The Next Great Undrafted Patriot

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The NFL Draft has come and gone; and in what has become an annual tradition, Patriot fans are outraged over some of the organization's picks. It's fine to question the selections.  Bill Belichick and company have certainly had their whiffs over the years.  However, one area where they have been consistently great, is finding those undrafted diamonds in the rough.  Which leads to the question, who is the next one?

Photo courtesy of patriotswire.com
The Patriots made a slew of moves at the conclusion of the draft, with over 15 undrafted free agent signings to date.  If history is any indication, not only will a few make the team, they will likely become key contributors.

Looking back, the name at the top of everybody's list is Malcolm Butler, right?  Undrafted out of West Alabama in 2014, he fought his way onto the roster and made one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.  He became a full time starter and New England's top corner for the next three seasons before joining the Titans.

Yet Butler is just the most notable name on a long list of players, both past and present, who have made significant contributions despite going undrafted.  A list that includes former players like Stephen Neal, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Randall Gay; and current players like David Andrews, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones and Adam Butler.  I could go on but, I think you get the point.

I mean, look at those last four; Andrews, Jackson, Jones and Butler are all key contributors to the current team.  Jackson and Jones are among the top players at their position in the league.  So, for all of the criticism Belichick gets for his draft selections, there's no debating his knack for finding talent outside of the draft.

With all of the signings they made this year, there's bound to be one or two guys who will wind up making an impact; but who?  How about a guy like Myles Bryant, a defensive back out of Washington?  It's the most talented position on the Patriots roster, but Bryant feels like the type of guy that has succeeded here in the past.  Plus, the Pats have had success finding undrafted talent at this position.

Stop me if you've heard this before.  Bryant is undersized, listed at 5'9".  He was a walk-on at Washington.  Some of the strengths on his scouting report include, "plays with a chip on his shoulder" and "plays bigger than listed".  Traits like that will get you noticed by Bill Belichick.

Bill Murray - W&M
In addition to defensive backs, the Pats have found success with undrafted defensive linemen.  In addition to Adam Butler, guys like Mike Wright, Kyle Love and Joe Vellano have all found homes in New England for periods of time.  So, Bill Murray out of William & Mary is another guy to keep an eye on.

On top of sporting an incredible mustache, Murray had a heck of a career at William & Mary.  He had 19 sacks and blocked a remarkable 10 kicks.  He actually lead all of college football with four blocked kicks last year.

Maybe the next great undrafted Patriot is from last year's class of signings.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Jakobi Meyers take a leap this year.  Meyers impressed during preseason last year, but other than a couple of solid games, failed to develop a connection with Tom Brady during the regular season.  Don't let that cloud your opinion of him.

He'll be able to play a little more loose this year.  I'm sure it was a great experience being in the same locker room as Brady, and learning from him, but it also comes with a lot of pressure.  His patience with young receivers is well-documented.  If guys can't be relied on consistently, he freezes them out.  This is not an indictment on Brady.  At this stage of his career, I don't blame him for not having that kind of patience.

This year, if Meyers makes a mistake, he won't have to walk on eggshells on the sideline, hoping Brady doesn't pull him aside.  He'll likely be playing with Jarrett Stidham, who will certainly make his fair share of mistakes.  The two of them had a pretty good connection in the preseason.  I'm not saying Meyers will be a 1,000 yard receiver, but he could be a meaningful contributor to this offense.

These are just some of the guys to keep an eye on throughout training camp and the preseason.  With New England's success at finding undrafted talent, the question isn't if somebody makes an impact; it's who will that somebody be?


Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Next Great Undrafted Patriot
The Next Great Undrafted Patriot
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