Saints: Which UDFAs have the best shot at making the 53-man roster?

New Orleans Saints - Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints - Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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New Orleans Saints
Eric Burrell #25 of the Wisconsin Badgers (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Saints UDFAs who have an outside chance to make the 53-man roster

Lawrence Woods, Cornerback

Lawrence Woods, a 5’9″, 186-pound Division II All-American as both a cornerback and kick returner, is a rookie Saint by way of Truman State in Missouri. As an outside corner in the Bulldogs’ defensive scheme, Woods looked to make up for his lack of length with an aggressive, physical approach and impressive speed, as evidenced by the 4.48-second 40-yard dash he recorded at his pro day in March.

Woods was voted his conference’s Special Teams Player of the year in his final full collegiate season of 2018, with three kicks returned for touchdowns and a Division II-leading 50.8-yard return average.

While no doubt a dynamic athlete, Woods will likely face an uphill battle in finding a spot on the club’s roster due to his limitations as a cornerback and the presence of All-Pro kick returner Deonte Harris on the Saints roster, not to mention the likes of Marquez Callaway and incoming rookie Kawaan Baker.

Eric Burrell, Safety

Whether by nature or nurture, or most likely a combination of the two, the play of former Wisconsin safety Eric Burrell brings to mind that of his college coach Jim Leonhard. While Leonhard was able to overcome middling athleticism with a smart and heady play on way to a 10-year career in the NFL, his pupil will look to follow a similar path in his bid to claim a spot on the Saints’ opening day roster.

Though merely grazing the size threshold for an NFL safety at 5’11”, 195 pounds, there were factors beyond his stature that seemingly precluded Burrell from being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, mostly relating to speed and agility (Burrell logged a 4.73 in the 40-yard dash at Wisconsin’s pro day).

With that in mind, it is perhaps surprising how well Burrell fared in coverage at the collegiate level, irrespective of where he aligned in the secondary. In fact, his collective PFF coverage grade for his sophomore and junior seasons were among the top 10 safeties at the FBS level.

In the event that Burrell was able to position himself as a more capable back-end defender than veteran safety J.T. Gray, the former Badger would still need to close the gap in the kicking game between himself and one of the team’s special teams aces to emerge as a serious contender for inclusion on the team’s active roster.