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Undrafted Free Agents in the NFL are akin to the proverbial diamond in the rough. They can be major pieces to their team’s future success. UDFAs prefer to be drafted, but the ability to pick your situation is a nice bit of compensation. These prospects go unnoticed now, but soon become big names. The most prolific and recent example is Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay, who signed out of the University of Colorado. He went on to rush for 1,037 yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year. Are there any future success stories such as that? Here are three rookies that could start their own story:
Offensive Guard Beau Benzschawel (Detroit Lions)
Beau Benzschawel was rated the top run-blocker in the nation two consecutive years by Pro Football Focus. He also received the highest overall grade of any draft eligible guards. The former Wisconsin Badger was given a fifth round grade by many media pundits, but he fell all the way to free agency. Benzschawel had more than 20 teams interested in his services, but he chose to sign with the Detroit Lions.
The Lions parted ways with right guard TJ Lang earlier in the offseason, which opens a hole on the offensive line. Benzschawel could not only stick with the Detroit Lions, could start right away in the ‘Motor City’. If he does start, he will be tasked with blocking for promising second-year RB Kerryon Johnson. Helping fortify the run game has been the motto for general manager Bob Quinn since his hiring, and a move like this seems to fit perfectly.
Tight End Dax Raymond, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears snagged one of the more underrated tight ends when Dax Raymond fell to free agency. Raymond, who played his college ball out of Utah State, is more of a receiving tight end. He is a machine when racking up yards after contact and is quick off the snap. His downfall involves blocking. Raymond really isn’t a polished blocker, but shows promise in that area.
The Bears aren’t exactly deep at tight end, so there is a fit. Raymond projects to back up Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen as a do-it-all TE if he makes the roster. Raymond can take snaps as a H-back as need be. The Bears had a solid UDFA class, and while I’m not knocking the potential of Mizzou WR Emanuel Hall or Notre Dame OL Alex Bars, Raymond has a better chance of sticking with the Bears.
Wide Receiver Johnnie Dixon, Houston Texans
Johnnie Dixon was not as highly-rated as the previous two, but he has the chance to stick just the same. Dixon ran a 4.41 at the NFL Combine, but is a bit undersized at 5’10”. The former Ohio State Buckeye figures to be more of a slot receiver in the NFL, but will still need work. He could be valuable as a special teams player, though.
Despite that, the Texans lack depth at receiver. This could allow Dixon to pave his way into a slot position. Besides DeAndre Hopkins, Texans QB DeShaun Watson doesn’t have much around him. They do have Will Fuller, but he has battled injuries throughout his short career. Besides those two weapons, there isn’t much.
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