Well, here we are, folks, back with our rundown of the Patriots’ post-draft pick-ups. New England will look to continue their annual tradition of keeping at least one undrafted rookie free agent on their roster. Who among the chosen shall succeed? Tough to tell, but with the current roster shake-up happening, it’s more than likely one of the names you read below will don the new Patriots uniform that seems to have evolved from the movie The Replacements.
Many thanks to Pats Pulpit for their comprehensive list of undrafted free agents (UDFAs). And away we go…
Oh, Two One, Three Four – Send It To Zuber! Patriots fans weren’t exactly overjoyed and doing the Bernadette arm thingy after their team passed on every wide receiver in the draft. Enter Isaiah Zuber (5-11, 184) of Mississippi State to try to fill in a potential gap in talent.
Why Undrafted: Not exactly a huge guy, Zuber had one season at Mississippi State after transferring from Kansas State, catching an unremarkable 14 passes for 211 yards and two TDs.
Why Invited: New England has their stable of huge guys at receiver, with N’Keal Harry (6-4, 225) a prime example. Zuber led the Big 12 in punt return average in 2018 with almost 18 yards per return, scoring a touchdown that you can see in his highlight reel. Smooth athlete.
High School Fun Fact: At Stephenson High in Georgia, Zuber totaled 15 career touchdown returns (six punts, nine kicks).
With Iron Will: Oh, another receiver, you say? Auburn’s Will Hastings (5-10, 175) travels to Foxboro to state his case as a new Patriots pass-catcher.
Why Undrafted: At 174 pounds, Hastings might weigh less than our groceries from last week’s run. Totaled just 19 catches for 222 yards and one touchdown last year. Missed 2018 with a knee injury. Limited experience as a returner.
Why Invited: Before said injury, while playing with none other than New England’s own Jarrett Stidham in 2017, Hastings tallied 26 catches for 525 yards (a 20.2 average – yoiks!) and four TDs. Hastings had an early pro day and got to display his quicks, with a solid 4.51-second 40 and an electron-like 6.55-second 3-cone. (For reference, Julian Edelman ran a 6.62.)
High School Fun Fact: Hastings reached MaxPreps All-American status at Pulaski Academy in Arkansas his senior year, racking up 2,040 receiving yards.
J’Mar On It, J’Mar On It: Coach Bill Belichick also forewent (that’s a word: I looked it up) drafting a quarterback in 2020, which makes the signing of Louisiana Tech signal-caller J’Mar Smith (6-0, 228) all the more intriguing.
Why Undrafted: Not a ton of six-foot QBs in the NFL, considering the difficulty of passing over and through 6-foot-5 defensive linemen. Though touted as a running quarterback, Smith only averaged 2.6 yards per rush last season (100 carries for 264 yards).
Why Invited: Since when does New England care about QB rushing stats? Smith completed 64 percent of his passes (236 of 367) for 2,977 yards, 18 TDs, and five interceptions on his way to earning First Team All-Conference USA honors. (Highlights of some downfield darts here.)
High School Fun Fact: While at Meridian High in Mississippi, Smith got drafted by the San Diego Padres as a catcher.
Bonus! College Fun Fact: Smith threw for 300-plus yards 11 times in his career, breaking the previous record of Tech alum Terry Bradshaw (seven).
Berry Interesting: New England added to their rookie tight end pool, taking a flyer on Ohio State tight end Rashod Berry (6-4, 262).
Why Undrafted: In his OSU career, Berry had only 17 catches for 198 yards and four touchdowns. He was initially recruited as a defensive linemen and played there in the beginning as a Buckeye, converting to tight end in his redshirt sophomore season. Of course, the last time Patriots fans watched a tight end play defense, it did not go well. (Avert your eyes!)
Why Invited: Berry’s a solid athlete with versatility. He played both ways in two games his senior year, demonstrating his willingness to help the team. Played in an impressive 50 games over the course of his career.
High School Fun Fact: Entertaining highlight reel of Berry as a Lorain (Ohio) High School hoopster here. More dunks than your local donut shop.
And Myles To Go Before I Sleep: Though New England has a (lovely, dark and) deep defensive backfield, they’ve also had past success with UDFAs in that area (J. C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Malcolm Butler all come to mind). Cornerback Myles Bryant (5-8, 183) of Washington hopes to add to that list.
Why Undrafted: Hey, 5-foot-8 would look great on Tom Cruise, but it doesn’t always look good on an NFL corner. Huskies only went 4-5 in the Pac-12 last season. Tied for second on the team with 68 tackles, which isn’t always what you want in a cover guy.
Why Invited: Also had 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and three interceptions in 2019, starting every game for Washington on his way to making All-Pac-12 Second Team. Capped off his career with an interception vs. Boise State to help win the Las Vegas Bowl. Fun to watch Bryant (number 5) zipping around the field vs. Cal in this video.
High School Fun Fact: Bryant played both corner and receiver his senior year at Loylola High in Pasadena, notching 68 tackles and 28 receptions (406 yards).
