Several Spartans enter NFL through free agency

Defensive end Malik McDowell and safety Montae Nicholson were the only two Michigan State players to hear their name called this year at the NFL Draft.s. Several other Spartans have found their way to training camps for teams later this year as undrafted free agents.

Riley Bullough, R.J. Shelton, Demetrious Cox, Kodi Kieler, Monty Madaris, Josiah Price, Brandon Clemons and Tyler O’Connor are among the former Spartans who have all quickly landed deals with organizations as undrafted free agents. These players will have the opportunity to perform in mini camps and training camps as they hope to make names for themselves and make the team’s final 53-man roster for Week 1.

Riley Bullough was a projected third round pick, and after not hearing his name announced, he received news that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had signed him to an undrafted free agent deal. Bullough may have to follow his brother Max’s path, who’s now with the Houston Texans, to the NFL as an undrafted free agent onto an active roster. He has the potential to be a fundamental backer in the league, he understands alignments well, and has quarterbacked MSU’s defense for the past two seasons. He’s also a big contributor on special teams, and could be a special teams demon on this team, which could give him a shot to earn a spot on the roster.

Coming off one of the better showings despite last year’s 3-9 season, wide receiver R.J. Shelton will be joining fellow Spartan Trae Waynes with the Minnesota Vikings. Shelton’s versatility at MSU is his biggest selling point to NFL teams, and Minnesota, a team who could use another flexible wideout, is taking a chance to see what Shelton brings to the table. With Stefan Diggs and Adam Thielen as the Vikings’ only real threats last year, Mike Zimmer is looking for a guy who can make plays in the slot, and a guy who can help out significantly in the return game. Check those boxes off for Shelton.

Although he’s a little slight for the build of a safety at 6-foot-1, 197 pounds, Demetrious Cox could be a nice fit for Cincinnati and Paul Guenther’s defense. Cox was discussed as being a potential Round 2 guy before the start of the 2016 season, but Cox fell victim to an incredibly disappointing season with the Spartans, in which most everybody’s performance dropped and it caused Cox to go undrafted. Cincinnati is relatively set with their starting safety spots, so Cox is going to have an upward hill to climb to make a final roster spot.

Offensive tackle Kodi Kieler will be heading to the desert where he’ll join former Spartan Drew Stanton and have a chance to work with the Arizona Cardinals mini-camp in search to earn a spot on the roster. The 6-foot-6, 306 pound offensive tackle was ignored by most scouts entering into the 2016 season, but his size and growth potential give him the chance to be a solid backup right tackle or center.

Former Spartan wide receiver Monty Madaris has agreed to a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. This deal is contingent on Madaris passing a physical once he arrives at the Bengals facility. The Cincinnati native caught 24 passes for 310 yards and had one touchdown this past season. With Tyler Boyd, Alex Erickson, Cody Core, Josh Malone, Brandon LaFell and now rookie John Ross already in Cincy, Madaris may have a difficult time earning a spot on the 53-man roster, but he could potentially land a spot on the practice squad with a solid preseason showing.

Tight end Josiah Price will be joining Trae Waynes and R.J. Shelton in Minnesota as an undrafted free agent. Price is a player coming off solid production in college and was reportedly just a few votes shy of earning himself an NFL Combine invite. Price had great success as a red-zone target, but is going to have to overcome some concerns with his physical attributes. Minnesota has one of the better tight ends in the league with Kyle Rudolph, but this is a Vikings team looking for more targets for Sam Bradford,or Teddy Bridgewater, to throw to.

The versatile OL/DL Brandon Clemons will be joining teammate Kodi Kieler as he agreed to a free agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals. In MSU’s shortcomings this past year, Clemons was the Spartans’ most valuable lineman. Clemons’ versatility to be able to play on both sides of the ball, and be effective at it, could be a big asset for the lineman as he tries earning a spot with the Cardinals.

Starting quarterback for the 2016 season, Tyler O’Connor is headed to Cincinnati to complete the trio of Spartans heading there as undrafted free agents. O’Connor was victim to most of the blame for the Spartans’ struggling offense last year, but the one-year starter threw for 1,970 yards with 16 touchdown passes, compared to just nine interceptions on the year. We’ll see if O’Connor can perform well enough to land a spot with a team already with Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron, and Jeff Driskel ahead of him on the depth chart.