A year ago, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott faced the improbable uphill climb to make an NFL roster.
Elliott had watched all seven rounds of the NFL draft without a team selecting him. He signed an undrafted free-agent contract, arrived in Green Bay and got to work. A strong preseason put him on the cusp of making the team.
Final cuts came in late August. Again, Elliott didn't receive a call. This time, it was a good thing. He'd made the Packers' 53-man roster.
Elliott joined defensive tackles Mike Pennel and Luther Robinson as undrafted players to see snaps with the Packers as rookies last season. It's become a trend under general manager Ted Thompson. The Packers usually make the most of their undrafted free agent signings.
Green Bay is where cornerback Tramon Williams went from undrafted to a seven-year starter. From cornerback Sam Shields to offensive tackle Don Barclay, the list goes on and on.
The Packers are rapidly acquiring free agent signings in the wake of last week's NFL draft that concluded Saturday. So far, at least 20 have either been signed or accepted a tryout invitation. Who will be the Williams, Shields, Barclay or Elliott this season? It could be anybody. It could be nobody.
One possibility is Stanford outside linebacker James Vaughters, one of the best defensive players to go undrafted this year.
"Blessed to have the opportunity to continue to play this game," Vaughters tweeted Saturday night. "The @packers are a great fit for me. #GoPackGo"
Vaughters had 51 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 6½ sacks for Stanford as a senior last season. He had 12.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss in his four-year career.
In only 196 pass-rushing snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, Vaughters added 11 quarterback hits and 21 hurries. But he was more than a pass rusher. Against the run, Vaughters had 29 tackles in 234 run defense snaps. His 12.4 run stop percentage ranked second among undrafted outside linebackers.
Vaughters, who did not attend the NFL scouting combine, is a classic tweener at 6-foot-2 and 248 pounds. He's undersized for a defensive end, but the 4.87-second, 40-yard dash he ran at Stanford's pro day is more in line with a defensive lineman's speed.
Comparatively, Elliott was 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds with a 4.67-second, 40-yard dash when he left Toledo.
Still, there's no doubting Vaughters' production. If he can carry his playmaking ability into professional football, maybe Vaughters will be the next to continue the Packers' undrafted free agent lineage.
Here is a roundup of the 18 players the Packers have reached an agreement, as confirmed by Press-Gazette Media. Pro day measurements are courtesy of NFL Draft Scout. They're expected to sign later this week pending a physical:
RB Malcolm Agnew, Southern Illinois
Height: 5-9. Weight: 202. Class: Senior.
Agnew, who transferred from Oregon State, has an NFL pedigree with his father, Ray, playing 11 NFL seasons as an NFL defensive tackle and now working in the St. Louis Rams' player personnel department. He was on a tear for the first eight weeks of the 2014 season before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury against Youngstown State. He still led the Salukis in all major rushing categories despite missing the final four games (136 carries for 820 yards and 10 touchdowns). He rushed for 692 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons at Oregon State. He ran a 4.61 in the 40 at his pro day with a 37-inch vertical, 10-9 broad jump and 19 bench reps. Quick-footed Ran a 6.75-second time in the three-cone drill.
RB John Crockett, North Dakota State
Height: 6-0. Weight: 217. Class: Senior.
Crockett was invited to the NFL scouting combine after fashioning three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Finished second on the NDSU career rushing chart with 4,309 yards and set a single-season rushing record with 1,994 yards as a senior. He had 20 career 100-yard rushing games, second most in school history and was only the second NDSU player to eclipse 5,000 career all-purpose yards, finishing with 5,151. His 397 receiving yards as a senior were the second most by a running back in NDSU history. He was clocked at 4.62 in the 40 with a 40-inch vertical, 10-5 broad jump and 15 reps of 225 pounds.
Strengths (via Nolan Nawrocki): Good vision. Presses the line and finds creases. Runs hard and is extremely competitive with the ball in his hand. Can spin out of some tackles and shows good lateral agility. Good effort, energy and desire and lives up to his Tasmanian Devil nickname fighting for yardage. Seeks to finish. Has a 40-inch vertical jump.
Weaknesses (via Nawrocki): Has a slight build with limited strength and power to run inside. Runs too upright and get turned on contact. Spins in place and is not a strong tackle-breaker. Production is inflated from facing modest competition in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and being surrounded by a strong supporting cast. Limited receiving production. Lacks awareness in pass pro. Only a one-year starter. Could do a better job securing the ball.
RB Alonzo Harris, Louisiana-Lafayette
Height: 6-1. Weight: 237. Class: Senior.
Harris joined Packers' sixth-round defensive lineman Christian Ringo during the most successful four years in Lafayette program history. He scored 45 offensive touchdowns in his four seasons with the Ragin' Cajuns. A bruising power back, Harris enjoyed his best season as a junior with 199 carries for 942 yards and 14 touchdowns. He ran a 4.66 time in the 40 at his pro day with a 36 vertical, 10-7 broad jump and 15 bench reps.
WR Javess Blue, Kentucky
Height: 6-0. Weight: 188. Class: Senior.