So I’ve Got That Going For Me, Which Is Nice: Looking to shore up their defensive line, New England brought in Bill Murray (6-4, 280) of William & Mary. (What’s with the ampersand? Is this a TNT drama? “He’s William. She’s Mary. They’re starting a school in the colonies!”)
Why Undrafted: William & Mary’s not known as an NFL pipeline. Murray’s a ‘tweener size where he may find it a rough go between the tackles yet may lack the slipperiness of a pass rusher. Missed out on showing his stuff at pro day by three days.
Why Invited: At the TEST Football Academy in Martinsville, New Jersey, during an impromptu pro day without scouts present, Murray reportedly had 30 bench presses and a 4.93-second 40-yard dash, both notable marks for D-linemen. A team captain (oh, how Belichick loves those team captains), Murray made All-CAA Second-Team, leading the Griffins with six sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, and four blocked kicks. He’s also quite the dapper-looking fellow.
High School Fun Fact: Murray lettered in lacrosse at the Delbarton School in New Jersey (Belichick must know this, right?), winning New Jersey’s Tournament of Champions State Championship his junior year.
Bonus! Personal Fun Fact: Murray was an Eagle Scout. (Or still is an Eagle Scout? Does that ever go away?)
Razor Scoota: A few Patriots linebackers went elsewhere this off season, opening up opportunities for rookies to earn roster spots. Arkansas’ De’Jon “Scoota” Harris (6-0, 234) signed up for such an opportunity.
Why Undrafted: Undersized for his role, especially when compared to players New England tends to put at middle linebacker. Not the fleetest of foot (ran a 4.82 40 in high school). The Razorbacks went 2-10 last year, 0-8 vs. the venerable Southeastern Conference.
Why Invited: Comparable in size to former Patriot Elandon Roberts (6-0, 238), a dependable special-teamer and backup. Harris had impressive production for the Razorbacks, making the 2019 All-SEC Second Team after racking up 101 tackles (52 unassisted), his third year in a row surpassing the century mark. Had one sack, 6.5 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.
High School Fun Fact: At John Ehret High in Louisiana, Harris had 83 tackles, rushed for 1,058 yards, threw for 495 yards, and chipped in on kicking and punting duties, earning Offensive Player of the Year honors on The New Orleans Advocate All-Metro Team.
Dy-no-mite! New England has numbers at running back but looks to bolster one of the most injury-prone positions in football. Arizona’s J. J. Taylor (5-5, 185) got the invite to take some backfield reps.
Why Undrafted: I mean, 5-foot-5? Is he a jockey? Ran a meh 4.61-second 40 at the combine. Also, the Wildcats went 4-8 last year after going 5-7 the year before. Not the best of times in the Copper State.
Why Invited: Height is one thing, but this kid’s built like a shot-put. He measures five inches shorter than receiver Hastings yet weighs 10 pounds more. Put up 19 reps at the combine, Popeye-worthy for running backs, while submitting a decent 7.0-second 3-cone and 4.15-second 20-yard shuttle (Shane Vereen had 6.95 and 4.28, respectively). Taylor made All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2019 after rushing 148 times for 720 yards (4.9 avg) and catching 32 passes. Some nice elusiveness in this highlight reel.
High School Fun Fact: California’s Mr. Football at Centennial High, Taylor rushed for 2,290 yards and 44 touchdowns as a senior.
Casting A Coe Star? A versatile defensive end/linebacker from a highly-touted program, Nick Coe (6-5, 280) of Auburn plans to show Belichick and Co. what he can do.
Why Undrafted: Came out early after totaling just 15 tackles last season as a junior. Another so-called ‘tweener who seems too big for linebacker, but too small for defensive line. Coaches sat him against Arkansas due to a disciplinary issue.
Why Invited: Playing time decreased due to an influx of major talent at Auburn. As a sophomore in 2018, Coe had 13.5 tackles for loss, including seven sacks. Was named to the SEC All-freshman team as a defensive lineman. More potential than the bright-eyed ingenue in a musical walking into her first audition.
High School Fun Fact: Along with playing defensive end at Asheboro (NC) High (go Blue Comets!), Coe won three National High School Coaches Association titles as a wrestler.
You Better Watch Your Aztec: Much like Da’Jon Harris, San Diego State’s Kayla Tezino (6-0, 235) looks to make an impression as an undersized linebacker in Foxboro.
Why Undrafted: The whole undersized thing. Like many UDFAs, got snubbed by the combine. The Mountain West Conference gets about as much attention and care as a dog’s breakfast.
Why Invited: Tezino garnered All-American, First-Team All-Mountain West, and team MVP honors (the second year in a row as Aztec MVP). Totaled 99 tackles (10.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions. He also pressured the QB more than James Van Der Beek’s dad in Varsity Blues with 21 hits on the year.
High School Fun Fact: Averaged 9.6 yards per rush at Salesian High in Los Angeles while also leading the team in tackles for three straight years.
Order In The Courtney: I mean, ordering in is a thing these days, so the Patriots got themselves one of the bigger D-lineman of their rookie class in Courtney Wallace Jr. (6-2, 305) from Louisiana Tech.
Why Undrafted: Not a huge run-stopper body type, though that seemed to be his role in college. Had only 41 tackles and two sacks last year.
