2023 NFL Draft: Ranking the 10 best UDFA signings

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) runs onto the field prior to the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

There are only so many picks within the NFL draft for players to get drafted, but every year, a large crop of undrafted free agents sign onto teams in hopes of proving the rest of the league wrong. 

This year’s UDFAs are ranked based on their PFF big board rankings, including a few honorable mentions. If you would like to see all of the UDFA signings instead of just the best ones, check out PFF's UDFA tracker

LB Ivan Pace Jr., Minnesota Vikings

Pace was the highest-graded linebacker in the FBS last season, earning a 93.2 overall grade, which included a 90.7 run-defense grade (third) and a 93.3 pass-rush grade (first) that led to 55 pressures and 12 sacks — both the most among linebackers. Pace was one of the smaller linebackers in the draft at 5-foot-10 and 231 pounds and only scored a 5.71 relative athletic score (RAS), but his on-field quickness and blitzing ability should allow for a perfect fit in Brian Flores’ defense.

Edge Andre Carter II, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings strike again, grabbing the 6-foot-7 and 260-pound Carter, who earned a 93.4 pass-rush grade in 2021 with Army, which tied Aidan Hutchinson for the best in the FBS among edge defenders. In 2022, Carter could not build on his elite 2021 season, which also saw him post 59 pressures and 15 sacks, but he still earned strong pass-rush marks (82.1) and has the size and length to make him worth investing in as a project edge rusher.

CB Eli Ricks, Philadelphia Eagles

Ricks was named to the All-American team as a freshman at LSU, where he earned an 85.6 coverage grade, coming up with four interceptions and four pass breakups through 10 games. Unfortunately, a skinnier frame, injuries and off-field red flags over his past two seasons at LSU and Alabama may have been too much for teams to spend a draft pick on, so he’ll have to utilize his ideal length, height and ball skills to get back to his 2020 form and make the roster.

RB Sean Tucker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tucker had some cardiac health issues pop up during the pre-draft process that put his football future in doubt, however, the Bucs gave him a shot here on a roster with a fairly underwhelming depth chart. Tucker posted over 3,000 rushing yards during his three seasons as a starter for Syracuse and excelled in inside/outside zone run concepts, which was not common for the Bucs last season but that may change with new offensive coordinator Dave Canales coming over from Seattle, where zone concepts were called more often.

S Ronnie Hickman, Cleveland Browns

Hickman is coming off of a breakout season for the Buckeyes in 2022, posting an 88.9 coverage grade on the back of five pass breakups, an interception, a 43.3% reception rate and allowing a 39.2 NFL passer rating. The Browns could end up getting a fair bit of use out of Hickman on a thin safety depth chart. He has 91st percentile arm length and the coverage ability to potentially play a rotational role when needed behind Grant Delpit and Juan Thornhill.

RB Keaton Mitchell, Baltimore Ravens

Mitchell entered the draft as one of the smaller running backs in this class, but also one of the fastest, as he ran a 4.37-second 40-yard-dash time to back up his elite on-field speed. He won’t be a bell cow running back in the NFL at his size but could offer a change of pace and big-play upside after posting the most 10-plus carry runs (54) in the FBS last season en route to a 93.9 rushing grade (third).

CB Starling Thomas V, Detroit Lions

Thomas boasts top-tier speed for the position, as he ran a 4.38-second 40-yard-dash time but a lack of ideal size did not help his draft stock. The Lions have many question marks at the cornerback position, and Thomas has experience as a three-year starter out of UAB where he most recently allowed just 37.9% of his targets to be caught (tied for 12th) thanks to a 29% forced incompletion percentage, which was tied for fourth-best among FBS corners (min. 20% of coverage snaps).

WR Jalen Moreno-Cropper, Dallas Cowboys

Moreno-Cropper posted high-end production out of Fresno State with 222 receptions through four seasons and over 2,700 yards. While his senior year had him working as more of an X receiver, his size most likely makes him a slot in the NFL, which he played primarily as a sophomore and junior. Moreno-Cropper has ideal speed and separation ability to push for a rotational roster spot in Dallas’ wide receiver corps.

S Brandon Joseph, Detroit Lions

The Lions target the defensive secondary once again, bringing in the former 2020 All-American to compete for a backup safety role. Joseph displayed decent coverage ability throughout his three years as a starter at Northwestern and most recently Notre Dame, as he never earned below a 77.1 coverage grade in the past three seasons. Joseph also earned a top-25 punt return grade (77.2) in 2022 and could provide some value on special teams.

CB Rejzohn Wright, Carolina Panthers

Wright has the ideal size to play outside corner in the NFL and that showed up in his ball production over the past two seasons at Oregon State. He posted 11 pass breakups and four interceptions since 2021 and allowed just 47.2% of his 53 targets to be caught in 2022. Wright’s inconsistency as a run defender and struggles with missed tackles (24.0% career missed tackle rate) contributed to his low draft stock.

Honorable mentions

DI Jerrod Clark, Los Angeles Chargers

G Jaxson Kirkland, Cincinnati Bengals

CB Mekhi Garner, Philadelphia Eagles

S Trey Dean III, New York Jets

EDGE Lonnie Phelps, Cleveland Browns

DI Jalen Redmond, Carolina Panthers

DI Jonah Tavai, Seattle Seahawks

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