Blue is a slot receiver who averaged 18.1 yards per catch as a senior. He caught 72 passes for 1,111 yards and nine touchdowns since transferring from Butler (Kan.) Community College in 2013. He handled kickoff and punt returns at Kentucky. He was the nation's 14th-ranked junior college player after leading Butler with 65 receptions, 1,064 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, which all ranked in the top 10 nationally. He was clocked at 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash with a 33-inch vertical jump and 10-1 broad jump. Blue benched 13 reps at 225 pounds.
WR Ricky Collins, Texas A&M-Commerce
Height: 6-0. Weight: 198. Class: Senior.
Collins (6-0, 198) dominated at the NCAA Division II level last season, catching 71 passes for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns. A native of Tyler, Texas, Collins has piqued the interest of many NFL teams because he's still a relative unknown. Collins spent his first two years at Kilgore (Texas) Junior College before transferring to Midwestern State in 2012 where he caught seven passes for 98 yards in five games. He sat out a year while caring for his ailing father. Finished his college career at Texas A&M-Commerce. Ran a 4.53-second time in the 40 at his pro day with a 36-inch vertical and 9-11 broad jump.
WR Adrian Coxson, Stony Brook
Height: 6-1. Weight: 209. Class: Senior
The Baltimore native started his college career at Florida, but transferred to Maryland to be closer to his ailing father. He played sparingly after Randy Edsall took over in 2011 and transferred again to Stony Brook in 2012. A two-year starter, he caught 84 passes for 1,335 yards and 10 touchdowns in three seasons. He ran a 4.47 in the 40 at his Pro Day earlier this month with a 32-inch vertical, 9-3 broad jump and 15 bench reps.
WR Jimmie Hunt, Missouri
Height: 6-0. Weight: 208. Class: Senior
Hunt ranked among the SEC's top 10 in receiving touchdowns (seventh with seven) and yards (ninth with 698) last season. Missed Missouri's bowl game after undergoing surgery in December to repair his AC joint. He caught 34 passes for 506 yards and five touchdowns during his first three seasons as a reserve. Hunt ran a 4.55 in the 40 with a 31½-inch vertical, 9-8 broad jump and 10 reps of 225 pounds.
WR Larry Pinkard, Old Dominion
Height: 6-0. Weight: 196. Class: Senior
Pinkard missed all of last season after being dismissed from Old Dominion's football program for an unspecified violation of team rules. He was incredibly productive during his first three seasons, compiling 160 catches for 2,338 yards and 25 touchdowns. As a redshirt junior, he led the Monarchs with 1,020 yards and nine touchdowns off 68 catches, which is the program's second-most catches in a season. He was allowed to work at Old Dominion's pro day where he recorded a 4.51 in the 40 with a 36½-inch vertical and 10-8 broad jump. He also benched 18 reps of 225 pounds.
TE Mitchell Henry, Western Kentucky
Height: 6-4. Weight; 252. Class: Senior.
Henry caught 78 passes for 1,094 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers. He enjoyed his best collegiate season as a senior when he had 32 receptions for 489 yards and four touchdowns, including a seven-catch, 128-yard performance against Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 13. He ran a 4.69 in the 40 at his pro day with a 37 vertical, 9-6 broad jump and 15 bench reps of 225 pounds.
OT Fabbians Ebbele, Arizona
Height: 6-7. Weight: 311. Class: Senior.
The Chicago native started 51 of a possible 52 games at right tackle for the Wildcats after redshirting in 2010. He's a massive individual, but struggles with his knee bend. Relied on his stature rather than technique in college. He ran a rather slow time in the 40 (5.55) at his pro day with a 31 vertical, 8-3 broad jump and 22 bench reps at 225 pounds.
G Matt Rotheram, Pittsburgh
Height: 6-5. Weight: 325. Class: Senior.
Rotheram started all 38 games at Pittsburgh in his final three seasons as and was named second-team All-ACC as a senior. He started 12 games at right tackle in 2012 before starting his last 25 collegiate games at right guard. He played in the Medal of Honor Bowl all-star game in Charleston, S.C. He had a 28 vertical, 8-8 broad jump and 22 bench reps of 225 pounds at his pro day.
G Marcus Reed, Fayetteville State
Height: 6-5. Weight: 350. Class: Senior.
A former teammate of Collins at Kilgore Junior College. The massive guard started 10 games last season for the Broncos, spending time at both guard and tackle. He ran a 5.41 at North Carolina State's pro day with a 25½-inch vertical, 8-3 broad jump and 26 bench reps of 225 pounds. Ran a 8.29-second time in the three-cone drill.
DT Lavon Hooks, Ole Miss
Height: 6-3. Weight: 318. Class: Senior.
Hooks had 27 tackles (nine for a loss) and three sacks in 24 games as a rotational defensive tackle for the Rebels. He transferred to Ole Miss in 2013 after two seasons at Northeast Mississippi Community College. Hooks was considered one of the top JUCO recruits in the country after recording 9½ sacks and 20½ tackles for a loss during his final season at NMCC. He also played basketball at Northeast, leading the conference in rebounding as a freshman. Hooks ran a 5.29 time in the 40 with a 27 vertical, 8-9 broad jump and 18 reps of 225 pounds.
