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Beyond the Draft: Who's left?

Just like rogue dandelions spotting their lawn, the rookie free agents are methodically being weeded off the Patriots’ roster.  The most recent uprooting, Tyson Devree (TE), also happened to be the latest player profile I had written and ready to go, that is until the Patriots told Devree to go instead.  So who's left in this tenuous group to profile? 

Of the 15 rookie free agents signed by the Patriots after the draft, eight have been cut: Josh Coffman, Carlos Feliciano, Henry Smith, Casey Tyler, Mike Dragosavich, Steve Fajita, Kenny Catthouse, and Tyson Devree.  Three of the remaining 7 players, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB), Gary Guyton (LB) and Vince Redd (LB), were considered draft prospects by Sports Illustrated and ESPN who's experts have taken the time to sum up their college careers, carefully analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and give some insight into how they might best be used as rookies.

Not as much information is available on the remaining four, so I'll do my best to present some career highlights and a small window into where they might fit in this year's roster.

(TE) Jonathan Stupar
6'3", 254lbs, Virginia

Career Highlights :

§    Totaled 40 catches for 444 yards during his career
§    Had 15 catches for 112 yards in 2006. 
§    Pulled down a career high seven passes in last year’s win vs. Miami
§    Played in 25 games and started 17 times.

Jonathan Stupar has quite a challenge to earn a roster spot at tight end this year even with the hole left by the release of Kyle Brady. 

Benjamin Watson, in his 5th year with the Patriots and recovering from off-season ankle surgery, is projected to be the undisputed starter. Patriots Football Weekly's depth chart puts 14-year veteran Marcus Pollard (signed by the Colts in 1995 as an UDFA) in the number two spot, followed by Dave Thomas who is back practicing after recovering from a broken foot.  Since Devree has been cut, that leaves three-year veteran and former Eagle Stephen Spach just ahead of rookie Stupar, provided of course that injuries and/or performance don't dictate a re-shuffling of the order.

(C) Ryan Wendell 6'2", 275lbs, Fresno State

Career Notes:

Wendell was a standout during his career with the ‘Dogs. He was a 2007 First Team All-WAC selection and started at multiple positions on the offensive line.

In his first year with the program, Wendell was selected to the First Team Freshman All-American team and was awarded Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Freshman of the Year honors.

Starred on the offensive line each of the last three seasons, earned national honors for his outstanding play in 2004, and has emerged as a team leader.

Now Wendell will join three other former Bulldogs in New England. Offensive guard Logan Mankins, safety James Sanders and tight end Stephen Spach are all currently playing for the team.  The Patriots organization has a history of signing former Bulldogs. Pat Hill and Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick worked together for the Cleveland Browns before Hill came to Fresno.

Who is he competing with?  Currently the Patriots rely on Dan Koppen as their rock at Center, followed by Russ Hochstein who filled in for an injured Koppen in 2005, starting in 7 regular season games plus 2 playoff games at center. Further into the depth chart is recently re-signed, Gene Mruczkowski (G/C), who was originally signed by the Patriots in 2003 as a RFA, and spent 3 years either on IR, or being released and re-signed by the Pats.  In 2007 Mruczkoski played 15 games with the Miami Dolphins.

(S) Mark Dillard 5'11", 210 lbs, Louisiana Tech

Mark Dillard, ranked No. 53 among safeties  by Raceland-based talent scout Mike Detillier, appears to be Louisiana Tech’s best NFL Draft Day bet.

A three-year starter, Dillard began this career in Ruston as a running back before switching to the secondary, where he made 87 tackles [and 2 interceptions] as a senior.

"Dillard improved his game last season in only his second year in the defensive backfield," said analyst Tony Pauline of SportsLoop Consulting, whose work appears in Sports Illustrated. "He has shown enough to be given consideration in camp as a conventional strong safety."

Patriots Football Weekly  lists Dillard as third on the depth chart for free safeties behind 4-year veteran James Sanders and 2-year veteran Brandon Meriweather.

(DE) Chris Norwell 6'6", 303 lbs, Illinois

Career Highs:

Tackles: 8, twice(last time vs. Northwestern, 11/18/06)
Solos: 6, twice(last time vs. Northwestern, 9/18/06)
TFL: 4.5 vs. Northwestern 9/18/06
QB Sacks: 1.5 two times (last time at Michigan State, 9/30/06)
QBH: 2 vs. Penn State, 10/21/06
PBU: 1, three times (last time vs. Wisconsin, 10/29/05)
Blocked Kick: 1 (FG) vs. California, 10/17/05
FF: 1, two times (last time at Wisconsin, 10/28/06)

Patriots Football Weekly  puts Norwell 4th in the depth chart at left defensive end.  First round draft pick and 6-year veteran Ty Warren holds the starting spot, with 3-year veteran Le Kevin Smith at  number 2.  Rookie Norwell falls behind 2-year veteran Santonio Thomas who was signed by the Pats as an RFA in 2005.