Preseason games can make or break careers in the NFL. Undrafted free agents are particularly dependent on the opportunity to get on the field for live action. With two weeks of the preseason already in the books, which UDFAs have stood out, and who should you be keeping an eye on heading into Week 3?
1. Cre’von LeBlanc, CB, Patriots
LeBlanc was unlucky not to be drafted after an excellent season at Florida Atlantic. Level of competition was a concern, but LeBlanc dominated opponents across from him. Overall he allowed only 22 completions on 56 targets for 307 yards in 2015. Although he took a few too many risks in his last year in college, surrendering four touchdowns, LeBlanc made his fair share of big plays, with four interceptions and five pass deflections. The leap to the NFL has not diminished his progress. In his 80 preseason snaps so far, he has given up just three receptions for 10 yards with an interception. LeBlanc also leads all rookie corners with four stops.
2. Darius Latham, DT, Raiders
But for his issues off the field, Darius Latham would almost certainly have heard his name called in April. Those concerns will continue to simmer under the surface until he has proven that he can retain his focus over the long-term. That being said, Latham can’t have hoped for a better start. During his final season at Indiana, he ranked 21st overall amongst FBS interior defenders. Latham was a particularly dominant pass rusher, generating 39 combined pressures in 2015. The Cardinals’ backups could not handle his quickness or pass-rush repertoire in preseason Week 1, as Latham finished with a hit and four hurries. He then showed the diversity of his skill-set with a solid game against the run against Green Bay in preseason Week 2. Latham is making a strong push to stick on the Raiders’ roster.
3. Ian Seau, DE, Rams
Considering his surname, it’s somewhat surprising Ian Seau didn’t get more attention in college or heading into the NFL draft. Playing at Nevada, he was far from the limelight in the FBS. Seau dominated at that level, though, managing 41 combined pressures and the 10th-highest pass-rush grade of all edge defenders last season. Although he still has room to improve against the run, Seau proved he can compete at this level with a sack, four hurries, and a batted pass in his first 35 NFL preseason snaps.
4. Jeremy Cash, LB, Panthers
Jeremy Cash was not without faults upon his graduation from Duke, but it was mildly surprising that no team thought his deficiencies sufficiently coachable to select him in the first seven rounds. Playing weakside in the Panthers’ system should suit him perfectly. He’ll certainly see fewer blocks from the position, enabling him to make plays around the line of scrimmage using his instincts. Cash was remarkably effective around the line of scrimmage in 2015, ranking first amongst safeties against run defense. In his first two NFL games, he managed five stops to go with positive grades against the run and in coverage.
5. Chase Farris, OG, Lions
Chris Farris received little buzz in the buildup to the draft, struggling to get much press with the talent on Ohio State’s roster. Additionally, he might be better suited to playing on the interior. Lining up at right tackle for the Buckeyes, Farris struggled in 2015, surrendering 31 combined hurries. He’s proved a much better fit at guard early in his pro career, giving up just one pressure so far this preseason. Farris also ranks fourth amongst rookies in preseason run-blocking grade. It’s early, but Farris looks like he can forge a career inside in the NFL.