The Patriots find a way to add an undrafted player or two to the active roster every season and the 2017 season shouldn’t be any different. There are a two players that intrigue Patriots fans more than others and they are LB Harvey Langi and WR Austin Carr- and we actually took a deep dive into both prospects prior to the draft.
Pro Football Focus looked at both signings to see how Langi and Carr were used in college- and how they could be used with the Patriots.
“Langi’s a versatile linebacker,” PFF Analyst Andrew Fleischer writes. “He lined up for 333 passing plays, rushing the quarterback on 214 of them (64.3 percent), with a pass rushing productivity (PRP) rating of 9.1, which was 22nd out of 44 draft-eligible 3-4 outside linebackers.
“He’s also capable of dropping into coverage, doing so on 119 of those passing plays, but it wasn’t exactly a strength of his. He allowed a reception on every 9.2 coverage snaps (20th out of 28 draft-eligible 3-4 linebackers) and allowed 1.15 yards per snap in coverage (26 out of 28 linebackers).
“Where Langi really impresses is with his performance against the run. Langi lined up for 274 snaps ion run defense, ending up with 29 tackles, 8 assisted tackles and 21 stops. That’s a stop for a defensive win (three yards or less) on 7.7 percent of his run snaps, sixth best out of 32 draft eligible 3-4 linebackers. These numbers against the run are nearly identical to linebacker T.J. Watt, who was drafted in the first round.”
Langi was asked to play 4-3 defensive end, 3-4 outside linebacker, 3-4 inside linebacker, and 4-2 linebacker in the nickel, showing the type of versatility that the Patriots appreciate in their linebackers.
While Langi is not particularly dominant as a pass rusher, he offers some upside and would likely be more productive rushing up the middle versus on the edge. He struggles in coverage, but was one of the most dominant run defenders in the draft.
Langi might appear to be better suited as the heir to Rob Ninkovich and in competition with Shea McClellin as a strongside linebacker/edge defender, more so than fighting with Kyle Van Noy or Elandon Roberts for time next to Dont’a Hightower as an off-the-ball linebacker.
Of course nothing is set in stone for Langi because he was moved all around the BYU defense and could be moved once again in New England.
Austin Carr’s role is much more defined- and his path to the active roster is much more difficult.
“Austin Carr finished the 2016 season with an 89.5 overall grade, which ranked first among 511 qualified FBS receivers,” PFF writes. “Carr ran 97.7 percent of his routes from the slot and his average of 2.91 yards per route run from that spot ranked sixth among the 80 FBS receivers who ran at least 50 percent of their routes in the slot.
“Carr wasn’t limited to short and intermediate routes though – in fact, he caught all nine of his catchable deep passes (20-plus yards in the air), for 245 yards and five touchdowns. His deep catch rate of 52.9 percent was 15th out of 251 qualified FBS receivers.
“Carr also proved that he’s a red-zone threat from the slot: his 12 touchdowns from there in 2016 ranked third among those 80 aforementioned receivers.”
The Patriots spent the offseason looking for a potential replacement for the aging Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, and Carr is another piece of that equation. With Edelman, Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Mitchell, and Chris Hogan all roster locks, Carr will need to prove himself too valuable to stash on the practice squad, just like how D.J. Foster elbowed his way through a crowded running back depth chart in the 2016 preseason.
Carr is a phenomenally talented slot receiver that shows incredible body control on the sideline. He attacks every level of the field and can be a viable deep threat despite not having long distance speed- he finds a way to generate separation like all the great Patriots receivers.
Both Langi and Carr have to prove their worth against productive and proven commodities at linebacker and wide receiver- and that’s why TE Jacob Hollister is my favorite of the undrafted prospects to make the final roster. But both players have clearly identifiable skill sets and that’s all Bill Belichick needs in order to carve out a role on the roster.