Who’s The FA? UDFA! (2017 Edition)

New England has a solid reputation for taking undrafted free agents and making them into championship-level contributors, from offensive linemen like David Andrews (2015) and Stephen Neal (2001) to defensive backs like Malcolm Butler (2014) and Randall Gay (2004). Coach Bill Belichick isn’t nearly as concerned about how you get to Gillette as he is with what you do once you’re there.

Here’s a link to last year’s UDFA column, which includes running back D. J. Foster, cornerback Jonathan Jones, and defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton, all currently listed on the Patriots roster. I also recommend reading part one of our “Combine Snubs Who Showed ‘Em” series from March, which included four players listed below.

With only four draft selections this year, the Patriots had plenty of roster positions to fill with UDFAs. (For an up-to-date list, it’s tough to do better than NEPatriotsDraft.com.) Some compelling choices by New England this year. Despite how loaded their roster is already, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if one of these undrafted players ends up at Foxboro this fall.

All that, plus: welcome back, High School Fun Facts!

A Langi Day’s Journey Into Night: That’s what watching all those names get called in the final rounds last Saturday must have felt like for BYU linebacker Harvey Langi (6-2, 251).

Why Undrafted: Langi’s a run-stopping type of linebacker trying to get into a league that grows more and more concerned about the pass. He’s not super-strong for the position (23 bench reps). Langi also got flipped around to different roles, including running back, so his stats suffered a bit (57 tackles is decent, but low for a linebacker).

Why Invited: Showed solid speed (4.66-second 40-yard dash) and quickness (4.45 20-yard shuttle). Also, one team’s lack of position is another’s sign of versatility, as Langi started at both linebacker and defensive end and rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. For an in-depth breakdown of one particular play stopping a Michigan State drive, check out this video.

High School Fun Fact: Langi won back-to-back state championships at Bingham High School in Utah. (Go Miners!)

Fun, Kinda-Local Fact: Langi scored his two TDs vs. UMass, playing offense after BYU’s backfield got decimated by illness and injury. UMass will travel back to Provo next season, then host the Cougars in 2018 and 2019. Someone get Mike Reiss on the line.

Augusta Seizure: If you have a chance at nabbing a player like Josh Augusta, you’ve got to take it. The Missouri defensive tackle/planetoid – all 6-4, 347 pounds of him – got a mention in our aforementioned Combine Snubs series and could add interior tackle depth.

Why Undrafted: At one point last season, Augusta reportedly reached 390 pounds, which is a manageable amount if you’re talking British currency, but not English weight. He only put up 22 reps on the bench, a mediocre number for a guy taking on 300-plus pounders. Totaling 23 tackles in 12 games doesn’t exactly inspire the same reaction as a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon.

Why Invited: Apparently, Augusta had a thyroid issue that he got under control this past winter, allowing him to get down to 347 (he has said he wants to play at 335). At his weight, a 5.19 40-yard dash is remarkable. Consider: New England third-round offensive lineman Antonio Garcia ran a 5.15 40 while weighing 45 pounds less. Also consider Augusta’s impressive 28.5-inch vertical.

High School Fun Fact: Augusta played defensive tackle and tight end for Peoria High in Illinois, making First Team All-State at both positions. He also won the 2012 Class 2A shot put championship.

Fullback Fun Fact: To see the big man as a fullback knocking two defenders out of the way, you can click on this link.

Jason And The Golden Flee: Another one of our combine snubs, Utah safety Jason Thompson (6-1, 210) lit up his pro day, ensuring a camp invite. Better to be snubbed in February than in April, I suppose.

Why Undrafted: Nominally a safety, Thompson totaled only eight tackles last year, which made him stand out about as much as a ball-point pen in an office supply store.

Why Invited: Eight tackles isn’t much for a starting safety, but it’s solid for a special teamer. His athleticism really earned him the call, though. In terms of combine safeties, Thompson would have been tops in the 3-cone drill (6.57 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.01 seconds), and bench press (20 reps). Add an 11-foot-1 broad jump and a 4.44-second 40, and we’re looking at another college special teams ace in the mold of Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner.

