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Monday, May 16, 2022

Commentary

Draft recap: What about the undrafted?


Kenneth Farrow, middle, was signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent. | File photo/ The Cougar

Running back Kenneth Farrow was signed to the San Diego Chargers roster as an undrafted free agent, but will have to battle hard for a coveted roster spot. | File photo/The Cougar

In addition to the three former football players selected in the 2016 National Football League Draft, four former Cougars signed after the event as un-drafted free agents, including offensive tackle Alex Cooper, running back Kenneth Farrow, safety Adrian McDonald and defensive tackle Tomme Mark.

Cooper had his hands full in 2015 when he was tasked with protecting shifty–starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound tackle impressed scouts when he solidified himself as one of the most important components of the Cougars’ offensive line. His performance last season earned him a spot on the 2015 American Athletic Conference Second Team.

The former Cougars tackle joined the Cincinnati Bengals, a team with an adept offensive line. The Bengals used their 2015 first-round pick to draft offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and expect him to be a pivotal piece in the offensive line in the future. Cooper will have a chance to solidify a spot on the line when 11-year veteran Andrew Whitworth retires, which is likely in the coming years.

Although Cooper won’t see much, if any, playing time in the 2016 season, his youth could get him a place on the 52-man roster.

The San Diego Chargers signed Farrow immediately following the draft Saturday. A staple on the Cougars’ offense for four years, the running back was team captain in the 2015 season. Farrow struggled to stay on the field then, but the 12 touchdowns he scored meant he knew how to capitalize on opportunities. A fan-favorite at UH, Farrow accumulated 3,526 yards and 37 touchdowns in his college career.

The Chargers have Danny Woodhead as a proven starting running back, yet their reserves for the position seem questionable. Farrow will battle for a spot on the team with Melvin Gordon and Dreamius Smith. His 220-pound frame more closely resembles an NFL fullback, so he may need to cut the weight or consider a position change.

All in all, Farrow is a legitimate leader that should not have a problem earning at least a reserve spot on the Chargers’ roster this fall.

Along with Farrow, McDonald signed with the Chargers following the draft.

The safety started every game in his sophomore and senior years. He won American Athletic Conference First Team honors his junior year and Second Team honors his senior year. McDonald owns the UH record for career interceptions with 17 and is third in career fumble recoveries with seven.

McDonald will join a team that finished middle of the pack in passing yards allowed, at 236.6 per game. The Chargers have Jahleel Addae as a strong safety, but in 2015 he had a below-average year for a starter. Addae, also un-drafted in 2013, did not record an interception throughout the season and struggled in coverage.

Fortunately for McDonald, outside of Addae there are no safeties on the Chargers’ roster who have made a significant impact on an NFL team and many of them are coming from practice squads.

With the Chargers’ lack of depth at the safety position, McDonald should make the team although early on he may be limited to special teams’ duties.  If Addae struggles again this season, McDonald will be able to swoop in and earn minutes at strong safety.

Mark signed with the Houston Texans shortly after the draft. As a senior, Mark led the Cougar defensive linemen with 36 tackles and also started in all 14 games last season.

Last season, the Texans had three defensive tackles on their roster. With the addition of Mark, they now have six heading into training camp.

Despite the Cougars running a similar 3-4 defensive scheme to the Texans, Mark’s chances to make the team are a long shot because, typically, only one defensive tackle is on the field at a time. Starters in this position for the Texans are team veteran Vince Wilfork and D.J. Reader, a fifth-round pick from Clemson University.

If the Texans stick to their three-man rotation at defensive tackle, Mark will have to compete with fifth-year veteran Devon Still, third-year pro Brandon Dunn and second-year pro Christian Covington for the final spot on the roster. Should Mark stay with the Texans, it is likely that he will be on the practice squad and not the actual roster.

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