Every season it happens. Rookies who didn’t hear their name called on Draft Day make an impact in their rookie seasons. When this happens much praise is heaped upon the team’s scouting department that landed these undrafted gems. Here’s a look at the top 10 Undrafted Rookies of 2017.
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10. DT ELI ANKOU, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
The Jags had a stellar defense in 2017 and it was loaded with some very good defensive lineman. Even with a ton of talented guys ahead of him, Ankou was able to make the team and become part of the rotation at defensive tackle. He finished the season with 15 tackles, and 1.5 sacks. Not too shabby.
9. DT ADAM BUTLER, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The Patriots always seem to land some late round or undrafted studs, and they did it again in 2017. Butler was impressive, appearing in all 16 games and starting 6. He finished the season with 19 tackles, and 2 sacks, which was better than many defensive tackles who did end up drafted.
8. TE RICKY SEALS-JONES, ARIZONA CARDINALS
RSJ was a bit of a late bloomer in 2017. He brokeout about midway through the season, with a big 3 catch 54 yds, 2 TD performance in Week 11. He scored the following week, but didn’t do a whole lot the rest of the season, but a lot of that can be chalked up to very poor quarterback play. He flashed impressive potential, and he could be a breakout candidate in 2018.
7. S KENNY MOORE, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Moore also came on late in the season. 33 of his 38 tackles came from Week 12 and later. He showed the ability to cover a ton of ground, and even picked off a pass. Moore played with a lot of intensity and his performance could have very will earned him a 2018 roster spot.
6. P RIGOBERTO SANCHEZ, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
The Colts have back to back guys on this list, and this time it’s their punter. Rigoberto earned the punting job in camp, beating out big free agent signee Jeff Locke. Sanchez got a ton of punts playing on this crappy offense, and made the most out of them with a 44.8 average, and a long of 61 yards. There is no reason to think he won’t be the Colts punter in 2018.
5. RB MATT BREIDA, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Breida was signed with little to no expectations, as Carlos Hyde was inked in as the starter. But he made a name for himself in the preseason, and went on to earn a roster spot, and became a valuable change of pace back to this offense. Breida ended the season with 465 rushing yds, 2 TDs, with 21 receptions, for 180 yds, and a touchdown.
4. LB DYLAN COLE, HOUSTON TEXANS
Dylan Cole played in 12 games for the Houston Texans and started one of them. He surprised many with his solid play, and 32 tackles on the season. He also showed a knack for finding the football with a couple of interceptions, with one of those being returned for a touchdown. Well done Dylan, and well done Texans.
3. RB AUSTIN EKELER, LA CHARGERS
The Chargers brought in Ekeler off the street and added him to their backfield rotation. He quickly caught the eye of the coaching staff with his soft hands, and became the no. 2 guy in the Chargers backfield. Ekeler ended the year with 260 yards on the ground and a couple of scores. He added 279 yards through the air on 27 grabs, and scored another 3 touchdowns. Those numbers are impressive when factoring in he played behind emerging star Melvin Gordon.
2. WR KEELAN COLE, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Keelan Cole was a late blossomer as a rookie. The majority of his yards and catches came in Week 9 or later. He ended the season with 42 receptions for 748 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Those are impressive numbers for a second rounder, let alone an undrafted free agent. It’s even more impressive he was able to put up those stats with the very sub par Blake Bortles tossing him the ball.
1. LB CALVIN MUNSON, NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants didn’t have a lot to be excited about in 2017. They were one of the worst teams in the league, and took a major step backwards both offensively and defensively. One thing they can take pride in is finding this undrafted nugget. Munson ended up playing in 14 games with 5 starts. He was a tackling machine, racking up 60 on the season. He added in a couple of sacks and a forced fumble as well. The Giants will need to find a few more hidden gems like Munson in the 2018 Draft, if they are going to be competitive next season.