With the draft still fresh in our minds I thought I would focus on a few of the players who weren’t lucky enough to hear their names called at any point during the three day affair that was the 2011 NFL Draft. As was pointed out by ESPN ad nauseam throughout the entire draft, 23 players from the 2011 Pro Bowl were undrafted rookie free agents. Our own James Harrison is a prime example. With the lockout back in place it’s keeping teams from signing these hidden gems but once the lockout is lifted these players will get scooped up in a feeding frenzy.
Derrick Locke RB, Kentucky
40 time: 4.46secs
Analysis: I was genuinely shocked that Locke did not have his named called at any point in the draft. I thought he could’ve gone as early as the fifth round. All he did at Kentucky is make plays. He has tremendous lateral ability and vision. I’m surprised the Steelers didn’t take a flyer on him in the seventh round instead of on Baron Batch. I know the Steelers had a private work out with Batch but I see Locke as a much better replacement for Mewelde Moore. Maybe the Steelers could still sign Locke to compete with Batch in training camp.
Mario Harvey ILB, Marshall
40 time: 4.43secs
Analysis: Harvey was a potential late-round pick who turned some heads at his pro day with a monster performance. Rumors were that the Patriots, Ravens, and even our own Steelers were interested in him. He’s very good against the run but is still very raw in most areas. Given his measurables he’d be worth the tryout as he could be a beast on special teams while having the potential to start on defense in a few years.
Mark Herzlich ILB, Boston College
40 time: 4.96secs
Analysis: By now everyone knows Herzlich’s story. At the end of his junior year he was named the ACC defensive player of the year. He could’ve entered the 2009 NFL draft and been a high first round pick. Instead he chose to return for his senior year. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in his leg and missed the following year. Last season he came back, in full remission, but unfortunately he didn’t have that great of season. During the combine and pro day he didn’t help his cause much, timing really slow in the 40 on both occasions. However many feel like he’s still getting his game back and could be poised for a breakout year for whoever drafts him. If nothing else he is a high character guy that would be well worth a shot as an UDRFA.
Zach Hurd OG/OT, UConn
Analysis: Zach Hurd is another prospect who I was surprised to see go undrafted. Because of his size alone I thought some team that likes massive offensive linemen like the Eagles, Cowboys, and Ravens would take a chance on him. Hurd probably lacks the lateral quickness to play tackle, maybe right tackle at best, but would provide some versatile depth on the offensive line. I know the Steelers drafted Marcus Gilbert and Keith Williams but remember that Willie Colon, Jonathan Scott, Trai Essex, Doug Legursky, and Tony Hills are all free agents.
Joe Lefeged S, Rutgers
40 time: 4.42secs
Analysis: As with many of the players on this list I was shocked to see Lefeged not get picked. I had him rated as my tenth-best safety prospect heading into the draft. He combines above-average speed with solid technique. Given Troy Polamalu’s injury history it would be smart to sign Lefeged as insurance.
Ian Williams NT, Notre Dame
Analysis: Given the rise in the number of teams who employ a 3-4 defense it was interesting to see Ian Williams go undrafted. He doesn’t offer anything in the form of a pass-rush but is stout at the point of attack and he packs a powerful hand punch, making him the prototypical 3-4 nose tackle. Casey Hampton will be 34 years old this coming season and his back-up Chris Hoke is currently a 35 year old free agent, so if the Steelers were to sign any UDRFA then Ian Williams would probably make the most sense.
*personal side note- I now really hate the Miami Dolphins for two reasons. The obvious one being that they took Mike Pouncey, but the other is because they took Alabama A&M NT Frank Kearse one spot before us in the seventh round.
Pat Devlin QB, Delaware
40 time: 4.87secs.
Analysis: Devlin cost himself some money during the drafting process. At his pro day he showed up late and was horrible during the passing drills. However he still possesses a lot of potential. He gets a lot of comparisons to Joe Flacco, mainly because of the paths they took, but with enough time and tutelage he could one day become a solid starter in the NFL. Dennis Dixon is coming off of the second knee injury of his career and Charlie Batch is 35 years old and would be better served hanging up his spurs and settling into a coaching role at this point. Devlin could secure a spot on the practice squad until Dixon becomes an unrestricted free agent and looks for greener pastures. That would give Devlin time to mature as a passer.
A few notable others include:
Terrance Toliver WR, LSU
-Would give the Steelers the big red zone target they’ve been lacking at 6’4", 211lbs.
Ricardo Lockette WR, Fort Valley State
-A 6’2" burner with 4.34 speed that could be the small-school equivalent to Mike Wallace.
Cedric Thornton DE, Southern Arkansas
-Highly regarded small-school sleeper that has the frame to convert to 3-4 DE.
Steven Friday DE/OLB, Virgina Tech
-Poor man’s’ Jason Worilds, shows solid speed and a quick burst off the edge.
DeAndre McDaniel S, Clemson
-preseason first round pick, he followed up a great junior year with a terrible senior season. He also comes with a lot of character concerns.
Deunta Williams S, UNC
-Comes with loads of potential but was one of many Tar Heels who got suspended for agents dealings.