If you’re a New England Patriots fan, it has become an annual tradition to try and guess which Undrafted Free Agent will make the roster each year.
Bill Belichick has had some great success, signing players like Malcolm Butler, David Andrews, and JC Jackson. The book is still out Jakobi Meyers and whether or not he’ll be a major contributor in New England for seasons to come, but one that is almost guaranteed, a UDFA Will normally make the 53 man roster.
There are some questions whether this annual tradition will continue because of the COVID-19 shutdown, and the lack of OTA’s and pre-season games. Prior to the 2019 preseason, there wasn’t a whole lot of chatter about Jakobi Meyers, that was until he and Jarrett Stidham lit up the football field and showed a strong chemistry. Those performances were the reason Meyers was on the field during the regular season.
Player safety needs to be the NFL’s first priority, but it’s safe to say that roster bubble players, and UDFA’s, will all suffer professionally because of safety measures.
The Patriots have a good selection of UDFA’s, including: LB De’Jon Harris, DT Bill Murray, RB J.J. Taylor, WR Isaiah Zuber, TE Jake Burt, LB Kyahva Tezino, WR Will Hastings, CB Myles Bryant, DE Nick Coe, QB J’Mar Smith, DT Courtney Wallace, WR Sean Riley, OLB/TE Rashod Berry, QB Brian Lewerke, WR Jeff Thomas.
At this point of the offseason it’s impossible to pick out which player has the best chance, but looking at the Patriots positional needs, it’s easier to figure which group is actually fighting for a roster spot and which group is just at camp for competition. Positions like QB, RB, Secondary, and tight ends all have pretty full rooms, but the WR, OT, LB, and DT, positions could be right up for grabs.
Chris Mason MassLive identified five UDFA’s who he believes have the best chance at making the roster. Mason chose: Jeff Thomas WR Miami, De’Jon Harris, LB Arkansas, Bill Murray, DT William & Mary, Jake Burt, TE Boston College, Will Hastings, WR Auburn.
Thomas and Hastings make a lot of sense, most people believe that Belichick needed to address the wide receiver position. Thomas was a solid receiver at Miami, and Hastings is a former teammate of Jarrett Stidham. I would have given Hastings the upper hand at making the team prior to Cam Newton being signed, but now it doesn’t look as sure.
The Patriots lost some significant names at the linebacker position during free agency, and Belichick seems to address the defensive line every season, so it makes perfect sense that Murray and Harris have both been listed as potential candidates to make the team.
Jake Burt was the only player I’m not sure about. It’s not because I can’t see him being a solid player, but Belichick had a tight end room that already had the Patriots two 2020 third round picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. The Patriots also still have Matt Lacosse and Ryan Izzo, though it’s not totally out of this world that Burt could beat out Lacosse or Izzo for the third spot, it seems unlikely, and it seems even more unlikely that Belichick carries four tight ends.
It will definitely be an interesting training camp to see if any of the UDFA’s can step up and impress Belichick enough, with so little time to show him what they’ve got.