Why Invited: Made Conference USA’s Second Team as a nose tackle, a position where stops matter about as much as they do in a TV car chase. Totaled 8.5 tackles for loss. You can watch highlights of his strong performance against Southern Miss here.
High School Fun Fact: At Neville High in Louisiana, Wallace lettered in football, basketball, and track and field.
Quarterback A-Hoyer! Not bad, not bad. But…
Life Of Brians: There we go. In 2009, New England signed undrafted rookie quarterback and current Patriot Brian Hoyer out of Michigan State. The Patriots turn to the Spartans again this year with the signing of Brian Lewerke (6-2, 213).
Why Undrafted: Not your prototypical stature for a pro quarterback. A 17-to-13 TD-to-INT ratio won’t exactly open the gates to NFL Valhalla.
Why Invited: Completed a respectable 60 percent of his passes (260 of 436), with a 70 percent or better average in his final three games vs. Rutgers, Maryland, and Wake Forest. Passed for 3,079 yards last season and 8,293 in his career. Tops in MSU school history with 9,548 total yards of offense. Lewerke shows a fine touch on the ball and a firm grasp of the Spartans offense in this definitive 15-minute highlight package from the Big Ten Network.
High School Fun Fact: Lewerke passed for 5,523 yards, 71 TDs, and 17 INTs in his career at Pinnacle High in Phoenix, adding 1,567 yards rushing (6.9 avg).
The Life Of Riley: Wait, that’s too easy. Hold on…
A Catcher In The Riley: Better. At least that’s what the Patriots hoped they’d find when they called receiver Sean Riley (5-8, 178) of Syracuse.
Why Undrafted: I feel like Belichick must’ve watched a slew of the Hobbit movies and thought, you know what, those little dudes get stuff done. (Note: this did not happen.) Caught an unremarkable 36 passes for an un-noteworthy 275 yards and a let’s-call-it-beige 7.6-yard average.
Why Invited: Had a much more noticeable junior season, when he led the team with 64 catches for 756 yards (11.8 avg) and three touchdowns. For his career, he set the Orangemen record for most kickoff returns with 115, edging out Qadry Ismail’s record of 105. Returned punts at 9.3 yards per clip. Played in all 49 games from 2016 to 2019.
High School Fun Fact: As a senior at Narbonne High in California, Riley rushed for 1,518 yards on 164 carries, a 9.3-yard average.
Here I Am: Miami Hurricane Jeff Thomas (5-9, 170) became yet another smallish receiver making the trek to Gillette in a bid to get on the Patriots roster.
Why Undrafted: Again with the diminutiveness. I mean, it’s like Belichick shipwrecked on Lillilput. Thomas had only 31 receptions for 379 yards and three touchdowns in 2019. Got suspended last year under a new coaching staff. Left after his junior year.
Why Invited: Ran a swift 4.45 40 at the combine. Did some positive things in 2018 as a sophomore (35 catches, 563 yards, three TDs), including a 26-yard kick return average (10 for 260) and a 24.6 punt return average (nine for 221, one TD). An exciting highlight reel, including a one-handed snag at about the one-minute mark, can be seen here.
High School Fun Fact: Rated as the number one player in Illinois as a senior at East St. Louis High, Thomas hauled in 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Running Up That Hill: The more the Patriots can pressure the passer, the better, which is why defensive lineman Trevon Hill (6-3, 240) of Miami got the call.
Why Undrafted: Not a ton of 240-pound defensive linemen at this level. Had only 27 tackles last season. Only one year in the program, as he transferred from Virginia Tech after four years there.
Why Invited: Hill had 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks for the Hurricanes in 2019. Belichick seems to like those Diamond City dwellers, as former Miami pass-rusher Trent Harris was signed by the Patriots as a UDFA in 2018 and was kept on the practice squad for the year. In his highlights, Hill shows more explosiveness than Mr. Creosote.
High School Fun Fact: ESPN ranked Hill the number 30 defensive end in the country his senior year at Salem High in Virginia.
Burt and Earnest: Boston College tight end Jake Burt (6-3, 260) gets into the tight end rookie mix at Gillette.
Why Undrafted: Totaled 15 catches for 212 yards and one touchdown last year after notching six receptions for 83 yards and one TD in 2018. Just a tad more production in the past four years than Cannon Films. Not the fleetest of foot.
Why Invited: A big, willing blocker and solid receiver when called upon, Burt could eke out a role as an H-back at the NFL level. A bit of a smartypants, as he played his redshirt senior season while enrolled as a graduate student at the Carroll School of Management.
High School Fun Fact: As a senior at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass. (where my friend Eric went, so this is kind of going full circle for me), Burt made the Boston Herald’s “Dandy Dozen” after catching 28 passes for 255 yards and seven touchdowns.
And with that, I bit you a safe and healthy spring. Let’s all throw our expectations out with our spring social schedules and take whatever we can get this year. Thanks for reading.
Chris Warner always considered the idea that Tom Brady would play elsewhere but, I mean, damnit. You can try to distract him on Twitter at @cwarn89.