Cover 9@9: A closer look at the 21 undrafted free agents

Could former Auburn lineman Robert Leff be the replacement for Chris Chester at right guard? Here Leff practices before the 2017 Sugar Bowl at Tulane University on Dec. 28, 2016. Leff was added to the 2017 Senior Bowl roster. (Photo: Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics)

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. Normally, it’s our weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, which is 9 items published at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning. But this week, we look at the undrafted rookie free agents signed by the team after the draft. Who’s going to be this year’s Brent Grimes, Paul Worrilow, Ryan Schrader or Brian Poole?

FLOWERY BRANCH – When talking to Falcons coach Dan Quinn about the draft, he made a point to discuss the undrafted free agent rookie class.

He noted that when he was with Seattle, that they were able to develop Michael Bennett into one of the top defensive ends in the league after he went undrafted and started his career with Tampa Bay.

The Falcons had some success with Brent Grimes, who was spotted at Shippensburg by former scout Bruce Plummer.

The Falcons also found right tackle Ryan Schraeder, linebacker Paul Worrilow and last season cornerback Brian Poole and safety Sharrod Neasman stuck with the team. J.D. McKissic also went to practice squad last season before making the roster and being released.

The Falcons signed 21 undrafted rookie free agents and some of the top players include Georgia safety Quincy Mauger (Kell High), South Carolina linebacker Darius English (McEachern High), Auburn offensive guard Robert Leff, South Alabama wide receiver Josh Magee and Arkansas State defensive end Chris Odom.

Here’s a closer look at the 21 undrafted rookies the Falcons signed:

–Travis Averill (Boise State) was an All-Mountain West first team selection in 2016 after starting all 13 games and paving the way for a Boise State offense that recorded 472.8 yards per game, and helped blocked for the 15th ranked passing offense in the country (298.3 yards per game). In 2015, he started in 11 games and blocked for an offense that recorded 39.1 points per game and 501.3 yards per game, which was tops in the Mountain West that season.

–Marcellis Branch was named to the All-Northeast Conference team for the third time in 2016 after collecting 71 total tackles, two interceptions, and a blocked field goal return for a touchdown for the Robert Morris Colonials. He started a school record 42 career games and totaled 251 tackles, seven interceptions, and 28 passes defensed in his career.

–Daniel Brunskill (San Diego State) made the switch from tight end to left tackle before his senior season at San Diego State, earning second-team All-Mountain West honors in his lone year at the position. He played in played in 54 consecutive games, which tied him with Donnel Pumphrey and Nico Siragusa for the most in school history, and was named SDSU’s offensive lineman of the year. Brunskill was a Burlsworth Trophy nominee – the award given to the top college walk-on – which Falcons wide receiver Justin Hardy won in 2014.

–Deante Burton made 35 career starts at Kansas State, including his final 26 games. He caught 84 passes for 1,085 yards with five touchdowns in four seasons, and is the 29th player in school history to record 1,000 career receiving yards. He was a first-team Academic All-Big 12 selection in 2016 and a second team pick in 2014. Burton was part of a Wildcat senior class that went 32-20 with two bowl victories in four years.

–Reginald Davis (Texas Tech) finished off his collegiate career with the Red Raiders by playing in all 12 games his senior year with two starts. He finished the season with 15 receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns. He also was a return specialist for Texas Tech, returning 14 kickoffs for 272 yards, for an average of 19.4 yards per attempt.

McEachern head coach Kyle Hochman and English from McEachern’s twitter feed.


–English was named second-team All-SEC by the Associated Press after leading South Carolina with 9.0 sacks, tying for fifth on the school’s single-season list, as a senior in 2016. He also had 57 tackles, a team-leading 13.0 tackles for loss (10th in the SEC), and five quarterback hurries in his final season with the Gamecocks. English was named AAAAA Defensive Player of the Year by the Atlanta Journal Constitution after a 21-sack senior season at McEachern High School in Powder Springs.

–Wil Freeman was selected to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll in 2013. Freeman also saw action on both sides of the ball for Southern Miss.

–Jarnor Jones (Iowa State) played in 24 games over two seasons at Iowa State. He totaled 78 tackles (45 solo) with one interception, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 11 passes defensed for the Cyclones. Jones spent one season at Georgia Military College – after transferring from N.C. State – where he logged 40 tackles, five tackles for loss, eight passes defensed, and two picks. A Lithonia, Georgia native, Jones was an all-region selection in football and basketball at Martin Luther King High School.

