Not every player gets to hear their name called on draft day, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find themselves on an NFL roster. When the draft is over, teams usually get to work right away finding and signing the undrafted rookies. Every once in a while, it pays off for both the team – and the player.
The NFL Hall of Fame is filled with undrafted talent. Dick “Night Train” Lane (14 seasons), Warren Moon (17 seasons) and Lou “The Toe” Groza (21 seasons) all went undrafted and found themselves in Canton. Antonio Gates (Chargers), Tony Romo (Cowboys) and Jeff Saturday (Colts) all received phone calls well after the draft and have all been named Pro-Bowlers for their current teams.
The Browns even have an undrafted star on their roster in Josh Cribbs. So here’s a list of potential stars the Cleveland Browns should extend phone calls too once the lockout is lifted…
1. Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
Everyone knows this kid’s story: Former ACC Defensive Player of the Year, who missed the entire 2009 season while battling cancer. He returned for the 2010 season, and finished the season with 65 tackles – 50 of those solo. The Browns need help at linebacker on the inside and the outside. Herzlich is a top 10 talent, who is only going to get better. He leaves Boston College with 314 tackles, 7 forced fumbles and 11 career INTs. The former All-American would at least provide depth to the Browns line backing unit, but has the potential to be a star.
2. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR, Iowa
Koulianos has the talent to play in the NFL, but trouble off the field raised big concerns about drafting the former Iowa star. DJK was suspended for the Hawkeyes bowl game, when he was arrested on drug charges. However, his stats on the field are certainly worth a look. He leaves Iowa with 2616 receiving yards with 173 receptions and 17 TDs. He’s only 5’11”, but with Cleveland’s transition to the west coast offense, he could contend for playing time among the current Cleveland receivers. If the Browns were willing to take a fly on Greg Little, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is definitely worth a look and has played the game more recently. Even if it’s just for depth, Holmgren and Heckert should consider signing Koulianos.
3. Nick Bellore, LB, Central Michigan
Again, the Cleveland Browns need depth at linebacker. Nick Bellore started the first 51 games of his career, and his 472 total tackles for the Chippewas ranks third in school history. Bellore plays the game with a certain toughness that could translate well into the NFL. He also earned All-MAC first team honors in three different years while in college. Bellore would bring a nice toughness to the Browns backing core, and has a worth ethic that could eventually find himself in the starting line-up.
4. Pierre Allen, DE, Nebraska
The Browns drafted Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard in the 2nd Rd. of this year’s draft, but they could still use a playmaker to add depth along the defensive line. Allen was pivotal in helping the Nebraska D return to glory over the pass two years, and tallied 65 total tackles with 11 of those tackles for a loss. The former First-Team All Big-12 selection has decent size (6’5” 265 lbs) but has a high motor when it comes to disrupting opposing backfields. Allen will most likely provide depth for his first few years in the league, but has the will and desire to be a star. He’s certainly worth a look.
5. Justin Boren, G, Ohio State
Boren is already a fan favorite among Ohio State fans in Ohio, as he burned Michigan to transfer to Ohio State and play for the Buckeyes. While playing at that dreaded school up north, he earned honorable mention Big 10 honors and did so by starting games at both center and left guard. After he transferred to OSU, he started only at left guard but earned All Big 10 honors at the position. At 6’3” 320, Boren plays the game with physicality but may only ever being a career back-up in the NFL. He’s worth a look, as he’s a low-risk/high-reward kind of player that could definitely be a solid reserve for the Browns anywhere along the line – probably at right guard.
6. Ian Williams, DL, Notre Dame
Not to sound like a broken record, but again – the Browns need depth along the defensive line. Pat Taylor is expected to be a big contributor this year for Cleveland, and Ahtyba Rubin had sort of a break out year for the Browns during 2010. Williams is another big body (6’2” 305 lbs) and has experience in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. He missed the final four games of the season with a knee injury, but returned to the line-up for the bowl game. Williams would be a nice player to have in the rotation, and is a player who has an excellent worth ethic.
7. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia University
Size and injury concerns kept Devine from hearing his named called on draft day. Even though his production dropped his senior season (under 1000 yds rushing for first time since freshman year), Devine carries an explosiveness that would be a nice compliment to a backfield that consist mainly of bruising runners. Noel’s rushing production dropped last year, but his receiving stats grew as he racked up 258 yards, on 34 receptions and crossed pay dirt once. His size (5’8” 180) is certainly a concern, but he’d provide a nice change of pace presence for the Browns.
8. Tejay Johnson, S, TCU
Johnson was probably pretty disappointed when his name wasn’t called on draft day. Although he lacks size (6’0” 212 lbs) he started three years for the Frogs, and was named as a Thorpe finalist and 1st Team AP All-American his senior year. He plays excellent against the run, but needs work in his coverage skills. The Browns already have a pretty talented safety in T.J. Ward, but the other safety position is in limbo. Expect Sheldon Brown to play safety this year if the Browns decide to not bring back Abe Elam. It’s been reported that Johnson has no desire to play in the NFL, but it’s worth seeing where he’s at in life after the lockout is lifted. He may not be starter quality just yet, but again – depth, depth, depth.
9. Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina
Unlike former Tar Heel teammate Greg Little, Burney was able to participate in at least five games his senior season even though he, too, was found to have received improper benefits by the NCAA. Although short in stature (5’9”), Burney is fast (4.4 40) and has excellent ball skills. He could find himself in nickel or dime packages, and isn’t afraid to mix it up in the backfield tracking down ball carriers. Kendric was named to the 2010 Preseason Thrope Watch List, before having to sit out to NCAA violations. Burney’s short frame will keep him from being a starter in the NFL, but he could certainly make an impact in certain packages on defense.
10. Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware
It’s no secret that Mike Holmgren likes to develop quarterbacks and the Browns didn’t draft one in this year’s draft. Devlin was a prized recruit, who found himself playing for Penn State who later transferred to Delaware. While at Delaware, Devlin passed for over 4000 yards and threw 38 TDs against only 12 INTs. He has good size (6’4” 220 lbs) and an excellent arm. Holmgren has already stated to the media that they’ll explore the quarterback market when the lockout is lifted, and in my opinion, Pat Devlin should get a look before they wasted a 2012 draft pick on a player like Terrelle Pryor. If Holmgren holds true to his word and signs a quarterback, Devlin deserves a look. The franchise likes what they see in Colt McCoy, but you can never have too many talented young Qbs on the roster.
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