The 2011 NFL Draft is over and this year will be different than any other year with undrafted players that turn out to be diamonds in the rough. Last season, the Bucs benefitted from the undrafted ranks by signing the likes of running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Preston Parker. Tampa Bay figures to hit the undrafted ranks for a few signings once free agency starts.
With that in mind, Pewter Report has put together a top 10 list of undrafted free agents. The top 10 players are not ranked by who is the best football player, but rather who could have the biggest impact on the Bucs roster and on the field in 2011.
10. NEBRASKA DE PIERRE ALLEN
Allen looks the part at 6-foot-4, 273-pounds and has quality speed as his 4.78 40-yard dash time indicates. He falls into the ‘looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane’ category and that is why he went undrafted.
Last year, he totaled 64 tackles with 7.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks and one forced fumble. Playing next to Ndamukong Suh a year earlier he totaled five sacks with 8.5 tackles for a loss.
Perhaps getting passed over in the draft will wake Allen up and signing him for practice squad competition could awaken Allen to realize the athletic skill set he was blessed with.
9. LSU WIDE RECEIVER TERRENCE TOLIVER
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound Tolliver could serve as a potential replacement for veteran free agent Maurice Stovall. Like Stovall, he’s a big wide out that presents a large target in the open field and a good option on jump balls.
The offensive MVP of LSU’s Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M, projects as a quality special teams option. Poor quarterback play limited his production at LSU, where he only caught 41 passes for 579 yards and five touchdowns in 2010 and produced 126 catches for 1,820 yards and 12 touchdowns in his Tigers career.
Tolliver is a long-strider that has deceptive speed as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52. He was one of the standouts at practice and in the East-West Shrine Game. It was surprising that he wasn’t a late-round pick.
8. OREGON WIDE RECEIVER JEFF MAEHL
The Bucs were fans of Maehl throughout the draft process. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Maehl has decent size and deceptive speed. He was timed at 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, but averaged close to 14 yards per catch with several catches over 50 yards during his senior season. Maehl is a crisp route runner that knows how to get separation from coverage. He is a hard-worker and the type of player that will drive the wide receiver room from the bottom up.
The Bucs could sign the Oregon standout who caught 77 passes for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. Maehl is a gritty football player that would definitely be a player that could challenge to contribute as a core special teams player.
7. ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF WIDE RECEIVER RAYMOND WEBBER
The Bucs hosted Webber before the draft and like his skill set. Webber is a very physical receiver. He blocks defenders with violence and is very aggressive at winning jump balls in a similar manner to Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams.
The 6-foot-2, 218-pound Webber has the size and speed that the Bucs look for. As a senior, he caught 101 passes for 1,429 yards and 10 touchdowns. In his collegiate career, Webber totaled 180 catches for 2,376 yards and 16 touchdowns. It wouldn’t be surprising at all for the Bucs to sign Webber with the plan of developing him on the practice squad.
6. NORTH CAROLINA KENDRICK BURNEY
Burney is a smaller cornerback that is a gritty football player. He projects as being a slot cornerback that could come in nickel situations. The main reason for Burney to go undrafted is his size, 5-foot-9 and 179 pounds, along with a slower 40-yard dash time 4.79 seconds.
After starting 38 games in his first three years, he played only five games as a senior with 30 tackles and two interceptions. Burney has some ball skills as evidenced by his 11 career interceptions in 43 starts. He finished his career with 359 interception return yards, which ranks second in ACC history.
Watching Burney at the Senior Bowl was reminiscent to watching Ronde Barber at practice in Tampa Bay. Obviously Burney is not the caliber of Barber entering the NFL, but his game looks like it is molded after Barber. Burney could be a good understudy for the Bucs legend as a developmental corner.
5. DELAWARE QUARTERBACK PAT DEVLIN
When trading opens up again, Tampa Bay could explore trading backup Josh Johnson. Considering the loss of the offseason to learn offenses and work with new coaching staffs, it will be a tough to find a team willing to give up a mid-round pick for Johnson. It wouldn’t be worth it for the Bucs to trade their backup signal caller for a sixth- or seventh-round pick. Regardless of Johnson’s future the Bucs will need a fourth quarterback for training camp and the preseason to compete with Rudy Carpenter for the third quarterback roster spot.
