While UMass didn’t have anyone drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, a trio of its former players will have a chance to latch onto NFL rosters this coming season. Wide receiver Jalen Williams has signed a rookie free agent deal with the New York Giants, fullback John Robinson-Woodgett has signed a deal with the New Orleans Saints, and tackle Elijah Wilkinson has signed with the Denver Broncos.
Williams caught 27 passes for 503 yards last season, as he battled through an ankle injury. He caught six touchdowns and posted a 19.3 yards per catch average. At 6’3 and 205 pounds, Williams has great size for a wide receiver and has a lot of upside as a big play threat.
However, his lack of experience likely hurt his chances of being drafted. Williams missed the 2015 season with a leg injury, and in 2014, his first season with UMass, he only had 20 receptions for 307 yards while playing with 2016 fifth-round draft pick Tajae Sharpe, now of the Tennessee Titans. If Williams is fully healthy and develops under NFL coaching, he could have a chance to contribute to the Giants offense. Of course, the New York Giants have had pretty good luck with the last undrafted wide receiver from UMass before, as Victor Cruz became one of the best receivers in the NFL for a time before injuries caught up with him.
Robinson-Woodgett is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, and was converted from linebacker to fullback prior to the 2016 season. He racked up 133 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in his lone season at fullback. As a linebacker, he recorded 80 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack in his sophomore and junior years combined. Robinson-Woodgett’s primary value in the NFL would be mostly as a blocker, but as his two touchdowns from last season indicate, he can catch teams off guard on occasion.
Wilkinson has started at right tackle at points throughout the past two season. He has ideal size for an NFL offensive lineman, at 6’5 and 328 pounds. While he played on the outside at UMass, he may be moved to guard at the next level.
In addition to Williams, Robinson-Woodgett, and Wilkinson signing rookie free agent deals, Khari Bailey-Smith, a 6’2 safety, has been invited to tryout at the San Francisco 49ers rookie minicamp, where he’ll have an opportunity to try to land a contract.