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 a sixth-round rookie.
Name: Braxton Berrios
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #55)
Opening day age: 22
Size: 5’9, 185 lbs.
2017 review: Braxton Berrios ended his four years at the University of Miami on a high note: Playing primarily from the slot, the wideout led the Hurricanes last season in receptions (55), receiving yards (679) and receiving touchdowns (9) – all while setting new career highs in each statistical category. For his productivity, Berrios was named to the third All-Atlantic Coast Conference team.
The North Carolina native, who was voted captain by his teammates, was responsible for more than a fifth of Miami's passing yardage last season and productive no matter the quality of the opposition: The Hurricanes had five teams on their 2017 schedule that were ranked in the top-25 – Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Clemson, Virginia Tech, N.C. State – and Berrios averaged nearly five catches and 50 receiving yards against them.
Berrios also saw plenty of action on special teams and served as Miami's primary punt returner. Overall, he ran back 13 kicks for a combined 207 yards (15.9 yards per return; fifth best in the country). And as if all that does not already make him a prototypical Patriots slot receiver, he also comes with experience as a passer and attempted and completed one throw for 17 yards in week eight against Virginia Tech.
2018 preview: New England invested the 210th overall draft pick this year in Berrios and will now have him compete for a spot on the team's roster. It will not be easy, though, for the 22-year old as the wide receiver position is one of the deepest on the Patriots at the moment: Not counting special teams ace Matthew Slater, the team has 10 wideouts on its pay roll fighting for what is expected to be a maximum of six spots.
While some players are locks or near locks – Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Cordarrelle Patterson all have very good chances of making the team –, most of the wide receivers are not. This, in turn, gives Berrios a chance to earn a role as a depth player on offense and potential top punt return option. Still, it will not be easy for the Miami product to beat out more experienced players like Jordan Matthews or Phillip Dorsett.
What might help him stick around is the four-game suspension the aforementioned Edelman faces. With the team's number one wideout possibly out for the first quarter of the year, another receiver might be asked to take his spot on the roster – if only for a few weeks. Berrios appears to be a prime candidate to capitalize on the veteran's potential absence given his past production in an Edelman-esque role.
Ultimately, though, it would also not be a surprise to see Berrios fail to make the cut come September. After all, he faces plenty of talented competition and needs to bring his A-game to training camp. It is certainly possible that this happens and that he indeed earns a spot on the team after all – but it is not a given even with Edelman facing a four-game ban.