At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Devlin has NFL size and quality arm strength. He was very productive and knows how to protect the football. Last year, he threw for 3,032 yards with 22 touchdowns and three interceptions. For his career, the Penn State transfer completed over 65 percent of his passes for more than 6,500 yards and 42 touchdowns.
Devlin is a serious candidate to push Carpenter, a fellow undrafted signal caller, for the third quarterback job and would be a quality signing for Tampa Bay.
4. KENTUCKY RUNNING BACK DERRICK LOCKE
Locke went undrafted due to a variety of injuries that he suffered with the Wildcats. Locke, a track star, offers excellent speed as running back and special teams contributor.
Locke is a speed back that is a threat to score every time he touches the football. In his career at Kentucky, Locke ran for 2,618 yards with 22 touchdowns on 518 carries with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. He also caught 95 passes for 883 yards for three touchdowns. He also was the Wildcats' kick returner and returned 54 kicks for 1,464 yards and two touchdowns (27 yard average). As a senior, Locke played in nine games and ran for 887 yards with 10 touchdowns and an average of 5.3 yards per carry.
Locke could be the second coming of a Clifton Smith type player, but I believe that Locke has the ability to contribute more to the offense as a change of pace back. He has good hands as a receiver and was a real mismatch at the Senior Bowl. The Bucs don’t have much speed at running back, so Locke could add to the offense. He also could challenge Micheal Spurlock for kick return duties.
3. MARSHALL LINEBACKER MARIO HARVEY
Another player that could provide competition and depth for Tampa Bay is Harvey. The Bucs could use a thumper in the middle of their defense and that is Harvey’s nickname. Harvey fell in the draft due to his lack of height, but Harvey was massively productive.
Harvey was a dynamic blitzer with 21 career sacks to go along with 420 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception. He is a hard hitter and is a real force as a run defender in the tackle box. As a collegiate player, Harvey was similar to NFL veteran linebacker London Fletcher.
The Bucs have a lot of moving pieces at the linebacker position so having Harvey compete would be worth the signing.
2. BOSTON COLLEGE LINEBACKER MARK HERZLICH
At this point everybody knows Herzlich’s story well. The cancer survivor was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. He lost the 2009 season due to his illness. Herzlich returned quickly in 2010, and after a slow start was playing better at the end of the season. The 6-foot-4, 244-pound linebacker could serve as Sam (strongside) linebacker in the Bucs scheme, or a Mike (middle) linebacker on first and second down. Herzlich is an instinctive football player that has 10 interceptions in his past two seasons.
Herzlich would be worth signing considering the Buccaneers could lose four linebackers in free agency: Barrett Ruud, Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, and Niko Koutouvides. He could provide good depth and special teams while he regains his speed. I watched Herzlich working out in mid-April down in Sarasota at the IMG Academy, and he definitely has more size and strength than most of the linebackers on the Bucs 2010 roster.
1. FLORIDA PUNTER CHAS HENRY
Henry led the nation with a 45.1-yard average per punt as a senior. That led to his winning the 2010 Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter. The most likely reason for Henry to go undrafted is that he is a three-step punter, meaning Henry takes three steps before punts the ball. In the NFL teams typically want their punters to take only two steps. While he takes an extra step, Henry never had a punt blocked in his career at Florida.
Henry routinely produced booming punts that changed the field position for the Gators. His career average was 43 yards over 165 punts with 68 being downed inside the 20-yard line. Henry also has the ability to be an emergency kicker. In 2010 he was 7-of-11 on field goal attempts. Henry’s booming leg was also used on kickoffs for the Gators.
There is no risk for the Bucs in signing Henry to provide some training camp competition to Robert Malone. Of all the undrafted free agents Henry has the best shot of being an impact starter for Tampa Bay in 2011, and in the long-term.