The New England Patriots have put the finishing touches on the opening practice squad for the 2016 season. This group will change on a weekly basis, according to injuries on the active rosters and potential match-ups on the horizon, but the Patriots have to feel pretty good about the initial practice squad.
OG Chris Barker
Barker is a 26-year-old that went undrafted out of Nevada in 2013. He has spent the past three seasons on the Patriots practice squad and will likely be the first lineman promoted in case of injury.
OT Clay DeBord
DeBord joined the Patriots after spending the offseason with the Cardinals. It’s possible that he’s more than just a wealth of information about the Patriots’ week 1 opponent, since the 6’6, 305 pound tackle is super athletic and was a 50-game starter in college.
ED Geneo Grissom
Grissom is one of the the four exempted players allowed on the practice squad since he accrued a season of play during his rookie season in 2015. He is the third player drafted by Bill Belichick in the 3rd round not to receive a second season with the team, after QB Kevin O’Connell and LB Tyrone McKenzie.
DT Woodrow Hamilton
Hamilton was a three-year starter at nose tackle for Ole Miss and was regarded as the 8th best run stuffer in the SEC, per Pro Football Focus. The 6’3, 315 pound Hamilton reminds me a bit of former Patriots defensive tackle Kyle Love and would benefit from a similar red shirt season to start his career.
DB Mike Hilton
Hilton played alongside Hamilton at Ole Miss and had his own success as Pro Football Focus’ best coverage safety in the 2016 draft, with 10 passes defended. Unfortunately, Hilton is 5’8 3/4 and 180 pounds, which is far too small to be an every down player in the NFL. Like Hamilton, a season in an NFL weight room might bulk Hilton up to an NFL size.
ED Rufus Johnson
Johnson is entering his second season with the Patriots after impressing the front office enough in 2015 to win an active roster spot. Unfortunately, an illness sidelined Johnson and landed him on the injured reserve for the season. The 6’5, 270 pound edge defender is an adept pass rusher with some nice upside. Like Grissom, Johnson could find himself on the active roster this year if someone suffers an injury.
WR Devin Lucien
Lucien was the Patriots 7th round pick in the 2016 draft and he was unable to land a roster spot, despite the team’s shallow depth at the position. Lucien had just three drops on 98 targets in his final season with Arizona State, per Pro Football Focus. He also collected 534 yards and five touchdowns on 26 receptions over his final three games in college.
RB Bishop Sankey
Sankey was a 2014 2nd round pick by the Tennessee Titans, who failed to emerge due to questionable coaching changes, but also because he struggled to pick the correct rushing lanes due to poor vision and indecision. Hopefully the Patriots can find a way to simplify the run plays to maximize Sankey’s undeniable physical ability.
WR Devin Street
Street was a 2014 5th round pick by the Dallas Cowboys and has a willowy 6’3, 200 pound frame. He is a good route runner that can attack the ball, but he has a slow first step which makes it difficult for him to generate quick separation. Street reminds me a bit of Aaron Dobson in the sense that he makes plays during practice, but struggles to put it together during games.
SS Vinnie Sunseri
Sunseri was a 2014 5th round pick by the New Orleans Saints and has suffered multiple torn ACLs. He’s a great special teams player with limited defensive upside as he struggles in coverage. Sunseri is the son of a coach, which head coach Bill Belichick likely appreciates, and is a former linebacker.