The Falcons will hold their rookie minicamp this weekend, welcoming the players acquired through the 2013 draft, as well as college free agents signed following the draft, and a handful of players who have been invited on a tryout basis.
The hopes of the undrafted free agents should be running high, but their undrafted status is basically a guarantee against NFL success, right? Not necessarily. There are several notable players who went undrafted, yet managed to have exemplary NFL careers. Quarterback Warren Moon was a nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro. Quarterback Kurt Warner was a Super Bowl MVP. Arian Foster is the first overall pick in many fantasy football league drafts today, despite being passed over entirely in the 2009 NFL Draft. Victor Cruz has a Super Bowl ring and a Campbell's Soup commercial. Jeff Saturday secured a Pro Bowl bid last season by virtue of simply being Jeff Saturday, perhaps the most recognizable center in the league. There's Hall of Famer John Randle, one of the most prolific tacklers in the game in four-time Pro Bowl selection London Fletcher, Peyton Manning's new BFF Wes Welker, San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, and the list goes on.
The Falcons have several players currently on their roster who started their careers as undrafted free agents. Running back Antone Smith, recently re-signed by the Falcons, was signed by Detroit after going undrafted in 2009. He was signed to the Falcons practice squad in 2009 and, since making the 53 man roster, he has been a solid contributor on special teams. Wide receivers Kevin Cone and Drew Davis and tight end Tommy Gallarda all ended up on the Falcons final roster after spending some time on Atlanta's practice squad.
Quarterback Dominique Davis looked good enough in the 2012 preseason for Falcons to proceed with cutting backups Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson. Long snapper Josh Harris beat out veteran Joe Zelenka for the starting spot in 2012.
Tight end Michael Palmer, currently a free agent, was a fixture on the Falcons roster in 2010, 2011 and 2012 after being signed as a college free agent in 2010. Another free agent, fullback Mike Cox, who filled in admirably for the Falcons in 2011 after Ovie Mughelli suffered a season-ending injury, and also in 2012 after the release of Lousaka Polite, began his career as an undrafted free agent in Kansas City. Atlanta's most notable undrafted free agent of late would be cornerback Brent Grimes, who was signed by the Falcons following the 2006 NFL Draft. Grimes was relegated to NFL Europe, when there still was such a thing, and played for the Hamburg Sea Devils. Grimes was selected to the Pro Bowl following a standout 2010 season.
For each undrafted free agent around the NFL who catches on and makes a name for himself, there are many who fail to have an impact. But, some of the undrafted hopefuls at Atlanta's rookie minicamp this weekend could turn out to be diamonds in the rough.
Do you have your eye on any of the undrafted rookies in particular? Is there anyone in this group that you think has a legitimate shot of developing into an impact player?