Two weeks after the NFL draft concluded, the New England Patriots announced the first contract signings of their 2018 rookie class: a total of 15 players are now officially with the team; six of which selected during the draft, the other nine signed as undrafted free agents after the three-day event. Let's take a look at them:
LB Ja'Whaun Bentley: The off-the-ball linebacker that registered 272 tackles over the course of his career was drafted in the fifth round by the Patriots (#143). Bentley is a physical player that lacks straight-line speed but comes with tremendous instincts. A potential depth option and special teamer.
LB Christian Sam: An agile defender, Sam has the ability to cover running backs and tight ends in the open field. The Arizona State product possesses NFL size, speed, and quickness, but isn’t exceptional in any of these categories. The sixth-rounder (#178) certainly has the tools to turn into a solid long-term solution for the Patriots albeit more likely as a depth player than a starter.
WR Braxton Berrios: When the seventh-round selection (#210) committed to Miami, he was called a “Wes Welker clone” given his frame and ability to perform both on offense and in the return game. Serving multiple roles, the wide receiver had a breakout campaign in 2017: He caught 55 passes for 679 yards and 9 touchdowns and also averaged 15.9 yards per punt return – all career-highs.
QB Danny Etling: The seventh-round pick (#219) is the Patriots' current number three quarterback behind Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer. When it comes to practice reps and potentially a spot on the 53-man roster, Hoyer will be the main competition for Etling, who finished his two-year career at LSU with a completion percentage of 59.7 as well as 4,586 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
CB Keion Crossen: A two-year starter at Western Carolina, the slightly built defensive back has experience playing both on the boundary and in the slot – all while seeing plenty of action in the kicking game as well. Due to his versatility, the Patriots made him a seventh-round selection (#243) two weeks ago.
TE Ryan Izzo: Bringing ideal size, Izzo is one of the most complete tight ends of his draft class – despite not being a standout in any category of his game: The seventh-rounder (#250) is an able inline blocker that also knows how to perform as a pass catcher. And while he is not the most athletic player, he should be able to compete for a backup role in New England.
CB A.J. Moore: Moore earned a starting role as Ole Miss’ nickel cornerback in 2017 and finished the season with 48 tackle and three broken up passes. The 5’11 defensive back ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day, a number that is better than the scouting combine’s average.
TE Shane Wimann: A first-team All-MAC selection in 2017, Wimann finished his rookie season with the Huskies with 30 catches for 283 yards and seven touchdowns. While he is a project especially when it comes to blocking and athleticism, Wimann comes with adequate size and experience.
DT John Atkins: The third Bulldog to join the Patriots this draft cycle, Atkins was as two-year starter at Georgia. Primarily a run stopper, he finished his senior season – the most productive of his four-year college career – with 38 tackles, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
CB J.C. Jackson: A quick defender that is noted for his physicality, Jackson appears to be best suited to play in the slot at the next level. The junior defensive back was a two-year starter at Maryland and registered 40 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass-breakups during his final year with the Terps.
DE Trent Harris: A third-team All-ACC selection in 2017, Harris had a breakout senior campaign: He led the Hurricanes with 8.5 sacks and added 37 tackles and a fumble recovery. While a little undersized and thus a candidate to move to Will-linebacker, Harris has displayed sufficient quickness around the edge.
WR Chris Lacy: Lacy, a tall and lean rotational wide receiver that lacks top-notch athleticism, finished his four-year college career with a combined 63 catches for 920 yards and five touchdowns. The noted team leader, who also has a little experience as a kick returner, will have to make his way onto the roster via special teams.
RB Ralph Webb: The highly-productive Vanderbilt product that has experience as a ball-carrier and pass-catcher finished his college career with 4,750 yards from scrimmage and 35 touchdowns. He reportedly received $70,000 in guaranteed money from the Patriots, split into a $20,000 bonus and a $50,000 base salary.
DT Frank Herron: While Herron does bring intriguing quickness and versatility to the table, his production at LSU does not stand out: He finished his 2017 senior season with 21 tackles and a forced fumble. A six-game suspension for undisclosed reasons to open the 2017 season also did not help his stock entering the draft season.
WR Darren Andrews: The UCLA slot receiver is the lone undrafted rookie not previously reported as a Patriots signing. Andrews is coming off a season-ending ACL injury, but was productive when healthy: The 22-year old finished his college career with 162 catches for 1,977 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Three Patriots draft picks – first-rounders Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel as well as second-rounder Duke Dawson – remain unsigned but all three are still eligible to participate in offseason workouts. They do, however, have to be signed to a contract to partake in training camp.