Everyone loves a late-round draft steal. And even better is the undrafted rookie free agent that not only makes the roster but contributes. They are the heart warming stories of the harsh reality that is the NFL training camp.
Some of these guys are ones that we wondered why they fell so far and others left us scratching our heads as to why they were even drafted. Then there are those that went undrafted and every NFL team but one is jealous they didn’t take a flyer on them late rather than the 7th round pick that they cut early in camp. Here’s a list of some late-round draft picks that are making a name for themselves after week one of preseason.
Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets
Kerley was taken with pick 153 in the fifth round. He was a favorite of second round pick Andy Dalton’s during his tenure with TCU. He is quickly becoming a favorite of Mark Sanchez and has shown the ability to pick up the playbook in a timely fashion. Plaxico Burress’ ankle injury has allowed Kerley more time to gel with the first team. He also returns kicks and punts.
In the first preseason game he caught three balls for 20 yards. Kerley is one to keep an eye on throughout the season as he expected to see action in the slot and returning kicks and punts.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Rodgers was one of those that left me wondering why teams were avoiding him like the plague as each round passed. He ended up going with pick 145 in the fifth round. The 5’6” Rodgers is one that everyone stops to watch when he touches the ball. Rodgers will battle with Jason Snelling for backup reps to Michael Turner.
Buster Skrine, CB, Cleveland Browns
Skrine was taken with the 137th pick in the fifth round. He has shown surprising cover skills in camp and proven to be more than just an athlete. Skrine was tested early and often against Green Bay and he answered the bell. Aside from a pass interference call he showed well against another rookie standout in Randall Cobb. Skrine will see time in nickel and dime packages this season and if Josh Cribbs goes down he is capable of returning kicks.
Brian Rolle, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
Could the Eagles score two years in a row on late-round LB’s. Rolle is a tackling machine as he showed in week one of the preseason. He will contribute immediately on special teams and with the Eagles lack of depth at LB he’s one injury away from seeing time on the Eagles D. Rolle was 193rd pick in the 6th round. On top of all that he’s better than Von Miller…just ask him.
Jeff Maehl, WR, Houston Texans
Maehl went undrafted and left everyone scratching their heads as to why. Sure he’s rail thin and didn’t blow anyone away with his 4.6 40 but there was enough on tape to warrant a late-round pick. Maehl is proving in Houston why he should have been drafted. He is quickly making a name for himself as a reliable target for Houston QB’s.
Bryan Braman, OLB, Houston Texans
The undrafted free agent from West Texas A&M had about as good a debut as one could have. He pummeled NYJ QB Greg McElroy on his way to 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and three hits on the QB. He was in the NYJ backfield with every opportunity and probably secured a roster spot with that performance alone. It helps that he has been a standout in camp and continues to more of an impact with each session.
Jimmy Wilson, CB, Miami Dolphins
Wilson was taken in the 7th round with pick 235 out of Montana. Wilson has been one to watch all camp and blanketed receivers in week one of the preseason. Wilson has probably locked up a roster spot already and is now working on time on the field.
Michael Jasper, NT, Buffalo Bills
Jasper was taken in the 7th round with pick 245 out of Bethel (TN). He is a giant man at 394 pounds (down from 440). The surprise of Buffalo’s camp has been his athletic ability. He has flashed throughout training camp for his abilities to disrupt plays in the backfield. Jasper probably won’t immediately see time but he is a guy to watch down the road.
Tyler Sash, S, Iowa
Sash was a guy that fell way too far and teams are beginning to already realize that. The Giants found a steal with the 198th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Sash has already taken reps with the first team and has fit right in. Sash may crack the starting lineup early and often with the Giants. At the very least Sash will be the nickel safety in Perry Fewell’s defense.
Josh Portis, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Portis won’t be in the starting lineup anytime soon but Seattle thinks they found a steal in the undrafted rookie free agent. Portis has stood out in camp thus far and made an impact in his first career preseason game. Portis finished the game against the Chargers going 5-9 for 69 yards and a TD. He kept many plays alive with his athleticism and showed a solid understanding of the offense. Portis has Seahawk fans questioning whether he may be the QB of the future?