Every year, hundreds of NFL hopefuls go undrafted. Although 255 athletes get the telephone call they were waiting for, many more do not. The disappointment of not hearing your name called on Draft weekend can signal the end of a career. Others move north of the border to play in the CFL, or many of the other fleeting alternatives to the NFL.
For other players, becoming “undrafted” provides just one more hurdle to overcome on their path. Roughly 30% of underclassmen suffered this fate in 2020, many of whom may have taken their last snap. Others will face the challenge of proving themselves during rookie training camp. Of those, only a handful will make the final 53-man rosters when the season rolls around.
In 2017, roughly 18% of players who played any sort of role in the NFL season were initially UDFAs. Every year, a player goes one step further, and emerges and becomes an NFL star. In 2003, it was Tony Romo. In 2005, Wes Walker. 15 Hall of Famers initially went undrafted. It is a long shot, but it is possible.
If you want a guy with high upside at a low cost in your dynasty set-up (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) look no further.
Who could emerge as the longshot in 2019?
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Few eyebrows were raised when Robinson went undrafted. However a look into his numbers at Illinois State, and you might start to question why this was the case.
His landing spot in Jacksonville is what makes him an intriguing prospect. The Jaguars lack depth behind Leonard Fournette. Fournette’s fifth-year option on his rookie deal was declined, leading many to believe that his time in Duval county was up. Even if the Jaguars don’t trade him away this year, they will almost certainly be without him in 2021.
This is where Robinson may seize the opportunity given to him. Despite some recent speculation regarding the use of Ryquell Armstead in 2020, Robinson may fancy his chances to contribute in Duval county.
Leaving high school, Robinson turned down offers from Iowa and Nebraska to stay in his home state of Illinois. Playing in the FCS seemed to hurt his prospects in the long term, as few became familiar with his production in college. In 2019, the Illinois State back ran for over 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns, and a further 600 yards in the postseason for the Redbirds. He was named an All-American in his final year of college.
James Robinson had 44 total touchdowns in his time at Illinois State, and impressed scouts with his vision. He has landed in the right spot to carve out a roster spot for himself in Jacksonville next year.
There may be some concern about the amount of tread left on his tyres, but Robinson is certain deserving of a place in your taxi squad in dynasty leagues.
Sewo Olonilua, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Prior to the Draft, TCU running back Sewo Olonilua became one of “my guys”. He’s an old school back, the type to run through defenders rather than find ways around them. You can see a more thorough analysis of him here.
I’m not saying he’s a Marshawn Lynch or Derrick Henry, but he’d like to be. He’s a big, power back that isn’t afraid of running into bigger guys. There’s always a space on an NFL roster with that style and grit.
Dallas will most likely seek to use Olonilua as a full back. The lack of positional value in both the NFL and the world of fantasy football will scare many fantasy team owners away.
Hand on heart, it remains to be seen whether Olonilua will make it in Dallas, or the NFL at all for that matter. I just couldn’t write about longshots without giving him a mention, though.
Thaddeus Moss, TE, Washington Redskins
Few expected Moss to go undrafted. He comes from legendary NFL stock (his dad is Hall of Famer Randy), and set records at LSU in their championship winning year. He amassed 570 yards from 47 receptions, the most of any Tight End in LSU’s footballing history.
Concerns over past injuries, most recently to his foot, may have put teams off when it came to handing their card in. Nevertheless, the Washington Redskins quickly moved to bring Moss in.
Washington is a team devoid of depth and talent at Tight End. Jordan Reed, whose career has been peppered with injury, was released in summer. Top of the depth chart is Jeremy Sprinkle, who had just 1 touchdown last year.
Don’t be surprised to see Moss contributing in his first year. Before taking a gamble on adding him to your dynasty team, keep a keen eye for his performances in pre-season. If the signs point towards Moss having an immediate impact, he could enter your squad as a TE2/3.
Hunter Bryant, TE, Detroit Lions
Similarly to Moss, most draft scouts anticipated that Hunter Bryant would be selected on Day 3 of the Draft. However, he didn’t show the capacity to provide support to the offensive line with his blocking, and many therefore viewed his potential as a slot receiver.
A quick burst of speed and ability to contribute to the passing game led Detroit to offer Bryant a deal.
Personally, I wouldn’t pick Bryant up until you see him producing on the field in Detroit. You may be able to pick him up on the waiver wire during the season, but I wouldn’t rush to add him to your roster just yet.
Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Indianapolis Colts
If there’s one position in fantasy football I have little respect for, it’s kickers. Don’t get me wrong, a good kicker can win you games in the NFL. However, from a fantasy standpoint, if you think you’re losing games because of your kicker, you’re missing problems elsewhere.
That’s why I’m happy to take a punt on the undrafted Rodrigo “Hot Rod” Blankenship out of Georgia. The Colts finally said goodbye to Adam Vinatieri last year, and it is time for a new era in Indianapolis. He kicked 100% of his extra points and 27/33 of field goals in 2019. Of his six misses, half came on attempts of 50 yards or more.
When it comes to kickers in my fantasy team, it’s time to have a bit of fun. Let’s see if Hot Rod can become a cornerstone of a dynasty franchise for years to come.
Tom Scott @downthemannyrd