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While only two former Iowa players were selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, several undrafted Hawkeyes have signed with NFL teams since the conclusion of the draft.
Undrafted free agents often have easier paths to a spot on the 53-man roster than seventh-round picks because they can choose the team with the best fit. The Green Bay Packers, for example, had more players on their initial 2021 roster who were undrafted than were sixth- or seventh-round picks.
Iowa had five undrafted free agents sign with NFL teams Saturday night — one on offense, one on special teams and three on defense. Offensive lineman Kyler Schott also earned a minicamp tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per a report from The Athletic.
Here’s a breakdown of the five NFL situations awaiting the five newly-signed free agents:
NFL team: Green Bay Packers
While Tyler Goodson was expected to be a late-round pick, the former Iowa running back going entirely undrafted was a surprise to many Saturday.
The undrafted-free-agent route may work out better for Goodson, though, than if he was a seventh-round pick because of how well he could fit in with the Packers.
Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Patrick Taylor and Kylin Hill are already on the Packers’ roster at running back. Jones and Dillon are the clear top two options.
After that, Goodson has a good chance of earning the third running back spot. Hill was a seventh-round pick in 2021, and Taylor was an undrafted free agent in 2020, so the Packers haven’t invested a lot in either option that Goodson has to beat.
In 2017, the Packers grabbed a running back at the end of the fifth round who had big-play potential and good receiving skills but other flaws — similar to Goodson’s skill set. Goodson had better combine numbers than that 2017 pick.
That pick, Jones, now is a Pro Bowl running back. Time will tell if Goodson can also find success at the NFL level in Titletown.
NFL team: Tennessee Titans
Caleb Shudak will have some competition in Tennessee for the kicking job, but it’s certainly a winnable competition.
The Titans resigned kicker Randy Bullock last month, and Sam Ficken is a restricted free agent. Neither have historically been reliable on deeper attempts.
Bullock was a perfect 17-for-17 on field goals in 2021 from inside 40 yards, but his reliability dropped beyond that yardage. He hit 61.5 percent of field goals from 40-49 yards in 2021 and 77.1 percent of attempts from that distance in his career.
Ficken, meanwhile, was successful on just 61.5 percent of attempts from 40-49 yards in 2021 and 44.4 percent of attempts from 50-plus yards in his career.
Shudak’s numbers in 2021 at the collegiate level were better from long distance although he had two misses from inside the 40. The Council Bluffs native was 7-for-7 from 40-49 yards and 4-for-6 from 50-plus yards.
He also hit from as deep as 65 yards while training ahead of the NFL Draft.
NFL team: Las Vegas Raiders
Zach VanValkenburg is in a relatively favorable position as he joins a Las Vegas defense going through a transition this offseason.
New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s plans for essentially a 4-2-5 defense fit schematically well with what VanValkenburg is used to as an Iowa defensive end.
Las Vegas has two clear starters at edge rusher with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. Malcolm Koonce and Clelin Ferrell are behind them on the depth chart and should also make the 53-man roster.
Then, VanValkenburg will be competing with one player who was on the practice squad last year and a 2017 undrafted free agent who hasn’t played more than seven games in a season with likely two roster spots up for grabs.
NFL team: Atlanta Falcons
Had injuries not plagued Matt Hankins’ 2021 season, he probably would’ve been drafted. Instead, he’ll get his chance to make an NFL roster with the Falcons.
Free-agent addition Casey Hayward Jr., returning starter A.J. Terrell and key reserve Isaiah Oliver seem to be locks at cornerback to make the roster. If Teez Tabor plays cornerback instead of safety, the former second-round pick is another key reserve at the position.
After that, there’s a clear drop-off. Two or three more cornerbacks will likely make the active roster. A lot of players will be competing for those spots, but Hankins has a viable path to the 53-man roster.
NFL team: New Orleans Saints
Jack Koerner’s situation in New Orleans could change, depending where the Saints want him to play. Koerner said after Iowa’s pro day he’s willing to “play anything” and gain or lose as much weight as necessary.
If he stays at safety, he’ll likely need to be one of the five best players at the position to earn a spot on 53-man roster.
The two starters at safety from 2021 are gone, but the Saints added Marcus Maye, Justin Evans and Daniel Sorensen in free agency.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Maye and Evans are likely safe from any cuts. J.T. Gray’s special teams value would make him a hard person to cut. That may leave one spot left for Sorensen, Koerner and fellow undrafted free agent Smoke Monday.
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