Undrafted Free Agents Who Could Crack New England Patriots Roster

Patriots Undrafted Free Agents
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For 15 seasons now, an undrafted free agent has cracked the New England Patriots roster. There’s no reason to believe this season will be any different. Currently, the Patriots have ten undrafted free agents on the team. With training camp around the corner, let’s look at those who have the best shot of making the team.

New England Patriots Undrafted Free Agents Entering Training Camp

Andrew Beck, TE

Andrew Beck is the obvious choice to make the roster. He was given the highest guaranteed money of any undrafted free agent this season. As a tight end, Beck likely has the easiest path to making the roster as well. While Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse are locks, neither of them is a specialized blocker. In this regard, Beck’s biggest competition is Ryan Izzo. On top of that, Beck took snaps at fullback during OTAs, showing some versatility.

This is unfortunately where the positives end for Beck. His film is uninspiring. There are plays on which he’s knocked onto his back by power rushes. Certainly, the Patriots coaching staff sees something in him. But the Patriots value good players more than position, and Andrew Beck is arguably less talented than many of his peers. Unless he really steps up in training camp, he has not shown yet that he’s ready to play in the NFL.

Malik Gant, SS

Malik Gant is a thumper. He has great tackling technique and form, which is something the Patriots value highly. Gant is amazing in the box. He has excellent play recognition:

And he is ridiculous against the run:

Time after time, he lines up fairly deep and runs in to ultimately stop the play behind the line of scrimmage. He gives the Patriots the option to run a safety blitz.

Gant was a walk-on in 2017 and earned a scholarship in 2018. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, which is something the Patriots channel better than perhaps any team in the league. As the NFL moves towards smaller, faster receiver sets, the Patriots seem to be willing to expand and devote more resources to their secondary.

Some of these factors work against Malik Gant making the roster, however. While it’s good for Gant that the Patriots are expanding their secondary, it also gives him a lot of players to compete against. The Patriots have 12 defensive backs, including two special teamers, who have a high chance of making the team. Three of them play strong safety, the same position as Gant. Gant has a lot of potential for the future. The Patriots may look to develop him into Patrick Chung’s heir if he can improve in coverage. For now, however, it will be difficult for Gant to make the final 53.

Nick Brossette, RB

Yes, despite a ton of competition at the position, another running back could actually make this roster, because he has a skill set that this roster still lacks. It’s been a little while since the Patriots sported a real power running back. Not only can Brossette run well between the tackles, but he can also break off for explosive runs while doing so. Take this play against Florida, for example:

Two plays later, he did one better:

If there was one thing the Patriots struggled with last season, it was red zone efficiency. Brossette shows the ability to drag a whole pile of players into the end zone here:

In 2018, Brossette was a team captain, running for over 1000 yards, and ranked seventh in rushing yards in the SEC, the toughest conference in the FBS. Two of his top three performances were against teams ranked eighth in the FBS at the time: Miami and UCF. Brossette has shown he can play well against good competition.

Nick Brossette is, however, unproven. He only started a single season at LSU. He definitely has a lot to learn about playing the position at a high level. The Patriots’ playbook isn’t easy to learn either, especially for someone relatively inexperienced. And he does have a lot of competition to beat out. Still, it will be interesting to see if Brossette can play to his potential on a NFL team.

Jakobi Meyers, WR

At this point, Jakobi Meyers seems to be leading the race to become this year’s undrafted free agent who makes it onto the Patriots roster. He’s already seen reps with Tom Brady. The Patriots are moving towards bigger receivers. At 6’2” 203 lbs, Meyers fits the mold. On top of that, Meyers does a lot of work in the slot. New England should be looking for a second slot option outside of Edelman. Meyers has great hands. He’s also good in contested catch situations.

As with N’Keal Harry, Meyers has gotten into a lot of contested-catch situations because he struggles to gain separation. However, unlike Harry, Meyers struggles to gain yards after the catch. Although over 1000 yards receiving on the season is great, Meyers only played against two ranked teams in 2018. Among them, he was a non-factor against Texas A&M. Meyers only picked up 19 yards on the day and more often than not wasn’t the first or even second read.

Meyers has competition all over the roster. While his playstyle may help him carve out a niche role as “big slot” receiver, it means that essentially every wide receiver is competition for him. Braxton Berrios seems to be winning the race when it comes to second slot option, and N’Keal Harry and Maurice Harris seem to be leading as the bigger options. Not to mention, Demaryius Thomas might eventually make the roster as well. Meyers will have to prove he can be just as consistent and reliable in the NFL as he was in college.

Ryan Davis, WR

While he may not be the favorite undrafted free agent to make the roster, Ryan Davis might have the highest ceiling of any player on this list. He’s only 5’9” and 185 lbs, but size hasn’t stopped a number of Patriots greats, like Julian Edelman, from making the roster in the past. In fact, until just this offseason, this was the kind of player we expected the Patriots to utilize at wide receiver.

Ryan Davis is another player who succeeded in the SEC. He played with Jarrett Stidham at Auburn and has therefore developed chemistry with him already. Davis does well on screens and crossing routes and excels in the “gadget” role that Cordarrelle Patterson occupied last season. Davis seems like he might be a better receiver than Patterson, however, if not as good in the open field. Take this athletic catch, for instance:

Ryan Davis has shown explosiveness after the catch as well. He has the potential to succeed in space at the NFL level. This play is from 2017 against the number 1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs:

He moved the chains several times against Alabama that season as well. And if beating out college defenses isn’t good enough, Ryan Davis was able to put the moves on a good NFL defensive back in Minkah Fitzpatrick 1-on-1 in space before the latter had made it to the next level:

Davis is yet another option to return punts this season. Because the Patriots have no established punt or kick returner for the season to come, Davis might be able to secure a spot on the roster if he proves himself effective as only a return man.

There is of course enough bad with the good that kept Davis from getting drafted. Granted that he played in a tough conference, Davis’ total yardage was limited at 815 total yards in 2017 and only 558 in 2018. The drop off between the two seasons probably didn’t bode well for his stock either. Davis will need to regain his 2017 form and more if he wants to make the roster. Moreover, his route tree is fairly limited. Even though he can easily line up outside, potentially as the Z receiver, he may be pegged into a slot role due to his size. If so, Braxton Berrios will provide stiff competition. Lastly, the Patriots are moving towards bigger receivers, and those receivers will take up most of the receiver spots not already taken by Edelman or Phillip Dorsett.

Ryan Davis has a lot of potential, but he will have to live up to all of it if he wants to be this year’s undrafted free agent who makes the Patriots’ roster.

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