The New England Patriots made nine selections in the 2014 NFL draft. And at the time, it would have been hard to foresee a pair of fourth-round picks turning into the longest-tenured.
But that’s the way it went. Now only one of whom is left.
As offensive tackle Cameron Fleming’s free-agent signing with the Dallas Cowboys became official Monday, running back James White became the last man standing from that year’s draft class.
A draft class that, aside from those two prospects taken 10 slots apart on the morning of May 10, has played a combined 68 regular-season games for New England and 36 elsewhere around the league. A league that, if excluding 2014 undrafteds like rookie-minicamp invite Malcolm Butler, five of the nine still reside in.
EXITS FROM 2014 CLASS
- No. 29: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida – waived on April 14, 2016
- No. 62: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois – traded to 49ers on Oct. 31, 2017
- No. 105: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State – waived on Aug. 29, 2016
- No. 140: Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford – signed with Cowboys on March 26, 2018
- No. 179: Jon Halapio, G, Florida – waived on Aug. 30, 2014; waived on Sept. 3, 2016
- No. 198: Zach Moore, DE, Concordia-St. Paul – waived on Sept. 5, 2015
- No. 206: Jemea Thomas, DB, Georgia Tech – waived on Aug. 26, 2014
- No. 244: Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan – waived on Aug. 31, 2014
Jon Halapio, Jemea Thomas and Jeremy Gallon did not go on to appear in regular-season games for the Patriots. Zach Moore did not make it to a second season. Dominique Easley – who suffered his third torn ACL with the Los Angeles Rams ahead of 2017 – and Bryan Stork – who suffered three concussions from his senior year on before retiring last March – did not make it to a third.
Then there’s Jimmy Garoppolo, who made it to three and a half before becoming the NFL’s highest-paid player upon signing a five-year, $137.5 million pact with San Francisco in February.
But other than No. 43 overall for Garoppolo and potential compensatory considerations down the line for Fleming – a starter for January’s AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LII – White is the final remnants from 2014.
Though a healthy inactive for all but three contests as a rookie behind Shane Vereen and a reserve in the fall of 2015 behind Dion Lewis, White has caught 161 passes for 1,413 yards and carried the ball 113 times for 431 yards during the Patriots’ 16-game slates. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back has totaled 14 touchdowns over the course of them – and that doesn’t take into account his three in Super Bowl LI, nor the 20 points, nor the 14 receptions he amassed in the process of that comeback versus the Atlanta Falcons.
The same goes for the four TDs next to White’s name for his work during the most recent postseason.
Those kinds of returns have far outweighed the initial investment Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio’s war room made in 2014. The Wisconsin product was the 13th running back drafted that spring.
Washington’s Bishop Sankey, LSU’s Jeremy Hill and Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde went in the second round. West Virginia’s Charles Sims, Auburn’s Tre Mason, Towson’s Terrance West, Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon and Kent State’s Dri Archer went in the third. And Florida State’s Devonta Freeman, Boston College’s Andre Williams, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas all preceded White in the fourth.
Just half of those aforementioned ball-carriers spent 2017 with the club that filled out a card for them, including Hill, who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots this past week. The first one off the board, Sankey, even spent the first two months of the 2016 campaign on New England’s practice squad.
But White has seen many arrivals and departures. Having penned a three-year, $12 million extension last April, the 26-year-old will be seeing many more.
White finds himself one of a dozen Patriots currently under contract through at least 2020. In an alternative universe devoid of salary caps and injuries, a couple others from his draft class might be as well. Only those variables do exist. And over seven rounds and 256 selections, so do misses.
No. 130 overall was not one of them.