NFL Draft 2021: Potential UDFA sleepers

The talk surrounding the upcoming draft mostly centers on the top of the order — who will the 49ers select with the third pick? How many QBs will be chosen in the top 10? But as we see time and time again, the first round offers more than its fair share of massive failures while good players can be had in the late rounds or signed as free agents when the draft is completed. So who are the undrafted free agent (UDFA) sleepers from the 2021 NFL Draft that could impact a roster this fall that no one is presently talking about?  

Why do we do this? Example: James Robinson, who was not selected in the draft and eventually signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars — Robinson was one of five finalists for the NFL Rookie of the Year award.

Here are half a dozen names to remember. We start with one school with two such players on the fringe.

Potential UDFA sleepers for the 2021 NFL Draft: Bulldogs to keep an eye on

Israel Tucker, RB, Louisiana Tech  

Tucker took a backseat to his teammate Justin Henderson last season but is graded higher on a number of boards around the league. His Louisiana Tech Pro Day numbers included a 40 that was as fast as 4.46 seconds, a vertical jump that hit 38.5 inches, and a broad jump that touched 10’3″.

Those close to the Louisiana Tech program tell me Tucker will be better than former Bulldog Boston Scott, who is now playing productive football with the Philadelphia Eagles. Ironically, the Eagles are one of the teams showing a lot of interest in Tucker, as are the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots.

Donavaughn Campbell, OL, Louisiana Tech  

Our second Bulldog to make this list, Campbell was not graded by scouts before the season and was a non-entity in scouting circles. He showed flashes of ability at left tackle in 2020, but at 6’4″ and 336 pounds, Campbell has the size and style to play guard in a power-gap offense. He’s presently being pursued in Zoom meetings by the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, and Carolina Panthers.

Other potential UDFA sleepers to watch for in the 2021 NFL Draft

Jack Stoll, TE, Nebraska

Graded as a potential late-round pick before the season, Stoll comes off a slightly disappointing senior campaign after playing just four games. He did have a great performance at the Nebraska Pro Day, timing as fast as 4.60s in the 40 and a terrific 6.86s in the three-cone. Stoll has the size and movement skills to line up as a move tight end on Sunday, and there’s still a chance his name is called in the late rounds. If not, the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, and Minnesota Vikings will line up to sign Stoll once the draft is complete.

Josiah Bronson, DL, Washington  

Bronson is the forgotten man with most fixated on Washington stars Levi Onwuzurike, Joe Tryon, and Elijah Molden. Yet, the athletic big man is a versatile defensive lineman with real next-level potential. Weighing 304 pounds, Bronson timed as fast as 4.97 seconds in the 40 with a ten-yard split of 1.77 seconds. He completed 27 reps on the bench and touched 30 inches in the vertical jump. 

Bronson plays to those numbers on the field. Those on hand for the Washington Pro Day claim he looked more athletic than Onwuzurike, a potential first-round prospect. Bronson can line up at the three-technique, play two-gap end, and he even stood over linebacker in college. So who’s on him right now? The Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, and New Orleans Saints are teams showing the most interest.

Andre Mintze, DE/OLB, Vanderbilt  

Mintze was another who took a back seat to a well-known teammate. However, anyone who watches the film understands he’s a big, tough pass rusher with next-level potential. During the Vanderbilt Pro Day, when 28 teams showed up basically to watch Mintze workout by himself, the 40 times ranged between 4.56 to 4.67, much faster than anyone expected. Mintze measured just a shade under 6’3″, 257 pounds, and looked terrific in position drills. 

He’s a hybrid defender who can stand over the tackle or come out of a three-point stance. If he’s not selected, the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and New York Giants have Mintze in their sights.

Calvin Bundage, LB, Oklahoma State  

Early in his OSU career, Bundage looked like a star in the making, so much so that NFL scouts gave him draftable grades over the summer. But the senior was used on a rotational basis during 2020 and tallied just 19 tackles, though he did post 7 sacks. So what gives? Disagreements with the coaching staff led to reduced playing time for Bundage last season, who also had 8.5 tackles for loss to go along with his sack totals. 

During the Oklahoma State Pro Day, the swift linebacker timed as fast as 4.68 seconds in the 40 and also reached 9’8″ in the broad jump. Besides the athleticism, the versatility brought by Bundage is appealing to teams who feel he can be used at outside linebacker, inside linebacker, or as a designated pass rusher. The New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and San Francisco 49ers are showing a lot of interest in the former Cowboy.

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