Which Undrafted Rookies Could Earn Roster Spots?

Two months since the start of the new NFL year, there are openings at tight end, on the defensive line and at kicker.
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After 259 players have their names called through seven rounds of the NFL Draft, teams shift their focus to those who were overlooked.

Plenty of undrafted rookie free agents earn roster spots every year. The Tennessee Titans agreed to terms with 10 of them last week. But the odds are always stacked against those rookies when it comes to making the 53-man roster or practice squad for the regular season.

Those players need to give teams unique reasons to keep them past training camp.

“There’s always just kind of something,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said on Saturday. “Whether they go out there and excel in a leadership role … maybe they picked up the offense or defense so well that they not only knew their job but help the guys around them. They have to exhibit some sort of skillset.”

Last year guys like offensive lineman Aaron Brewer, wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and defensive lineman Teair Tart all carved out roles for themselves. A year earlier, it was outside linebacker Derick Roberson and cornerback Kareem Orr.

“You kind of know. You kind of see it (when an undrafted has what it takes),” Vrabel said. “It’s either there or it’s not.”

All Titans looks at the undrafted free agents with the best chances of making the team this summer:

Miller Forristall, tight end, Alabama: The tight end room is wide open. Jonnu Smith left in free agency, and franchise officials have not replaced him in free agency or the draft.

Forristall had an injury-filled career at Alabama, missing his entire sophomore year and most of the next one with knee injuries. But he’s stayed fairly healthy over the last two seasons, and he’s been productive. He caught a career-high four touchdowns in 2019 in nine games and set career highs in receptions (23) and yards (253) this past season in 12 games.

The 6-foot-4, 244-pounder will compete with veterans Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim, untested players Tommy Hudson and Jared Pinkney and fellow undrafted free agent Briley Moore (Kansas State).

Blake Haubeil, kicker, Ohio State: It remains to be seen whether the Titans feel they need a veteran such as Stephen Gostkowski or if they are willing the risk going with a younger, cheaper option at kicker.

As of now, Haubeil figures to go head-to-head Tucker McCann, an undrafted free agent in 2020 who spent the entirety of last season on the practice squad.

Huabeil was a full-time starter for the Buckeyes for three seasons. He made 80 percent of his field goal attempts (28-35) and all 146 of his point-after tries. In 50 career games at Ohio State, he scored 230 points, which is good for 16th all-time in program history and 10th among kickers. His career-long was a 55-yard field goal in a victory over Northwestern in 2019.

Naquan Jones, defensive tackle, Michigan State: The Titans have crowd at defensive tackle, including free-agent addition Denico Autry, 2019 first-round pick Jeffery Simmons, Teair Tart and others.

But expect Jones to be competitive for a roster spot. At 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, he has prototypical size for the position. Over four years at Michigan State, he made 78 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss and had three sacks. In a COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, he recorded a career-high five tackles for a loss. He never made any more than 26 tackles in a single season (2018), but Jones is more valuable than his stats may show. He could be used to take up space and give edge rushers and linebackers chances to get into the backfield in the way DaQuan Jones (no relation) – another free agent departure who has not been replaced – was in recent seasons.