April 30, 2006

Saints' Second Draft Arrives: Team signing undrafted free agents

The second harvest of ex-collegiate athletes occurs in the hours and days after the NFL Draft ends Sunday afternoon.

Here are the undrafted free agents that NOPF has learned the Saints will sign:

G Will Allen - Texas - 6'5", 302, 5.08 40
Big, experienced Texas lineman played at the top collegiate level but was consistently dogged by durability issues. Has limitations in mobility but is tough, smart but is limited by athleticism. Strictly and interior lineman prospect.

LS Troy Bienemann - Washington State - 6'4 1/2", 256, 4.8 40
That he wasn't drafted is an indication that Bienemann has little future as a tight end in the league, despite his prototypical size and limited involvement on offense at Washington State. Hard-working with good enough hands and route smarts. Will likely serve as the second team long snapper behind firmly entrenched Kevin Houser.

DT McKinley Boykin - Mississippi - 6'1" - 290 - 5.02 40
Low and powerful, Boykin is aggressive and quick. But durability issues and some off-field character issues sank his draft stock. Has the physical tools to develop in the NFL but needs to add bulk and work on his hands and technique to ever compete with NFL offensive linemen.

DE Tommy Davis - North Carolina - 6'2 1/2", 255, 4.9 40
Undersized but athletic, Davis is dynamic and a former multi-sport star. Pressed 225 pounds 34 times, which is excellent for a man his size. Very raw and athletic, Davis is a tweener and doesn't have an easily-definable role in a 4-3. A great blitzer and an experienced fifth-year senior, Davis' most logical fit in the NFL would be a pass rush specialist or a 3-4 OLB. Given Davis' frame, the Saints will likely try to pour weigh on and see if Davis can fit at 4-3 DE.

QB Bruce Eugene - Grambling - 6'0", 260, 5.09 40
Supersized quarterback from Grambling State in northern Louisiana will be the fifth quarterback on the Saints roster going into training camp. Has the intangibles for the position, including leading a tumultuous team on and off the field, clutch playmaking and tons of experience already. He even scored a 41 out of 50 on the Wonderlic, tops for all quarterbacks, better than Matt Leinart's 35. He tossed 56 touchdowns and four - that's right four - interceptions as a senior, for a Division IAA best pass efficiency rating. He was a three-time finalist for the Walter Payton Award. He broke Willie Totten's IAA record with 140 touchdowns on his career, and Eugene did it without Jerry Rice.

Eugene has a knack for creating on the run too, despite his size. But physically he's a mess... between a torn ACL in 2004, befuddling weight issues, substandard height and the need for some serious retooling in his throwing motion. Spent six years at Grambling, granted a rare sixth year of eligibility. All that said, Eugene played fine in 2005 despite his injury. He once weighed well over 300 pounds, he played at near 290 pounds, weighed 260 at the Combine and has rededicated himself to getting down to 245 by training camp. He was accurate and threw a great deep ball despite his unrefined throwing motion. And the New Orleanians' nickname is "Big Easy." What's there not to like about him?

Eugene is probably going to be the Saints' camp arm and the first of the Saints' five quarterbacks to be released. Even if Drew Brees is not healthy, Eugene is behind two veterans and promising youngster Adrian McPherson. Eugene will have few opportunities in minicamp and training camp, and needs to make the most of all of them.

K Connor Hughes - Virginia - 5'9", 166, 4.75 40
Small but powerful is one of the top kickers of the 06 class. Was always accurate but really came on with much improved leg strength in 2005. Still lacks booming leg strength an although he kicked off in college is not suited for the job. Will be the Saints' camp leg, as John Carney is entrenched and one of the best.

LB Bobby Iwuchukwu - Purdue - 6'1", 239, 4.65 40
Spent the past two years recovering from a major 2004 knee injury and it is an issue. Quick, strong and experienced on special teams. Good in coverage and has close-in strength, but is not a dominating tackler at the collegiate level that would indicate a proficiency in the skill in the NFL.

QB Joel Klatt - Colorado - 6'1", 210, 4.78 40
Signed in the weeks after the Saints' rookie minicamp tryouts, Klatt is an undersized quarterback who is a better football player than athlete. The former walkon ended up starting three seasons but has an arm that's probably more fit for the CFL or AFL than NFL. Is smart and accurate at short ranges but probably doesn't have a big enough arm for the NFL.

LB EJ Kuale - LSU - 6'2", 232, 4.75
Lost most of his senior season to a broken ankle and had already used his redshirt. Disappointment considering his potential at LSU, and really needs to add size. Never really was able to materialize substantial on the field. Lifted 225 pounds 18 times at the pro day and weighed in very light. May be moved to safety. This may also be a hometown signing.

CB Grant Mason - Michigan - 5'11", 190, 4.55
Good size for a corner but ran slower than expected this offseason. Plays faster. A one-year starter. Despite being rated as a poor tackler, he was second on the team in tackles. Still has distinct potential and is in need of coaching.

C Pascal Matla - Eastern Illinois - 6'4", 310, 5.45
Supersized center prospect was a three-year starter. Is a smart, hard worker but limited athletically. Has great size but is not so quick and may end up at guard.

LB Chris Moore - East Carolina - 6'1", 220, 4.6
Versatile linebacker who could project inside or out because he plays so much bigger than he weighs. Another great football player with limited athletic ability but unmeasurable intensity. Smart and productive at East Carolina against less than top level competition. Another guy who should be able to contribute on special teams.

CB Anwar Phillips - Penn State - 5'11", 193, 4.52
Probably the highest rated undrafted signing for the Saints. Quick, aggressive two-year starter in a top conference. Adequate speed and good size. Not physical enough, needs to improve and did show improvement as he progressed at Penn State. Not lock solid in college and made poor choices and misses tackles at times. Began career as a wide receiver. Has some character issues, was expelled for a time from Penn State. Should improve with experience and compete on special teams. Could move to free safety and probably will never be able to hold down a starting job. More proof that whoever was scouting the northeastern quarter of the country had some serious sway in draft prep.

DT Brandon Villarreal - Purdue - 6'2", 286, 5.10 40
Like his former and new current teammate DE Rob Ninkovich, is somewhat undersized and a hard worker. Former wrestler is quick and agile, most suited for a one-gap defender. Lacks builk and will need a season or two in an NFL weight room before being able to stand up to an NFL offensive line.

P Steve Weatherford- Illinois - 6'3" - 215 - 4.8 40
Track athlete, kicker for kickoffs and field goals, and punter. Will be the Saints' camp leg and understudy to Mitch Berger. Weatherford followed his old special teams coach to New Orleans. Greg McMahon is the new coaching staff's assistant special teams coach.

CB/WR Ray Williams - Purdue - 6'1 1/2"- 206 - 4.55 40
Started at wide receiver and then cornerback in 2005, and played well at both. Ran poorly, had only a 32" vertical. Great athlete but obviously raw at either position.

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