High School Fun Fact: At Kennedy Catholic High in Washington, Thompson earned Seamount League Defensive Back of the Year honors. He also played QB, passing for over 800 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Kids In The Hollister: Now, who says Bill Belichick lacks compassion? He brought in brothers! Twins! Perhaps Arkansas wide receiver Cody Hollister (6-3, 214) and Wyoming tight end Jacob Hollister (6-4, 239) can carpool to Gillette this summer.

Why Undrafted: As a receiver, Cody caught 27 passes in his career, with 10 of them coming in 2017. In terms of production, that’s like what a teenager accomplishes at the summer job his parents made him take but felt bad so they let him bring his phone to work. At tight end, though Jacob did well in the Mountain West Conference (First Team honors – 29 receptions, 488 yards, six TDs), it is viewed as a lesser league. He’s also a bit of a ‘tweener, size-wise.

Plus: Twins? I mean, do we really trust them, on the whole? Don’t twins communicate telepathically about taking over society? Could be. We’ll never know.

Why Invited: Cody notched eight tackles to earn Co-MVP of Arkansas’ special teams (along with their punter). As a pass-catcher, seven of his 10 receptions went for first downs. Jacob has the right size for a “move” tight end, and showed off some solid numbers at his pro day, including a 36.5-inch vertical that would have scored in the top five for combine tight ends, plus a 4.64 40 and 7.12-second 3-cone. (For comparison, former Pats TE Tim Wright ran a 4.64 40 and a 7.27 3-cone.)

High School Fun Fact: In Bend, Oregon, the brothers won the 5A state championship playing for Mountain View High, as Cody hauled in 12 passes for 146 yards in the title game. His QB was Jacob, who spent his senior year throwing for 31 touchdowns against only three interceptions.

Columnist Not-So-Fun Fact: The Wyoming Cowboys may have the least informative player page of any Division I school.

Along Came A Spider: Richmond safety David Jones (6-1, 205) got added to the list of hopefuls and could make a name as (yet another) special-teams contributor.

On the subhead, should I have gone with a David Jones’ Locker pun? Or maybe a Monkees reference? Eh. Moving on…

Why Undrafted: After only playing in six games in 2016, Jones tallied 29 tackles and two interceptions for the Spiders. Not the quickest defensive back, with a 7.31 3-cone and a 4.32 20-yard shuttle. His 12 bench presses probably failed to turn heads as well.

Why Invited: In 2015, the junior Jones led the FCS with nine interceptions while racking up 97 tackles. Jones’ 4.43-second 40 would have made him the third-fastest safety at the NFL Combine. He also returned punts last season, bringing one back 68 yards for a touchdown.

High School Fun Fact: Jones won three straight city championships at St. Petersburg (FL) Senior High, including going undefeated in 2010. He also lettered in hoops and track and field.

I’m calling it: Jones is the under-the-radar guy the Patriots end up keeping. He graduated Summa Cum Laude, for Pete’s sake!

Just What I Needed: A song by the Cars for a very special Carr – Austin Carr (6-0, 202), that is – who, given his production as a Northwestern receiver, must have gotten other offers after the draft. He also made our list as a notable Combine Snub.

Why Undrafted: Hard to say, but it seems that the slot position gets undervalued. Also, a 4.62-second 40 can make a receiver get left behind (literally, I suppose).

Why Invited: Carr made All-Big Ten First Team, leading the conference in catches (84), yards (1,196), and touchdowns (12). Looking beyond the aforementioned 40 (“a-forty-mentioned?” No?), Carr crushed his pro day, especially with quickness scores (4.07 20-yard shuttle, 6.70 3-cone) that would have placed him in the top four for combine receivers. He uses that slipperiness to get open, as seen in this impressive video of him vs. Ohio State.

High School Fun Fact: Carr put up crazy numbers as a senior at Benicia (CA) High, including 1,481 yards rushing with 19 TDs and 844 yards receiving with 11 TDs.

Non-Football High School Fun Fact: After winning his school’s and county’s Poetry Out Loud Competition, Carr competed in the event as a state finalist.

King ‘Maker: Guard Jason King (6-3, 303) out of Purdue will seek solace in the offensive line’s interior, where the Patriots could probably use some depth.

Why Undrafted: His pro day numbers failed to show much athleticism, from a pedestrian 5.30 40 to a pedestrian-stuck-on-the-curb 7.75 3-cone. Also, interior offensive linemen tend to get overlooked on draft day.

