Upon completion of the 2023 NFL Draft, Tom Telesco and the Chargers immediately went on to sign 18 undrafted free agents (UDFAs). In the past, the Bolts have used some of their UDFAs in significant roles, on special teams and as depth pieces, which could be the case with this class as well. With summer football underway, the Chargers are getting a first-hand look at these NFL hopefuls as the team seeks to find a diamond in the rough.
Below is a list of the Charger’s signed UDFAs:
- Tiawan Mullen, CB – Indiana
- Brevin Allen, Edge – Campbell
- Johari Branch, C – Maryland
- Cam Brown, CB – Ohio State
- Tyler Baker-Williams, CB – NC State
- Elijah Dotson, RB – Northern Colorado
- Jerrod Clark, DT – Coastal Carolina
- Terrell Bynum, WR – USC
- Nathan East, LB – Samford
- Andrew Farmer, Edge – Lane College
- AJ Finley, S – Ole Miss
- Terrance Lang, DL – Colorado
- Amechi “AJ” Uzodinma, CB – Ball State
- Ontaria “Pokey” Wilson, WR – Florida State
- Nicolas Melsop, OT – Delta State
- Mikel Jones, LB – Syracuse
- Tyler Hoosman, RB – North Dakota
- Michael Ezeike, TE – UCLA
Who are some UDFAs that could make the 53-man?
Jerrod Clark – 6’4” 334 lbs.
A defensive tackle from Coastal Carolina University, Jerrod Clark is one prospect whom many evaluators believed was going to be selected in late April. As told by his build, Clark has great size for the position but also has sneaky athleticism as he was originally recruited to be a TE. However, after adding weight, Clark switched to the defensive side where he would routinely hold up against double teams while displaying good footwork and a constant leg drive.
He surely has the size and length, with his nearly 7-foot wingspan, but a lot of his weight isn’t good weight. In order for him to be a contributing member of the defense, Clark will need to convert some of his mass into lean muscle. Additionally, Clark raises his pad level too quickly out of his stance. Because of this, offensive linemen have a free shot at his chest where they latch on and create trouble for Clark.
Currently, it appears that Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day are the top two on the depth chart at the DT position followed by Morgan Fox and Otito Ogbonnia. Clark should make easy work of his competition throughout summer ball to earn him the opportunity of being a bit more than a rotational piece this season. He may not surpass Fox on the depth chart, although it’s a possibility, but expect him to pass Ogbonnia.
Andrew Farmer – 6’4” 245 lbs.
One of the few small school edge rushers Los Angeles brought in with this year’s UDFA class, Farmer was an HBCU standout for the past two seasons. During the 2021 season, Farmer recorded 25 tackles for loss to pair with 6 sacks. In the 2022 season, he would continue this success registering 19 tackles for loss with 11.5 sacks. An explosive athlete who runs a 4.72 40-yard dash and jumps a 37” vertical and 9’10” broad, Farmer also plays with good technique in his pass rush making him a nightmare at his level of competition.
However, although his numbers are outstanding for any collegiate level, the level of competition he played against can’t go unnoticed. He has the athleticism, build, and technique, but the question looms of if he can sustain a sliver of this production in the NFL.
Listed as an OLB by the Chargers, he’ll surely fall behind Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Chris Rumph, and Tuli Tuipulotu on the depth chart. But, with his athleticism and past production, it’s going to be difficult for the team to deny him the opportunity to prove himself this summer. If he makes the roster, he’ll be a rotational/depth player whose contributions will be most felt on special teams.
AJ Finley – 6’2” 202 lbs.
With Nasir Adderly’s impromptu retirement, the Chargers are in a bit of a bind at the safety position. Of course, they have All-Pro safety Derwin James, but behind him, Alohi Gilman, JT Woods, and Mark Webb Jr. don’t provide much optimism at the position.
Because of his size, Finley has experienced playing down in the box, in the slot, and at the high safety positions. He’s good dropping back into coverage but plays his best football coming downhill thanks to how quickly he gets out of his break. He also frequently uses his length to attack the football, which is arguably the best element of his game.
Finley has the potential to create a backup role for himself behind both Derwin James and Alohi Gilman this summer, but he’ll need to balance out his game by bettering his technique. Additionally, he needs to be more physical when manned up in the slot. Because of the cushion he gives, it’s almost like he’s allowing too much separation. Lastly, Finley needs to break down more going into tackles. He takes good angles but sometimes relies on his length to trip up runners instead of putting his large frame on them.
Tyler Hoosman – 6’0” 215 lbs.
Although he wasn’t traded during the draft, there’s still uncertainty surrounding Austin Ekeler. Even if he does stick around for the season, the Chargers haven’t had a good one-two punch at the RB position since Ekeler backed up Melvin Gordon years ago. Between Joshua Kelley’s inconsistencies throughout his career, Isaiah Spiller being injured all of last season, and Larry Rountree barely being able to stick on the 53-man roster, there’s more than enough potential for this UDFA to secure a spot over one of the incumbents.
