The acquisition of rookies heading into the 2020 NFL season didn’t end with Tae Crowder coming off the board to the New York Giants with the 255th overall pick on Saturday. That move just signaled that it was time for the undrafted free agent feeding frenzy to begin. There were plenty of talented players out there to be had — guys who realistically have just as good a shot to make a roster as players drafted ahead of them in the later portions of the 2020 NFL Draft. Here is where the top remaining players on our Big Board ended up this past weekend.
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1. TE Hunter Bryant to the Detroit Lions
Bryant falling out of the draft is the clear-cut biggest head-scratcher on this list. He was 79th overall and the top-ranked tight end on our board, and it’s not as if we were significantly higher on him than most draft pundits. Bryant came in at 98th overall (TE3) on the consensus big board put together over at The Athletic. Barring red flags popping up related to several knee injuries he suffered in the past, Bryant falling out of the draft entirely is a shock.
That plays to the benefit of the Lions. He has arguably the best receiving chops of any tight end in this class, putting up a receiving grade of 91.7 since 2017 to go along with a class-high 2.90 yards per route run. The Lions are already pretty heavily invested at tight end between spending a first-round pick on TJ Hockenson last season and signing Jesse James to a decent-sized deal, but Bryant brings a different element to the group and has the potential to really benefit that offense.
2. QB Anthony Gordon to the Seattle Seahawks
We were admittedly higher on Gordon than most heading into the draft, but that’s because our data paints an intriguing picture for him. PFF tracks ball location data for every throw at the college level, and last season Gordon ranked second in the percentage of his passes that were deemed accurate (69.4%), trailing only Joe Burrow among draft-eligible quarterbacks. NFL teams often fall in love with the quarterbacks who have ideal size and big arms while discounting the most important trait a quarterback needs to be successful — accuracy. He joins Russell Wilson as the only quarterbacks on the roster at the moment, in prime position to earn a backup job in the same state he played in college.
3. IOL Calvin Throckmorton to the New Orleans Saints
PFF Big Board Rank: 117
You don’t want to overreact to NFL Combine performances, but Throckmorton’s was really bad. That lack of athleticism was likely a driver in his fall and may limit him to center in the NFL. There are a lot of things to like with Throckmorton, though. He played tackle, guard and center in the Oregon offense as a four-year starter. That’s about as good as you’re going to get from an experience standpoint. He’s also graded well with pass-blocking grades above 85.0 in each of the past three years and overall grades above 70.0 all four years as a starter. It’s a solid depth signing for the Saints, a team that had just four draft picks last week.
4. CB Parnell Motley to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
PFF Big Board Rank: 139
There have been few cornerbacks who have been more active at the catch point than Motley during his three-year tenure as a starting cornerback for the Oklahoma Sooners. His 30 combined pass breakups and interceptions since 2017 are tied for seventh among cornerbacks in the class. There are some questions about how his game will translate to the NFL level, with limited burst and an increase in physicality, but this is a good move by the Buccaneers to bring in a player who has multiple years with high PFF grades (81.9 in 2017 and 80.1 in 2019) on his record paired with an impressive history of making plays on the ball.
5 . QB Josh Love to the Los Angeles Rams
PFF Big Board Rank: 140
Love’s ranking from us was clearly well ahead of most, but there is a lot to like about the little things that he does at a high level already. As lead draft analyst Mike Renner says in the PFF Draft Guide, “He’s got a compact release and gets through his progressions quickly. He’s unwilling to take negative plays and keeps his offense on schedule.” All that led to an overall grade of 89.1 this past season with San Jose State. He doesn’t have the prototypical traits that are going to get you noticed by the NFL, but there is a real chance that he sticks on the Rams roster as the backup to Jared Goff.
6. RB J.J. Taylor to the New England Patriots
PFF Big Board Rank: 149
The “fun to watch” label gets thrown out a lot during draft season, but, man, Taylor is fun to watch. Coming in at 5-foot-5 and 185 pounds, Taylor has a legitimate hit stick. He has no fear running straight through defenders much larger than him. He also has some light feet and natural receiving ability that could make him a nice threat out of the backfield in New England. Compared to some of the running backs that came off the board as early as the second round (looking at you, A.J. Dillon) getting Taylor as an undrafted free agent is great value. The fit couldn’t be much better in New England, either, as he can learn from someone like James White.
7. S J.R. Reed to the Jacksonville Jaguars
PFF Big Board Rank: 152
The Jaguars should know what they’re getting in Reed at this point. He is already 24 years old, and the biggest draw to his game is the fact that he doesn’t bust coverages or make a ton of bad decisions. He’s not going to make a lot of flashy plays, but that safe style has worked for him at Georgia with overall grades of 89.0 and 81.0 the past two seasons for the Bulldogs. There is a decent chance he sticks on their roster as secondary depth next season. It’s a surprise he fell out of the draft entirely considering he was also 155th on The Athletic’s Consensus Big Board.
