Each day, following Patriots training camp practice, we'll highlight one intriguing "long shot" to make the roster. What might that player bring to the table for Bill Belichick's club? Who's he competing with for a spot? And what does he have to do to make the club?
FOXBORO -- Am I really allowed to call a player a "long shot" if I included him on my initial 53-man roster projection?
Sure. We know there were draft rooms where Ja'Whuan Bentley's odds of getting selected were worse than long. He was off at least one board of a linebacker-needy club because -- listed at 260 pounds by Purdue -- he wasn't considered athletic enough for that team's scheme.
We also know the Patriots have been a little reluctant to draft in the fifth round, where Bentley was taken, so the recent history of fifth-rounders making the Patriots isn't all that extensive. Joe Cardona (2015) was the team's first fifth-round pick since 2011, when Marcus Cannon was selected.
Still, eight of the 14 players Bill Belichick has taken in the fifth round since joining the Patriots have played in more than 10 games. That's a solid hit rate for that round. Maybe Bentley will be No. 9.
He was one of the team's top defenders in the preseason opener last week, finishing with six tackles -- including two for a loss. On Sunday, the team's first practice since the preseason opener, Bentley saw some time in a base defense with regulars Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.
A three-time captain at Purdue, Bentley also flashed some leadership instincts against Washington, relaying signals from the sidelines and helping teammates get aligned pre-snap.
Bentley is a self-described "thumper" and not necessarily known for his athleticism coming out of college. If that means he may not get much of a crack in the kicking game, then he'll have to show up with his physicality and football IQ.
Bentley joined Hightower, Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, Nicholas Grigsby and Brandon King as the linebackers in our first roster projection, but he could end up competing for one spot with Roberts, another hard-hitter in the middle of the Patriots defense.