Undrafted NFL Free Agents 2013: Deep Sleepers with Starting Potential

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent IMay 7, 2013

Oct 22, 2011; Houston, TX, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane defensive back Dexter McCoil (26) prepares for a game against the Rice Owls at Rice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

There will be undrafted rookie free agents that impact as starters in the 2013 NFL season.

Recently displays from the production of Stanford receiver Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks) in 2011, as well as Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict (Cincinnati Bengals) in 2012 are evidence of that. As for the 2013 campaign, it's easier to anticipate than previous years.

Because the draft was overloaded with talent along the offensive line and defensive fronts, less attention was put on other positions. Factor in how each team selected and certain underlying weaknesses remain exposed.

This is where the undrafted prospects come in, as patching up the vulnerabilities must occur throughout May. Despite possessing starting potential, the following have are simply further off the radar than the more popular undrafted rookies.

Note: Full view list of undrafted rookie free-agent signings, courtesy of NFL.com.


Da'Rick Rogers: WR, Buffalo Bills

In 2011, Da'Rick Rogers caught 67 passes for 1,040 yards and scored nine times at Tennessee. Prior to the 2012 campaign, though, he was forced to transfer to the FCS level as reported by Mike Organ of The Tennessean back in August:

Da’Rick Rogers said Tuesday that failed drug tests led to his suspension from the Tennessee football team and transfer to Tennessee Tech.

“There were a couple of drugs tests,” said Rogers, a 6-foot-2, 206-pound junior from Calhoun, Ga. “It wasn’t anything too crazy. It was about me being a young, immature guy, and those are things I’ve got to work on. I plan to do that.”

Even with 893 yards gained on 61 receptions including 10 scores a season ago, Rogers can easily be overlooked in his position. The Volunteers featured two standout receivers in Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter for this draft.

Include other playmakers in DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson) and Terrance Williams (Baylor) and Rogers coming from Tennessee Tech didn't offer much appeal. That said, his size and natural athleticism is an advantage for Buffalo.

The Bills need a guy capable of winning versus one-on-one downfield. With Robert Woods to go underneath and Steve Johnson on the outside, Rogers is capable of emerging as the No. 2 target.

Dexter McCoil: Safety, Oakland Raiders

Last season the Raiders gave up a 66 completion percentage, 28 passing touchdowns and managed only 25 sacks.

Ranking No. 20 in pass defense, that will drop further this season unless the secondary steps up.

Tyvon Branch is a stud at one safety position and Houston's D.J. Hayden has supreme potential. Still, Oakland must get something from Tulsa's Dexter McCoil to fend off the upgraded AFC West offenses.

Fortunately, the guy has a strong nose for the rock.

During his career, McCoil accounted for 315 tackles, defended 43 passes and gained 232 return yards on 18 interceptions. Although he still needs to get more explosive for man coverage situations, McCoil brings the agility to redirect in Cover 2 and 3.

Factor his size frame of 6'4" and 224 pounds, he'll also deliver big hits against the run and reduce yards allowed after the catch.

Nigel Nicholas: DE, Tennessee Titans

Although the Titans collected 39 sacks in 2012, they got great quarterback pressure from the linebackers.

So, Tennessee simply needs to expect more from its defensive line. And considering it ranked No. 26 against the pass and No. 24 against the run, asphyxiating the trenches is required to improve this fall.

Oklahoma State's Nigel Nicholas isn't the most explosive defender, but he brings a knack for getting into the backfield. Two years ago he amassed 10 tackles for loss when the Pokes won the Big 12.

As expected, he garnered more attention this past year but did get 3.5 sacks and finished with 20 career tackles for loss. In Tennessee, he'll be helped by a strong group of 'backers who will fill lanes and get interior pressure.

That impact will keep Nicholas single blocked on the outside, regardless of the down-and-distance situation. In short, Nicholas gets more playmaking opportunities to produce and assist the Titans at controlling the line of scrimmage.