Assessing Every Patriots UDFA's Chances of Making the Roster
The New England Patriots have long been a refuge for the castoff lots of undrafted free agents. Stephen Neal, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Wes Welker and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are just a few who have graced the sidelines of Gillette Stadium.
Last year, Joe Vellano earned a spot—and a lot of snaps—after injuries and illnesses rid the defensive line of Kyle Love, Armond Armstead, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. The war of attrition can work both ways though; promising undrafted rookie James Morris was cut on Tuesday for a "failed physical," according to Doug Kyed of NESN.com.
If New England has some openings on the 53-man roster this September, here are the chances for the undrafted free agents to fill them.
Justin Jones is not a small human. Standing 6'8" and weighing 277 pounds, he cuts an imposing figure for a player who will likely be a "Move" tight end due to his lack of blocking skills. His 37" vertical leap and large catch radius amplify his ability to get open.
If Jones hadn't missed the 2013 season due to an eligibility issue, he likely would have been drafted as a project.
Unless the New England Patriots sign a veteran tight end this offseason—think Dustin Keller—Jones has a very real opportunity to earn a spot.
Chances of making the roster: 50 percent
If Jones doesn't secure a roster spot at tight end, Asa Watson should be next in line. More of a traditional size for a Move tight end at 6'3" and 237 pounds, he moves well in and out of his breaks. Although giving up a lot of size, Watson is a better technical blocker than Jones.
Watson has had some medical issues—irregular heartbeat for one—that might have made some NFL teams shy away from drafting him late. If he stays healthy in New England, Watson should earn a spot on the practice squad at the very least.
Chances of making the roster: 25 percent
Bill Belichick loves his special teams players. At 6'3" and 237 pounds, Cameron Gordon isn't big enough to play "Sam" in the NFL like he did on occasion at Michigan. If he sticks around in New England, it will be in a Nate Ebner or Matthew Slater role as a special teams ace.
Gordon will have his work cut out for him with Chris White, Josh Hull and Steve Beauharnais ahead of him to start with. However, if their production levels are close, Gordon's cheaper contract might help sway the decision in his favor.
Chances of making the roster: 20 percent
It isn't hard to find a talented college running back on the cheap. Players like Stephen Houston with decent speed, good size and solid vision are a dime a dozen. What sets him apart, however, are his skills with the ball in the air.
He caught 48 balls over his final two seasons at Indiana and could be viewed as a potential replacement for incumbent backup Brandon Bolden.
Houston's ability to help on kickoff returns could also lead to him securing a roster spot, either on the active roster or practice squad.
Chances of making the roster: 20 percent
After bursting onto the scene with electric cuts and highlight-reel runs as a freshman, Roy Finch sputtered in his final seasons in Norman. While he only measures 5'7" and 177 pounds, he could carve out a niche as a third-down back and return specialist.
However, Shane Vereen has a stranglehold on the third-down back spot and Jeremy Gallon should get a long look as the kickoff returner. If both stay healthy, Finch will likely find himself on the waiver wire.
Chances of making the roster: 10 percent
Malcolm Butler, CB, West Alabama (1 percent)
Jeremy Deering, S, Rutgers (5 percent)
Shamiel Gary, S, Oklahoma State (1 percent)
Travis Hawkins, CB, Delaware (1 percent)
Derrick Johnson, WR, Maine (3 percent)
Taylor McCuller, LB, West Texas A&M (1 percent)
Tyler Ott, LS, Harvard (3 percent)
Deontae Skinner, LB, Mississippi State (1 percent)
Unless there is a rash of injuries at safety, receiver or Danny Aiken has a meltdown at long snapper, I don't anticipate any of these players making the team.
Deering—pictured above carrying the football—might have the best chance due to his versatility. He played some running back, receiver, returner and safety during his time at Rutgers.
Like Vellano last year, if the New England Patriots have to dip into this talent pool, they're in for a very long swim.