The NFL returned to a more familiar state this offseason, which is great news for rookie undrafted free agents. For players signed after the draft, opportunity is everything, and last year's virtual offseason and lack of a preseason meant fewer opportunities for NFL hopefuls.
This didn't prevent some undrafted free agents from becoming standouts in 2020, though. Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson, for example, went from not hearing his name called in the draft to being a 1,000-yard rusher in a matter of months.
However, the return of the preseason and more traditional training camps should allow more undrafted free agents to flourish—or to at least flash their potential ahead of the regular season. They may still be long shots to make NFL rosters, but they'll get the sort of national exposure that wasn't afforded a year ago.
With this in mind, we'll examine one undrafted rookie in each training camp who will be worth following in the coming weeks. These are players who have a legitimate shot at sticking on a roster or practice squad based on factors like positional value, team needs, physical attributes, playing experience, collegiate production and potential roster fit.
Will they become future starters as Robinson did in 2020? That remains to be seen, but each player listed here will have a chance.
Arizona Cardinals: TE Cary Angeline, NC State
Tight end Cary Angeline was a brilliant pickup for the Arizona Cardinals, who lacked a premier pass-catching tight end in 2020. Dan Arnold led the position group with 438 receiving yards and departed for the Carolina Panthers in the offseason.
Angeline, who had 412 receiving yards, six touchdowns and averaged 15.3 yards per reception last year, has a solid chance of being an early contributor. The NC State product is a big-bodied (6'6", 250 lbs) target with a basketball background and a high athletic upside.
While Angeline is unpolished as a blocker, he has the physical tools to consistently create mismatches in the passing game. He could quickly develop into a dangerous rotational pass-catcher and checkdown target for Kyler Murray. At worst, he should find a home on Arizona's practice squad.
Atlanta Falcons: QB Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
The Atlanta Falcons don't need a new quarterback just yet. While starter Matt Ryan is 36 years old, he's still playing at a high level and showing no signs of slowing down. That said, the decision to scoop up a developmental prospect in Arkansas' Feleipe Franks was a wise one.
Franks, who transferred from Florida, played nine games this past season and finished with 2,107 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. At 6'6" and 234 pounds, he possesses the size and arm talent to have a lasting pro career. Atlanta was thrilled to land him.
"Feleipe has a really unique skill set," quarterbacks coach Charles London said, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He has a big arm. He’s a really athletic guy. He had traits that as an offensive staff we were excited about."
While Franks may not necessarily be the heir apparent to Ryan, he should develop into a long-term backup with upside.