The New Orleans Saints have signed a total of 17 undrafted free agent rookies (UDFAs) to their 90-man off-season roster since the conclusion of last weekend’s 2019 NFL Draft.
In putting together what might be one of the team’s deepest UDFA classes in recent memory, the Saints’ team brass this year was able to land several players who were originally projected to be mid-to-late round picks.
- Nick Moore, Long Snapper, Georgia
- Ethan Greenidge, OL, Villanova
- Chase Hansen, LB, Utah
- Deonte Harris, WR/KR, Assumption College
- Jordan Wyatt, CB, Southern Methodist University
- Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska
- Carl Granderson, EDGE Rusher, University of Wyoming
- Shy Tuttle, DL, Tennessee
- Darnell Holland, RB, Kennesaw State
- Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas
- Kenny Bigelow, DT, West Virginia
- Darrell Williams, LB, Auburn
- Corbin Kaufusi, DE, Brigham Young University
- Jake Powell, TE, Monmouth
- Derrick Kelly, OL, Florida State
- Porter Gustin, LB, Southern California
- Emmanuel Butler, WR, Northern Arizona University
Additionally, New Orleans has extended tryout opportunities at their upcoming annual Rookie Mini-Camp, which is tentatively scheduled for the 2nd weekend in May (10th thru 12th), to a grand total of 11 players. They are:
- Cole Tracy, kicker, Louisiana State University
- Ed Paris, safety, Louisiana State University
- Reid Miller, safety, University of Montana
- Tank Terrell, DT, University of Northern Colorado
- Kyle Kempt, QB, Iowa State
- Stacy Keely, DE, University of Alabama-Birmingham
- Matt Kaufman, OL, Towson University
- A.J. Ouellette, RB, Ohio State University
- Troy Bacon, center, Rocky Mountain College
- Elijah Rodriguez, center, University of Texas
While there isn’t any question that the Saints are likely to discover at least one or even a few hidden gems from among these undrafted players just as they have in the past (former running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory for example), the odds that any of the players listed above will make the team’s final roster in early September are still very long.
To belabor the point: of the Saints’ seven picks in last year’s NFL Draft, only three (defensive end Marcus Davenport, wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, and O-Lineman Will Clapp) made the team’s final 53-man roster. From among the undrafted rookies that they signed last year, only two UDFAs — wide receiver Keith Kirkwood and defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth — were able to stick around for the entire season.
— NOLA.com Saints News (@SaintsNOW) February 8, 2019
The bottom line is that the Saints currently have one of the deepest and most talented rosters from top to bottom in the NFL, and the likelihood that any of these players will end up wearing a Black and Gold uniform a few months from now has to be considered a long shot; it certainly would be going against all odds.
Nevertheless, you can bet that there will be a handful of players that will be pushing very hard to earn a spot on the final roster; it’s with that thought in mind that we’re looking at the four Saints undrafted rookies — two on offense and two on defense — who we believe have the best chance at making it.
Porter Gustin, Outside Linebacker, Southern California
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 29, 2019
Knowledgeable Saints fans won’t be able to help but notice the obvious comparisons between Porter Gustin and 3rd year Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone. They share very similar college backgrounds, as both are extremely-talented linebackers who both attended major college football “powerhouses” but spent a lot of time hurt or injured. It was the whole reason why Anzalone fell from a late 1st Round pick all the way down to where the Saints were ultimately able to snag him in the 3rd Round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
However, if he can stay healthy, the Saints may have potentially gotten a UDFA who could become one of their greatest ever in the 6-foot-4 1/2, 255 pound Gustin. USA TODAY writer John Sigler says that there isn’t any doubt whatsoever in regards to Gustin’s play-making ability. The overwhelming concern with him has always been his lengthy injury history, which includes a surgically-repaired toe, a torn biceps muscle, and an ankle fracture that ended his senior season.
— Barstool SC (@BarstoolSC) April 29, 2019
But, Seigler notes, the 22-year old Gustin appears to have put his injury issues behind him. He showed a stellar performance at USC’s Pro Day where he wowed scouts with impressive workout times and would have ranked among position leaders at the NFL Scouting Combine (which he was forced to miss). In four seasons in Los Angeles when he was on the field, Gustin racked up a total of 21.5 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, 5 pass deflections, and a fumble recovery. He also tallied 137 tackles (84 solos). If you were to project those stats over the course of time that he missed (a total of 16 games in four years), they could have been mind-blowing.
WWL New Orleans TV and Radio Draft Analyst Mike Detillier notes that Gustin flows well from sideline-to-sideline, and he is an instinctive player who has first-rate track-down skills as a tackler. He adds that Gustin is a solid run defender but is even a better pass-rusher coming off the outside edge; although his skills in pass coverage could stand some fine-tuning. However, once again, health is the key. If Gustin can manage to avoid injuries for the most part (as Anzalone appears to have done for the most part thus far), he likely could achieve even greater success here in New Orleans — and earning a back-up linebacker spot behind Craig Robertson, isn’t out of the question.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Wide Receiver, University of Texas
#Saints UDFA signing Lil'Jordan Humphrey (82.6 overall grade in 2018) is the highest graded WR in a single season for the Texas Longhorns in the PFF Era (2014-present) and owns the third highest graded season for an offensive player for Texas in that span. pic.twitter.com/xNHC4fUqcf
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) April 30, 2019
Saints fans who were initially disappointed when the team chose not to select a wide receiver with their five draft picks this year were suddenly delighted once it was announced that the organization had quickly snapped up Lil’ Jordan Humphrey; he had originally been projected as a mid-round pick but went undrafted mainly to a below-average performance in the 40-yard dash and lingering questions about how his skillset will translate to the NFL level.
