10 Defensive UDFA’s to Like
Lots of defensive talent found homes after the draft, Gordon McGuinness lists some to watch.
10 Defensive UDFA’s to Like
What do Michael Bennett, Cameron Wake and Jason Peters have in common? Well, there’s two things that spring to mind when you think of that trio. The first is that they are all amongst the best players in the league at their positions.
The second? Well they were all undrafted. They slipped through the entire draft without a team calling their name, just like a host of players did this year. Those guys may face long odds to make an NFL roster, but there’s been more than enough recent success from UDFA’s to know that some will not just make a roster, but contribute in a big way on Sundays.
Here’s a look at 10 defensive players who we think might do just that.
James Vaughters, ED, Stanford, Green Bay Packers
He may have been limited to just 196 pass rushing snaps in 2014, but no 3-4 outside linebacker in this draft class was more productive on a per-snap basis than Stanford’s Vaughters. Six sacks, 11 hits and 21 hurries saw him finish the year with a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 15.3. He was no slouch against the run either, with 29 tackles resulting in a defensive stop from 234 snaps of run D giving him the second-highest Run Stop Percentage in this class too, at 12.4%.
A.J. Tarpley, LB, Stanford, Buffalo Bills
Our 10th-highest graded linebacker in this class, Tarpley was a solid all-around player in his final season at Stanford. While he did a decent job against the run, and chipped in with nine total pressures in limited work, it was in coverage that he really stood out. Allowing just 0.40 yards per coverage snap, the 15th-best mark in the class, Tarpley allowed just 20 receptions for 151 yards in 2014, adding an interception to top it off.
Zach Vigil, LB, Utah State, Miami Dolphins
Utah State’s Vigil was out second-highest graded linebacker in this class, with two eye-popping performances against Wake Forest and Air Force standing out. His work against the run was his calling card, finishing the year with a Run Stop Percentage of 12.9%, 10th in the class, while his total of 58 tackles resulting in defensive stops against the run was bettered only by TCU’s Paul Dawson.
Nick Perry, S, Alabama, Baltimore Ravens
Perry is an interesting case in that he wasn’t a standout throughout the year, but did flash some big-time performances. For much of the year he was just your average defensive back, with little standing out either good or bad. You only need to look at the games against Mississippi State and Auburn to see a player with NFL potential. In two of Alabama’s biggest games of the year he came up strong, allowing 6.7 and 8.5 yards per reception, and coming away with an interception in both games.
Troy Hill, CB, Oregon, Cincinnati Bengals
With the way this cornerback class was bunched together, both myself and Sam Monson actually saw Hill as one of the five best available. Our sixth-highest graded player at the position, Hill allowed just 435 yards and a quarterback rating of 63.9 on passes thrown into his coverage. His 11 pass breakups were tied for second in the class, and he added an interception for good measure.
Kevin White, CB, TCU, Atlanta Falcons
The second of our trio of undrafted cornerbacks, White grabbed our attention with a solid performance against West Virginia’s wide receiver of the same name. The second wide receiver of the board in this year’s draft could only muster one reception for eight yards from the seven passes thrown to him in White’s coverage. On the season, he allowed a quarterback rating of 66.3 on throws into his coverage, coming away with seven pass breakups and three interceptions.
Garry Peters, CB, Clemson, Carolina Panthers
While White and Hill impressed, it was Peters who finished the season as our highest-graded cornerback. Allowing a mere 233 yards in coverage all season, allowing a mere 0.62 Yards Per Coverage snap in 2014. He needs to work on not being as grabby with contact, something he’ll be flagged for much more in the NFL, but Peters is a rough diamond who could develop really well in Carolina if given time.
Quayshawne Buckley, Idaho, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the knock on Buckley is that he didn’t face top-level competition, it’s impossible to argue against how productive he was on the field. You can only beat the competition in front of you, and he did that routinely in 2014, grading positively as a pass rusher in every game he played last season. With 34 total pressures from 232 pass rushing snaps, he had the highest Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of any defensive tackle in this draft class at 11.3. Not a one-trick pony, Buckley also finished in the Top 10 in terms of Run Stop Percentage, making a tackle resulting in a defensive stop on 8.3% of his run defense snaps.
Mike Hull, LB, Penn State, Miami Dolphins
Another linebacker who impressed against the run, Penn State’s Hull finished the year with a Run Stop Percentage of 13.1%, the seventh-best mark in this class, on his way to finishing 12th overall in our linebacker grades. He wasn’t just limited to standing out against the run, though, with his Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap average a mere 0.31 yards, also the seventh-best in the class.
Louis Trinca-Pasat, DI, Iowa, St. Louis Rams
The “other” Iowa defensive tackle in this draft class next to the highly-rated Carl Davis, Louis Trinca-Pasat outshone his teammate at times in 2014. 41 total pressures from 347 pass rushing snaps gave him a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 9.2, the fourth-best mark in this class, and just two spots behind Davis. His best performance came against Northwestern, where he registered three sacks, a hit and two hurries, and while he will face an uphill battle to make the Rams roster, if he can perform like that his chances will greatly improve.
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Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.