On Tuesday, the Patriots officially announced the signings of 15 undrafted rookie free agents. New England always seems to find players after the conclusion of the draft that make their roster and this season should be no exception. With significant turnover at a number of positions, there will be plenty of opportunities for these newest signings to find their way onto the team.
Overall, the signees could potentially fill some interesting roster holes the Patriots have. With jobs to be won at punt returner, kickoff returner and needed depth in the defensive front seven, along with a potential third quarterback, more than a couple of these players could find themselves significant contributors not only on the recently-expanded 12-man practice squad, but the 53-man roster as well.
Let's dive in!
QB Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (6'2", 213 lbs)
Lewerke was a three-year starter and showed great promise as a pro style quarterback in his sophomore year, elected captain as a junior but suffered a shoulder injury that derailed his progress. He checks the Patriots leadership and size profiles and fits into what their system has been, but will need to get back on track and perhaps a fresh start in a professional program is just what he needs. One of the Spartan's most accomplished quarterbacks, he'll have an instant connection with veteran Brian Hoyer, an undrafted quarterback from the same school who made the team in 2009.
QB J'Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech (6', 228 lbs)
Smith is an undersized but mobile quarterback who won the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year award this past season after completing 64.3 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions. The team was 10-1 in his final season with Smith as the starter. He will compete with Lewerke for the chance to be the team's third quarterback, likely from a practice squad spot.
WR Will Hastings, Auburn (5'10", 175 lbs)
Jarrett Stidham's former slot receiver will reportedly join the Patriots, he caught 26 passes from Stidham for 525 yards and four touchdowns back in 2017. He missed 2018 after tearing his ACL then re-tearing it as he attempted to return post-surgery. He had just 19 catches in his final season as the team's fourth-leading receiver. Hastings started out as Auburn as a walk-on onside kick specialist before carving out a role as a receiver.
WR Sean Riley, Syracuse (5'8", 178 lbs)
Like Hastings, Riley is also an undersized slot receiver. He set school records for kickoff returns (115) and kickoff return yards (2,433) with an average of 21.3 yards-per-return. That's a spot where he could find a way to make the Patriots roster, where veteran Brandon Bolden handled the duties last season. Riley finished his career with 119 catches and four touchdowns, he also returned 50 punts for an 11.3 yards-per-return average.
WR Isaiah Zuber, Mississippi State (5'11", 184 lbs)
Zuber has a similar skillset to Hastings and Riley, a slot receiver with return experience. A productive three-year player at Kansas State, Zuber finished in the top-10 in school history in receptions and receiving touchdowns. He transferred and spent his final season at Mississippi State, where he caught just 14 passes.
WR Jeff Thomas, Miami (5'9", 170 lbs)
An explosive receiver with kickoff return ability, Thomas relies more on his gifts than route savvy. He finished his career at Miami with 83 catches and eight touchdowns, along with a 22.6 yards-per-return average on kickoffs. He faced multiple suspensions with the Hurricanes but is unquestionably talented and has the kind of game-changing speed that the Patriots could certainly use. His kickoff ability could give him a special teams route to make the team.
TE Jake Burt, Boston College (6'3", 260 lbs)
Burt set his best marks as a red shirt graduate in 2019 with 15 catches for the Eagles, but his final season was cut short by a broken collarbone. The local Massachusetts native attended St. John's Prep where he earned ESPN Boston All-State honors. A regular starter and reliable blocker, Burt also chipped in a 55-yard touchdown in his final seasons at the Heights.
RB J.J. Taylor, Arizona (5'5", 185 lbs) (via University of Arizona)
Sure to be a fan favorite this summer, Taylor is just over 5'5", but runs with attitude, utilizing every bit of the 185 pounds packed onto his frame. He piled up 3,263 rushing yards in his four-year career with 18 touchdowns, while also chipping in 62 career receptions. Taylor also has return experience and was a third-team All-American in 2018.
DT Bill Murray, William & Mary (6'4", 280 lbs)
Murray blocked 10 kicks over the course of his career, including four in his final season, showing he could have an inside track on a job after the Patriots did not draft any defensive tackles. Murray earned an "elite" run-stopper grade of 91.1 from Pro Football Focus in five games against FCS competition.
DT Courtney Wallace Jr, Louisiana Tech (6'2", 305 lbs)
Wallace had 54 career tackles and 3.5 sacks in 20 games for Louisiana Tech, a teammate of quarterback Smith. He played in 13 games as a senior, tallying 41 total tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and one pass defensed. With limited interior defensive tackle depth, Wallace will get plenty of reps whenever the team is able to get on the field.
DE Nick Coe, Auburn (6'4", 280 lbs) (via Matt Zenitz)
Coe was a starting end for Auburn in 2018 and has the size and length necessary to play in the NFL but will be a project. He had an outstanding seven sacks and 13.5 tackles-for-loss in 2018 but fell off this past season with a position change, falling to pick up a sack. He won national titles as a wrestler in high school, often an intriguing piece for the Patriots. An experienced two-gapper, Coe has a lot of the skills the Patriots require along their defensive line.
OLB Rashod Berry, Ohio State (6'3", 263 lbs)
Berry caught 17 passes in 17 games for Ohio State as a tight end but also had experience as a defensive lineman for the Buckeyes where he won three Big Ten championships. With positional fluidity, it appears Berry will be a canditate to make the team on both sides of the ball, though he's listing himself as an outside linebacker on his Twitter profile and the team announced him as a tight end.
LB Kyahva Tezino, San Diego State (6', 235 lbs)
Tezino won team MVP the last two seasons and is an undersized inside linebacker with plus leadership traits. He won the team's most inspirational player award this past season as well. An experienced college player, he played in 48 games with 31 starts overall and finished with 290 tackles, 15½ sacks, two interceptions, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
LB De'Jon Harris, Arkansas (5'11", 234 lbs)
Harris, nicknamed "Scoota", is another thumping inside linebacker with plus character traits but athletic limitations like Tezino. He had 371 career tackles, including breaking the 100-tackle mark in each of his final three seasons. Per NESN, the Patriots gave Harris a significant deal to join the team, perhaps illustrating how high his chances are to make the team as an Elandon Roberts-type, early-down linebacker replacement.
CB Myles Bryant, Washington (5'7", 183 lbs)
An undersized slot cornerback, Bryant had three interceptions in his final season, making All-Pac 12 as both a junior and senior. He moved to safety as a senior, showing some versatility but his size will limit him as a pro. But he's smart and plays with a chip on his shoulder according to NFL.com's scouting report.