Bombs Away: UDFA Receivers on Roster III
In 2014, tight end Blake Annen and wide receiver Kadron Boone both made the same decision. They decided to roll the dice to keep their dream of an NFL career alive. While some might say the odds of making in the NFL are slim, there are on average three to five positions every year on the starting roster of NFL teams which originate from undrafted free agents. When you are fighting to keep a dream alive, you take chances.
And while there is no “special track” for rookies who arrive in Philadelphia, the reputation of Chip Kelly’s training camp is such that even those who do not make the Eagles roster will be given close looks at making the rosters of other teams. Meanwhile, the logic is that undrafted in just seven rounds of a very deep draft is not necessarily barren of talent. In fact, many of the UDFAs were projected to be drafted, but the NFL simply ran out of selection slots.
And so the Philadelphia Eagles are sorting through fifteen young men who are hoping the “land of opportunity” has one such opportunity for them. Let’s take a look at the group who are hoping to add their talents to the Philadelphia Eagles receiving corps.
University of Cincinnati tight end Blake Annen – It seems only fitting to consider a Bearcat as the first receiver, as the University of Cincinnati has been an incredibly fertile source of Philadelphia Eagles, including: tight end Brent Celek, outside linebackers Conner Barwin and Trent Cole, and center Jason Kelce. Annen is hoping to add his name to the growing list of Eagles who were were Bearcats. To that, Annen brings more to the table then just a popular Alma Mater, as his 6’4″ 247 pounds is a large frame which will give defenses fits, but even more when you figure in his 4.41 speed in the 40 yard dash – which beat many receivers. To frame that time, 2013 tight end Zach Ertz ran the 40 in 4.65 and 4.70 time, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin ran the 40 in 4.45 seconds and former Eagle DeSean Jackson ran in 4.35 seconds. Annen brings more than speed, as he is also a fearless blocker. He engages well and stays with his man through to the end of the play. So why did he fall to the undrafted ranks?
Simply stated, he did not catch often throughout his collegiate career. In his time with Cincinnati, Annen caught a mere 18 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirted in 2009, Annen did not appear in the box scores until 2011, when he caught a mere 2 passes for 33 yards. Somehow, Annen managed to take a step back from those modest numbers by catching a single pass in 2012 for 2 yards. It was not until 2013 that Annen became noticed by the offense and caught 15 passess for 177 yards and the two scores. Cincinnati, despite Annen’s speed, preferred to use the tight end primarily as a blocker.
So bringing in a tight end, even undrafted, who is only somewhat familiar with the elements of catching a pass is unwise you say? Well not exactly. You cannot coach speed, you either have it or you don’t. Annen has speed, blinding speed. But he is not where we need a professional tight end to be as far as receiver. That’s the beauty of training camp. Blake will be coached to catch. And when the decision to make the roster or not arrives, do not be surprised to see Annen slip to our practice squad.
Blake won’t be alone, as his Alma mater colleagues will do all they can to help coach him up to the NFL standard. Of the group, it makes sense that Blake would have a special admiration for Brent Celek:
“Now I find myself watching him and how he goes about his business on a daily basis. You can easily see why he’s been so successful. He’s a pro.”- per interview on www.philadelphia.com