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New England Patriots 2018 roster breakdown: #17 WR Riley McCarron

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After spending all of 2017 on the practice squad, Riley McCarron is trying to finally earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

NFL: New England Patriots at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Today, the series continues with one of the Patriots’ young wideouts.

Name: Riley McCarron

Position: Wide receiver

Jersey number: 17

Opening day age: 25

Experience: 1

Size: 5’9, 185 lbs.

2017 review: Despite coming off the best season of his five-year career at Iowa, Riley McCarron was not selected during the NFL draft. Instead, he was signed by the Houston Texans as a rookie free agent to compete for one of the team’s spots at wide receiver. McCarron was unable to stand out, though, and was cut after a preseason that saw him appear in three games and catch four passes for 24 yards.

However, the Texans brought him back the very next day through their practice squad. The Iowa product spent the first two weeks of the regular season on Houston’s scout team before getting the axe again. Four days later and ahead of their game against his old team, the Patriots signed McCarron to their own practice squad. He remained there for the rest of his rookie campaign and along the way was named practice player of the week four times.

2018 preview: After the Super Bowl, the Patriots signed McCarron to a one-year futures contract that carries a $480,000 salary cap hit in 2018. But even though he is a cost-effective option at wide receiver, the former Texan appears to be a long-shot to actually make New England’s 53-man squad. After all, the position is arguably the deepest on the team and McCarron faces plenty of high-profile competition.

Playing primarily from the slot, his main rivals for a roster spot are first-year Patriots Jordan Matthews and Braxton Berrios. Both bring more athletic upside to the table but lack one thing McCarron has: experience in the Patriots’ system. If the soon-to-be 25-year old can take advantage of his one year on New England’s practice squad, he should at least be able to challenge the higher-upside options for practice reps and preseason playing time.

And with Julian Edelman facing a potential suspension and no Danny Amendola around to fill the void, McCarron might be seen as a stop-gap option for four weeks. Ultimately, though, it would still be a minor surprise to see him survive the competition by edging out Matthews and/or Berrios for a spot on the team. It therefore appears more likely that the former undrafted rookie is again destined for the practice squad.