Training camp is here! The NFL's most quiet period has come to an end as the New England Patriots have started this year's camp last week. The 90 players currently under contract are now in the process of fighting for spots on either the team's 53-man roster or its 10-man practice squad.
As we have done throughout the offseason, we will continue to take a look at the men fighting for those few select spots on the 2017 Patriots – and to find out who will and might be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of New England's undrafted rookies.
Name: Austin Carr
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 84
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6'1, 195 lbs.
2016 review: After four unspectacular seasons at Northwestern, Austin Carr was able to elevate his play to new heights during this 2016 senior campaign. Appearing in all 13 of the Wildcats' games, Carr caught 90 passes for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns – all three best in the Big Ten. In fact, he became only the second player this century to lead the conference in all three categories.
The team captain was not only the top receiver in the Big Ten; he carried Northwestern's offense: Carr accounted for 39.2% of its passing yards as well as 54.5% of passing touchdowns – and he did it against top competition: Versus the number three defense in the country (Ohio State), Carr caught eight passes for 158 yards. One week later against the number four (Wisconsin), he caught 12 for 132 yards and a score.
However, Carr, who was named first team All-Big Ten and rated as Pro Football Focus' best college receiver, was one of the biggest scouting combine snubs. And while he was invited to the East West Shrine Game, he ultimately went unselected during the 2017 NFL draft.
2017 preview: Shortly after the draft, the Patriots signed Austin Carr to a free agent contract that included the fourth-most guarantees of the team's undrafted rookie class. However, neither his $30,000 in guaranteed money nor his production in 2016 grant Carr a spot on New England's 53-man roster. In fact, he appears to be on the roster bubble right now and is fighting for a spot on the practice squad.
Judged by his performances during training camp so far, Carr should at least be able to get one of the 10 slots. After all, he has shown good hands, route running ability and chemistry with the quarterbacks – attributes that made him a standout last year. And while he still faces an uphill battle to crack the active roster due to the quality ahead of him, the 23-year old makes a solid case for himself.
Ultimately, he will probably be headed to the practice squad unless a) one of the wide receivers above him on the depth chart suffers an injury or b) another team claims him on waivers. Ideally, though, neither of this happens and Carr prepares one year behind the scenes – while simultaneously offering the team another layer of security at the position – to potentially take over for impending free agent Danny Amendola in 2018.