Fantasy Football: 8 Undrafted Free-Agents to Keep an Eye On
I get it. It’s post-NFL draft and we’ve analyzed the picks, winners, and losers in every direction imaginable. At some point, we need to give ourselves a moment to let things settle and examine rosters and depth chart battles with some objectivity. But there’s more to consider…
Every year there are a few undrafted free-agents (UDFAs) who battle their way to a roster spot and somehow fight their way to fantasy relevance. Many teams end up bringing more UDFAs to offseason camps than they do even drafted players. According to Spotrac, these UDFAs will make $480,000 minimum this year if they make the final roster cut. Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, Arian Foster and Wes Welker are among the more recent UDFAs who went on to dominate for their fantasy squads.
Last year’s prized UDFAs were Jacksonville’s Keelan Cole and Philadelphia’s Corey Clement. Cole shined and found his way dominating in the final weeks of the fantasy playoffs as the Jaguars depth chart was decimated with injuries. Clement was actually my last pick in a dynasty rookie draft and wasn’t relevant until a 3-TD explosion Week 9 against Denver. He was unbelievable in the Super Bowl catching 4 balls for 100 yards and a TD.
Note: This conversation is for dynasty rosters and depth chart projections and NOT for redraft purposes. Let’s take a deeper dive into 8 names who weren’t drafted in the first 7 rounds. Who will be this year’s underdog UDFA?
1. RB Akrum Wadley (Iowa) signed by the Tennessee Titans
Wadley came into the draft as a hyper-productive back with over 2,500 yards at Iowa. He’ll battle to backup Derrick Henry and another former UDFA, Dion Lewis, for the 3rd back on the depth chart. This is a perfect landing spot as his zone-running ability could prove valuable in the shotgun with QB Marcus Mariota and zone-reads. He’s a bit undersized but according to one scouting agency has “the quickness and pass-catching ability to be the third down compliment“. He’s worth a dart throw as your last pick in a rookie draft.
2. RB Darrel Williams (LSU) signed by the Kansas City Chiefs
Williams was overshadowed by Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette in his time at LSU but came into college highly regarded as a four-star recruit, top-ten back nationally. He is built more like an early-down back and a goal-line vulture with apparent short-yardage ability. If Spenser Ware (another former LSU back) is still behind in his recovery, Charcandrick West is worn out, and recently signed Damien Williams can’t cut it, don’t be surprised if Williams makes the squad as a special teamer.
3. RB Josh Adams (Notre Dame) signed by Philadelphia Eagles
As stated earlier, the Eagles found themselves a playmaker in Clement as a UDFA last year. Coach Doug Pederson seems more than ok employing a committee backfield. Adams is a powerful if unspectacular, no-nonsense runner who rushed for over 3,000 yards in his time at Notre Dame. Many draft pundits had him going as high as the 4th round. Some suggested he was propped up behind an awesome offensive line, which would be the same case in Philadelphia. Regardless, Wendell Smallwood and Donnell Pumphrey will have some competition for the RB4/5 spot on the depth chart.
4. WR Steve Ishmael (Syracuse) signed by the Indianapolis Colts.
Ishmael was a full-time starter for four years and highly productive his senior year with 105 catches. He never had earth-shattering athleticism but won “with his savvy and attention to detail at the position. He is an adept route runner.” With a depth chart begging for answers at the WR position, Ishmael could find his way on the team as the WR4 or WR5. The Colts have had success with WRs from Syracuse before ala Marvin Harrison.
5. WR Cam Phillips (Virginia Tech) signed by the Buffalo Bills
This depth chart is screaming for someone to come in and take over. Zay Jones has some legal and mental issues to work through, Kelvin Benjamin still seems unmotivated being in Buffalo while the late picks (Ray-Ray McCloud and Austin Proehl) have just as much of a shot as Phillips to make the roster. Phillips was All-ACC in 2017 after being a 4-year starter. He profiles as an underneath option and could be a special-teams contributor.
6. WR Simmie Cobbs (Indiana) signed by the Washington Redskins
Cobbs was 1st Team All-Big Ten in 2017 as a big target that can win consistently on jump balls. He also has experience covering kicks, which RotoViz’s Jon Moore showed has incredible potential in predicting future fantasy relevance. Cobbs has a clear path to beat out the rest of this maligned WR roster and become the WR4. He has the ability to carve out a niche as a big-bodied RZ threat ala Brandon Coleman in New Orleans or James Jones in his heyday.
7. QB Riley Ferguson (Memphis) signed by the Miami Dolphins
Ferguson was the heir apparent of Paxton Lynch at Memphis. Some scouting agencies had him Ferguson ranked as high as the 4th round after making 1st team All-AAC in 2017. During his senior year, his “true” accuracy scores according to Optimum Scouting were on par with Sam Darnold and Mason Rudolph. He has experience in RPO-type (run/pass options) offenses and offers some similar skill sets to Ryan Tannehill. With only Brock Osweiler and the recently claimed Bryce Petty in front of him, Ferguson has a chance to stick in Miami.
8. QB Chase Litton (Marshall) signed by the Kansas City Chiefs
With Alex Smith shipped out of town, the backups in KC behind Patrick Mahomes are Matt “Ohhh… Muh Groin” McGloin and Chad Henne, veterans with little upside. Litton was rated by some scouts as the 7th best QB in this draft. He is the rare college QB that started every single game possible, from his true freshman year until his final season at Marshall. He has a big arm but also is turnover-prone. Still, Kansas City is a great spot behind Patrick Mahomes to let him develop and compete for a backup job.
Kyle Allen (Houston)- Panthers
Lavon Coleman (Washington)- Texans
Phillip Lindsay (Colorado)- Broncos
De’Lance Turner (Alcorn State)- Ravens
Ryan Nall (Oregon State)- Bears
Allen Lazard (Iowa State)- Jaguars
Byron Pringle (Kansas State)- Chiefs
Corey Willis (Central Michigan)- Cardinals
Dre Hall (North Alabama)- Panthers
Robert Foster (Alabama)- Bills
Ethan Wolf (Tennessee)- Titans
Marcus Baugh (Ohio State)- Raiders