Patriots Rookie Reset: Analyzing Malcolm Mitchell’s Role After Breakout

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The New England Patriots’ 2016 NFL Draft class drew mixed reviews this spring, but it’s clear Bill Belichick is a fan of his rookie class.

The Patriots selected a cornerback they trust with punt and kick returns, a starting left guard, a winning quarterback, a rotational defensive tackle and wide receiver and a linebacker they liked so much they traded Jamie Collins.

Let’s see how the Patriots’ rookies have fared so far this season.

CB CYRUS JONES
Round 2, pick 60
Stats: seven games, 107 snaps, three tackles, seven punt returns, 41 punt return yards, seven kick returns, 156 kick return yards, three fumbles, two fumble recoveries

Jones has had a shaky start to his NFL career with special-teams miscues, a touchdown allowed, an ejection and three healthy scratches. He was back on kick return duty Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

LG JOE THUNEY
Round 3, pick 78
Stats: 10 games, 10 starts, 729 snaps

Thuney has played 100 percent of offensive snaps as the Patriots’ starting left guard. He’s been a solid presence along the Patriots’ offensive line.

QB JACOBY BRISSETT
Round 3, pick 91
Stats: three games, two starts, 156 snaps, 34 of 55, 400 yards, 16 carries, 83 yards, one touchdown run

Brissett currently is on injured reserve but recently has been traveling and spending time on the practice field with the Patriots. He was 1-1 as a starter before injuring his thumb and undergoing surgery. He impressed with his legs more than his arm in his playing time.

DT VINCENT VALENTINE
Round 3, pick 96
Stats: seven games, 158 snaps, 14 tackles, one sack

Valentine missed three games with a back injury but otherwise has been a rotational player along the Patriots’ defensive front. He’s shown disruption at times in the middle of the Patriots’ defense. He could step into a starting role if Alan Branch serves his reported suspension.

WR MALCOLM MITCHELL
Round 4, pick 112
Stats: nine games, three starts, 257 snaps, 11 catches, 193 yards, one touchdown

Mitchell had a breakout game Sunday against the 49ers, during which he caught four passes for 98 yards and his first touchdown. Mitchell has rotated into the Patriots offense for all but one game, when he was a healthy scratch. He could see more time after his breakout performance in Week 11.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady raved about Mitchell this week, and starter Chris Hogan struggled in Week 10 with a back injury before being inactive in Week 11.

LB KAMU GRUGIER-HILL
Round 6, pick 208
Stats with Philadelphia Eagles: seven games, 103 snaps (102 on special teams), one tackle

Grugier-Hill was a surprise release after the preseason. The Eagles claimed him and made him into a core special teams player.

LB ELANDON ROBERTS
Round 6, pick 214
Stats: seven games, three starts, 204 snaps, 26 tackles

Roberts impressively is fourth among Patriots rookies in snaps. His performance against the run early in the season persuaded the Patriots to trade veteran linebacker Jamie Collins.

Roberts has shown excellent short area quickness and explosion, but his snaps were reduced Sunday because of some coverage miscues. Roberts is an intriguing sixth-round rookie.

OL TED KARRAS
Round 6, pick 221
Stats: 10 games, one start, 151 snaps

Karras started one game at right guard and is the Patriots’ only reserve interior lineman. He can play both center and guard.

WR DEVIN LUCIEN
Round 7, pick 225
Stats: N/A

Lucien has spent the entire season on the Patriots’ practice squad.

RB D.J. FOSTER
Undrafted
Stats: three games, 26 snaps, seven carries, 24 yards, one catch, 2 yards, one kick return, 30 yards

The Patriots essentially are stashing Foster on their roster at this point. He hasn’t played since Week 6, but there obviously is fear another team would claim him if the Patriots waived the undersized third-down back. The Patriots likely feel there’s enough upside in Foster to warrant carrying him on the roster.

DT WOODROW HAMILTON
Undrafted
Stats: two games, one start, 47 snaps, three tackles

Hamilton was an unheralded undrafted free-agent signing, but he’s played well in limited action since being signed off the practice squad in Week 5. He could see a bigger role if Branch serves his reported suspension.

CB JONATHAN JONES
Undrafted
Stats: 10 games, 219 snaps (187 on special teams), one tackle, one pass breakup

The Patriots elected to carry Jones on their 53-man roster over other young cornerbacks Cre’Von LeBlanc and Darryl Roberts, both of whom were claimed off waivers. He primarily has played on special-teams, where he might take on an even more important role with Matthew Slater nursing a foot injury.

OL CHASE FARRIS
Undrafted
Stats: N/A

Farris began his NFL career with the Detroit Lions. He’s currently on the Patriots’ practice squad.

FB GLENN GRONKOWSKI
Undrafted
Stats: N/A

Gronkowski began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills. He’s since been on, off, on, off and back on the Patriots’ practice squad.

CB CRE’VON LEBLANC
Undrafted
Stats with Chicago Bears: Eight games, four starts, 441 snaps, 22 tackles, four pass breakups

LeBlanc was an original Patriots undrafted free agent signing. He was claimed by the Bears after training camp and has emerged as a starting option for the Bears. The Patriots chose to keep Jonathan Jones, a special teams ace, over LeBlanc.

TE STEVEN SCHEU
Undrafted
Stats: N/A

Scheu also was an original Patriots undrafted free agent signing. He’s on the Denver Broncos’ practice squad.

TE BRYCE WILLIAMS
Undrafted
Stats: N/A

Williams was signed along with Foster, Hamilton, Jones, LeBlanc, Scheu, cornerback V’Angelo Bentley and linebacker C.J. Johnson as undrafted free agents. Williams is on the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad. Bentley and Johnson are out of the NFL.

Thumbnail photo via Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports Images

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