Most college players dream of being drafted by an NFL team one day. The sad truth is that the majority of them simply won’t be. Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is over, the tedious process of sifting through the remaining talent has begun, and the New England Patriots have been hard at work. In the days following the draft, the Patriots have reportedly signed 10 undrafted free agents. Five of these rookies are defensive players, three are offensive, and – interestingly – two are punters.
New England Patriots Undrafted Free Agents: Which Ones Can Make an Impact?
UDFAs on Offense Aim to Disappoint
The best undrafted addition appears to be Ralph Webb, a running back out of Vanderbilt. While Webb is a hard worker who would, according to his Combine profile, “work his tail off” in training camp. He showed flashes of strength while playing for Vanderbilt, but his senior year was a disappointing cap to an otherwise average career. Webb is a strong mental player but lacks the physicality and speed required to truly “make it” in the NFL. On top of that, he’ll face an uphill battle competing for a spot on New England’s roster. The Patriots already have some deep rotation at the running back position, and it’s unlikely that Webb would be able to beat out fellow rookie Sony Michel during the off-season.
Falling behind Webb, the Patriots also signed Oklahoma State wide receiver Chris Lacy. Like Webb, Lacy is a tough, intelligent player – something the Patriots have a nose for. His Combine stats don’t do much to impress, and his junior year at Oklahoma was probably his best year on record. He’s got an excellent catch radius – think Malcolm Mitchell – and has shown some vertical abilities. However, Lacy’s catching skills and his inability to break free of tackles is uninspiring. These issues, combined with an already crowded receiving corps, don’t spell success for the rookie. The Patriots typically carry six receivers on deck; Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Mitchell, and Jordan Matthews are likely locks. The remaining two spots will probably go to sixth-round pick Braxton Berrios and either Phillip Dorsett or Kenny Britt.
The final offensive UDFA addition is Shane Wimann, a tight end out of Northern Illinois. Like Webb, Wimann’s best years came during his junior and senior years. He reeled in 16 total touchdowns during his college career and barely cracked 600 receiving yards. Wimann did not attend this year’s Combine either. All things considered, it’s doubtful he beats out seventh-round draft pick Ryan Izzo for a roster spot, let alone Jacob Hollister or Troy Niklas.
Defensive UDFAs Entice, but Mostly Don’t Impress
The Patriots didn’t shy away from covering their defensive backfield this year. In addition to drafting Duke Dawson and Keion Crossen, the Patriots also reportedly signed J.C. Jackson, the undrafted cornerback out of Maryland. This was an interesting choice. Behavioral issues notwithstanding, Jackson would have (arguably) been a better draft option than Crossen.
Jackson’s a great physical player, who is able to keep his eye on the quarterback and accurately predict where the ball will end up. Jackson has two main downsides, however. First, he struggles with sustaining long runs. Second, he’s a flag magnet. With Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and Dawson practical locks for the 53-man roster, Doug Kyed with NESN expects Crossen, Jackson, and Cyrus Jones to compete for the final spot.
The Patriots also signed A.J. Moore, a defensive back out of Ole Miss. Considering New England’s depth at safety is crowded as is, it’s doubtful Moore ends up as anything more than a developmental camp body.
John Atkins (another Georgia player picked up by the Patriots) and Frank Herron (Ryan Etling‘s teammate out of LSU) are two defensive tackles that were signed by the Patriots following the draft. Unfortunately, Herron seems like the weaker link here. Atkins – along with Adam Butler – are the more likely options to break the final roster.
Trent Harris, the defensive end out of Miami, was also signed. However, his talent level just isn’t on par with the other names on that roster. The Patriots picked up Adrian Clayborn during the early portion of free agency, who is expected to be the team’s top defensive end this year. Derek Rivers will be returning from injury, and Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, and Eric Lee are all still on the roster as well. Trent Harris’ future with the Patriots is doubtful.
Undrafted Special Teamers Looking to Start a Fight
Ryan Allen has some company this year. In addition to the offensive and defensive rookies the Patriots are bringing in, the team is also bringing in two punters for testing.
Ryan Anderson, the punter out of Rutgers, was named Big Ten Punter of the Year last November. His longest punt of 70 yards beat out Allen by three yards, and his average punt is less than a yard shy of Allen’s.
Corey Bojorquez out of New Mexico is another interesting punting option. His average yardage is just one-tenth of a yard shy of Allen’s average. Additionally, nearly 36 percent of Bojorquez’s punts land within the 20-yard line, which is roughly in line with Allen’s 38 percent average. However, his longest punt (80 yards) was likely aided by high New Mexico altitudes.
Special teams has a special place in head coach Bill Belichick‘s heart, so trust that if he sees any opportunity to upgrade and increase that unit’s capability, he’ll take it.
Last Word on New England Patriots UDFAs
It’s doubtful that most of the offensive additions will break the 53-man roster, or land a spot on the practice squad. The Patriots offense is elite, beyond the reach of Webb, Lacy, and Wimann. Lacy could eventually make it in the NFL, but it likely won’t be with the Patriots.
The defensive options are more enticing, but by just a hair. If he’s able to control his temperament and understand that referees in the NFL will flag without hesitation, Jackson could have a chance. However, he’ll face the uphill battle of beating out Dawson for that job. Because defensive positions will continue to be of value for this team, Atkins has a better chance of staying on the team as a practice squad body.
Finally, the incoming punter showdown will be something to keep an eye on. Allen is one of the more talented punters in the league, but unlike Stephen Gostkowski, he’s replaceable. The edge here goes to Allen, if only for his veteran status, but Anderson is the more likely candidate to give him a run for his money.
Never expect greatness from undrafted free agents. While the Patriots have had extraordinary success with undrafted players – players like Adam Vinatieri, Wes Welker, Hogan, and Amendola – the simple fact is that most of these guys rarely break the final roster. This year will be no different. After all, there are legitimate reasons that these players went undrafted in the first place.