Hoosman is a rare combination of size, strength explosiveness, and speed. He runs a 4.52 40-yard dash, jumps a 10’2” broad, and jumps a 35” vertical. He has good vision, which he combines with his explosiveness to accelerate through the line of scrimmage. From this, he uses the power from his mass and continuous leg drive to run through could-have-been. From his lone season in North Dakota, Hoosman produced 1,023 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.
A great back to keep the ball on the ground, the same can’t be said for him as a pass-catcher. This past year, Hoosman logged only 125 yards on 22 receptions. Additionally, although it was a good one, this past season was Hoosman’s only impactful year. Prior to spending his sixth collegiate season at North Dakota, he spent the previous five years at UNI where he only appeared in 26 games.
Michael Ezeike – 6’4” 245 lbs.
This offseason, many expected Tom Telesco to target a TE at some point in either free agency or during the NFL Draft; this didn’t happen. Currently, veterans Gerald Everett and Donald Parham Jr. are the only locks at the TE position on the Chargers roster. And although Tre McKitty is an incumbent, he’s inconsistent as a run blocker and almost unserviceable in the passing game. Moreso, Donald Parham was unreliable last season as he dealt with injuries all year.
After arriving at UCLA as a WR, Ezeike gained 30 pounds throughout his collegiate career. Because of his WR background, Ezeike works best out wide, or from the slot, as his game is still somewhat reminiscent of his WR days. He’s a good blocker down the field and out wide, but the same can’t be said for Ezeike as an in-line blocker. He has the athleticism, but he needs to add more muscle and acquire much more experience if he wishes to overthrow Tre McKitty for the third TE spot.
Honorable Mention/Mid-Season Call Ups…
Johari Branch – 6’3” 310 lbs.
With veterans Will Clapp and Brenden Jaimes, and recent fifth-round pick Jordan McFadden on the Chargers roster, it’s possible, but unlikely, that Branch will create a roster spot for himself. However, an overall solid interior offensive lineman, Branch is accurate with his punches and takes good angles going into blocks. Still, his strength is below average as he has difficulty latching on to defenders. Also, the fluidity in his movements is subpar.
Elijah Dotson – 5’9” 188 lbs.
He has good vision, acceleration, and speed, but I think that Hoosman’s size will give him the upper hand on Dotson to make the 53-man roster. However, Dotson’s balance and blocking technique could create an opportunity for him to be called up should the Charger’s RB depth remain inconsistent. Additionally, although Dotson does have experience as a punt and kick returner, it’s more likely that Davis will see most of those reps with Guyton and Palmer behind him.
Nathan East – 6’2” 227 lbs.
Besides the safety and edge positions, the Chargers are also short-staffed at LB. They brought in Eric Kendricks this offseason, but Kenneth Murray hasn’t developed as they thought. Also, Nick Neimann’s and Amen Ogbongbemiga’s experience caps out on special teams. The team brought in Daiyan Henley, a player I expect to start come the season, through the draft, but should an injury occur, the team has limited options.
East has great athleticism, as shown by his testing numbers – a 4.59 40-yard dash, 35.5” vertical, 10’3 broad, and 23 reps on the bench. If he gets the call, he’ll provide depth but will have to make plays on special teams if he wishes to carve a greater role for himself.
Amechi “AJ” Uzodinma – 6’0” 193 lbs.
A starter at Ball State the past three seasons, Uzodinma is a ball hawk on the perimeter as seen by the 10 interceptions and 44 pass breakups across his career. He’s a quick, twitchy cornerback who isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the mud when it comes to contact. However, he needs to get more fundamental with his footwork and work on getting his head around instead of reacting off the bodies of receivers.
There isn’t much room for him on the outside with Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis, and JC Jackson on the roster, but his experience as a kick returner could create the chance for him to stick around. Uzodinma averaged 23.4 yards per return on 16 attempts last season.
Tiawan Mullen – 5’8” 181 lbs.
As I stated above, there isn’t much room for the Chargers to bring a UDFA DB onto their roster, especially with how Ja’Sir Taylor played during the regular season and with Deane Leonard’s excellent contributions to both special team units. Nevertheless, Mullen presents good inside/outside versatility. He isn’t the biggest, but he makes up for it with his 4.42 40-yard dash speed. He was productive early in his career until he caught a bit of the injury bug. Since his injuries, Mullen’s shown flashes of his former self although he’s never able to recapture his initial form. Mullens needs to be more patient in his play, but his scrappy demeanor could be appreciated as the Chargers search for a new nickel CB.
Mikel Jones – 6’0” 229 lbs.
As I explained with East, the depth pieces behind Murray, Kendricks, and Henley are a bit of a crapshoot. Since this is the case, why can’t Jones be that depth piece? The fact is, he’s more than capable of doing so. He has plenty of experience as a three-year starter and plays his best when allowed to operate downhill. However, he finds trouble when it comes to man coverage and his chase speed to the edge is below average. He’s a good personality to have in the clubhouse, as shown by his being a two-year captain, but he’ll need to show consistency this summer if he wishes to overtake a roster spot.
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