Realistic Expectations for Every New England Patriots Rookie

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2017

Realistic Expectations for Every New England Patriots Rookie

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    There haven't recently been high expectations for rookies in the New England Patriots system. This is primarily because the Patriots have consistently had championship talent and have rarely had to rely on rookie talent.

    Of course, this doesn't mean that Patriots rookies don't sometimes emerge to play significant roles. Head coach Bill Belichick puts a lot more stock into how a player performs on the field than where he came from or how he joined the team. Last season, for example, wideout Malcolm Mitchell and linebacker Elandon Roberts both came on down the stretch to give New England a boost.

    Mitchell hauled in 41 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns, while Roberts racked up 45 tackles and a forced fumble.

    Might we see other rookies follow a similar path in 2017? Even though the Patriots only drafted four players this offseason, we certainly might.

    We're here to set some realistic expectations for the Patriots' rookie class of 2017. We'll run down every New England draft pick, along with the most notable rookie free agents, and set in-season expectations for each.

Derek Rivers

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    New England didn't make a selection in this year's draft until Round 3, but the team still may have added an immediate contributor. The team's first selection (83rd overall) was former Youngstown State edge-rusher Derek Rivers.

    While Rivers doesn't come with a big-program pedigree, he brings both athleticism and proven production to the proverbial table. At 6'4" and 248 pounds, he ran a 4.61-second 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He also produced 30 reps of the 225-pound bench press and 35-inch vertical. Those athletic traits helped rack up 19.5 tackles for a loss and 14.0 sacks last season.

    Rivers probably won't crack the starting lineup early as a rookie. Trey Flowers and Kony Ealy appear set to start at end, while veterans like Rob Ninkovich and Shea McClellin will probably start at outside linebacker. Rivers has been studying Flowers, though, and could provide a lot of value as a situational edge-rusher.

    "I watch everything, how he defends the run, just how precise his hands are, how accurate they are in the pass rush, how he gets his hips around—every little thing that helps you get to the QB or make plays," Rivers said, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com.

    Expect to see Rivers on the field almost exclusively in passing situations.

    Expectation: Situational Pass-Rusher

    Projected Stats: 34 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Antonio Garcia

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The second of New England's two third-round picks (85th overall), offensive tackle Antonio Garcia is probably a player the Patriots drafted with the future in mind. He'll almost certainly sit behind starting tackles Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon this season, but he may find a starting role in the near future.

    Solder is entering the final year of his current contract.

    Right now, Garcia is just trying to pick up the nuances of being an NFL player.

    "He's a guy who is very coachable. He understands that he's not a finished product, so he'll take the coaching the Patriots will give him," Garcia's former coach at Troy, Neal Brown said, per Jim McBride of the Boston Globe.

    Garcia could very well have a bright future in New England, but he isn't likely to see the field much this year, barring injury.

    Expectation: Backup Tackle

    Projected Stats: Fewer than 100 offensive snaps

Deatrich Wise

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    In the fourth round (131st overall), the Patriots added former Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise. The 6'5", 274-pound defender isn't likely to bring much to the team's pass rush. What he brings is the size and versatility to play multiple positions along the defensive line.

    This makes Wise a perfect fit for the Patriots defense—assuming the team can find the right roles for him—as defensive line coach Brendan Daly recently explained.

    "I'd say we try to identify guys that may have some position flexibility," Daly said, per Doug Kyed of NESN.com. "Maybe they do, maybe they don't. I think all of that depends on what happens out here on the field. I think particularly this time of the year, we're trying to put guys in a number of different spots to get them evaluated."

    The more Wise shows he can do during training camp and in the preseason, the sooner he'll be able to get onto the field. He should see a fair amount of playing time throughout the season, primarily in four-man fronts.

    Expectation: Rotational Defensive Lineman

    Projected Stats: 28 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble

Conor McDermott

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    With their final selection in the draft (211th overall), the Patriots added developmental tackle prospect Conor McDermott. The UCLA product has the size (6'8", 307 pounds) and movement skills (7.52-second three-cone time at the combine) to be a quality NFL tackle. However, he is far from NFL-ready.