8 . LB Joe Bachie to the New Orleans Saints
PFF Big Board Rank: 156
Bachie’s grading profile is not that of a three-year starter in the Big 10 that simply falls out of the draft entirely. His lowest grade over that stretch came at 79.9 this past season, and he put up run-defense grades of 90.0 or higher in both 2017 and 2018. That kind of production is impressive. The concerns were whether he was athletic enough to translate that to the NFL, where athleticism simply matters more at the linebacker position. Considering his Combine numbers were promising in that regard, this is a solid move by the Saints, who had limited draft capital to work with.
9. S Levonta Taylor to the Los Angeles Rams
PFF Big Board Rank: 158
We were significantly higher on Taylor than the consensus. That comes down to the ability he showed in coverage as an outside cornerback before transitioning to safety this past season at Florida State, plus his obvious athleticism. His grade has fallen each of the past three years from 78.5 in 2017 to 73.6 and 65.8, but he has the tools in coverage and the athleticism to figure it out despite being undersized. The Rams took two safeties in the draft (Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller), so Taylor will join them to compete for a safety/slot role.
10. CB Javaris Davis to the Kansas City Chiefs
PFF Big Board Rank: 161
The Chiefs may be moving L’Jarius Sneed back to cornerback, but as it stands right now, they did not take a single player in the 2020 NFL Draft who played cornerback in college last season. With the depth currently on the roster, it’s no surprise they actively targeted cornerbacks in the UDFA pool with two on this list, starting with Davis. Davis was a versatile piece on the Auburn defense, playing 200 or more snaps both outside and in the slot each of the past two seasons. He has sub 4.40-speed, but his size (5-foot-8) will likely limit him to the slot in the NFL. Davis has the potential to add legitimate value there for Kansas City after coming off four consecutive seasons with coverage grades of 79.9 or higher for the Tigers.
11. TE Jared Pinkney to the Atlanta Falcons
PFF Big Board Rank: 170
Pinkney was one of the biggest fallers when it comes to draft stock in all of college football this past season. Not only did he see a massive drop in production at Vanderbilt (770 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2018 to 233/2 in 2019), but he put up a disastrous 4.96 40-yard dash time in Indianapolis. Getting past all that, he is still a big body who has route-running nuance you like to see. He may never be a featured tight end, but this is a solid move by Atlanta to continue to attack potential fits at the position after losing Austin Hooper in free agency.
12. CB Essang Bassey to the Denver Broncos
PFF Big Board Rank: 174
Bassey had a disastrous Senior Bowl, coming in as one of our lowest-graded defensive backs during his time there. The press-man he was running there wasn’t exactly what he is going to be doing at the NFL level, though. His instincts and discipline in zone coverage should play well in Vic Fangio’s defense from the slot. Bassey may be undersized with tackling issues, but there is plenty of reason to like him as an undrafted option given a grading profile that features four-straight years with 70-plus coverage grades and strong testing at the NFL Combine.
13. DI Teair Tart to the Tennessee Titans
PFF Big Board Rank: 175
The obvious concern with Tart is any kind of sample size. He played just 316 defensive snaps in 2018 and 378 last year. From a grading standpoint, Tart dominated in that limited sample, though. He put up overall grades of 85.0 or higher both years, producing in the run game and as a pass rusher. It’s not surprising that Tart didn’t get drafted after limited playing time at a school like FIU, but he’s one of the more intriguing dart throws in undrafted free agency, particularly for a Titans team that traded away Jurrell Casey this offseason.
14. CB Lavert Hill to the Kansas City Chiefs
PFF Big Board Rank: 177
Some of Hill’s numbers in coverage with Michigan are just silly. His passer rating allowed of 49.1 since 2017 is a top-10 mark in the class, but as the PFF Draft Guide says, the tape shows a player that beat up on weaker competition while being exposed by the better wide receivers he faced. Additionally, his size could be a problem on the outside at the NFL. He does have plenty of experience, though, particularly in press man and has done a good job at Michigan of knowing when to play the ball vs. his man. This is a good low-risk move by the Chiefs to continue to add potential solutions to their secondary.
15. S Jalen Elliott to the Detroit Lions
PFF Big Board Rank: 183
The Lions opened our list with Hunter Bryant, and they close it here with the 183rd-ranked player on our board. It’s hard not to imagine that his 4.8 time in the 40-yard dash did a number on his draft stock. That’s tough to get past when you’re talking about someone playing down the field with all the speed at the NFL level. We saw the high-end of what Elliott could do in 2018, though, with an 81.4 overall grade and an 87.6 grade in coverage. There’s a physicality to his game when paired with his length that can play in the NFL. The Lions must find where that plays best, because it’s not going to be at free safety with that speed.