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11 things to know about Washington's 11 UDFAs

Notre Dame's Sam Hartman (10) looks to throw the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Notre Dame's Sam Hartman (10) looks to throw the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

The Washington Commanders got nine players in the 2024 NFL Draft that they feel will help their roster immediately, but they aren't the only ones who will be at the facility for rookie minicamp May 10-12.

Two days after the Commanders wrapped up their draft work by taking Javontae Jean-Baptiste in the seventh round, they agreed to terms with 11 undrafted free agents, including the likes of quarterback Sam Hartman, running back Austin Jones and cornerback Chigozie Anusiem.

Most of these players are practice squad candidates, but there's always one who manages to stand out enough to get a spot on the active roster. Last year, it was wideout Mitchell Tinsley; the year before that, it was tight ends Armani Rogers and Curtis Hodges.

There's no guarantee, but there's a good chance Washington's next training camp Cinderella is among this list of names. So, here are 11 things you need to know about each player.

1. Chigozie Anusiem has size and speed.

Anusiem wasn't invited to the scouting combine, so he had to wait until Colorado State's pro day to show off his athleticism to scouts. His results explain why so many teams were reportedly interested in signing him.

We already knew that Anusiem was an ideal physical specimen. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds with just 7% body fat, the former Ram had a 37.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-2 broad jump, but he also recorded an impressive 4.39 40, which would have tied for eighth among corners in Indianapolis.

2. Sam Hartman has a long resume.

Hartman was part of the most talented quarterback class in recent memory, which probably played a role in him being undrafted. However, it's worth pointing out that his resume can stack up against any other signal-caller this year.

Hartman wrapped up a six-year career (five at Wake Forrest and one at Notre Dame) as one of the best passers in ACC history. He threw a conference-record 134 touchdowns to go with 15,656 yards, which ranks second most in ACC history. He also has Wake Forrest records in career completions, attempts, total touchdowns and total yards.

3. Austin Jones can do it all.

Modern running backs need to be able to be as much of a threat in the passing game as they are on the ground. Jones has both skill sets in ample supply.

Jones had 3,238 total yards and 27 touchdowns in five years with the Cardinal and USC, but it looked like he hit his stride with the Trojans. He set career-highs in rushing yards (705) and receiving yards (972) in 2022, contributing to him averaging six yards per touch during his final two seasons.

4. Ben Nikkel's work ethic is second to none.

Nikkel took a gamble on himself after being a two-time all-conference player at McPherson College, transferring to Iowa State and trying his hands at a bigger program as a walk-on. While he wasn't the standout receiver he was at McPherson, he established himself as a hard worker on special teams, appearing in 12 games and making three tackles in 2022.

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell called Nikkel "one of the hardest-working kids" on the team and said that he deserved to get a scholarship. That became a reality before the season, as the team surprised him with the distinction during the last year of his eligibility.

5. David Nwaogwugwu comes from a talented offense.

Nwaogwugwu played at Temple and Rutgers before settling in at Toledo, playing both guard and tackle. He started the entire season for Toledo, helping the offensive line rank fourth in sacks allowed per game and first in the MAC in points per game (32.3), total offense (419.2) and passing efficiency (147.82).

Take a look from the war room to the draft stage in Detroit and the touch down in Ashburn as the Washington Commanders take Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 overall pick. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)

6. Tyler Owens tested well at the combine.

Owens only participated in two events at the scouting combine this year: the vertical and the broad jump. He dominated in both.

Both Owens' broad jump (12-foot-2) and vertical jump (41 inches) were some of the best any evaluator had seen in recent years. He had the best broad jump of any safety by 13 inches, becoming the second player to jump at least 12 feet in combine history. His vertical jump was also the best among the entire safety class, ranking fourth among all defensive backs.

7. Norell Pollard knows how to rush the passer.

Jer'Zhan Newton was considered a steal for the Commanders at No. 36 overall with many believing that he was the second-best interior defensive lineman on the board.

Guess who got a better pass-rush grade from PFF? Pollard ranked third in 2023 with a grade of 88, generating 30 total pressures with a win rate of 16.5% that was tied for fourth. In true pass sets, Pollard was even better with a grade of 90.4 and as many pressures (20) as Byron Murphy II.

8. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint has reliable hands.

Whoever ends up throwing passes to Rosemy-Jacksaint in training camp should be happy with how he catches the football.

Rosemy-Jacksaint was one of Georgia's best weapons last season, not just because he was third on the team with 535 yards and four touchdowns, but also because he didn't drop a single pass in 2023 and only two for his entire career. He also caught five contested passes on nine targets in 2023.

9. Michael Wiley knows how to score.

Though injuries plagued Wiley's final season (he appeared in 10 games with seven starts), no one can deny Wiley's production with the ball in his hands. He amassed 2,862 yards in five seasons, averaging 5.1 yards per carry on the ground and 9.3 as a pass-catcher.

But perhaps Wiley's best skill set is figuring out how to get in the end zone. He had 28 touchdowns in his college career, averaging a score every 16.3 touches.

10. AJ Woods has versatility.

The Commanders have several young, talented cornerbacks on their roster, and Woods will need to do whatever he can do to stand out and earn a roster spot. He feels that he can excel on either the inside or outside.

"Cut on my tape at Pittsburgh and you'll see that I was able to play a significant number of snaps both inside and outside," Woods said via The Draft Network. "I played press-man coverage at boundary corner against bigger receivers. I held my own out there."

"I also held smaller, quicker receivers in check at the slot position. I can go man-to-man with those shifty slot receivers at nickel. I showed that throughout the week at the East-West Shrine. I made plays on the ball in practice."

11. Colson Yankoff

Yankoff was a reserve player on offense for most of his college career. He was a standout on special teams, though, and he'll likely compete as the Commanders' return specialist in training camp.

Yankoff didn't return kicks until last season, but it turns out that he has a knack for the job. He returned 16 kicks in 2023, recording 334 yards and season-long of 30 yards. Yankoff was one of the best return specialists in the Pac-12, as his total yardage ranked fifth in the conference.

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