With the NFL slowly opening up the facilities across the NFL, that means training camps will not be too far behind. It will be a chance for rookie free agents to make their mark on teams during practices and possibly make the roster?
The schedules for teams will be altered due to no rookie mini-camps, OTAs or mandatory mini-camps, so rookie free agents will have to have strong camps to impress coaches to make the final roster.
For the Houston Texans to have their smallest rookie class in franchise history with 14 total rookies, will one of the nine free agents have enough to make their mark?
With the help of SI.com's Phillip B. Wilson of All Colts, John Shipley of Jaguar Report, and David Boclair of All Titans, the group this week covered each team's rookie free agent that has the best chance to make an impact on their respective roster in 2020.
The Titans signed 14 undrafted rookies – and four of them were wide receivers. It is a pretty good bet, therefore, that management hopes to find something at that position.
Kyle Williams of Arizona State looks like the guy with most to offer.
First of all, there is positional certainty. At 5-foot-10, 192 pounds and with good quickness, he undoubtedly projects as a slot receiver, a spot at which Adam Humphries (undrafted in his own right in 2015) is an established starter but there is no obvious backup.
Williams' best numbers came during his sophomore season (66 receptions, 763 yards, 7 TDs) but the subsequent decline likely had more to do with a coaching/scheme change than his performance.
Nonetheless, he was consistent over the last two seasons (44 catches, 449 yards in 2018 and 45 catches, 482 yards in 2019) even as he was a secondary target to first-round draft picks in each, N'Keal Harry in 2018 and Brandon Aiyuk in 2019.
There are other things to like about Williams as well. He is smart, a biomedical engineering major who interned at the Mayo Clinic and plans to become a doctor. He is reliable, six dropped passes on 206 targets from 2017-19. And has a reputation as a willing and capable blocker.
There is no such thing as a sure thing among undrafted players, but Williams looks like a good bet. -- David Boclair, All Titans
Undrafted Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was coveted enough to receive a $20,000 signing bonus to sign with the Colts. So let the kicking competition commence between the 2019 Lou Groza Award winner and incumbent Chase McLaughlin, who was given a one-year tender after dutifully filling in for injured Adam Vinatieri by making five-of-six field goals and all 11 extra points in four games.
The Colts have had a UFA make the final roster cut for a league-record 21 consecutive seasons. And it's not an understatement to suggest extending the streak another year likely hinges on how well Blankenship and McLaughlin kick in a short time frame when teams finally get together.
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Although the legendary Vinatieri will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL's all-time leader in points and field goals had the worst season of his 24-year career with all but one of the team's league-high 15 missed kicks, including six extra points. He was hurt, and eventually ended up on injured resave with a leg injury that required surgery, but Vinatieri turns 48 in December and it sure seems as if the Colts have moved on.
Blankenship was the Bulldogs' all-time leading scorer and made 81.8 percent of his field goals and all 200 extra points in college. The 23-year-old "Hot Rod" is also known for his distinctive, spectacled "rec-spec" look, which earned him quite a cult fan following. That he was undrafted while three kickers were selected outraged his fans and surprising media, who are convinced Blankenship will prove to be a steal for his prospective NFL employer. -- Phillip B. Wilson, All-Colts
The UDFA with the best chance to crack the Jaguars roster and make an impact in 2020 can be argued amongst a few players, with the vast majority being defensive backs. But we will lean toward safety J.R. Reed, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist last season.
Reed transferred to Georgia from Tulane in 2017 and grew into one of Georgia's most dependable players and leaders. In his final season at Georgia, Reed recorded 54 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception, seven pass deflections, one fumble recovery, and one forced fumble. He has the ability to play in the box or in coverage vs. tight ends, giving him some flexibility in the backend of the defense, while his high football IQ suggests he could thrive as a rookie despite a virtual-heavy offseason.
The Jaguars' safety position is far from solidified, both at the top and throughout the depth, which should help Reed. Ronnie Harrison is entrenched as a starter but Jarrod Wilson can be upgraded from across from him, and the departure of special teams ace Cody Davis means there is a hole to be filled. Look for Reed to compete with 2019 UDFA Andrew Wingard for his roster spot. -- John Shipley, Jaguars Report
The Houston Texans will be heading to training camp with a limited amount of rookies. With the smallest draft class in franchise history and only nine rookie free agents, the Texans are focused on their veterans to get ready for the season.
With the Texans reversing course on defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, Jr. and opting not to finish their signing of him, it opens the door for rookie defensive tackle Auzoyah Alufohai. "Big Z" is already in prime position to make a mark due to the lack of depth on the defensive line interior.
One of the most intriguing secrets during the draft process, Alufohai, brought scouts from all by one NFL team to West Georgia to get a closer look at him during the season.
With Brandon Dunn and Angelo Blackson was the top returners on the inside of the defense, Alufohai has a chance to add much-needed youth depth along with Ross Blacklock. His sheer size at 6-foot-4 and 320 lbs. gives the Texans a chance to see the big-bodied Alufohai mix it up to eat up blockers.
For Alufohai to make the jump and impress the coaches, he will have to outplay the likes of Carlos Watkins, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Ira Savage-Lewis. A productive camp could put Alufohai in a good position to make the roster based on a numbers game that favors him.
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