As 16-year streak could come to an end for the New England Patriots this summer.
An undrafted free agent has made the Patriots’ roster every year since 2004. It will be extremely difficult this preseason, however, for a rookie free agent to make the 2020 squad without organized team activities, minicamp and preseason games.
We don’t have a single of the Patriots’ 11 UDFAs making the 53-man roster in our latest projection. The top candidates would be running back J.J. Taylor, wide receivers Will Hastings and Jeff Thomas, defensive tackle Bill Murray and linebacker Scoota Harris.
Hastings and Thomas have been limited early in training camp. Murray has an uphill battle to beat out veteran defensive tackles, and Harris hasn’t done quite enough to usurp players with more experience or a higher pedigree. Taylor has a legit shot if two veteran running backs can’t get healthy fast.
Here’s our latest look at a projected Patriots 53-man roster:
Brian Hoyer, Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham
The Patriots should keep three quarterbacks this season. Newton is the starter, Stidham is the potential future, and Hoyer is the safe bet if there are any injuries, illnesses or offensive struggles.
Undrafted rookie Brian Lewerke gets left off but maybe catches on with the practice squad if the Patriots want four QBs.
RUNNING BACK (4)
Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Lamar Miller, James White
PUP: Sony Michel
This is assuming Miller can come off of the physically unable to perform list before the start of the 2020 NFL season. If he can’t, then, quite frankly, it was a curious signing.
We’ll assume either Miller or Michel can get healthy, leaving rookie Taylor off of the roster.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
Damiere Byrd, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Mohamed Sanu, Matthew Slater
The biggest omission here is Jakobi Meyers. We simply haven’t seen him do enough in practice yet. Olszewski offers more versatility with his ability to return punts. Byrd provides much more speed.
A starting wide receiver group of Edelman, Harry and Sanu already is on the slower side compared to most of the NFL’s pass-catching groups. We’re not sure if we can justify keeping Meyers, who ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash coming out of North Carolina State in 2019, over faster, more versatile players.
TIGHT END (4)
Devin Asiasi, Ryan Izzo, FB Jakob Johnson, Dalton Keene
No big surprises here. The Patriots will need to keep Izzo around until Asiasi and Keene can fully develop.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
David Andrews, Yodny Cajuste, Korey Cunningham, Jermaine Eluemunor, Hjalte Froholdt, Justin Herron, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Isaiah Wynn
We have the Patriots holding onto Herron over fellow 2020 sixth-round pick Michael Onwenu because he offers positional versatility at guard and tackle and has been more impressive so far in training camp.
This is a versatile group, overall. Eluemunor, Froholdt, Herron and Thuney can all play multiple positions across the line.
DEFENSIVE LINE (5)
Beau Allen, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise
Wise said he’s bulked up from 275 pounds into the 280s. He helps give the Patriots some defensive variance if they want to play in a four-man front. The Patriots also need additional depth in the defensive line room since Allen has yet to practice.
Something must have happened to Allen in the four days of practice before the media showed up to training camp since he wasn’t placed on the PUP list before practice started.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland, Terez Hall, Anfernee Jennings, John Simon, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich
PUP: Brandon King
Going out on a limb here with Hall over sixth-round pick Caash Maluia, because why not? Hall has had a good camp after being buried on the roster as a rookie in 2019. Certainly don’t be surprised if Maluia sneaks onto the roster, though.
Justin Bethel, Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams
Unless the Patriots decide to trade Williams, this group looks set in stone. It’s the strength of the roster.
Terrence Brooks, Cody Davis, Kyle Dugger, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips
New England could probably get away with carrying just four safeties since a number of the team’s cornerbacks could move in a pinch. We’ll keep all five as the Patriots look to find ways to replace Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon in their secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, K Justin Rohrwasser
We’ll see how the competition shakes out between Rohrwasser and Nick Folk, who has yet to officially join the Patriots. Since Folk isn’t yet on the roster, we’re not going to put him in here.
Last out: WR Jakobi Meyers
Last in: Terez Hall
Photo via Eric Adler/New England Patriots