Going Pro In Sports: The UDFAs Comment Count

Ace May 6th, 2015 at 2:52 PM

Previously: Devin Funchess, Jake Ryan

Only three former Wolverines were selected in the NFL Draft—Devin Funchess, Frank Clark, and Jake Ryan—but a handful of others will get their shot as undrafted free agents. Here's a quick look at where each UDFA ended up and their chances of sticking on an NFL roster.

Brennen Beyer, DE/OLB, Baltimore Ravens

Beyer was consistently solid the last few years, playing out a career reminiscent of Craig Roh; while never outrageously productive—he topped out at 5.5 sacks in a single season—he played disciplined defense on the edge. Beyer is almost certainly an outside linebacker in the Ravens 3-4 defense, which will be a transition after playing with his hand in the dirt for the most part at Michigan—he did start five games at linebacker in 2013. Like most UDFAs, Beyer has an uphill climb to make a roster; for comparison's sake, Roh spent one season on Carolina's practice squad, then played for the Omaha Mammoths of the FXFL in 2014.

Devin Gardner, WR, New England Patriots

Gardner is making the transition from quarterback to wide receiver, and he landed on the right team to do just that; the Patriots turned Julian Edelman, a 2009 seventh-rounder, from an all-MAC dual-threat quarterback at Kent State into one of the more reliable receivers in the league.

Of course, Gardner did get some experience playing the position in college, playing receiver in 2012 until Denard Robinson's injury forced him back into quarterback duty. Gardner displayed his great athleticism, especially as a red zone threat—he had four touchdowns in eight games as a WR—but his rawness at the position was also evident. The book on Gardner from his pre-draft preparation falls in line with what we saw in 2012:

A college quarterback, Michigan's Devin Gardner is making the transition to wide receiver for the next level, a position he played briefly in his Ann Arbor career. However, he is understandably still very raw as a wideout. During Monday's practice, Gardner rounded off routes, dropped passes and attracted a good amount of attention from the coaches as they tried to coach him up. He did some things well and has the athleticism for his size that should translate well, but it will certainly take some time before he sheds the “quarterback trying to play wide receiver” label.

How quickly Gardner learns the finer aspects of playing receiver will determine if he's worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster or gets the opportunity to refine his game on the practice squad. Even if it doesn't work out with New England, he should get a shot somewhere; there's no question he's got a lot of potential, and I think his hands NFL-quality—the UFR catch chart reveals that he caught all but one easy throw that season, and was targeted on a lot of uncatchable throws that significantly drag down his yards per target.

Delonte Hollowell, DB, Detroit Lions

MLive's Kyle Meinke reports Hollowell will be at Detroit's rookie minicamp this weekend, though it isn't clear whether he's been signed as an undrafted free agent or is simply getting a tryout. (I'd guess it's the latter.) Hollowell saw the occasional snap as a slot corner but mostly played special teams at Michigan. Unless he turns into a special teams demon, he's facing a major uphill battle to make a roster, especially given his relatively small stature.

Matt Wile, P, Carolina Panthers

Wile, who saw significant action as both a placekicker and punter at Michigan, will get his shot as a punter in Carolina. The incumbent Panthers punter, Brad Nortman, took a step back in 2014 after a stellar 2013 season, so there may be an opening for Wile to land the job, but to do so he'll have to beat out an established vetaran—one Carolina used a sixth-round pick on in 2012.



May 6th, 2015 at 3:12 PM ^

Feels like Gardner will get a chance, especially if the Patriots also view him as a third-string QB option.

I remain surprised Taylor didn't land somewhere. Seems like he'd at least get a tryout.


May 6th, 2015 at 6:55 PM ^

DG is not an NFL QB, period.  It's not his fault.  He was put through too much instability, but I doubt NFL teams have the patience to find out what kind of QB he could've been.  If he's still dreaming of being an NFL QB he'll have to find his own coaching, but it seems he's fully embraced the WR transition -- which he should, to maximize his chances.  Long-term, he has the best shot among this year's UDFAs.

But as an NFL QB?  No.  The franchises aren't thinking it, the coaches aren't thinking it, Devin himself isn't doing anything but try to become a WR.


May 7th, 2015 at 12:19 PM ^

This is pure speculation, but I think there's definitely something going on there. Maybe Taylor has decided not to pursue the NFL, maybe he suffered a training injury, etc. But there's really no rational explanation for Hollowell getting a shot and not Taylor.


May 6th, 2015 at 3:23 PM ^

Those Cost of Attendance scholarships sound like a pretty sweet deal. If the NCAA just moved to the Olympic Model of amatuerism (autograph earnings, endorsements, and freebies allowed) ...


May 6th, 2015 at 6:41 PM ^

Devin Gardner only had one touchdown from inside the red zone, that being a 7-yard touchdown vs. Air Force. The others were from 44 yards (Alabama), 42 yards (UMass), and 23 yards (Purdue).

Sac Fly

May 7th, 2015 at 7:44 AM ^

I'm less optimistic Gardner can make it. To stick as an extra WR he'll have to run a lot of underneath routes and be a YAC guy. I don't see him being that guy.