Continuing my prior post on the 2016 Undrafted Free Agents where I covered the AFC East, today I’ll start with the 2016 NFC East Undrafted Free Agents.
The Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have no remaining UDFAs from 2016.
The New York Giants
Donte Deayon is a cornerback on the Giants. In college Deayon was selected to Mountain West All-Conference Second Team each of his last three years. He was seventh and ninth in interceptions in the FBS for his sophomore and junior seasons. Deayon was tied for third in FBS active career leaders in 2015 with a career 17 interceptions and he led in interceptions per game. He was also 5th in active career leaders with a career 43 passes defended. Deayon only allowed three touchdowns across 133 targets. He was invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl where he had an outstanding week.
Deayon went undrafted most likely due to his size – 5’9 and 155 lbs. The Giants signed him following the draft. Donte did not play in 2016 his rookie year bust spent time on the practice squad. Donte has since upped his weight to 163 lbs. In 2017 he was promoted to the active roster October 12th. He played for 94 snaps as corner over 4 games and had 7 tackles with 6 solo tackles and one pass defensed. Pro Football Focus gave him a 59.1 rating (poor). Donte suffered a fractured forearm and was placed on IR on November 27. “Pound for pound he’s the toughest guy on our team.” – Dominique Rodgers Cromartie about Deayon (2017)
The Giants drafted Sam Beal in the supplemental draft and signed UDFA Grant Haley. In free agency they signed four cornerbacks. The Giants currently have 11 cornerbacks on the roster. Last season they had five corners on the 53 man roster and two on the practice squad. The only locks on the 53 man roster currently would be Sam Beal, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple. If he does not make the 53 man roster, Donte would qualify for one more year on the practice squad.
The Philadelphia Eagles
Destiny Vaeao is a defensive tackle for the Eagles. He was born and raised in Pago Pago, American Samoa which is about 5,000 miles from California. According to a 60 Minutes report a boy born to Samoan parents is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL than any other kid in America. Football is their ticket out of a tough economy. Vaeao went to Washington State where he was a three year starter. in his senior year he was named to All-Pac-12 Second Team. His nfl.com draft profile has “Tough guy with desired motor.” He earned his degree in criminology in four years. Vaeao was Pro Football Focus top graded player on Team National in the 2016 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Vaeao went undrafted and was signed by the Eagles.
In his rookie year he played in 16 games , 26% of the defensive snaps and had 2 sacks and 9 tackles (3 solo). In 2017 Vaeao played in 11 games, 22 % of defensive snaps, and had one pass defensed and seven tackles (3 solo). This even though he battled through a hand injury and surgery during the 2017 season. The Eagles did not draft a defensive tackle, but did sign undrafted free agent defensive tackle Bruce Hector and free agent Haloti Ngata. The front line starters will most likely be Haloti Ngata and Fletcher Cox. Tim Jernigan is probably next on the depth chart. However Jernigan underwent surgery on a herniated disc in his back at the end of April and is expected to be out four months. There are seven defensive tackles on the Eagles roster. Vaeao will compete against 2017 6th round draft pick Elijah Qualls for snaps.
The Washington Redskins
Anthony Lanier is a defensive end for the Redskins. Lanier was a three sport athlete in high school – football, basketball and tennis. In college at Alabama A&M he played football and two years of basketball. He played in 47 games and accumulated 38.5 tackles for loss. That was ranked 24th in active career leaders in the FCS for the 2015-2016 season. On nfldraftscout.com Lanier was ranked 71st out of 169 defensive ends for the 2016 draft and 934th among total prospects. He went undrafted and was signed by the Redskins. Lanier made the 53 man roster his rookie season and played in four games. He registered only a fumble recovery on 48 defensive snaps. In 2017 Lanier again made the 53 man roster. In his second year Lanier played in 11 games, started 2 games, and played in 31% of the season’s defensive snaps. He registered 6 passes defensed, one forced fumble, one fumble recovered, five sacks and 11 tackles with eight of those solo. Lanier’s basketball skills probably help in him getting five passes batted down. His five sacks was good for third on the team. This November 2017 Bleacher Report article identified Lanier as one of nine players with the most untapped potential. Lanier gives back to his hometown community of Savannah Georgia by conducting his second Lanier’s summer youth football training camp in 2018.
The Redskins drafted defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne in the first round. Payne probably would start as nose tackle. They also have defensive ends Jonathan Allen and Matthew Ioannidis. Both of which project ahead of Lanier on the depth chart. Lanier will be competing against Stacy McGee and Ziggy Hood for for backup spots. However McGee is recovering from groin surgery and may not be ready for training camp. Hood has the advantage of having also played nose tackle.
If I were to name common trait(s) among these three players I would list humility and a great work ethic. They are continuously learning, absorbing as much as they can from the veterans and put in that extra effort to get better. Their work is cut out for them. There are only 30 undrafted free agents remaining from the 2015 draft class.