The NFL Draft is a great way to improve a team but, due to the Draft containing a limited number of rounds, many talented players can still find themselves going undrafted. Scouring the undrafted free agent (UDFA) market at times can be incredibly rewarding. The Las Vegas Raiders signed four UDFA at the beginning of May: tight end Nick Bowers, cornerback Madre Harper, linebacker Javin White, and longsnapper Liam McCullough. Whether or not the season goes entirely as planned, these four will have ample opportunity to squeak on to the roster.
Former Penn State Nittany Lion Nick Bowers recorded two starts in his senior year. While two starts may appear meager, Bowers took full advantage. Bowers’ 10 receptions, 214 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns in 2019 all came in as career highs, and Bowers found himself selected to the All-Big Ten Team.
Unfortunately for Bowers, the Raiders already find themselves with a surplus of tight ends, with the top three (Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, and Derek Carrier) showing signs of promise, if not stardom. Bowers will have to show more than what was seen at Penn State if he wants to make the team, as the odds are stacked significantly against him.
Madre Harper found himself as a bit of a journeyman in college, playing two years at Oklahoma State before completing his college career with two years at Southern Illinois. Harper’s senior season would land him on the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s (MVFC) honorable mention list. During that season, Harper recorded 10 starts, two interceptions, and 14 passes defended. Harper certainly emerged from college battle-tested as his 1.3 passes defended per game ranked him 17th in the nation.
Harper’s collegiate statline certainly proves his NFL readiness, but the NFL is a major step up from the MVFC.
The factor giving Harper his best shot is the Raiders’ struggles with the cornerback position. Harper is not looking at a starting spot just yet. However, his chances of making the final roster could be quite high.
In any other year, Javin White would have found himself as an out-of-state signing. But, due to the Raiders’ recent relocation, the former UNLV Rebel could find himself as a bit of a hometown hero. As a linebacker, White should almost be guaranteed a roster spot. However, after looking through his college career, White must find his way onto the Raiders’ roster.
White proved himself to be a utility linebacker with an emphasis on pass defense. He recorded 18 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, nine interceptions, 15 passes defensed, and seven forced fumbles. He would also be named to the UNLV All-Decade Team. White finished sixth in interceptions and third in forced fumbles in UNLV’s history.
Linebacker was one of the Raiders’ weakest positions last season. If the Raiders have any hope of righting the ship, White should make the team. Quietly, the UDFA to watch.
One of the least-noticed positions in the NFL is the longsnapper. While McCullough found himself slotted in this thankless position, he made the most of his opportunities. McCullough appeared in 54 of the 55 potential games, missing his only one due to illness. He was also successful 577 consecutive snaps. Plus, he found himself named as a Patrick Mannelly Award (an annual award given to the nation’s premier longsnapper) finalist. Consistency pays in the NFL and with young talent like this, his name will be hard to pass up for the final roster.