Death, taxes and an undrafted free agent making the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster.
In each of the last 14 years, at least one rookie who didn’t hear his name called in the NFL draft performed well enough in training camp and the preseason to convince Patriots coach Bill Belichick to keep him around. Among the names on that list: Malcolm Butler, David Andrews, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ryan Allen and Brandon Bolden.
New England’s Week 1 roster last season included four such players: tight end Jacob Hollister, defensive tackle Adam Butler, offensive tackle Cole Croston and hybrid linebacker Harvey Langi.
So, while nothing is guaranteed, it’s a pretty safe bet that at least one of the players listed below will make it through final cuts. Let’s take a closer look at the 10 NFL prospects the Patriots have signed — or, in the case of the two punters, agreed to bring in for extended tryouts — since the 2018 NFL Draft concluded Saturday evening.
The Patriots have yet to officially announce any of these signings, but most have been confirmed by either the player or the school.
J.C. Jackson, cornerback, Maryland (source)
Jackson might be the most talented player in this UDFA group. In two seasons at Maryland, he tallied 80 tackles, four interceptions and 13 pass breakups and was ranked as ESPN’s 140th-best prospect entering the draft. Those were his only two seasons of Division I football, however.
Jackson, who began his college career at Florida, missed nearly his entire freshman campaign with a shoulder injury, then was kicked off the team before his sophomore year after he was arrested and charged with three counts of home invasion robbery and one count of burglary; he was later acquitted of those charges. He spent the 2015 season at Riverside City College before transferring to Maryland and starting 23 of his 24 games for the Terrapins.
This feature on Jackson’s football journey, published in Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, is an interesting read.
Ralph Webb, running back, Vanderbilt (source)
As noted by The Tennessean, 32 of the top 33 players on the SEC’s all-time rushing list were drafted by NFL teams. The lone exception is Webb, whose 4,178 rushing yards at Vanderbilt rank sixth in conference history, behind only Bo Jackson, Kevin Faulk, Darren McFadden, Nick Chubb and Herschel Walker.
A four-year starter for the Commodores, Webb ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at Vandy’s pro day that would have been tied for fifth-best among running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine and a 4.15-second short shuttle that would have ranked third. His 27 bench press reps also would have ranked third behind Chubb and Saquon Barkley.
Webb’s senior season was his least productive, as he posted career lows in carries (192) and yards (831), but he did still rush for 10 touchdowns. His Patriots contract includes $70,000 guaranteed, according to The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin — good money for a UDFA.
Trent Harris, defensive end, Miami (source)
The folks down in Coral Gables call Harris “Toolbox Trent,” a nod to his versatility. Despite lacking the size NFL teams typically look for in a D-end, the 6-foot-2, 246-pounder rushed from the edge and the interior for the Hurricanes and was highly productive. Even as a rotational player in 2017, he led the team with 8 1/2 sacks while adding 10 1/2 tackles for loss.
Harris and wide receiver Braxton Berrios — a sixth-round Patriots draft pick — both were Miami captains and third-team All-ACC selections last season.
Ryan Anderson, punter, Rutgers (source)
The Patriots are bringing in some competition for Allen, who’s been their punter since he beat out Zoltan Mesko as an undrafted rookie in 2013. Anderson, like Allen, is left-footed. He played at Division II Saginaw State and Division III Olivet College before transferring to Rutgers for his redshirt senior season. A first-team All-Big 10 selection, he ranked 12th in Division I and set a Rutgers record by averaging 44.4 yards per punt in 2017.
Corey Bojorquez, punter, New Mexico (source)
Another left-footed punter, Bojorquez also took the small-school route, starting his career at Cerritos College before earning a scholarship to New Mexico. He averaged 47.3 yards per punt last season, good for fourth in the nation. He and Anderson, both of whom worked out for the Patriots before the draft, will attend rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.
John Atkins, defensive tackle, Georgia (source)
As is typical for a nose tackle, Atkins didn’t put up gaudy stats (38 tackles, one tackle for loss, zero sacks in 2017), but he started all but one game as a senior for a Georgia team that lost in the national championship game. He joins fellow ex-Bulldogs Isaiah Wynn (23rd overall pick) and Sony Michel (31st) in Foxboro.
Frank Herron, defensive tackle, LSU (source)
Herron, who lined up at both defensive tackle and D-end at LSU, flashed in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, one of college football’s several postseason All-Star games. He forced a fumble, recovered two others and took one back for a touchdown, catching the eye of scouts in attendance. He’s more run-stuffer than pass rusher (just two sacks in four collegiate seasons) and was suspended three times during his time at LSU, with one ban costing him the first six games of last season.
Chris Lacy, wide receiver, Oklahoma State (source)
Lacy was buried on Oklahoma State’s depth chart last season, catching just 20 passes for 264 yards and no touchdowns in 12 games. Wide receiver currently is the Patriots’ deepest position, so his odds of cracking the roster are extremely long.
Shane Wimann, tight end, Northern Illinois (source)
Wimann, who also played fullback in college, joins a tight end competition that should be wide open behind locked-in starter Rob Gronkowski. At 6-foot-3, 251 pounds, Wimann was a dangerous red-zone target last season, setting a Northern Illinois record for touchdown catches by a tight end with seven. He’s also considered an above-average blocker.
A.J. Moore, cornerback, Ole Miss (source)
Moore started every game last season as the Rebels’ nickel corner, tallying 48 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and three pass breakups while playing alongside his twin brother, safety C.J. Moore. It would’ve been great to see the Patriots sign yet another set of twins — they already have the Hollisters and the McCourtys — but C.J. has another year of eligibility left and stayed in school.