Why Invited: His 35 bench reps would have tied for top overall number at the combine. A Big-Ten Honorable Mention last season, King helped the Boilermakers’ top two rushers average over five yards per carry on the year. He has started every game since his sophomore season.

High School Fun Fact: While blocking for Pulaski Academy in Arkansas in 2011 (Go Bruins!), King’s team averaged over 51 points per game, going 14-0 and winning the state championship.

Leave Them Asking For Moore: Valdosta State cornerback Kenny Moore probably wasn’t playing it coy during draft day, but now he finds himself in Foxboro with the opportunity to become another Patriots defensive back from a Division II school. (We see you, Malcolm Butler.)

Why Undrafted: Division II guys get overlooked like gum on a sidewalk, in that you’ve got to make contact in order to appreciate their sticktoitiveness. (Was that too much? Felt like a long way to go.) Moore’s also a smaller dude at 5-9, 185.

Why Invited: Moore made 2016 AFCA National Division II First Team All-American by leading the Blazers with 65 tackles, including 6.5 for loss (one sack), five interceptions, and eight pass break-ups. You can watch his season highlight reel here.

High School Fun Fact: While playing for Lowndes High in Valdosta, Georgia, Moore helped his team go 9-2 and make the GHSA Class AAAAAA Playoffs (aka the Fonzie Division).

Killings’ Field: Pretty strong football name for D. J. Killings (5-10, 187), a cornerback out of Central Florida. The last cornerback the Patriots drafted out of Central Florida? Asante Samuel.

Coincidence? (Absolutely. It is the definition of coincidence.)

Why Undrafted: Killings had to work through some injuries his junior year, essentially his-own-last-naming his chances at preseason hype for his senior year. The Knights finished 6-7 overall, 4-4 in the little-ballyhooed American Athletic Conference.

Why Invited: The senior had 42 tackles, three interceptions, and 11 pass break-ups. He also put up solid pro day numbers, including a 4.48 40, 10-4 broad jump, 22 bench reps, and 6.97 3-cone.

High School Fun Fact: Killings was ranked by ESPN as the 103rd-best cornerback in the country while playing for First Coast High in Jacksonville, FL.

Max Effect: Say what you will about the level of competition, but Harvard has had a very good football team for many years now. Offensive lineman Max Rich (6-7, 311) has been part of that success, and judging by his pro day, it’s easy to see why. (He’s another one of our Combine Snubs, by the way. I’m just saying.)

Why Undrafted: The Ivy League doesn’t exactly provide a launching pad to the pros. Also, judging by his player photo, he’s got to straighten his goddamn tie. I’m fishing for reasons, because otherwise…

Why Invited: Rich made First Team All-Ivy and really got noticed after the Crimson’s pro day. He ran a 5.12 40 and a 7.18 3-cone, the latter of which would have crushed the O-line competition at the combine. His 30-inch vertical would have made top five for linemen. Rich also was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which awards soup.

Nope, sorry: I’m being told the William V. Campbell Trophy is awarded by the National Football Foundation and is also known as the Academic Heisman.

High School Fun Fact: Named Outstanding Senior Lineman at Jesuit High in Portland (Oregon), Rich also won back-to-back basketball championships as a junior and senior.

Butler Cleans Up: Vanderbilt’s Adam Butler (6-4, 293) got the call and will arrive in Foxboro to try to make the roster among an already crowded field of defensive linemen.

Why Undrafted: Not Mercury with a 5.23 40. Not Hercules with 23 bench press reps. Had 31 tackles as a senior, hardly the type of number that will get scouts rushing for the phone like that scene in Airplane!

Why Invited: His 28.5 inch vertical? Not too shabby. Most importantly, Belichick attended Vanderbilt’s pro day, so we have to assume the coach saw something he liked. Other likable traits include 7.5 tackles for loss, including a team-leading four sacks that all came against SEC opponents. Butler also moved around the line from tackle to end, showing the type of adaptability Belichick covets. His highlight reel – complete with more F-words than your dictionary between the letters E and G – can be found here.

High School Fun Fact: A two-time captain for Duncanville High in Texas, Butler blocked eight field goal attempts his senior year. He also played center in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Dallas.

Gopher It: Things are looking golden for Minnesota’s Damarius Travis (6-1, 206) after an invite to prove himself at the strong safety position.

