The most crowded draft class in NFL history has overflowed into a league-wide undrafted rookie spending spree. Following the seventh round of this weekend’s NFL Draft, the business picked up with record-breaking contracts handed out to undrafted rookies.
2022 NFL Draft: 10 undrafted rookies with clear paths toward 53-man roster spots
The Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints were among the heaviest spenders in undrafted free agency. With a limited number of draft picks, both teams issued eye-opening guarantees for their undrafted additions. But those teams weren’t the only squads to offer promising opportunities for undrafted talent.
Here are 10 undrafted rookies with clear paths towards making an initial 53-man roster.
Abram Smith, RB, New Orleans Saints
Outside of the QB group, Abram Smith might be the most bewildering undrafted player in this year’s class. Despite being a standout at the Senior Bowl and producing 1,601 rushing yards last season, Smith slid out of the selection process.
The Saints signed him to an undrafted deal with $222,000 in guaranteed money. He is competing for the third running back spot behind Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram Jr. The wide-open battle for the third spot is between Smith, Dwayne Washington, Josh Adams, and others.
Carson Strong, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles agreed to sign Carson Strong to a record-breaking undrafted free agent contract on Saturday. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Strong will receive $300,000 in guaranteed base salary. With Reid Sinnett and fellow undrafted rookie EJ Perry as his only competition for the No. 3 QB job, Strong should be considered the favorite to earn a 53-man roster spot in Philadelphia.
While teams passed on him due to his history of knee procedures, Strong had one of the strongest arms in the class. If his knee injury woes are behind him, the Eagles landed a stellar backup QB who could benefit the scout team because of his ability to give the group different downfield looks.
Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew have completely different styles than Strong, but it never hurts to take a worthwhile flier on a developmental QB with significant upside.
Jeremiah Hall, FB, New York Giants
Jeremiah Hall is Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen’s hand-picked fullback. Daboll has had success with fullbacks in the past, and Hall seems to be a great fit for a Patrick DiMarco-like role in the Giants’ new offense. Hall is a solid blocker and can catch the ball cleanly.
While fullback isn’t a glamorous position, Hall produced 757 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns during his career at Oklahoma. He also caught 81 passes for 810 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. Hall has some tight end ability as well.
Markquese Bell, S, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys failed to add to their safety unit in the draft, but they signed Markquese Bell to make up for that lack of selection. While Bell has an uphill climb ahead of him, the Cowboys have little safety depth behind Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker.
Bell was a standout at FAMU, and he should be able to make a difference on special teams as a rookie.
Reed Blankenship, S, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles only used five draft picks this weekend. With a limited inventory of selections, Philadelphia went all out in free agency. After passing on safeties in the draft, the Eagles brought in Reed Blankenship to fill out the depth chart. With Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps as the only true locks for the roster, Blankenship has an opportunity to steal a spot.
Blankenship will compete with the likes of K’Von Wallace, Jared Mayden, and Andre Chachere for a job. All three of those players have been regulated to special teams throughout most of their Philadelphia tenures.
Brayden Thomas, EDGE, Los Angeles Rams
Like Blankenship, Brayden Thomas is in a situation where he can take advantage of a lack of depth and draft picks at his position. Thomas should be able to compete in earnest for a spot opposite Leonard Floyd, who is the only proven stand-up rusher in LA.
Thomas will compete with Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis, and Chris Garrett for a depth spot. He’s coming off a 9-sack season at North Dakota State.
Jack Coan, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Jack Coan might have a shot at sticking long-term in Indy. While Matt Ryan is obviously the Colts’ starter, Coan could compete with Sam Ehlinger for the backup job. The worst-case scenario would be that Coan would need to beat out James Morgan for the third-string gig.
Coan, a Notre Dame alum, has a local pedigree and should have a worthwhile opportunity to land a long-term role with the Colts.
Luiji Vilain, EDGE, Minnesota Vikings
Luiji Vilain, per Pelissero, will get $227,000 in guaranteed money at signing. The Wake Forest alum also has minimal competition for a backup gig. While the Vikings drafted Esezi Otomewo in the fifth round, they aren’t that jam-packed at EDGE behind Danielle Hunter.
Vilain should receive every chance to make the initial 53-man roster. He finished last season with 9 sacks.
Smoke Monday, S, New Orleans Saints
Like the Eagles, the Saints saved a lot of their money for undrafted free agency. After failing to add a notable safety in the draft, New Orleans signed the player with the best name in the class. Smoke Monday isn’t just a well-named flier, though, as he’s a pretty solid safety who could immediately impact special teams.
The Auburn alum produced 171 tackles, 6 sacks, and 5 interceptions during his college career. He should be able to win the fourth safety job in camp.
Charleston Rambo, WR, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers still seem like a team devoid of talent in key spots. That said, the signing of Charleston Rambo was notable. While the Panthers have a nice trio of wideouts in DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall Jr., the spots behind them are up in the air and ready for the taking.
Rambo was a strong playmaker throughout most of his college career. After transferring from Oklahoma to Miami last year, he finished with 79 catches for 1,172 yards and 7 touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound wideout could be a long-term developmental playmaker for the Panthers.