The post-draft period is almost as exciting as the draft itself. While it is certainly disappointing for players not to have their names called, going undrafted has the benefit of allowing players to essentially pick who they would like to play for. It is also an exciting time for teams as they all rush to grab the remaining talent still out there. Many times this process can be less interesting for fans because these players are not the well-known names that have been thrown around on sports television and radio. However, these picks cannot necessarily be overlooked. The Patriots are a prime example of this. The Super Bowl 49 hero was Malcolm Butler, an undrafted signee out of the University of Western Alabama. The Patriots offense during Super Bowl 51, the same offense that came back from down 25 points to complete the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, employed 5(!) undrafted players.
This is not to say that every undrafted player is going to become a star. But on many teams like New England, they are given a fair chance to fight for a spot, and sometimes they make the most of it and become household names.
The Patriots ended up signing 19 undrafted free agents. I don’t think anyone has the attention span to read bios on all of them, so this will be broken down mostly by position:
Offensive Linemen – Max Rich, Harvard; Cole Croston, Iowa; Jason King, Purdue:
Two of the Patriots four draft selections were offensive tackles, indicating that they are trying to seriously bolster depth at that position. The only rookie tackle that has a “guaranteed” roster spot is Antonio Garcia, who the Patriots traded up in the third round to take. There is not necessarily much of a talent difference between these undrafted players and the Patriots sixth round selection, Conor McDermott. This will most likely be a competition to see who looks the best over summer work and training camp, where the Patriots will keep one of these four, along with Garcia.
Defensive Backs – DJ Dean, Arkansas; Dwayne Thomas, LSU; Damarius Travis, Minnesota; Jason Thompson, Utah; David Jones, Richmond; DJ Killings, Central Florida:
The Patriots currently have a loaded defensive backfield. They lost cornerback Logan Ryan in free agency, but also signed top CB Stephon Gilmore. They also resigned safety Duron Harmon. As of right now, it appears that the Patriots will be retaining the services of Malcolm Butler, which means the Patriots have Butler and Gilmore as starting cornerbacks, to go along with Cyrus Jones and Eric Rowe. The Patriots safety core is still intact with McCourty, Harmon, and Patrick Chung. There are a lot of names here, and very few will make it to the final 53-man roster. I think there could be significant competition at the safety position. New England will be looking for a future replacement for Patrick Chung, who excels at coming up and playing in the box, as well as covering tight ends. Damarius Travis and Dwayne Thomas stick out to me as two who have a chance to compete based on their size and physicality. The Patriots could also be looking to use these players to test Jordan Richards, a former second round pick who has disappointed so far in his Patriot career. Any of the players on this list could have a legitimate shot to take Richards’ spot.
Linebacker – Harvey Langi, BYU; Rodney Butler, New Mexico State; Anthony Williams, Utah State:
This will be an interesting position battle to watch throughout the summer. The Patriots resigning Dont’a Hightower was one of the best moves they made in the offseason, ensuring that they still have top talent at the position. However, what they lack is significant depth. Elandon Robert showed flashes of serious talent last season, and Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin contributed, but the Patriots will be looking to fill the spot vacated by Jamie Collins. Harvey Langi had a number of pre-draft visits with New England, and received a significant amount of guaranteed money. The Patriots clearly have serious interest in him and see him as a someone very likely to make the 53 man roster. His versatility and productivity could make him a great fit in Matt Patricia’s defense.
Running Back – Leshun Daniels, Iowa:
The Patriots currently have a loaded backfield with James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and Mike Gillislee. Daniels will have a hard time cracking the roster, but the Patriots are clearly making this a competition so I wouldn’t count anything out.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – Austin Carr, Northwestern; Cody Hollister, Arkansas; Jacob Hollister, Wyoming:
This will be another fun competition to watch. Cody Hollister has great size at 6’4, 209 pounds. However, he does not have much production to match it, and it will be hard for him to crack the Patriots wide receiver depth chart. He seems like a player New England would keep as a special teamer, with receiving experience in case of an emergency, a la Matthew Slater. Jacob Hollister on the other hand, is an exciting tight end pick up. He has great size and speed, and can really stretch the field as a receiver. He is an athletic tight end, and can add to an already dynamic Patriots offense. They may see him as a potential future replacement for Rob Gronkowski. His biggest problem is a severe lack of talent in run blocking. This could be an issue, particularly as Rob Gronkowski is quietly a very good run blocker. However, I expect Hollister to have a very good chance of making the roster. Austin Carr is another player who could break the roster in an already stacked Patriots receiving corps. He has great acceleration, sure hands, and an impressive ability to change direction. He shined last year at Northwestern, with 90 receptions for 1247 yards. The Patriots could very likely see him as a replacement for Danny Amendola or Julian Edleman after this season. He fits the Patriot model perfectly of a receiver who can accelerate fast, run crisp routes, and find open space.
These undrafted players should bring about some fun competitions this summer. Who’s ready for some football?????
Until next time- B$