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Can any UDFA’s help the Giants offense in 2017?

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Let’s look at which undrafted offensive players could make the roster

NFL: New York Giants-Rookie Minicamp William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Every year there is turnover on NFL rosters, and the New York Giants are no different.

Players leave via free agency, rookies are added, fringe players fail to hang on for another year, and players who were on the practice squad make a run at surviving final cuts this year.

With a largely young, talented, but veteran core of players, the Giants’ roster looks to be in a good place heading in to 2017. Many of their position groups are set with veteran players. However, there are always places for players who can work their way on to the final roster.

This time, let’s take a look at some undrafted free agents on the offensive side of the ball and see if they can survive to the 53-man roster.

Chad Wheeler

Why He Should Make The Roster

Chad Wheeler was expected to be drafted, and in fact drafted more highly than the Giants’ sixth round pick Adam Bisnowaty. He has light, quick feet in pass protection and relies on solid technique to deal with a variety of rushers. He plays well in space and looks to get smaller defenders on the ground at the second level, which can only help the running and screen games.

Why He Won’t Make The Roster

Right now Wheeler is limited athlete. Nagging lower body injuries seem to have left him with some stiffness that defenders can take advantage of. He also shows a need to develop core strength to better deal with the kind of power NFL defensive linemen routinely bring to the party. He also faces a tough numbers game as he is competing against incumbents Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart, free agent D.J. Fluker, and fellow rookie Adam Bisnowaty for a job as either a starting or back-up offensive tackle.

Prediction - Ask Again Later

Is that a bit of a cop out? Yeah, but the truth of the matter is that it is very difficult to evaluate linemen without — at the very least — seeing them in pads. Wheeler is, was, one of the more highly sought-after undrafted free agents this year, and the Giants gave him a (relatively) lucrative contract to come in and compete.

We will know much more once he, and the other tackles, get a chance to get out and compete with the defensive linemen in training camp and in pre-season. Wheeler has a reputation as a competitive player, and he very well could use his chance to open some eyes this summer.

Jessamen Dunker

Why He Should Make The Roster

Dunker slipped off the national radar when he left the Florida program, but the 6’4”, 318-pound lineman is a talented athlete. And while players like Greg Robinson have shown that athleticism is far from a lineman’s defining trait — offensive line play really is an art form — there is a strong correlation between athleticism and success along the offensive line.

There is also a recent trend of former left tackles finding success moving inside, with players like Zack Martin, Justin Pugh, and Joel Bitonio transitioning inside and becoming among the top guards in the league. Like then, Dunker is a former left tackle but is likely too short to stay outside in the NFL, but he has the raw tools to find success inside. He could be a potential back-up plan should the Giants left or right guard leave via free agency after 2017.

Why He Won’t Make The Roster

Dunker needs to hone his craft as a lineman. I can’t disparage his coaches at Tennessee State, but moving from Florida to the FCS level has likely hurt his development somewhat. He will also face a definite jump in competition as he moves from college to the NFL.

Prediction - Practice Squad

For all the criticism that the Giants haven’t addressed their offensive line, there is a very quietly a fierce numbers battle on the right side. The 2017 camp could see John Jerry, D.J. Fluker, Brett Jones, Bobby Hart, Bisnowaty, and Dunker all potentially in the mix for the right guard or back-up position.

The Giants might hope to sneak Dunker through to the practice squad. There he could develop him for a year and take a step forward if both Jerry and Fluker leave after the season and the right guard job becomes available.

Khalid Abdullah

Why He Should Make The Roster

Abdullah comes to the Giants with simply eye-popping numbers over his final season at James Madison University. On 298 carries (by far the most of his college career), he amassed 1,809 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 11 games of 100 yards or more. He is also a capable receiver, though not often used in the passing game.

On the field he runs with good vision and patience to set up his blocks. He also shows a solid ability to sink his hips, make a cut, then burst through the hole and into space. He doesn’t have the long speed to be a consistent home run threat, but like Samaje Perine, he makes use of a low center of gravity, vision, quickness, and burst to make the most of his opportunities.

Why He Won’t Make The Roster

The Giants’ top three backs, Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, and Wayne Gallman, are locked in to the roster. The biggest question is whether or not the Giants will carry a fourth running back on their final roster. If that is the case, Abdullah will have to fight veteran Orleans Darkwa for the roster spot. Darkwa should make a strong case for the roster spot and is a tough runner and a solid special teams player — when healthy. Abdullah will be facing a leap in competition from FCS JMU to the NFL, and combined with his rookie status, might not be able to overcome what Darkwa brings to the table.

Prediction - Practice Squad

Abdullah may very well make the roster, especially if he shows that his senior season wasn’t a fluke, but the practice squad is a safer bet right now.

The presence of rookie Gallman and sophomore Perkins makes adding Abdullah an interesting proposition. Could the Giants have three of their four running backs with just one season of experience between them? It seems more likely that if they opt to carry a fourth back into the season it will be Darkwa, who is a proven contributor on the offense as well as special teams.

Travis Rudolph

Why He Should Make The Roster

Rudolph is a proficient route runner who gets off the line easily. He uses his quick feet to easily get in and out of his routes and vary the tempo of his running to create separation. Once the ball is in his hands he is able to pick up chunk yardage if there’s any daylight in front of him.

He also shows a knack for knowing when to break off his routes and find the voids in coverages to keep chains moving.

Why He Won’t Make The Roster

Rudolph has a slender frame and small-ish (914 inch) hands and he might struggle with physical play in the NFL.

Rudolph will also have to contend with the same crowded depth chart as Roger Lewis Jr., Tavarres King, and Darius Powe. There are too many players fighting for too few roster spots. And with one or maybe two roster spots on the line, they will all have to prove themselves able to contribute beyond the offense.

He also showed some tendency toward dropping the ball in college, something he will have to limit over the summer.

Prediction - He Makes The Team!

If you’re looking for a player to cheer on in camp this year, Travis Rudolph is the easy answer. He is a tremendously high-character young man who is active in the community and suffered a personal tragedy shortly before the draft.

But that isn’t a reason to make a professional football roster.

I believe Rudolph can make the team because he also happens to be a talented receiver. The Giants’ passing game is predicated on efficient route running that has the receiver in a certain place at the right time, using their routes to create separation, and letting playmakers make plays. Rudolph’s game fits the Giants’ scheme very well. His small hands fall outside the Giants’ usual thresholds, but if he proves he can play on offense and on special teams, he will be a very difficult cut.

He could easily become a fan favorite and camp sensation in short order.