After seeing two of their teammates selected on Saturday in the 6th round of the NFL draft, Saquan Hampton (Saints) and Blessuan Austin (Jets), other Scarlet Knights inked deals as undrafted free agents in the hours following the conclusion of the draft. Additional players can be invited for a tryout at rookie mini camps that can begin May 3 with a shot to join the official roster. NFL teams can carry 90 players on their roster until the days leading up to the season opener September 5th. At that point, they cut down to 53 players.
Kevin Wilkins (Eagles)
On the final day of the 2019 NFL draft, former Rutgers defensive lineman Kevin Wilkins didn’t hear his name called, but quickly agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kevin arrived on the banks as a three-star prospect out of St. Joseph’s Montvale where he also was a skilled heavyweight wrestler. That quickness allowed Wilkins not only to line up at defensive tackle, but also at defensive end. With his physical gifts, Kevin can continue to improve if given the opportunity. The Eagles are a good situation for him, close to home with one of the best run stopping defensive lines in the NFL. He should be able to learn from the best in all aspects of football.
Tariq Cole (Cardinals)
Tariq Cole and the Arizona Cardinals wasted no time agreeing to terms, either.
Cole came to Rutgers as a three-star prospect who was in the process of a body transformation. Weighing over 400 pounds in high school, by the time he was a redshirt sophomore at RU, Tariq was around 330 and starting at left tackle. In his final year of eligibility as a 3rd year starter, Cole was viewed as not having improved enough for many people’s liking. With Tariq out of the lineup, the Scarlet offense was even less effective demonstrating his value once again.
Power Five left tackles don’t grow on trees and with Cole’s size and strength, playing at the next level requires more improvement and opportunity. The Cardinals had one of the better offensive lines in the NFL for several years before everything imploded a season ago, so it will be interesting to see how big a shake up to their roster takes place in addition to drafting a quarterback in the first round for the second straight year.
NEW YORK/NEW JERSEY LETS GET TO WORK !!!! pic.twitter.com/dzvRJqSa7Z— Jonathan Ⓜ️ Hilliman (@thrilliman) April 28, 2019
Jonathan Hilliman (Giants)
On the final day of the 2019 NFL draft, there was an outside chance former Rutgers running back Jonathan Hilliman would be chosen. He was not, but follows another former Scarlet ball carrier who signed with the New York Giants last year and remains on the roster, Robert Martin.
Jonathan arrived on the banks as a graduate transfer from Boston College where he torched the record books early in his career (13 TD as a freshman), but was leapfrogged on the depth chart due to injuries. Hilliman was the primary short yardage back for the Scarlet Knights, leading the team with six rushing touchdowns. Fully healthy by the time Pro Day rolled around, Jon wowed scouts in attendance. At 5’11” and solid 216 lbs., he registered a 4.44 40 which would have been second at the combine at his position along with 20 bench reps. His broad and vertical were near top 10, and his 20 yard shuttle would have placed fifth, tied with speedster Myles Gaskin.
The Giants are a very unpredictable organization right now. They drafted a quarterback sixth overall to initially sit behind the struggling Eli Manning and the team seems to lack direction. That may bode well for running backs to offload responsibility from the QBs and try to grind games out. Former Rutgers beat reporter who now serves in the same capacity for the G-men, Ryan Dunleavy, tweeted earlier that former Scarlet Knight punter Ryan Anderson also earned a tryout. If he gets the gig, he may be counted on heavily, again.
Deonte Roberts (49ers)
The three-year starter at middle linebacker (6’1”, 230 lb.) is exactly the current NFL linebacker size prototype. As team captain, he had plenty of solid moments like his kick block touchdown run against Kansas where he would not be denied. On pro day, 17 in the bench was serviceable as was his 4.68 40 yard dash.
The San Francisco 49ers are an interesting team as well. They continue to bring in as much young talent as possible, hoping for a window of opportunity in the NFC West that also features the Seattle Seahawks and NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams. More than possibly any other team in the NFL they need depth at linebacker to try and hang with their division rivals. They only drafted one linebacker, Dre Greenlaw, who is coming back from an ACL tear. Roberts has a chance to make an impression in rookie mini camp and earn a roster spot.
UPDATED: 5:30 pm EDT April 28
Jerome Washington (Cardinals)
Washington ended up at Rutgers after a stint at Miami (FL) and promptly led the team in receptions (28) and receiving yards (282) in 2017. There was talk the Tight End could forego his final season of eligibility in the 2018 draft, but partially due to injuries he returned for his senior season. Unfortunately Jerome battled more injuries in the middle of 2018 and losing their best receiver crippled an already challenged passing attack.
He was fine in terms of measurables on pro day: 6’2”, 241 lbs., 18 bench reps, 4.75 40. None were elite, but middle of the pack compared to other draft eligible tight ends. So the key is showing his receiving and blocking skills compared to other NFL players in mini-camp. Having watched plenty of NFL football, Jerome’s definitely a better receiver than many of the primary blocking TEs trotted out by NFL clubs.
The Cardinals selected one tight end (Caleb Wilson) as “Mr. Irrelevant” in the draft and have three veterans on their roster. Just like the 49ers, they are rebuilding behind two power teams in their division and would like younger players to emerge. With the spread “Air Raid” passing game of new heach coach Kliff Kingsbury, Jerome could thrive.
Thanks for the support brother, I love you too. https://t.co/8bK3ZJilBl— Isaiah Wharton (@Isaiah_Wharton) May 6, 2019
UPDATED: 3:30 pm EDT May 6
Isaiah Wharton (Vikings)
Wharton is reported to have been offered a tryout by the Minnesota Vikings at rookie mini camp. After becoming a starter as a redshirt freshman for Rutgers he never missed a game. 48 starts later, Wharton finally gets his chance at impressing NFL coaches. Good luck!
Ryan Anderson (Giants)
After his tryout, Anderson was signed to the Giants 90 man roster. He is one of only two punters currently listed, along with Riley Dixon who averaged 45.4 yards per punt in 2018. Anderson averaged 44.4 for RU in his lone season on the banks.
UPDATED: 1:21 pm EDT May 7
Trevor Morris (49ers)
Though it was not widely reported, Morris was also at 49ers rookie minicamp alongside his former position mate Roberts (above). Trevor was a three year starter out of King of Prussia, one of only three players in Rutgers history to amass three seasons of 100-or-more tackles.He finished 9th all-time at RU in that category. Trevor definitely put up numbers and deserved a shot with an NFL club. He will need to play faster than his Pro Day times, but he’s been doing that all along.
Enjoy the moment Rutgers fans, NFL mini camps begin May 3.
Look for more updates on Rutgers players signing contracts to continue their football careers over the next few days.