Today, I start the 2-month process of spotlighting the college undrafted free agents and late round draft picks that are on the Commanders roster that I undertake every year. I’ll be publishing the articles, but the heavy lifting will be done by Joshua Frye, who has volunteered to do film reviews of the players to provide more than just height, weight, position and 40-time.
Here at Hogs Haven, it’s been a tradition for quite a while to use the ‘slow’ months in the NFL calendar from mid-May to mid-July to take a closer look at the team’s UDFAs and late round draft picks. After all, there’s usually not a lot of NFL news at that time, and most fans know little about these unheralded players unless they happened to go to a particular fan’s alma mater.
This is sometimes dismissed as unwarranted “hype”, or an attempt to generate excitement over guys who will be selling insurance in a matter of months, but that’s not really the case.
Let’s start with the obvious fact that late round picks and UDFAs are long shots to make the roster. That’s not a reason to ignore them. One of the most popular and talented players to wear a Washington uniform in this century was London Fletcher, who was undrafted out of John Carroll University in 1998. Last year’s WFT roster had a number of former college free agents like Taylor Heinicke, Jaret Patterson and Cam Sims, and late round draft picks like Chase Roullier, Kam Curl, and James Smith-Williams.
We don’t know the eventual career outcomes of the bottom-of-the-roster rookies that get spotlighted here on Hogs Haven, but there have been a surprising number of success stories. Among the guys who’ve been profiled here in the past are Jaret Patterson, Donald Parham, Danny Johnson, Cam Sims, and Steven Sims Jr.
The fact is, the number of success stories is a small fraction of all the unheralded rookies that have been highlighted on this website over the years, but even that long-shot status doesn’t minimize the accomplishments of these players. The NFL comprises the finest and most elite football players on the planet, and there are fewer than 1,600 men who suit up for the NFL on any given Sunday of the regular season. Most of the players that we spotlight in this series reached the peak of their careers in college, but, even if they survive no more than a single NFL training camp, they are elite football players; they are chasing a dream shared by millions of kids across America, and they are Washington Commanders players who put on the burgundy & gold of the Washington franchise. Each of them has earned his shot through a lifetime of hard work.
Washington currently has 14 UDFAs on the roster, but that list of players is subject to a lot of change. In previous years, we’ve put together profiles of players only to see them cut by the team a day before the profile was set to publish (or a day after it did publish). In fact, in just the 3 weeks or so since the 2022 draft, we have already seen a lot of churn in this part of the roster among both UDFAs and veteran free agents.
I invite you to read the brief profile here and to watch the brief film study of the player from his college days. I’ll also invite anyone inclined to use the comments section to make inane comments like “Super Bowl!”, or to complain about cranking up the HH “hype machine” to exercise some restraint. Face it, guys, these kinds of comments are not actually clever. They comprise the kind of lowest-common-denominator commentary that is expected of Eagles fans, and they are disrespectful to the player that is doing everything in his power to earn a place with the Washington Commanders. These articles about the bottom-of-the-roster players are not intended to suggest that any given player is bound for glory; rather, the articles are intended to celebrate the ongoing fight of each player to extend his dream.
If you want to denigrate either the player or the desire to introduce the players to the fan base of Hogs Haven, then I invite you, in fact, to just miss the article altogether; this one’s not written for you. If you want to make your jokes and have laughs about these players, do it elsewhere; today, we pay respect to a young man who is in the fight for a Commanders roster spot and his NFL dream. We take a look at one of the 14 players today, and there will be many more articles like this to come.
For those of you who appreciate the fight of the underdog, I hope you enjoy today’s article and the others that will follow in this “2022 UDFA Spotlight” series.
Drew White, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Drew White spent 5 years at Notre Dame, becoming a captain of the Fighting Irish defense in ‘21 after Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was drafted by the Browns a year ago.
A lot of Commanders fans would have preferred JOK to have been drafted by Washington in 2021, but Ron Rivera liked what he saw in Jamin Davis. Drew White, at 6’0” and 228 pounds, is not JOK, though he partially makes up for athletic limitations with good football instincts and the kind of commitment that often makes the difference between players who are competing for roster spots as backups & special teams players.
Although White at times flashes the lateral agility to elude blockers and the strong upper body with heavy hands to rip through blocks, he seems to lack the speed, power or bulk to fit perfectly in the NFL. As you’ll see in the film review below, White attacks the line, but needs work on stacking and shedding blocks. NFL coaching will likely help him, but anyone hoping that Drew White might be able to step in and immediately upgrade the Washington linebacker group will probably be disappointed.
White is not JOK, though he is a player who may be able to carve out a career in the NFL if he can hone his instincts enough to make up for his limited athleticism.
The film room - Frye’s Film breakdown
In this section, we’ll offer a look at the player’s style, skills and limitations in a short film review written by Joshua Frye, who has volunteered to do the heavy lifting in this series.
Starting the 2022 series with a player from Notre Dame means that there’s no real struggle to find film of the player, though that is often not the case with players from smaller programs. In those cases, it’s often necessary for Joshua to find limited film of the UDFA player by looking for him in highlight film of higher profile players from bigger football programs. The effort that goes into these film studies can be enormous, so I hope you’ll appreciate what Joshua is contributing to this series.
Joshua says that, as a Redskins fan, he grew up with a team that wasn’t winning on the field, and that this lack of success made him look for something other than Superbowls to keep him connected. He focused on the draft. So, even from a young age, Josh watched college football, doing his best to evaluate players, and he read extensively — books written by coaches and personnel evaluators. Joshua adds that he would love to become a professional scout someday.
J Frye: My biggest concern when watching White was his inconsistency in avoiding getting swallowed up by blocks and/or getting lost in the traffic.
Here is an example of him getting swallowed up by the RT. He does read the play nicely and doesn’t over-pursue, but throwing his inside shoulder allows him the tackle to, not just win the hand battle right away, but completely take him out of anything on his backside which happens here.
J Frye: Here are some areas I thought he excelled in; specifically, his ability to read a play and get after it. He has good instincts and he trusts them. He’s not the strongest or fastest guy on the field, so this was an area that he leaned on heavily at ND and it paid off.
J Frye: Here, Drew White is blitzing from the back side for a TFL after a relatively easy clean look to the back!
J Frye: Here is another example of White trusting his instincts and following Trevor Lawrence’s eyes to the throwing lane, which allowed him to get a hand on the ball for a Hamilton interception.
J Frye: Another coverage snap here for White. He does a nice job of quickly closing the space between him and the back, while also not getting too flat footed or over-pursuing on a possible out type route. This allows him to do what he needed to do in this case, which was to work back inside where he makes the play to cause an incompletion and force a very long 3rd down for Louisville.
J Frye: Here is an instance when Drew shows a little hesitation as to what he is seeing. Previously in the game, Louisville had run something similar that ended up being an option run to the right for a big gain. Also, Louisville ran a lot of motion during this game and they caught Drew hesitating here because of that.
J Frye: To sum it all up, I think Drew White is limited athletically, but he’s able to make up for some of that gap with his football IQ and toughness. Because of his limited athletic ability I don’t see him being more than a backup linebacker and special teams player. To make the Commanders roster, like most UDFAs, he’s going to need to focus on making a special team unit. That said, he does show potential as a good early-down developmental piece.
How excited are you that Drew White was signed by the Commanders?
This poll is closed
5 - Very excited!
4 - Looks good...for a UDFA
3 - I’m okay; let’s wait and see
2 - I’m doubtful about this guy’s prospects
1 - This guy doesn’t belong in an NFL training camp