Dec 1, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey (84) reacts to scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 championship game at AT&T Stadium

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Three Saints undrafted rookies to watch at Training Camp

Seth Dunlap
July 22, 2019 - 7:20 pm
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While the Saints have drafted well in recent years, their undrafted free agent classes have proven much less fruitful.  Sure, there have been few roster spots available to such players, but only a handful have persevered to make any type of impact on game days in the fall.

Wide receiver Keith Kirkwood and defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth were standouts of the 2018 class, with Kirkwood contributing 13 catches and two touchdowns and Stallworth providing eight tackles and one sack.  Center Cameron Tom is the lone holdover from the 2017 class, and will compete for a rotational spot across the offensive line again this season.   The Saints found many more contributors in 2016, with wide receiver Tommylee Lewis and cornerbacks Ken Crawley and De’Vante Harris all seeing significant playing time in the following seasons. 

Predicting which undrafted players could break through during training camp can a futile exercise.  One would have better luck at the roulette wheel in Harrah's.  Still, there are a few players who seem more poised to crack the final roster than others.  Here are three such players you should keep an eye on as training camp begins this week.

 

Nov 17, 2018; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey (84) runs in for the touchdown against the Iowa State Cyclones during the third quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
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1.  Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas

There was a relatively high amount of buzz this spring surrounding the former Longhorn’s receiver when he signed with the Saints after the draft. Don't let his name fool you, Humphrey is anything but little. He's a big, imposing presence on the outside, standing at 6’4” and weighing 225 pounds.  The Saints have been searching for more red zone threats in the draft and free agency the past few seasons with little luck.  Perhaps Humphrey will be that diamond in the rough they were searching for.

Humphrey excelled during his junior season las year at Texas, catching 86 passes for 1,176 yards and nine touchdowns.  It was a bit surprising he went undrafted considering his combination of physical attributes and on-field production.  

The Saints typically carry five or six receivers during the season, meaning Humphrey has his work cut out for him to crack that group.   With Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, and Ted Ginn Jr. locks to grab roster spots, that leaves likely two or three open spots.   If Cameron Meredith is finally healthy, you can likely add him to that group.  Then there’s Kirkwood and Austin Carr, players returning from last year’s squad that many would be surprised to see left off the final 53-man roster.  Plus, speedster Cyril Grayson Jr., a former track star at LSU, wowed coaches in the spring and will be in the mix as well. 

Humphrey will need to have a stand-out camp to give himself a chance of wearing a black and gold uniform past the preseason, but he’s certainly somebody to keep an eye on.

 

Oct 14, 2017; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers running back Devine Ozigbo (22) runs against Ohio State Buckeyes safety Damon Webb (7) in the first half at Memorial Stadium.
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2.  Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska

The Saints are a bit thin at the running back position behind Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray.  The year's where the team's offense has been its best, they've had at least three running backs that are able to get touches each week.  Think the record-breaking 2011 season when the four-headed monster of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Chris Ivory.  Having Taysom Hill has a jack of all trades certainly helps, but they’ll at least need injury protection behind the two workhorses. 

Ozigbo was a four-year player at Nebraska, finishing his senior season with 1,082 yards, 12 touchdowns, and a sterling 7.0 yards-per-carry average.  There’s always a multitude of undrafted backs who go on to have highly productive professional careers, and Ozigbo fits the bill of a player who was high productive in college and will likely land on an active roster somewhere.

His main competition comes from Dwayne Washington, the fourth-year running back out of Washington who saw the field sporadically last season with the Saints.  With Washington on the final year of his contract, and the Saints having a potential three-seasons of team control left with Ozigbo, there’s going to be a few people inside the Saints front office and coaching staff hoping Ozigbo wins this camp battle.

 

Nov 4, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Brigham Young Cougars defensive linemen Corbin Kaufusi (90) reacts before a game against the Fresno State Bulldogs at Bulldog Stadium.
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3.  Corbin Kaufusi, DE, BYU

Why should you be watching Kaufusi?  Well, for starters he’ll be hard to miss.  Kaufusi stands at a gargantuan 6’9”, just one inch shy of the tallest player to ever play his position in the NFL.  That honor still goes to Ed “To Tall Jones” who played 15 total seasons with the Cowboys after being drafted in 1974. Nobody should be comparing Kaufusi to Jones, but Sean Payton and Co. love to find players who present physical mismatches for the opposition, and getting those players on the roster.  

Kaufusi was solid during his last two seasons at BYU, combining for 16 sacks and 73 tackles.  He’ll be battling with a group of other rookie defensive lineman for a final spot or two on the roster, including Kenny Bigelow Jr. and Shy Tuttle, the latter of which is a runaway winner for coolest name on the team’s training camp roster.

Another couple of interesting tidbits on Kaufusi. He was a two-sport star at Brigham Young, playing three seasons of basketball before leaving the program to focus solely on football in 2017.  His brother, Bronson, is also in the NFL, currently playing with the New York Jets.

Even if Kaufusi doesn’t make the final 53, don’t be surprised to see him on the practice squad this season.

 

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