"Psht, undrafted free agents, like they matter," you're thinking to yourself. But where would the Texans have finished last year had Arian Foster not been there to carry the load at the end of the season? 7-9? 6-10? He made a pretty significant impact after being a UDFA last season.
The Texans have waived about half of the UDFA's they signed post-draft, and the list has been whittled down to a more manageable eight players. The list is as follows: LB Isiah Greenhouse (Northwestern St), T Steve Maneri (Temple), T Cole Pemberton (Colorado State), S Nick Polk (Indiana), DT Malcolm Sheppard (Arkansas), CB Pierre Singfield (Arizona State), DE Mitchell Unrein (Wyoming) and S Torri Williams (Purdue). Most of these guys play the secondary or offensive line, which, unsurprisingly, were weak spots for the Texans last year (although they were much weaker inside then at tackle) and which they have thrown a lot of players at this offseason to build depth.
However, the king of the mountain thus far looks to be Malcolm Sheppard, a penetrating DT who was projected as a seventh rounder or UDFA despite playing in just about every Arkansas game and starting for the last three years. Sheppard racked up 155 tackles, including 37 tackles for loss, and 15 sacks while playing mostly undertackle.
HoustonTexans.com's Nick Scurfield did a writeup on him for the site's blog, and he drew praise from Kubiak and even Rick Smith cracked a little on him:
"Probably the young kid who has surprised me the most through OTAs and everything has been this Sheppard kid that we got from Arkansas," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday, after the final practice of mini-camp. "I'm not trying to put pressure on him or anything, but he's been a very pleasant surprise. I think he's going to make a good push for this football team. He's played extremely hard, very physical, better athlete than we thought coming out. We thought he was going to get drafted but he didn't, and we were lucky to get him."
Last season the Texans mostly used Antonio Smith inside on passing downs and let Connor Barwin play end. If Sheppard can crack the roster and boot Frank Okam, DelJuan Robinson, or perhaps Tim Bulman off (assuming that Jeff Zgonina's spot will be filled with Earl Mitchell), it would be interesting to see who suffers the most lost snaps. I'd put his chances to crack the roster at about 30 percent right now, but either way it looks like he's going to be an invaluable practice squad player.