A quick look at the Undrafted Free Agents the Pats have signed in the last few days, a few notes on each, and a thought about their respective futures with the club.
RB Pat Paschall, North Dakota State University
AT 6'0" and only 198lbs, he's a smaller back, so I doubt he'll be filling a Sammy Morris role any time soon (let alone a LeGarrette Blount or Le'Ron McClain job). He does, however, have near-elite acceleration:
The shifty Paschall completed the drill in 4.15 seconds, an improvement from the 4.33 he had at the combine. His new time would have placed him fourth among all rushers in Indianapolis.
His overall statistics from College show he's decent as a runner and reasonable as a receiver:
RUSHING G Att Yds TD Lg Avg/C Avg/G
2007 9 84 530 5 38 6.3 58.9
2008 10 108 601 2 42 5.6 60.1
Career 19 192 1131 7 42 5.9 59.5
RECEIVING G Rec Yds TD Lg Rec/G Avg/C Avg/G
2007 9 1 16 1 16 0.1 16.0 1.8
2008 10 9 51 0 25 0.9 5.7 5.1
Career 19 10 67 1 25 0.5 6.7 3.5
SCORING G TD Rush Pass Retn PAT 2PAT FG Total Avg/G
2007 9 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 36 4.0
2008 10 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 12 1.2
Career 19 8 7 1 0 0 0 0 48 2.5
ALL PURPOSE G Rush Rec PR KR IR Total Avg/G
2007 9 530 16 0 0 0 546 60.7
2008 10 601 51 0 0 0 652 65.2
Career 19 1131 67 0 0 0 1198 63.1
Without knowing anything about the guy or having seen him in action, I could imagine him sticking around as a practice squad guy solely because he's an UFA RB.
Belichick often likes to have UFA practice squad bodies at RB - BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Chris Taylor being the obvious example of the previous seasons - and Hoody has often carried them at least as far as roster cutbacks.
Whether he sticks around beyond those roster cutbacks could depend entirely on his other skills, however - blocking, tackling, reading the open field on kick and punt return units and the like. To stick around beyond the preseason, he'll have to show some skills as a special teamer, but if he does, he could make camp and perhaps stick around in the practice squad during the season, Hoodie could be very interested in having a RB on the practice squad due to the age of the RB corps at the moment.
DE/OLB Dane Fletcher, Montana State
Fletcher's an interesting beast; 6'2" and 250lbs (getting towards ideal Hoodie OLB size) who was a small-school standout who dipped down the draft boards because of the relatively lowly nature of his college competition. However, he has interesting physicals:
At Montana State's pro day, he ran a 4.61 and 4.63 in the 40-yard dash, had a 36-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot, 3-inch broad jump, a 4.35-second short shuttle, a 6.93-second three-cone drill and did 29 bench press repetitions at 225 pounds
That's pretty quick for a big man, especially coupled to very good upper body strength and fairly impressive acceleration.
It's more than likely that if he's to stick around the Patriots roster he'll have to make his mark early in special teams; coincidentally (yeah, right!), Fletcher is:
An outstanding special teams player … registered 14 tackles, primarily on special teams, and broke up a pass against Furman.
Hoodie taking a gifted, big, fast LB with special teams skills? Perish the thought.
At the very least he'd make an interesting special teams prospect - big and quick, much in the same way Gary Guyton was a big and quick UFA, and seemingly with a knack for big plays on special teams.
In fact, Guyton might be the biggest threat to Fletcher's continued presence in New England - between Jerod Mayo, Tyrone McKenzie and Brandon Spikes, Guyton's reps in the middle of the LB corps are likely to be cut, so he'd probably expect to see more time in Special Teams. Two doesn't go into one, so Fletcher will have to impress to stick around. His physical ability, however, might well make him a practice squad candidate later on. He might even beat out Eric Alexander or Pierre Woods for a special team role (and roster spot).
S Sergio Brown, Notre Dame
He's 6'2" and 210lbs, and spent two of his college years with the Irish as a special teamer. In his Junior year (2008) he cracked the defensive lineup, and:
Played in all 13 games for the Irish and started six times (San Diego State, Michigan, Purdue, Washington, Boston College and Hawai'i
He's a bit of an enigma; his Notre Dame blurb says that he is an:
Exciting defensive back that burst on to the defensive scene in 2008 after primarily participating on special teams his first two years ... can play near the line of scrimmage and blitz effectively or drop back into pass coverage ... participated in 33 contests at Notre Dame and as a junior registered six starts ... recorded 39 career tackles, including two stops for losses ... added one sack, a fumble recovery and six pass breakups in his career.
However, he seems to have no stats or blurb attached for his 2009 campaign, which is a little baffling.
Thoughts: Another UFA, another guy with lots of special teams experience. He also played at Notre Dame during the Charlie Weiss years; while Weiss is currently an offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, it's not unthinkable that he told his old boss Bill Belichick about his Notre Dame special teams units, either recently or mentioned it in the past.
