It feels like it happens every year with the Houston Texans, an undrafted free agent has worked his way up to a starting role and takes the league by storm. This year it will be Kurtis Drummond.
We saw huge breakouts with former running back Arian Foster and cornerback A.J. Bouye.
We saw solid and versatile guys make the roster in running back Akeem Hunt and offensive lineman Bryan Peters.
We have seen starters come from the undrafted pool in the past as well. Safety Kurtis Drummond will fall into one of these categories this year.
It has not been a smooth road for the 2014 Big Ten defensive back of the year. Drummond was even ranked inside the top five ball-hawking defensive backs of his draft class by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread back in 2015.
Finishing his career at Michigan State ranked 7th on their all-time interceptions list with 12 over his career, Drummond was seen as a rangy free safety prospect by many scouts. He was a projected fourth round pick due to his play making ability.
Things did not fall in the former Spartan’s favor, as a poor combine showing aided Drummond’s draft day slide. A slide that led to him going undrafted in 2015.
After the draft, Drummond signed with the Texans.
The road did not get easier.
After going through rookie minicamps and OTAs, Drummond remained on the squad. He lasted through the first wave of cuts. Then the second. Then the third. At the fourth and last round of cuts, Drummond was released and could be signed by any other NFL team.
Three days passed quietly. After that time the Texans finally did the right thing. Drummond was signed to the Houston’s practice squad. On October 27, 2015 he was signed to their active roster in order to help out on special teams.
Since then, Drummond has continued to improve on special teams and has been vastly underrated. He was a leader in the defensive backfield of a Michigan State defense that featured two future first round picks in Trae Waynes and Darqueze Dennard.
Drummond has the natural leadership needed to grow and help the back end of the Texans’ defense. His strengths play perfectly into the needs of Houston’s defense.
As it stands right now, the Texans have Andre Hal at one safety position and have been working Kareem Jackson into the other.
Neither of those players are necessarily ball-hawking, or rangy free safeties. Drummond is that. He showed off that ability in college.
Injuries have taken a toll on Drummond throughout his NFL career. He suffered a concussion that cost him the end of the 2015 season. During the 2016 preseason, a leg injury landed him on injured reserve.
Drummond has never had a full season to prove himself.
If he can stay healthy, Drummond has all the tools to take over the starting free safety job next to Kareem Jackson.
Drummond’s instincts and feel for the game are off the charts, and he’s already getting noticed in OTA’s.
John Harris of HoustonTexans.com had this to say about Drummond in his 21 observations from the first Texans OTA’s
"5. The safety position is certainly one to watch and a player that I’ve been a fan of for years is Kurtis Drummond. At Michigan State, he was one of my favorite players to watch as he had a knack for finding the football and making plays in a talented secondary. He made the 53-man roster as a rookie in 2015, but an injury last year shelved him. However, if he makes plays like he did on Tuesday, it’ll be difficult to keep him off the field again. He had an outstanding pick on a deep ball, a play that he may not have made earlier in his career. He could be a definite player to watch throughout the rest of this offseason."
Up to this point in his career, Drummond has mainly been a special teamer. Though that may be true, he has already been showing off his skills in coverage.
Drummond is not a shoe-in for anything.
It will take a lot for Drummond to see the field in the regular season. He will need to show improvement throughout training camp as well as in the preseason.
Drummond needs to make a “wow” play like the one below he made against Central Michigan:
Plays like that are going to stick to the coaching staff’s minds while they look to make cuts. I expect the former Michigan State star to make the 53-man roster, but it will be Drummond’s ability to make big plays that gets him a position to contribute on defense.
It will also take a bit of luck. A.J. Bouye most likely doesn’t have the season he had last year if the Texans’ secondary doesn’t get hampered by injuries.
It may just take the Texans experimenting with Drummond to get him his chance.
Drummond doesn’t have any room for mistakes–as most undrafted free agents going into year three do–but he has all the talent and natural ability to fill a big hole in the Texans’ defense.
With no immediate option for a center-fielding free safety on the roster, Kurtis Drummond could get a shot to prove himself.
Look out for No.23 throughout training camp and in the preseason because if he gets that shot, the Texans may just have themselves another gem.