The Most Impactful NFL Rookie Free Agents This Season
253 names, from Jared Goff to Kalan Reed, were called during the 2016 NFL Draft in Chicago.
These four players were not among those lucky "few", but after surviving the grueling trek that is NFL training camp, they've stuck around to provide winning efforts to their respective teams, all of whom are in the thick of the playoff race. Here's a look at the undrafted quartet, who are all worth keeping an eye on as we head down the regular season stretch.
RB Robert Kelley, Washington
In their quest for another improbable NFC East title, the Redskins' run game was called into question. Franchise runner Alfred Morris had bolted for Dallas, and they were stuck with an unproven attack that would likely be led by Matt Jones. Washington knew the dangers of wearing a QB out early...Robert Griffin III will attest to that...so a bad run game couldn't be good for Kirk Cousins's longevity. However, Kelley, coming out of Tulane, has instead given an already powerful Washington offense another option. His coming out party came on the highest of stages, a Sunday night blowout win over Green Bay, in which Kelley tallied 137 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Expect him to be a big part of their game was they fight for a playoff spot.
DE Romeo Okwara, NY Giants
Okwara tallied 13.5 sacks in his final season at Notre Dame, but went unclaimed in last spring's draft. The Giants added several key pieces to their oft-maligned defense, such as Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins, pieces that have helped them to a 9-4 record and a status as one of the NFC's better teams. But they probably didn't expected this undrafted lineman to be one of their better acquisitions, who will take on an even bigger role now that New York defensive line staple Jason Pierre-Paul is out for the foreseeable future. Already contributed via fill-in duty with tackles and blocked passes, Okwara came up huge in his first start again Dallas on Sunday night, terrorizing drafted sensation Dak Prescott all night, earning his first sack in New York's 10-7 win.
WR Tanner McEvoy, Seattle
McEvoy played a variety of positions while at the University of Wisconsin. He's officially listed as a wide receiver on the Seahawks' roster, but it would appear he has taken that multi-positional thing over to the NFL. McEvoy has not only become a reliable route runner for Russell Wilson, but he also displayed his throwing skills, via a trick play during an October tilt in New Orleans. The week prior, he block a punt in Seattle's infamous 6-6 Sunday night tie in Arizona. Seattle has made a habit of finding diamonds in the rough during their recent resurgence, and McEvoy appears to be the latest to do so.
DT Michael Pierce, Baltimore
When you think Baltimore Ravens, you always seem to instantly think defense. Pierce, undrafted out of Samford, is helping to add to that stereotype, contributing instantly to the Ravens' push for the AFC North title. He has already worked his way into the starting lineup, after a strong preseason was rewarded with a spot on the active roster. Thus far, he has accumulated 26 tackles to go along with two sacks, the first of which came in just his second career game, a 25-20 win over Cleveland. The Ravens hope Pierce's progress continues, as they'll face the Steelers later this month in a Christmas Day showdown of enormous importance.
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