Patriots continue to dive into SEC undrafted pool
It's not really a matter of "if" anymore. It's "who?"
Every year around this time the Patriots bring in a herd of undrafted rookies to help fill out their 90-man roster, and just about every year someone sticks when the group gets cut down to 53.
Last year there was a haul of first-year players who weren't drafted but stuck on the team all season. The headliners were defensive tackle Adam Butler, tight end Jacob Hollister, offensive lineman Cole Croston and linebacker Harvey Langi. Cody Hollister, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Andrew Jelks and Keionta Davis weren't drafted, but all have hung around thanks to spots on the practice squad or reserve lists.
Patriots on the current roster who arrived as undrafted free agents include Jonathan Jones (2016), David Andrews (2015), Brandon King (2015), Ryan Allen (2013), Brandon Bolden (2012) and Brian Hoyer (2009). Players such as Ryan Lewis (2017), Jomal Wiltz (2017), Riley McCarron (2017), Eric Lee (2016), Nicholas Grigsby (2016), Will Tye (2015), James Ferentz (2014), Matt Tobin (2013), LaAdrian Waddle (2013), Chris Hogan (2011) and James Develin (2010) all began their careers in the NFL as undrafted rookies in different cities and eventually made their way to New England.
In all, of the 73 non-rookies on the Patriots roster, 26 (or 36 percent) weren't drafted. Odds are someone will stick from this year's class of undrafted rookies. Who will be this year's Malcolm Butler (undrafted in 2014), Ryan Wendell (2008), or Stephen Neal (2001)?
Here's a little on each member the nine-man rookie free agent class in New England, which the Patriots announced Friday:
MEET RALPH WEBB, RB, VANDERBILT
Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt: The Patriots show continued interest in players from the Harvard of the South. Webb scored 35 times in his career. The 5-10, 202-pounder received $70,000 guaranteed, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
MEET JOHN ATKINS, DT, GEORGIA
John Atkins, DT, Georgia: Atkins was included in our Prototypical Patriots series for interior defensive linemen because of his SEC experience and his rare size (6-3, 321 pounds). He'll team up with a couple of fellow Bulldogs in first-round picks Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel.
MEET TRENT HARRIS, DE, MIAMI
Trent Harris, DE, Miami: Bill Belichick spent some time down at "the U" for its pro day and has now come away with two of its players. Like sixth-round Patriots receiver Braxton Berrios, Harris (6-2, 246 pounds) was also an All-ACC Third-Teamer last season after picking up 8.5 sacks in his senior season.
MEET CHRIS LACY, WR, OKLAHOMA STATE
Chris Lacy, WR, Oklahoma State: The 6-3, 205-pounder was only a small part of a ridiculously productive passing game with the Cowboys -- 20 catches, 264 yards -- but he's thought to be a tremendous locker room presence. He was a three-time first-team Academic All-Big 12 choice, and he won his team's Vernon Grant Award for "outstanding leadership, spirit and enthusiasm."
MEET SHANE WIMANN, TE, NORTHERN ILLINOIS
Shane Wimann, TE, Northern Illinois: A first-team MAC honoree last season, Wimann broke a school record with seven touchdown catches last season. Wimann is the seventh tight end on the roster, and at 6-3, 251 pounds he could be an option at fullback.
MEET AJ MOORE, CB, OLE MISS
AJ Moore, CB, Ole Miss: Moore's pro day back in March may have allowed him to stand out in the eyes of Patriots evaluators. He posted a 4.40 40-yard dash, a 122-inch broad jump and a 34-inch vertical at 5-11, 200.
MEET JC JACKSON, CB, MARYLAND
JC Jackson, CB, Maryland: Jackson (5-10, 201) was dismissed from the University of Florida in 2015 after being charged in connection to an armed robbery at a home, though he was eventually found not guilty of those charges. After one season at community college, he made his way to Maryland in 2016 and was voted an all-conference honorable mention choice by Big Ten coaches last year.
MEET FRANK HERRON, DT, LSU
Frank Herron, DT, LSU: Add another SEC product to the list of incoming rookies. Herron (6-3, 303 pounds) played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, scooping up a fumble for a 22-yard score. He also forced another fumble and recovered a third in that pre-draft all-star game. Herron missed LSU's first six games of last season for undisclosed reasons.
MEET DARREN ANDREWS, WR, UCLA
Andrews gives the Patriots another rookie option in the slot. At 5-10, 195, he could be a middle-of-the-field type of option along with sixth-round receiver Braxton Berrios out of Miami. Andrews, who has experience returning kicks, caught 60 passes last year for 773 yards and 10 touchdowns. He suffered a torn ACL toward the end of the season, but the Patriots clearly felt strongly enough about him to give him a shot.