CB Ladarius Gunter, Miami (Fla.)
Height: 6-1. Weight: 202. Class: Senior.
Gunter has great size for a corner and started 30 of a possible 37 games for the Hurricanes after transferring from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. He finished his college career with 76 tackles, six interceptions and 18 pass breakups. Tested terribly at the NFL combine with a 4.69-second time in the 40-yard dash and did little to improve his stock with a 4.65-second time in the 40 at his Miami pro day. His 4.45 time in the short shuttle and 12.44-second time in the 60-yard shuttle were the slowest at the combine. Average leaping ability with a 33½-inch vertical jump. His length makes him an intriguing UFA signing.
Strengths (Nawrocki): Very good body length and overall size to match up with big receivers and compete in the red zone. Disruptive re-routing receivers. Willing tackler. Experienced, 30-game starter. Has safety experience.
Weaknesses (Nawrocki): Too upright in his pedal and technique and footwork need refinement – does not play with balance in his feet and it negates his transitional quickness. Lacks explosion, burst and closing speed to recover. Limited playing range. Marginal top-end speed to stick with receivers down the field. Drag-down tackler – could stand to be more physical in run support.
CB Bernard Blake, Colorado State
Height: 5-11. Weight: 178. Class: Senior.
Blake finished with 38 tackles, 11 pass breakups and one interception as a senior after notching 64 tackles, 12 pass breakups and an interception the year prior. He looks to strip the ball on contact and isn't fooled on double-moves. Was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 17. He ran a 4.51 in the 40 with a 31½-inch vertical jump and 10-7 broad jump. Recorded 9 bench reps of more than 225 pounds with a 7.12 time in the three-cone drill.
ILB Tavarus Dantzler, Bethune-Cookman
Height: 6-2. Weight: 237. Class: Senior.
Played outside linebacker in college, but could be a candidate to play inside in Dom Capers' 3-4 defense. A two-year starter, Dantzler finished second in team tackles (80) with one sack and three fumbles forced. He took a pre-draft visit with the Packers, which reportedly went a long way in him picking Green Bay over free-agent offers from St. Louis and Washington. He ran a 4.66 time in the 40 at his pro day with a 35 ½ vertical, 10-1 broad jump and 21 bench reps of 225 pounds.
OLB Jermauria Rasco, LSU
Height: 6-3. Weight: 247. Class: Senior.
Rasco started the last two seasons at defensive end for LSU, but will transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker in Green Bay. He had a team-high four sacks as a junior and senior. He was fifth in tackles (71) as a senior with 7½ for a loss. Competed in the East-West Shine Game. Pass-rushers are asked to keep quarterbacks contained to the pocket, leading to his modest sack totals. Can set an edge, but not flashy. He ran a 4.77 time in the 40 at his pro day with a 28½ vertical, 9-0 broad jump and 12 reps at 225.
OLB James Vaughters, Stanford
Height: 6-2. Weight: 248. Class: Senior.
Vaughters topped Pro Football Focus' list of 10 defensive free agents to like. He registered 51 tackles (11 for a loss) with 6½ sacks as a senior. He started inside before moving to outside linebacker as a junior at Stanford. Vaughters ran a 4.87 in the 40 at his pro day with a 32½ vertical and 9-4 broad jump. He notched 35 bench reps of 225 pounds. Mostly stood up in Stanford's 3-4. He's strong, but struggles to change direction. Dropping into coverage could be an issue.
Players who will attend rookie orientation on tryout
QB Blake Sims, Alabama (5-11, 218)
Athletic quarterback from Alabama who led the Crimson Tide to the college football playoffs last season.
RB Raymond Maples, Army (6-1, 220)
Maples spent five years at West Point, rushing for 2,878 yards and 10 touchdowns in his college career. He notched back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2011 and 2012 before injuring his knee three games into his true senior season. He was granted a fifth year of eligibility, but opportunities were limited. He rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries. Maples told HudsonValley.com that he is attending this weekend's rookie orientation on a tryout after receiving permission from his base commander at Ft. Benning, Ga., where he arrived after his December graduation from West Point. He's scheduled to finish his Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course on June 22. If signed, Maples could seek an exception from organized team activities.
TE Mitch King, Penn (6-6, 260)
A 2014 co-captain, King had 14 catches for 174 yards and five touchdowns in 27 games.
TE Chris Malott, Southeastern Louisiana (6-5, 236)
OT Jake Silas, Buffalo (6-7, 315)
A two-year starter for the Bulls.
OT Josh Bredl, Colorado State-Pueblo (6-6, 290)
DB Anthony Wooding, Wake Forest (6-0, 198)
A transfer from Air Force, Wooding had 94 tackles and five pass breakups in two seasons at Wake Forest.
DB Skye PoVey, BYU (5-11, 203)
PoVey recorded 128 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions in 39 games for the Cougars.
DB JD Roussel, Sacred Heart (5-10, 186)