Robby Anderson. Wayne Chrebet. Brandon Moore. Damon Harrison. All four of these eventual key Jets contributors did not have their names called in and written on a card by an NFL front office on draft weekend; yet all four have gone on to make names for themselves as an undrafted free agent. Which 2018 Jets UDFAs have the best shot at joining that group?
First off, understand just how big of a role undrafted free agents play in the NFL landscape. UDFAs have combined for 152 Pro Bowl appearances over the past decade. In comparison, players drafted in rounds 5-7 have combined for just 112. In 2017, 14 Pro Bowlers were undrafted free agents. Only a marginal percentage of them will make it, but enough of them do find their way in to make a profound impact on the league as a whole.
Let’s look at the Jets’ 2018 UDFA class.
Austin Golson, OL, Auburn
Golson (6’5, 312) started 38 games for Auburn over 2015-17, playing all five positions across the line.
Tre’ Williams, LB, Auburn
Williams (6’2, 225) was a starting will linebacker for Auburn in his final season. Over his 38 career games, he posted 188 tackles, 10.0 for a loss, and 3.5 sacks.
Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma
Flowers (6’2, 248) was a versatile fullback over his Sooners career, playing a variety of roles on offense. He is a respected blocker capable of taking on a wide array of assignments.
Dakoda Shepley, OL, University of British Columbia
Shepley (6’4, 305) found himself on NFL radars after latching on to Eastern Michigan’s pro day. He was a Canada West all-star at right tackle.
Frankie Luvu, EDGE, Washington State
Luvu (6’3, 235), an American Samoan native, was a stand-up edge defender at Washington State. His size and athleticism are considered subpar for the NFL, but his motor is praised.
Darius James, OL, Auburn
James (6’4, 324) was the #1 interior offensive line recruit in the nation coming out of high school. He started his career at Texas before transferring to Auburn, where ended his career as the starting right tackle.
Mych Thomas, DL, Texas Tech
Thomas (6’2, 325) was an interior run defender at Texas Tech, where he posted 41 tackles, one sack, and one pick last year.
Breakout Underdog Favorite: Dimitri Flowers
The fullback has become an ancient position in the NFL, but in 2017 the Jets used it more than most other teams. Lawrence Thomas, the converted defensive tackle, finished the year at the top of the depth chart, but he was spotty at best in his new role, missing blocking assignments and not doing much with his limited touches.
Flowers should have every opportunity to take that spot. He was thrust into a ton of dirty-working roles in front of Baker Mayfield; pass protection, run blocking, intermediate routes; he even was the primary running back for a game.
Coupled with his position, Flowers’ highly underwhelming athletic testing is likely a primary reason he didn’t go drafted.
However, he makes up for that with superior size, toughness, and versatility.
Here he runs an intermediate in route from an H-back position and makes a strong catch on a very nice throw from Baker Mayfield. It’s not the most crisp cut you will ever see, but for the heaviest back to weigh in at the 2018 Combine, it’s good enough.
Very next snap, Flowers puts his hand in the dirt and lines up as a tight end. He takes advantage of the defensive end’s inside momentum away from the play direction and buries him.
This one wouldn’t be an NFL touchdown but it is still very impressive.
This is an impressive snap. Flowers, lined up as an H-Back, crosses over to the weak side and takes out potential future #1 pick Nick Bosa with well-executed cut.
One of the positive notes on Flowers in his NFL.com scouting report reads: “Respect for him as a blocker allows him to sneak past defenses into the flat or up the field in play-action.” This is a picture perfect representation of that. Flowers, again an H-back on the left side, gets the Mike linebacker to bite on the play-action by showing a block attempt before leaking into the zone vacated by the guilty defender.
I like Flowers’ chances at sticking on the roster and improving the level of performance at the relatively trivial, but still somewhat relevant fullback position.
Dark Horse Breakout Underog: Austin Golson
Golson does not have impressive athletic traits and needs a lot of development, but he has very unique versatility and that could potentially find him a quick path towards a backup role on a weak Jets offensive line depth chart.
Golson played every spot on the offensive line. In the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against UCF, he would alternate between tackle spots. Scouts project him better on the inside, though. Here is a snap at right tackle where he shows you the anchor and strength you would like to see from an interior lineman; giving some promise he could have potential inside. (#73)
This play, at left tackle, shows you why Golson went undrafted. This play is visibly poor quickness off the snap and the edge rusher easily blows by him with a simple dip.
The play below is from 2016, in which Golson played center. Golson’s scouting reports laud his intelligence, so center certainly seems like a position that could be utilized. I thought he looked better inside, utilizing his size and making good use of his hands to hold nose tackles in place. Here’s a good rep.
It will be interesting to see who emerges from this group. Despite their improvements, the Jets still don’t have much depth. There seems to be a solid shot that one of the three offensive linemen break on to the roster. Flowers definitely has the skillset to impress at a position that lacks much competition. Keep an eye on this group.
Photo Credit: NFL.com