With opening day almost two months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
During workouts and studying sessions, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of the Patriots' offensive line draft picks.
Name: Conor McDermott
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 67
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’8, 305 lbs.
2016 review: After his career at UCLA began on the sidelines, Conor McDermott ended it as the Bruins' starting left tackle – a role he held since midway through his 2014 sophomore season. His junior season was more of the same as he started all 12 of UCLA's games and voted to the Pac-12's second all-conference team for the second straight year.
McDermott started the season with one of the worst performances of his five-year collegiate career, though. Protecting a potential future number one draft pick in quarterback Josh Rosen, he surrendered 11 total pressures against Texas A&M and 2017 number one draft pick Myles Garrett. However, the political science major gave up only seven more pressures over his final 11 games.
Overall, McDermott finished the year allowing two sacks, seven quarterback hits and nine hurries. But while his pass protection was outstanding from week two onwards, his run blocking remained a work in progress. As a result, it was no surprise to see 210 other players hear their names called on draft day until the Patriots selected him late in the sixth round.
2017 preview: Despite being one of New England's four selections in this year's draft, Conor McDermott is no lock to make the team's 53-man roster. After all, he joined one of the deepest Patriots rosters in recent memory – and the tackle position is no different as three players are already locks to make the team: Starters Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon as well as third round rookie Antonio Garcia.
Consequently, with New England likely not carrying more than four tackles, McDermott is projected to fight for the last remaining spot against five other players. The rookie will have to fight off two members of the 2016 roster in Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle as well as a trio of undrafted rookies in Andrew Jelks, Max Rich and Cole Croston.
As things currently stand, Fleming and McDermott are the favorites to win the battle with the former offering more experience while the latter brings more athletic upside to the table. The rookie, however, is still a rather raw prospect and his chances of making the team might depend on how quickly he can add strength and refine his technique particularly as a run blocker.
If that happens over the next two months, it would not be a surprise to see McDermott win the competition for the final offensive tackle spot on the Patriots' roster. If not, however, he is projected to be a priority option for the practice squad where he can further continue working on his craft and potentially be an option in 2018.