Houston Texans signed the best undrafted free agent pass rusher that the rest of the NFL forgot to draft

The 2024 NFL Draft is a wrap and many undrafted free agents are still trying to find a home in the league. Many have already signed with teams over the last few days. Others have received invites to rookie camps with various teams in hopes to prove themselves and earn a contract.

Pheldarius Payne, Virginia Tech, Edge

One of the most talented undrafted free agents signed this week that stands out more than most is Pheldarius Payne, DL Virginia Tech. General manager Nick Caserio and the Houston Texans signed him immediately following the draft on Saturday as the only defensive lineman in their undrafted free agent class.

Pheldarius Payne, EDGE Virginia Tech

Pheldarius Payne Should Be On Your NFL Draft Radar

Pheldarius Payne began his college career playing at the junior college level, but transferred to Nebraska in 2020. He earned a rotational role right away, and posted a 16% pass rush pressure rate, which is typically on par with first round NFL Draft prospects along the defensive line. However, after his 2021 didn’t go as expected he transferred to Virginia Tech. And sadly, before his potential breakout season happened in 2022 he injured his Achilles.

Once he finally got healthy and back up to full speed last fall against Marshall in Week 4, he became one of the most productive pass rushers in the nation. In just a nine week span he pressured opposing quarterbacks 22 times on 150 pass rush attempts and racked up six sacks while playing almost exclusively as an interior defensive lineman. That pass rush pressure rate ranked second in the entire defensive line class behind only Byron Murphy II of Texas, a first round pick. If he had stayed healthy for a larger sample of his final two seasons there’s no way he goes undrafted.

Pheldarius Payne fit with the Texans

Pheldarius Payne - Football - Virginia Tech Athletics

At 6’2″, 286 pounds (and he played lighter than that) he’s a bit small to be an every down interior defensive lineman, but the Texans could use him in a variety of pre-snap alignments to get him into advantageous matchups on pass rushes.

He likely opens training camp as the fifth or sixth interior defensive lineman on the team, but has real potential to become a sub-package pass rush talent immediately as Lance Zierlein of NFL.com outlines perfectly here in the post below.


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