Undrafted Defensive Backs to Watch: Raiders, Panthers, Rams and More
Today, we wrap our series on undrafted players that have a chance to make an impact in the NFL. Last, but not least, are the defensive backs that didn’t have their names called in New York, but could be playing on Sunday’s this fall and for years to come:
Adrian Bushell – It was a long and strange journey for Bushell during his college years, starting out at Florida, and then going to junior college, before finishing up at Louisville, and it must have been disappointing for him not to get drafted, but that won’t stop him from playing in the NFL. The main knock on him is that he’s a little undersized, but he has good length to help make up for it, as well as fluid hip movements that allow him to keep up with receivers, even on double moves. He also has good ball skills and a knack for swatting balls away. He can play outside, he can cover slot receivers, and he also does well on blitzes, and plays special teams. All that makes him far too valuable not to be a key contributor for many years in the NFL. He signed with the Raiders, which is a good fit, as they need all they help they can get.
Greg Reid – It’s not surprising that Reid went undrafted after missing last season with an ACL tear. Also, getting kicked out of Florida State for off-field issues didn’t help either. Reid’s far from a sure thing, but when he’s healthy he’s talented enough to contribute to an NFL roster. He’s probably the best kick returner in this year’s class outside of Tyrann Mathieu, while his coverage skills are far less questionable than the Honey Badger. His size will prevent him from starting at corner, but as a nickel back that can cover the slot and be a dynamic kick returner, there will be a spot waiting for him in the NFL if he can get healthy and get his act together.
Melvin White – White is one of the bigger cornerbacks in this year’s draft class, which will help him to defend some of the bigger wide outs in the league. He’s also a physical corner, who is a strong tackler and a big hitter. He fits in best with teams that play press coverage, or teams that drop back into zone, as he can cover a large area with his big frame and make bit hits on receivers. If he doesn’t make it as a cornerback in the NFL, a move to safety should be easy to make because he’s such a good tackler, so there will be a spot for him somewhere in the league. White signed with Carolina, who failed to address the needs in their secondary during the draft, so he’s in a good spot at the start of his career, which will help him establish himself as a reliable player for many years.
Robert Lester – How in the world does a three-year starter on Alabama’s defense go undrafted? Somehow that happened to Lester, who clearly has an NFL body, with size, strength, and a lot of range. He does well to control the middle of the field and is opportunistic when it comes to intercepting errant throws. Lester also isn’t shy about coming up into the box to help in the running game or even blitz the quarterback. He also signed with Carolina, so he should have an opportunity to make a roster as a rookie, and compete for a starting spot. He’s had some problems with inconsistency, but he’s been well taught in college and has the body and skill set to be a good NFL safety.
Ray Ray Armstrong – No one really expected Armstrong to get drafted, but almost no safety that got drafted has his physical abilities. He has the kind of size that few NFL safeties have and he can run and hit as well as any current NFL safety. With Armstrong, it’s just a matter of getting him to stay out of trouble and focus on playing football, which is a lot easier said than done. The St. Louis Rams are going to give him a chance, which is actually a smart low-risk high-reward move for them. The Rams drafted T.J. McDonald in the third round, so they aren’t relying on Armstrong to give them anything, but in the event they can get through to him, they’ll have one heck of a player on their hands.