— Dylan ⚜️ (@dylanjhebert12) April 28, 2019
Lil'Jordan Humphrey doesn't care about SEC defenses pic.twitter.com/wmnNnm1wym
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) January 2, 2019
However, this is still a young man who, after riding the bench for the first few years, eventually became the top weapon on the Longhorns offense; he hauled in 86 receptions for 1,176 yards and 9 TDs in the 2018 Season. He also led all wide receivers in the Big 12 conference by forcing a total of 22 missed tackles by opposing defenders according to the good folks over at Pro Football Focus.
And despite his unique name, there’s actually nothing ‘little’ at all about the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Jordan — who some Who Dats are already comparing to former WR and recently-retired team living legend Marques Colston. If Humphrey is actually able to end up playing anywhere near Colston’s level during the time when he was here (as it appears that he just might), his addition would clearly be yet another feather in the cap of the top-notch Saints scouting department, led by Director of College Scouting Jeff Ireland.
*Carl Granderson, EDGE Rusher / Defensive End, University of Wyoming
— Casper Star-Tribune (@CSTribune) January 25, 2019
We have an asterisk (*) by Granderson’s name for one simple but major reason: the 22-year old Granderson — to whom Saints team brass gave a $70,000 guarantee and a $15,000 signing bonus — is facing charges on one count of third-degree sexual assault and one count of sexual battery against two alleged victims that are students at the University of Wyoming. Granderson has pleaded innocent to both counts but is awaiting a trial that begins on July 15th. Obviously, Granderson went undrafted due to the pending charges, though he was originally projected to be a mid-round pick.
Given the Saints organization’s notable standard in past years with signing players who are thought to possess good moral character, one can only surmise that they believe Granderson (whom they met with privately prior to the Draft itself) has a good chance at being found innocent of the charges (or possibly have them dropped altogether). It wouldn’t have made sense for them to have offered him the guaranteed money and signing bonus, otherwise.
— Wyoming Cowboy Football (@wyo_football) December 22, 2017
Assuming Granderson isn’t found guilty, he likely could be in New Orleans by the start of Training Camp. With the Saints looking for more depth at the EDGE rusher/right defensive end position following the departure of former veteran Alex Okafor (who signed with Kansas City in Free Agency), one would have to think that Granderson could have a great shot at making the Saints’ final roster if given the opportunity. Granderson put himself on the map of NFL scouts two years ago during the 2017 season, when he started all 13 games and earned 1st team All-Mountain West honors by racking up 77 tackles, 16 for loss, 9.5 sacks, two interceptions, and two pass breakups.
His numbers were down a bit last year (40 tackles, 7.5 for loss, three sacks, one interception, and two pass breakups in 11 starts), but this is still a player who clearly possess the necessary talent to blossom into a defensive star in due time. Some Saints fans on social media have compared him to now-infamous former Saints UDFA defensive end Junior Galette (another former Saints UDFA EDGE rusher who had some very notable legal issues) in recent days, but if Granderson can manage to stay out of bad situations in his personal life moving forward, then it’s hoped that only good situations will happen in his professional life as well.
Devine Ozigbo, Running Back, University of Nebraska
❗Under The Radar Signing
A name you should keep an eye out for: #DevineOzigbo
— Draft Room Podcast (@draftroompod) April 29, 2019
With the recent Free Agency departure of former Saints #1 RB Mark Ingram to the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints were technically down to three RBs: new starter and 3rd-year superstar Alvin Kamara, recently-signed free agent veteran Latavius Murray, and 3rd string RB Dwayne Washington. For that reason, fans and analysts alike thought that the team might draft one. Instead, they did the next best thing by quickly signing the very-talented Ozigbo — who has been compared to Ingram by some observers.
Devine Ozigbo turns the corner and gets @HuskerFBNation an early six.
‼️ Release the balloons ‼️ pic.twitter.com/R0Wvyx8J20
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 20, 2018
After spending his first three seasons relegated to a back-up role, Ozigbo virtually exploded onto the college football scene last season, rushing for 1,082 yards and a very impressive 12 rushing TDs, nearly matching his entire grand total from his first three seasons combined. In fact, he became the first Nebraska running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since former Cornhuskers RB Ameer Abdullah (now with the Minnesota Vikings), who was the first Nebraska RB to ever accomplish that feat back in 2014. And yet, amazingly Ozigbo still didn’t get an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine.
But Ozigbo’s unique blend of size and athleticism quickly gained attention from nearly every NFL scout in attendance at the college all-star East-West Shrine Game in late January (and obviously the ones in attendance from the Saints scouting department). Many observers felt that would lead to him getting drafted somewhere on Day 2. He then wowed them even further at his Pro Day on March 7th, as he posted a 10’04” broad jump, 37-inch vertical jump, 19 reps on the bench press, and most impressive of all, running between a 4.54-4.58 40-yard dash at an incredible 230 pounds. Yet he still went undrafted.
Despite having only one year of starting experience at the D-1/FBS level, Ozigbo averaged 7.0 yards per carry in the Big 10, which is no small feat. He certainly has displayed the lateral quickness and burst that’s needed to survive in today’s modern-era NFL. As noted by The Draft Network Senior Analyst Joe Marino, Ozigbo could become a bargain for an NFL franchise looking to implement a blend of power and lateral quickness into their backfield. Marino believes that Ozibgo has plenty of upside as complementary back at the next level that can fill a variety of roles.
However, Ozigbo will have to beat out Martez Carter and Dwayne Washington for the 3rd spot in the backfield, and if, in fact, that does turn out to be the case, he could become the next Saints UDFA that was able to succeed “against all odds.”
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.