The New England Patriots have leaned heavily on their rookies this season. Here’s how they’ve performed over the first half of the season.
2nd round, 60th overall: CB Cyrus Jones
Jones started off the season pretty well as he battled Justin Coleman for the #3 cornerback spot. He appeared to have earned after Coleman was not a part of the game plan against the Texans in week 3 and was a healthy scratch against the Browns in week 5.
But Jones fumbled twice on returns against the Texans, made a few bad returns and fumbled again versus the Bills, and then Jones was ejected for punching a Browns player. He hasn’t been active since.
Jones is working his way out of the dog house and was named a practice player of the week after the week 8 victory over the Bills.
3rd round, 78th overall: OG Joe Thuney
Thuney slid in as the team’s starting left guard during the offseason due to injuries for Josh Kline, Tre Jackson, and Shaq Mason. Thuney never gave up the starting job and is the only member of the Patriots to play 100% of the snaps this season.
Thuney is a solid run blocker and pass defender, although he clearly needs to improve his core strength. The Patriots feel comfortable running behind Thuney at crucial times and he’s flashed an ability to make blocks at the second level. Once he improves his ability to stop bull rushes, he’ll be a pretty complete lineman.
3rd round, 91st overall: QB Jacoby Brissett
Brissett has played 2.5 games for the Patriots this season, including one full game with a hand that required surgery. Brissett is currently on the injured reserve and is the top candidate to return to the active roster. The coaching staff adores him and let Brissett travel to Buffalo, even though injured players rarely travel with the team.
Brissett has great mobility and he made enough plays to win against the Texans in week 3. He was great on first and second down, but had a passer rating of just 62.3 on third down. Brissett was just 2 for 12 on passes 15+ yards down the field. He has a long way to go.
3rd round, 96th overall: DT Vincent Valentine
Valentine beat out veterans DT Terrance Knighton and DT Markus Kuhn for the 3rd defensive tackle role and he’s been pretty good when available. Valentine missed three weeks with a back injury, but returned in week 8 and should be ready to contribute down the stretch.
Valentine is probably the weakest run defender of the four defensive tackles on the roster, but he’s possibly been the most effective interior rusher against the pass. He’s still growing as a player and has 10 tackles and a sack on the season.
4th round, 112nd overall: WR Malcolm Mitchell
Mitchell was a scratch for the first time all season against the Bills, although that was probably due to match-up reasons. Mitchell has played 32% of the offensive snaps and edges Danny Amendola (30%) for the #3 wide receiver role. Mitchell is the team’s blocking wide receiver, while Amendola comes on the field on third downs and in the red zone.
Mitchell has 6 receptions for 82 yards this year with a few crucial 3rd down conversions. He’s been less active since the return of QB Tom Brady, averaging 25 yards per game over the first three weeks, but only 7 total since Brady took the field.
6th round, 208th overall: LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
KGH is no longer with the Patriots. He has 1 tackle in 6 games with the Eagles.
6th round, 214th overall: LB Elandon Roberts
Roberts is going to slot next to Dont’a Hightower as the team’s starting linebacker in base. Roberts played so well in his limited time that he made Jamie Collins expendable. Opposing teams average just 3.13 yards per carry when Roberts is on the field and he has made multiple marquee stops.
Roberts is still developing in coverage, but will likely pair up with Barkevious Mingo or Kyle Van Noy to replace Collins’ time on the field.
6th round, 221st overall: OG Ted Karras
Karras rotated at right guard during the first two weeks of the season as Shaq Mason recovered from a broken hand. Karras was fine, considering he went against one of the best defenses in the league with the Cardinals and one of the best defensive tackles in Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh.
Karras is serving as the top interior back-up and works at both center and guard. He’s still a work in progress.
7th round, 225th overall: WR Devin Lucien
Lucien has spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad after a quiet preseason. He was named practice player of the week for the first time all season for his work on the scout team in preparation for week 8 against the Bills. He remains a work in progress.
UDFA: CB Jonathan Jones
Jones beat out better defensive cornerbacks in Cre’Von LeBlanc and Darryl Roberts because of his ability to contribute on special teams and he hasn’t let Bill Belichick down. Jones ranks third on the team in special teams snaps, behind S Nate Ebner and LB Barkevious Mingo, and pitched in 32 snaps on defense after Cyrus Jones was ejected against the Browns.
Jones will continue to be a core special teams player for the rest of the year.
UDFA: RB D.J. Foster
After catching the imaginations of the coaching staff and fans alike, Foster has played just 16 snaps on offense and 10 snaps on defense all year. He has been active in just three games as he’s backed up James White as the receiving back. Foster has 26 yards from scrimmage on 8 touches.
Foster is receiving a red shirt season since the Patriots don’t think he can make it through waivers- although the return of Dion Lewis from the Physically Unable to Perform list might make it difficult to retain Foster moving forward.
UDFA: DT Woodrow Hamilton
Hamilton was named practice player of the week in week 2, probably for acting like DT Ndamukong Suh in practice. He was promoted to the active roster before week 5 against the Browns, played his heart out for 42 snaps over two weeks, suffered a shoulder injury against the Bengals, and has been inactive for the past two weeks.
I’m openly excited for Hamilton’s return. Opposing teams average 2.11 fewer yards on running plays when Hamilton, when compared to the league average and accounting for down, distance, and location on the field. That’s beastly.
You know who is better than Hamilton? No one. That 2.11 yards below average against the run is the best of any defensive tackle with more than 10 snaps. The 2nd and 3rd best are the Panthers defensive tackle duo of Star Lotulelei (1.45 yards below average) and Kawann Short (1.12 yards below average). Patriots DT Malcom Brown ranks 11th (0.88 yards below average).