NFL analyst says Saints signed a top-10 undrafted free agent rookie class

There aren’t many teams that can match the New Orleans Saints’ success in recruiting, developing, and leaning on undrafted talent. Just in recent years we’ve seen former rookie free agents like Rashid Shaheed, J.T. Gray, Carl Granderson, Juwan Johnson, Deonte Harty and Wil Lutz earn starting jobs and even Pro Bowl recognition after not hearing their names called during the NFL draft.

And this year’s crop has a lot of potential, too. FantasyPros’ Thor Nystrom is  one of the best at evaluating the draft each year, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who more thoroughly studies the players available as undrafted rookies. This year, he ranked the Saints’ class of undrafted free agents at No. 9 among the NFL’s 32 teams.

A major factor in that lofty placement was the pickup of former Colorado State tight end Dallin Holker. Nystrom ranked Holker as his 156th-best prospect in the entire draft, and the seventh-best tight end. Here’s why he’s still high on Holker despite some athletic limitations:

TE Dallin Holker is headed for an H-Back role at the next level that he absolutely has the skill to excel at. The question becomes… does he have the physical ability? Holker lacks speed (4.78), and he needs space to build up to that meager gear (24th-percentile 10-yard split).

Additionally, as one of the classes’ oldest players, there’s a glass ceiling on his potential within that usage-specific role. That said, Holker is a hands-catcher with real ball skills, a rarity amongst this class. Holker’s 10 contested catches last year were two more than any TE in this draft class.

Holker has one genetic quirk that decidedly works in his favor in this area: Holker is tied with the 6’7/260 Brevyn Spann-Ford for the longest arms of my top-15 TE. This gives Holker a deceivingly large catch radius that he uses to great effect, extending those long levers out to greet the rock at its earliest point every time.

Holker posted a sublime 94th-percentile 3-cone and an 83rd-percentile short shuttle. Holker’s change-of-direction fluidness is most evident after the catch, where he was a veritable broken-tackle machine in the Mountain West, finishing No. 2 in this class with 15 last year.

One area to work on at the next level to play up his natural agility and win more separation is footwork efficiency during the route-break process. But, overall, what his routes lack in snap and pizazz, Holker augments with tempo changes and a fun grab bag of upper-body deeks.

But Holker wasn’t the only rookie free agent the Saints signed after the draft. Nystrom is also high on former Yale wide receiver Mason Tipton, who offers game-breaking speed, and who we spoke with in an exclusive interview.  He’s one of several intriguing wideouts the Saints picked up as undrafted free agents, along with Jermaine Jackson (who had four kick return touchdowns at Idaho) and Kyle Sheets (who dominated his competition at Slippery Rock). All three of them should be in the mix for a roster spot or place on the practice squad.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire