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4 NFL undrafted free agents to get excited about in 2017

Let’s meet some great college players who, for different reasons, might be fun to watch in the pros.

Virginia Tech v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The end of the NFL draft means the start of undrafted free agency, and dozens of players have found professional homes in the hours after not getting picked.

Your team probably will not sign the next Kurt Warner or Wes Welker or Chris Harris Jr. during this period. All-Pro-caliber UDFAs come along only rarely. But solid-contributor UDFAs come around all the time; it’s just a matter of finding them.

It goes without saying that none of these players are guaranteed any sort of professional success. That’s true for first-round picks, and it’s definitely true for UDFAs. But these players are all fun, and if your team nabs one of them, there’s a chance you’ll at least have someone to pull for during training camp.

Here are a few whom I, a college football person, think you should watch:

Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State (signed by Jets)

Marks will not wow you physically. His 40 time at the NFL combine was 4.56 seconds. He repped 11 times on the bench and leapt 29.5 inches in the air. But he was the top target and a catch machine in Mike Leach’s Air Raid at WSU, hauling in 193 balls over the last two seasons. The NFL is clearly growing more accepting of Air Raid QBs, and ex-Air Raid receivers like Welker and Danny Amendola have been under-the-radar gems. If Marks makes the Jets, he will catch many footballs.

For what it’s worth, Marks seems like a cool guy. WSU blog Coug Center:

He wants the ball on every play, but he’s not your typical, outspoken, greedy wide receiver. He’s confident, but he’s always been a team-first player. He wants to win, plain and simple. And he’ll work his ass off to makes he does his part to make that happen.

Gabe Marks is the coolest human being to ever rock the crimson and gray. He helped put Washington State football back on the map and he made it look so easy, routinely making catches that seemed impossible. Gabe Marks was a gift to Washington State.

If you’re going to root for a UDFA, you have to like him. Marks is easily liked.

Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech (unsigned)

Evans transferred to Virginia Tech from junior college last season, and he led the Hokies to an ACC Coastal title with a fun mix of power running and decent throwing. Evans does not strike me as a starting NFL quarterback, but some team could have lots of fun deploying him in goal line packages and on select downs. Evans is a hoss at 6’3 and 232 pounds. Sign him, and put him on the field for your two-point conversions. He might be a decent H-back, and he can also make some throws.

Hunter Dimick, DE, Utah (signed by Jaguars)

Dimick was a really, really good college football player. Here’s Block U:

Dimick was very productive in his Utah career, registering 29.5 sacks in four years and 45 tackles for loss. He has an endless motor and above average athleticism. The reason no team drafted Dimick is he lacks length that NFL teams want in their pass rushers. My hunch, though, is that there will be more than a few teams in the NFL that regretted drafting Dimick, because he plays with a huge chip on his shoulder and is a hard worker, so I expect him to succeed as a pro.

Dimick was a key figure in Kyle Whittingham’s defensive front for years. He’s a listed 6’3 and 269 pounds, which doesn’t scream “terrifying defensive end” or “impenetrable gap-plugger,” and that’s an issue. But Dimick played in a program that’s good at player development, and which had eight fellow draftees this year. He stood out among a lot of pro talent, and I think he’s good enough to make a team.

Ben Boulware, LB, Clemson (signed by Panthers)

The emotional leader (and star inside linebacker) on Clemson’s national championship defense last season. Boulware does not have impressive measurables, and that matters when you’re a linebacker in the NFL who has to cover tight ends and blow up run plays from time to time. Boulware’s kind of a badass, though. He’s got a cool beard. He yells a lot on the field and draws rave reviews for his toughness and leadership. He’s also a Carolina kid staying in the Carolinas, and it’s hard not to root for a success story.

Part of our writeup when he signed:

“Linebacker wins” aren’t a statistic, but Boulware’s contributions to Clemson’s national championship this past season are what put him on the the board. Boulware was the emotional leader of the Clemson Tigers, and his play on the field was just as admirable. With six tackles (two for loss) and a pass defense, Boulware was dominant in the Tigers’ January victory over the Crimson Tide, earning game MVP honors.

Also, Boulware got Clemson’s College Football Playoff trophy tattooed on his Achilles to make fun of Desmond Howard calling linebackers Clemson’s Achilles heel.

That is fun. Football should be fun.