Why Undrafted: Man, a 4.65-second 40 can ruin your entire spring. Travis is also slightly smaller than advertised (his player page calls him 6-2, 215). He missed most of the 2015 season after injuring his hamstring in the opening game.

Why Invited: How much does a 40-yard dash really mean, anyway? (Malcolm Butler ran a 4.62 at his pro day, for what that’s worth.) He did show some quickness with a 4.14 20-yard shuttle and a 6.96 3-cone (compared to Butler’s 4.27 and 7.20 – Heavens, what a miserable pro day Malcolm had!). Travis led the Gophers with 83 tackles (five for loss) and had two interceptions. For a highlight reel that makes it look like Travis hits so hard he’d make a ton of bricks wince, you can go to this link.

High School Fun Fact: Travis’ team won the district championship during his senior year at Pensacola High in Florida.

Croston The Line: Offensive lineman Cole Croston (6-5, 314) out of Iowa could provide some depth at the center position, currently manned by 2015 undrafted free agent Andrews out of Georgia.

Why Undrafted: As is pretty typical, not a big year for interior O-linemen in general. Croston had a tough year with injuries, missing four full games. Slow-footed showing at the pro day with a 5.29 40 and a 7.61 3-cone drill. His 17 bench reps seem light for the position.

Why Invited: Great size, and comes from a solid program coached by longtime Belichick ally Kirk Ferentz. As a junior, Croston saw time at both tackle positions, starting six games on the right and four on the left.

High School Fun Fact: Croston earned first team all-conference honors at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High in Iowa as both an offensive lineman and a punter. (Sgt. Bluff Luton should be a recurring character on “NCIS: New Orleans,” a title I started writing as a joke before discovering that show actually exists.)

College Fun Fact: The only Iowa player the Patriots have drafted under Belichick was an offensive lineman – center Mike Elgin in 2007.

Any Volunteers? Here’s one: defensive lineman Corey Vereen (6-1, 254) of Tennessee has an uphill battle to make the roster as a pass-rusher, but stranger things have happened.

Why Undrafted: An undersized defensive end, Vereen appears to lack the speed (4.92 40) and quickness (7.50 3-cone) to convert to a linebacker or edge position. Also, anyone playing on the same line as Philly first-round pick Derek Barnett will fail to get credit, as Barnett got most of the attention from both opposing offenses and scouts.

Why Invited: With a solid 26 bench reps, Vereen shows the strength he used to get around blockers. You also have to respect his production, as he came in second on the Vols with seven sacks on the year, part of 11.5 tackles for loss. He also recovered two fumbles and broke up three passes. Looking at his highlights from his junior year, his gait and tenacity resemble Rob Ninkovich.

High School Fun Fact: Over his last two years at West Orange High in Florida, Vereen totaled 31 sacks – 16 as a junior, 15 as a senior.

Blame It On Dwayne:  Well, sometimes no one ever is to blame. Here comes yet another defensive back, as cornerback Dwayne Thomas (5-11, 196) out of LSU brings more SEC defense to the Northeast.

Why Undrafted: At his size, a 4.66-second 40 probably won’t do it. Thomas also injured his knee as a sophomore, cutting his season short. He started only three games in 2016 and spent about half the year at nickelback, a position that scouts tend to overlook (and a band that should be).

Why Invited: Despite limited playing time, Thomas had 42 tackles including seven for loss and one sack, plus one interception and seven pass break-ups. Showed versatility all across the defensive backfield throughout his career.

High School Fun Fact: Thomas had three interceptions and 14 pass break-ups as a senior at O. Perry Walker High in New Orleans.

High School School-Based Fun Fact: O. Perry Walker High was named after Superintendent Oliver Perry Walker when it opened in 1970. In 2013, the school merged with L. B. Landry High, named after Lord Beaconsfield Landry, an African-American activist and doctor.

I Learned My LeShun Well: Iowa running back LeShun Daniels (5-11, 222) will live to tell stories about heading to New England and going to camp with the defending Super Bowl champs.

Why Undrafted: Not much stands out from Daniels’ pro day. It’s not a bad 40 (4.53 seconds), but the 3-cone (7.28) leaves some quickness to be desired. Iowa had an up-and-down year, offensively, as they won three games scoring only 14 points in each.