    "Just not strong enough to play in our league," one AFC scout said of McDermott, per NFL Media's Lance Zierlein. "Unless he finds more core [strength], I can't see him being able to survive against power."

    The good news for McDermott is that the Patriots aren't likely to rush his development or expect him to get on the field quickly. The rookie seems excited about the opportunity to learn from the Patriots staff.

    "I feel like there's room to grow, and I'm excited to get to New England with the great coaching staff there and just get to work," McDermott said, via Patriots Football Weekly (h/t the team's official website). "Whatever they want for me, I'll put my 100 percent effort in. I just know I can improve in any position I'm at." 

    If McDermott can develop the way the Patriots want him to, he could be a part of the team's future. Don't expect him to have much impact this year, though.

    Expectation: Depth Player/Practice Squad

    Projected Stats: N/A

Austin Carr

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Undrafted rookie Austin Carr has the size (6'1", 195 pounds) and the ability to make an impact in many NFL receiving corps. The Northwestern product hauled in 90 passes for 1,247 yards and two touchdowns just last season.

    The problem is that Carr is among a deep group of receivers. With Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman sitting at the top of the depth chart, there just isn't much room for Carr.

    Assuming special teams star Matthew Slater also makes the team as a receiver, there may be no room for Carr at all.

    Carr didn't join the Patriots for an easy route to a roster spot, though. He wanted to join a winner.

    "Feeling like I could learn from the veterans here, feeling like I could learn from some amazing wide receivers, and then also knowing that it's a franchise that wins," Carr said, per Stephen Hewitt of the Boston Herald.

    Carr should get opportunities to learn from the Patriots receivers, but he's going to have a hard time making the roster this season.

    Expectation: Practice Squad

    Projected Stats: N/A

Cody Hollister and Jacob Hollister

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    The Patriots decided to take a chance on pass-catching twins Cody and Jacob Hollister shortly after the draft. The team brought in Cody, a receiver out of Arkansas, and Jacob, a tight end out of Wyoming, as undrafted free agents.

    The reason for bringing the duo in is pretty simple; the two have talent and size (both stand 6'4"). Jacob produced 515 yards last season, while his brother produced 140 yards. 

    The problem for the Hollister twins is the same one that hovers over Carr. The Patriots simply have too many talented pass-catchers on their roster. Cody (209 lbs) has virtually no chance of cracking the receiver rotation. Jacob (239 lbs) is also a long shot to make the roster unless the Patriots decide to carry four or five tight ends.

    Expectation: Cut

    Projected Stats: N/A

Jason King

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Undrafted free agent Jason King may have a shot at making the regular-season roster because the Patriots don't have a ton of proven depth at guard. Behind starters Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are Jamil Douglas and Chase Farris.

    Cracking the roster here isn't going to be as daunting a task as it is at receiver.

    If Purdue product King can show something of value in camp and in the preseason, the New England brass may decide he's a better long-term option than either Douglas or Farris. Douglas has just six pro starts under his belt, while Farris has never appeared in an NFL game.

    While New England undoubtedly values experience in its roster depth, it's not like Douglas and Farris have a ton of it. Don't be surprised if King snags a roster spot as interior line depth.

    Expectation: Depth Player

    Projected Depth: Fewer than 50 snaps

Brooks Ellis

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Patriots added former Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis as an undrafted free agent. Ellis isn't going to wow anyone with his size (6'2", 245 lbs) or his athleticism (4.79-second 40 at the combine), but he does earn points for intelligence and drive.

    If Ellis hadn't been inked by the shortly after the draft, he'd likely be headed to medical school.

    "I'm finishing applications and then when I get back in July, I'm sending those in," Ellis explained, per Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. "If I get accepted somewhere, I'm going to tell them I need to defer until I know for sure what the football situation is going to be. So I'm all in on football, and just in case, I'm going to have that ready to go when I get out of it."

    Ellis was productive as a college player—he had 83 tackles and six passes defended last season. However, he's sitting behind players like Dont'a Hightower, McClellin and Roberts in a 4-3 base scheme that doesn't always rely heavily on linebackers.

    Ellis may get a few looks in the preseason, but he may be glad medical school is an option by the fall.

    Expectation: Cut

    Projected Stats: N/A

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