivers out of Akron, as JoJo Natson joins Jerome Lane. Natson (5-7, 159 pounds) is a small wideout who was dismissed from Utah State in 2015 for a violation of team rules, but upon transferring to Akron he had an impressive 2016 campaign, catching 59 passes for 837 yards and ten touchdowns (averaging 14.2 yards per catch). He produced during his collegiate career as a receiver, rusher, and punt returner, as he scored 27 total touchdowns (15 receiving, six rushing, and six returning).

His versatility as a three-way threat as a receiver, runner, and returner could make him interesting to the Colts, but he’s a small receiver and so his size could be a question. And, like the other receivers we’ve looked at, Natson faces an uphill battle because of the players ahead of him. His capabilities as a return man could make him a bit more interesting, however, especially depending on what the Colts decide to do at that spot with Quan Bray.

Reggie Porter, CB, Utah

Porter (5-11, 185 pounds) played in 36 games at Utah and started 22 of them, recording 91 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, 18 passes defensed, and a fumble recovery. He had his best season in 2016 when he recorded 43 tackles, two tackles for loss, two picks, and six passes defensed.

The third player that Chris Ballard recently mentioned to keep an eye on, Porter will be competing for a depth spot at cornerback. The Colts need young guys with talent to work with, and so there could be a spot or two for young guys who impress in training camp. If Porter can do that he might be able to make it as a depth corner, but he’ll have to really produce and show up in camp and preseason.

Brandon Radcliff, RB, Louisville

Radcliff (5-9, 206 pounds) rushed for 2,365 yards and 26 touchdowns during his career at Louisville, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He also added 20 receptions for 196 yards and a touchdown. In 2016 he rushed for 903 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

Like Dalton Crossan, Radcliff could be very much in the competition for the fourth running back spot - if in fact the Colts decide to keep four backs. It seems like the top three on the depth chart are pretty much set, with Frank Gore, Robert Turbin, and Marlon Mack, but after that it seems to be open. So if Radcliff impresses there could be a roster spot for him, but he doesn’t even seem like the most likely undrafted rookie to make that spot (that would be Crossan).

Rigoberto Sanchez, P, Hawaii

Rigoberto Sanchez played in 26 games at Hawaii as both the punter and the kicker, making 21 of 24 field goal attempts (87.5%) and averaging 44.8 yards per punt. He punted 144 times and didn’t have one blocked, recorded 45 punts of 50+ yards, had 49 punts pinned inside the 20 yard line, and recorded six touchbacks. He also served as the kickoff specialist and recorded 39 touchbacks on 93 attempts (41.9%). Last year, he was perfect on field goals (13 of 13) and averaged 44.6 yards per punt.

This is an interesting UDFA signing and one to perhaps keep an eye on. Sanchez is listed by the Colts as a punter, and that would mean that he’ll be competing with free agent addition Jeff Locke this offseason. Locke seems to be the favorite to win that spot, but I’m not sure it’s completely guaranteed. Most likely, Sanchez is simply the camp leg who will help relieve some of the workload for Adam Vinatieri and Jeff Locke. But with a change in punters this year, there is a chance for Sanchez to perhaps win the spot - but it would have to take a very impressive performance and proof that he can contribute at multiple spots, as the punter, kickoff specialist, and perhaps even the holder too.

Garrett Sickels, OLB, Penn State

Sickels (6-4, 261 pounds) left school early and it didn’t pay off, as he went undrafted. He played in 14 games last year at Penn State and started 12 of them, recording 47 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks as he was named Penn State’s Most Valuable Defensive Player at their annual football banquet. During his three years at the school, he recorded 20.5 tackles for loss and eleven sacks in 39 games (24 starts).

The Colts will be looking for any help they can get at outside linebacker, and interestingly Sickels was the only UDFA at the position that they signed. With how uncertain the linebacking corps are there should certainly be a spot for Sickels if he can show that he can produce or that he can get after the quarterback. Even if he can show some flashes of raw pass rush ability he could be a practice squad candidate. At this prime position and as the only UDFA signed at the spot, he’s a guy who could have a chance of sticking around as one of the 63 guys the Colts keep. There will be real competition, at the very least.

Jhaustin Thomas, DE, Iowa State

Thomas (6-5, 292 pounds) was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2016 as he recorded 23 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, and a pass defensed. In his 20 games at Iowa State, he recorded 38 career tackles, 12 tackles for loss, four sacks, a pick, and a pass defensed. He originally started at Trinity Valley Community College (where he also played basketball) before transferring to Iowa State.

The Colts have a crowded defensive line group that will be competing for spots, so Thomas faces a tall task in trying to make the roster. With Henry Anderson, Kendall Langford, Johnathan Hankins, Hassan Ridgeway, T.Y. McGill, Grover Stewart, Al Woods, David Parry, and Margus Hunt all also competing for playing time and spots, Thomas is a long shot. But if he can flash pass rush ability, he could be a guy that is worth keeping around on the practice squad.

Jerry Ugokwe, OT, William & Mary

Ugokwe is a big player, standing 6-7 and weighing 321 pounds, and he has a lot of experience. He started 42 games at William & Mary, making the first seven starts at left tackle and then closing his career with 35 straight starts at right tackle. A Nigerian native, he didn’t play football until he was a junior in high school and walked on at William & Mary, eventually finding himself as a four-year starter.

This is a guy with some potential to keep growing, as he hasn’t been playing football that long but still has a lot of collegiate starting experience. The Colts don’t have as much depth at tackle as they do at guard either, and especially the right tackle position could use some more depth. Ugokwe is the only undrafted tackle that the Colts added, and while it will likely be Le’Raven Clark starting it’s possible that Ugokwe could push for either a spot on the 53-man roster or the practice squad so that the Colts could continue to work with him.

Phillip Walker, QB, Temple

Walker was a four-year starter at Temple, where he ranks as their career leader in attempts, completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and total offense, while he’s also the first Temple QB to ever lead the team to multiple bowl games. In his career he started 49 games and completed 55.8% of his passes for 10,668 yards (7.3 yards per attempt), 74 touchdowns, and 44 interceptions while also adding 763 yards and nine scores rushing (2.2 yards per carry).

Chris Ballard said earlier this offseason that the Colts would add a fourth quarterback to take into training camp, and that guy is Phillip Walker. He joins a QB room that obviously has Andrew Luck, plus backups Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris. The starting spot is of course out of the question, and even the backup spot seems most likely to go to either Tolzien or Morris. But the possibility of the Colts keeping three quarterbacks shouldn’t be ruled out, especially with Luck’s injury, while teams often keep a practice squad QB too. So Walker could have a shot to stick around in some role, but he’ll have to have a good camp and preseason if he hopes to do so.