More undrafted free agents to keep your eye on, this time on the defensive side. I've included a short synopsis of skills/knocks based on what I see and take from multiple scouting reports on each player from outlets like the NFL Combine Page, CBSSports, FFtoolbox, Sideline Scouting, and more.
John Schneider said on Mitch Levy's KJR 950 radio show yesterday that the Hawks are targeting 8 rookie UDFA's: including one QB, one safety, and one cornerback. He also said they want to build depth on the defensive line through rookie free agency, free agency, and trades. Since defensive backs are apparently still on their priority list I'll start with a few guys that could come into play:
SS Jeron Johnson, Boise State
Johnson is a hard hitting, no-regard-for-anyone's-physical-well-being type strong safety that went undrafted. He's 5'11 210, and it deceptively fast for a safety in the 4.4 range. He's a ferocious tackler that seeks out contact willingly and due to his size is a bit of an injury concern at the next level. However, he's decent in man coverage with fluid hips and change in direction ability. He was a big producer for Boise State the last three seasons so he could be on the Hawks' radar.
SS DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
More than likely this is the player that John Schneider is thinking about when he said he has a UDFA safety in mind. McDaniel was extremely productive for Clemson's defense, with 12 interceptions and 173 tackles in the last two seasons. He played next to Byron Maxwell on their defense and like Maxwell, is a fearsome and intimidating hitter. He played at times as a safety/linebacker hybrid so he's comfortable taking on the run and he's swift enough to keep up with receivers in passing situations. He's got good instinc evidenced by his 12 interceptions in two years, and is another ballhawk type that could make the Hawks' nickel and bandit defensive packages that much more effective. By most accounts his draft stock was estimated around the 3rd or 4th rounds but he fell out of the draft all together due to character concerns (assault in '08) so McDaniel could be a bargain for whichever team he signs with, provided he keeps his head on straight.
CB Ryan Jones, Northwest Missouri State
Not sure how many more corners the Hawks will look to add but if they want to take a flyer on a sleeper type guy it might be Ryan Jones. Jones has good size at 5'11, 200 and is very fast - he ran in the 4.4 range at his pro day. He also ran a respectable 4.18 short shuttle, put up 225 20 times, and registered a 40" vertical. He's been described as more of an athlete than polished football player at this point but he's worked hard at his technique and did produce 6 interceptions last season for Northwest Missouri State. For what it's worth, Wes Bunting is high on him as a developmental player and he'd come cheap at this point. He sounds kind of like a Pete Carroll project to me.
CB Kevin Rutland, Missouri
Has good size/speed ratio at 6'0 190 and runs in the 4.4s. He's pretty raw, and isn't likely to start at corner any time soon, but could be a good developmental project for the Hawks because of their DB heavy packages. He's developed good ball skills that had 120 tackles, 16 passes defended, and 6 interceptions in his career at Missouri. He's a bit wirey but has good hands and reads the QB effectively. He's got long arms and has been effective in re-routing receivers off the line so he could be on the Hawks' radar in free agency.
CB Darrin Walls, Notre Dame
Another guy with good size and speed at 6'0 188, 4.4s in the 40. He's best as a physical press corner and is adept at jamming receivers at the line. If beaten, he has the recovery speed to trail. He sat out his junior year for personal reasons and may be why he wasn't drafted, but he's got the physical makeup to be a starter in the NFL. Also a strong special teams contributor. Could be exactly the type of flyer that Carroll is looking for.