Why Invited: The Patriots could use another big back in camp. His 4.45 20-yard shuttle and 36-inch vertical look impressive coming out of a runner that size. Daniels was named the offense’s Most Valuable Player and a permanent team captain in 2016, rushing for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns. Thanks to the Internet, you can watch a montage of Daniels running the football and working out while looking as ripped as a Drax action figure.

High School Fun Fact: At Harding High in Ohio, Daniels rushed for 1,614 yards and 15 TDs as a senior, also lettering in track for four years.

NEPatriotsDraft.com named the two following players as tryouts for New England. By the time you read this, they may be sitting on a plane headed for another team’s camp. Ooh, the NFL off-season! So many moving parts!

We’ve Hired A Second Butler: Or maybe a third, even. We shall see if Rodney Butler (6-0, 230), a linebacker out of New Mexico State, can bring his college productivity to the NFL level.

Why Undrafted: Most of what you need to know sits in the previous sentence, from the lesser-known Aggies to the smaller-sized linebacker. Butler also had a mediocre pro day, putting up a 4.76-second 40 and a 7.40-second 3-cone, both of which lacked the speed for a smaller guy like him to stand out.

Why Invited: Production. Butler made All-Sun Belt First Team by compiling 165 tackles on the season, leading the nation with a 13.8 per-game average over 12 games. In NFL terms, if Butler maintained that average over 16 games, he would total 221 tackles, or 54 more than this season’s league-leader Bobby Wagner. (I don’t care if you’re playing in the NFC, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Mayflower League, 13.8 is an impressive amount.) Butler also jumped a 39-inch vertical that would have been the top score for combine linebackers, and he put up 23 reps on the bench, which would have been top five.

High School Fun Fact: This guy’s been producing longer than Robert Evans, as he racked up 118 tackles as a senior at Palm Springs High in California to become Desert Sun Defensive Player of the Year.

College Fun Fact: New Mexico State’s team is the Aggies, but their mascot is Pistol Pete. (Not the Pistol Pete older Boston fans tend to think of.)

I’m Being Serious, You’re Telling Jelks: Oof. Close, but no. Time to wrap up this column with Vanderbilt offensive lineman Andrew Jelks (6-6, 309), to bolster the blocking back-ups. (Christ, now I’m resorting to alliteration. Strike the set! We’re done here!)

Why Undrafted: Jelks missed the entire 2016 and 2015 seasons with knee injuries. He ran at his pro day and delivered sub-par numbers, including a 5.61 40 and a 8.06 3-cone. Jelks is getting over a serious double-dose of mishaps, but I’ll say it: those times seem geological.

Why Invited: Despite his injury, Jelks’ teammates named him a team captain, which says a lot about how they viewed him. As mentioned before, Belichick spent time at Vanderbilt’s pro day, so he must have seen something that initiated this call. Jelks was named a Freshman All-American for his work at right tackle, then started on the left his sophomore year. He has solid size for the line and could provide a smart investment after spending a year on injured reserve.

High School Fun Fact: At Henry County High in Tennessee, Jelks played left tackle on his senior year’s 15-0, state-title-winning squad, where he accumulated over 70 pancake blocks.

(Well, looky here how I’m walking away from the obvious pancake puns! I think I’m really maturing.)

Local College Fun Fact: Jelks’ first career start happened against UMass at Gillette Stadium in 2013. You can watch number 50 start at right tackle and move around, including a brief stint as a blocking tight end at 1:18.

Well, my friends, thanks for following this site throughout the Pats draft process. We might post a roster review at some point, but right now New England has so much talent on paper it’s going to be very difficult (and, dare I admit, futile) to figure out who’s sticking around in September – and that’s not including the horrible roulette wheel of injuries that befall every team.

One word of advice … well, call it encouragement: enjoy this year. The team has won two Super Bowls in three seasons, which happened to be two of the most exciting games ever. If you can’t have fun as a Patriots fan now, when can you?

Have a great spring. Enjoy the weather. Check out the Breakers. See you down the field.

Chris Warner dreams of playing Aaron Burr on Broadway and understands that dream shall always remain unfulfilled, which is really better for everyone. Email: chriswarner89@gmail.com Twitter: @cwarn89

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