Brown is probably competing with the other defensive back special teamers on the Pats roster: Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Bret Lockett, Kyle Arrington, Ross Ventrone and maybe even Terrence Wheatley. It's an uphill battle; the Pats invested draft picks in Slater, Wheatley and McCourty and have had solid performances out of Slater and Arrington; Bret Lockett was on the IR last season and might be the odd man out (he's also not technically on the roster, still being an Exclusive Rights Free Agent).
S Ross Ventrone, Villanova
The younger brother of ex-Patriots special teams ace Ray Ventrone, Ross Ventrone is a smaller footballer than expected of a Safety, at 5'8" and 198lbs, but he runs the 40 at a fairly healthy clip of 4.50 seconds. Given his stature, his brother's history at the Pats, and his decent straight-line speed, I'd expect Ross Ventrone to be much like Ray and be a possible special teams stalwart.
He might face an uphill battle to make it onto the team; the Pats have special teams ace CB Devin McCourty, as well as Safety/WR Matthew Slater, S Brett Lockett and CB Kyle Arrington, all of whom are probably competing for the same kind of roles Ventrone would be filling.
In the immediate future, Ventrone will have to outright beat Sergio Brown to even have a shot at challenging the incumbents, and Brown's a fair bit bigger than Ventrone. While Belichick appreciates proven bloodlines, that gratitude to Ray Ventrone didn't go far enough to keeping the guy on the active roster; I doubt it would go to giving Ross Ventrone one, either.
WR Bryan Anderson, Central Michigan
Anderson is an intriguing prospect; he's a particularly big target (6'5", 214lbs) who seems to have slipped despite being a fairly productive receiver, because he was from a smaller school. His stats are decent:
Rushing Season TEAM G ATT YDS TDS 2006-07 Central Michigan 14 9 14 0 TOTAL 54 9 14 0
Receiving Season TEAM G RECPT YDS TDS 2006-07 Central Michigan 14 73 867 5 2007-08 Central Michigan 14 90 1132 10 2008-09 Central Michigan 12 63 865 6 2009-10 Central Michigan 14 64 784 7 TOTAL 54 290 3648 28
Fumbles Season TEAM G FUMB FUMBLOST 2006-07 Central Michigan 14 1 0 2007-08 Central Michigan 14 2 1 TOTAL 54 3 1
Belichick also likes having WRs on his practice squad; I'd imagine Taylor Price would be pushing for an active roster slot, so Bryan Anderson has the inside track into being included on the practice squad. I don't, however, see it as particularly likely that Anderson will make it onto the active roster himself; he'll be buried down the depth chart below Torry Holt and Price and Sam Aiken and Matthew Slater, so he'll probably be a camp body and then signed onto the practice squad. It'll also give Belichick a fair chance to evaluate his skills; at 6'5" he's got enviable physical size that gives him a point of difference against all the WRs on the roster not named Randy Moss.
DL Kyle Love, Mississippi St.
Seems to be more of a 4-3 Defensive Tackle build, at 6'1" and 310lbs. However, going over his season summaries, a few things jumped out. He has few tackles, but a couple of big plays. In particular:
Made 17 tackles on the year, including three and one-half for loss (minus 10 yards) . . . Credited with one fumble recovery and a blocked kick ... blocked a UAB field goal try just into the second quarter with UAB already holding a 3-0 lead at the time . . . His block was returned 22 yards by Marcus Washington to the UAB 45, a turn of events that set MSU up for a tying field goal . . . It was the first blocked field goal by a Bulldog since Antonio Johnson blocked an Arkansas three-point attempt in 2006
Only 17 tackles on the season yet he's being looked at by the Pats? I suspect it's that blocked kick that earned him a look; Hoodie already filled out the Defensive Tackle ranks with half of the NFL's DT free agents. Love's being looked at as a kick-blocker, and he'll have to excell at that role to get a look-in given the crowded house at DT.
Lineman John Wise, Illinois
John Wise is a project in the Steve Neal mode - every so often, Belichick invites a college wrestler to participate in minicamp in order to gauge how likely it is they could convert to the O- or D-line. He initially thought Neal would make a D-lineman, but instead turned him into a Guard, so any position in the line is a possibility.
Wise played two years as a defensive tackle at Western Illinois before transferring to the Big Ten school where he wrestled
He's not a complete newbie when it comes to football, but he's been out for a while.
Thoughts: Unlikely but possible. Hoodie had one success with Neal; he's also regularly taken a wrestler to test out and gone on to discard them - in 2009, he tried out Jermail Porter, who had a similar story to Wise.
Like Jermail Porter, I don't rate Wise's chances, but I do appreciate the attempt, and I acknowledge that Hoodie is trying all sources for good, cheap linemen. Good luck to him, but I wouldn't hold my breath expecting him to earn a roster spot.