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Browns sign 2 of the top UDFAs according to PFF

Ronnie Hickman and Lonnie Phelps two of the better moves after the NFL draft

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

More often than not, undrafted free agents (UDFAs) are nothing more than training camp fodder for the rest of the roster. That isn’t to say they are not talented players but being passed over for 259 other players that were selected in the NFL draft says something.

That doesn’t stop media and fans from getting excited about UDFAs. Of the 12 players signed by the Cleveland Browns after last year’s NFL draft, safety D’Anthony Bell was the only one to make the team’s initial 53-man roster.

With limited commitment from the team, UDFAs have an uphill battle to make a roster, especially over players drafted or signed in free agency.

For the Browns, this year’s class has a chance to be an outlier despite the team’s relatively loaded roster. In our initial 53-man projection after the draft, four UDFAs made the roster due to the needs of the team.

Pro Football Focus listed their top undrafted prospects with safety Ronnie Hickman making the top 10 list and DE Lonnie Phelps making the honorable mention list.

Of Hickman:

PFF Big Board ranking: 145

Hickman is coming off of a breakout season for the Buckeyes in 2022, posting an 88.9 coverage grade on the back of five pass breakups, an interception, a 43.3% reception rate and allowing a 39.2 NFL passer rating. The Browns could end up getting a fair bit of use out of Hickman on a thin safety depth chart. He has 91st percentile arm length and the coverage ability to potentially play a rotational role when needed behind Grant Delpit and Juan Thornhill.

With Bell backing up Delpit at strong safety, it will be interesting if Hickman or fellow Ohio State Buckeyes safety Tanner McAlister can make the roster despite the addition of veteran Rodney McLeod.

Phelps was ranked 178th on PFF’s big board.

With the team’s seven draft picks and these two UDFAs, Cleveland pulled in nine players from PFF’s top 178 players (eight of their top 145). While GM Andrew Berry didn’t have a first or second-round selection, it seems he was able to pull in some talented depth players during this year’s NFL draft and right after.

What are your expectations for UDFAs this year, Hickman and Phelps in particular?