–J’terius Jones collared 149 total tackles (88 solo) with 35.5 tackles for loss, 22 sacks, six passes defensed, five fumble recoveries, and three forced fumbles in three seasons at Miami of Ohio. He is an East Atlanta native and attended Miller Grove High School in Lithonia.

–Cam Keizur was named to the All-Big Sky Conference team in 2016. He has started 41 games at guard and center during his career with Portland State. Last season, Keizur blocked for an offense that averaged 243 rushing yards per game and 454 total yards per game.

–Andreas Knappe started all 12 games at right tackle in 2016. The 6-8 offensive lineman from Denmark helped Connecticut reach the 100-yard mark rushing six times last season. Knappe played in 36 games during his career with the Huskies.

–Leff played in a team-leading 53 games with 15 starts during his four years at Auburn. Last season, he was an AP All-SEC second team selection after starting 13 games at right tackle.

–Magee in 2016, recorded 49 receptions for 822 yards with five touchdowns, he led the team in all three categories. He also broke the 100-yard mark four times last year, including recording 154 yards on five catches against Air Force in their bowl game. Magee was selected in the 18th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Houston Astros. He played for two of the Astros’ minor league affiliates over three seasons.

Quincy Mauger


–Mauger played four years at the University of Georgia where he totaled 187 tackles (129 solo) with seven interceptions, one half sack, 5.5 tackles for loss, 12 passes defensed, and one forced fumble. Last season,  He played in 13 games, with two starts and had 21 total tackles. Jones picked off a pair of passes and added three tackles in Georgia’s win at Missouri last season. The Marietta native was an AJC Class AAAAA All-State selection at Kell High School.

–Jordan Moore began his collegiate career at Texas Christian where he played football and ran track. He transferred to LSU and then to the University of Texas San Antonio. He was an honorable mention All-Conference USA selection last year as a strong safety.

–Odom took full advantage of his lone season as a starter at Arkansas State, posting 12.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles in 13 games. The Texas native has an NFL pedigree as his father, Cliff, spent 13 seasons with the Colts. Additionally, he played on the same defensive line as number one overall pick, Myles Garrett at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas.

–Tyler Renew ranks fifth on The Citadel’s all-time career rushing yards list with 2,828 yards. His 601 career rushing attempts are 5th most in program history. The Columbia, S.C. native has nine career 100-yard rushing games, which is eighth in school history. He has also recorded 2,948 all-purpose yards during his time at The Citadel, which ranks 10th in school history.

–Taylor Reynolds played in 14 games with 13 starts during his senior season at James Madison. The 6-1 cornerback tallied 55 total tackles, along with five tackles for loss, two interceptions, and 14 passes defensed. His 14 passes defensed led the Colonial Athletic Association.

–Christian Tago was a four-year starter and three-time All-Mountain West selection at San Jose State. He started 40 of 43 career games, totaling 384 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, and posted 16 games with double-digit tackles. Tago was the seventh Spartan football player in school history – dating back to 1893 – to serve as a team captain in multiple seasons.

–Alek Torgersen had a very decorated career at Penn, breaking several all-time Ivy League records, including ranking first in completion percentage in Ivy League games among Ivy League quarterbacks (67.4), ranking second in overall completion percentage among Ivy League quarterbacks (65.1), and ranking fourth in passing touchdowns in Ivy League games (42).  The quarterback from Huntington Beach, CA is also Penn’s all-time leader in total passing touchdowns (52), completion percentage (65.1), and total offense (7,937). Torgersen is also a two time Ivy League Champion (2015-16) and in 2016 he was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy League selection.

–Deron Washington is a four year starter who earned first-team All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association honors in 2016. He finished his senior season with 60 total tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

THE FALCONS 2017 DRAFT

MUST READ PROFILE: Falcons top pick McKinley makes name for himself

2017 Falcons report card: Falcons earn a B-plus

NFC Champs add a pass rusher, quality depth 

1st rounder: Meet defensive end Takkarist McKinley

3rd rounder: Meet linebacker Duke Riley

4th rounder: Meet offensive guard Sean Harlow

5th rounder: Meet defensive back Damontae Kazee

5th rounder: Meet running back Brian Hill

5th rounder: Meet tight end Eric Saubert

 


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