Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Five rookie free agents to watch

By James Walker

With the NFL lockout possibly reaching its conclusion, it's time to look ahead to what should be a very wild period in free agency.

Part of it will consists of rookie free agents who went undrafted this past April. Every year, several college players who were overlooked surprise and contribute during their rookie seasons.

Here are five rookie free agents to keep an eye on:

Noel Devine
Noel Devine amassed 936 yards on 209 carries and scored six touchdowns for the Mountaineers last season.
Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia

Skinny: Devine is a small (5 foot 8, 180 pounds), shifty back with good acceleration. He displays good vision and runs through a surprising amount of tackles for a player his size. Devine is scary in the open field and may be able to help a team on third down.

Possible AFC North fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns

Jeron Johnson, S, Boise State

Skinny: A hard-hitting safety with a lot of college experience, Johnson was projected to go in the fifth or sixth round but was overlooked. He is a solid tackler who has a chance to earn a backup job and help right away on special teams.

Possible AFC North fit: Cincinnati Bengals

Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State

Skinny: Size and speed are question marks, but Sanzenbacher displays good hands and is reliable.  He is more quick than fast and he has the ability to separate with good routes.  Sanzenbacher is a natural leader and was a captain at Ohio State.

Possible AFC North fit: Browns

Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College

Skinny: High-character player who survived cancer and long odds to earn a shot at the NFL. Herzlich has a good motor, size and toughness to play the linebacker position and was once a sure prospect before major health issues hindered his chances.

Possible AFC North fits: Steelers, Browns, Baltimore Ravens

Jeremy Ross, WR/KR, Cal

Skinny: Ross played receiver, running back and returned kicks at Cal. He needs to find a natural position in the NFL, but has good speed (4.4 to 4.5) and his return ability gives Ross a chance to make a team.

Possible AFC North fit: Ravens