Training camp is the first chance for fans to get an up-close look at New England’s biggest stars heading into another hopeful season in Foxborough.
Next Thursday morning the likes of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will be welcomed to the Gillette Stadium practice fields with massive cheers from thousands of Patriots fans.
But not all 90 players on the training camp practice field will garner such attention. Many will work hours upon hours in the heat with little recognition, at least initially.
Eventually, though, some of those faceless footballers will earn roster spots and roles with the defending AFC Champions. They will join Malcolm Butler, Randall Gay, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Mike Wright in a long line of undrafted players and practice squanders to eventually earn key roles in New England.
There are plenty of options to choose from, but which undrafted rookie or practice squader has the best chance to be a camp sleeper and open some eyes - of fans and media alike - this summer?
Paul Perillo says...
The 5-11, 200-pound rookie free agent out of Vanderbilt showed impressive feet and agility this spring. He lands in New England after a very productive four-year career in the SEC - which plenty of coaches and personnel men have raved about this year as the top conference in college football - tallying nearly 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns, including two 1,000-yard seasons. Webb will compete for a role in New England’s crowded committee backfield, but shows all the tools to be a productive preseason game presence. Unknown running backs can really make a name for themselves in August action. Webb will do just that.
Andy Hart says...
Given the high-end reps Jackson got this spring in OTA and mini-camp practice, the undrafted rookie appears to not only have a chance to win a roster spot but maybe a key job on defense. The Maryland product looked smooth and competitive in coverage in shorts, which is one of the few things from spring practice that might translate well to full-pads action this summer. There are openings for cornerback roles in New England and Jackson looks very much in the mix at a very early point in his career.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.