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New England Patriots 2018 roster breakdown: #TBD DT Frank Herron

The undrafted rookie faces an uphill climb to make the team.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots currently have 89 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 an undrafted rookie defender.

Name: Frank Herron

Position: Defensive tackle

Jersey number: TBD (offseason #64)

Opening day age: 24

Experience: Rookie

Size: 6’4, 305 lbs.

2017 review: Prior to the start of his redshirt senior season at LSU, Frank Herron changed his diet and workout regimen and reportedly became more mature with the goal of earning a starting role and entering draft season with momentum on his side. However, he was unable to showcase his new approach’s impact for the first half of the season: Herron was suspended for the Tigers’ first six games.

While the reason for his suspension has never officially been announced, it’s length points to a school-mandated half-season punishment for violating internal rules — the fourth separate time that Herron was suspended over his five years at Louisiana. Consequently, his senior year did not start until mid-October and ultimately produced only seven games worth of tape of him playing multiple techniques along the defensive line in a rotational role.

All in all, Herron finished the 2017 season with 21 tackles and one forced fumble — numbers that did not help him significantly boost his draft stock: despite good size and lateral moving abilities, his suspensions for academic and disciplinary reasons as well as his lack of outstanding statistical production made him an afterthought during the draft’s three days.

2018 preview: After going undrafted, the Patriots signed Herron as a rookie free agent. However, his draft status already suggests that the 24-year old has a tough road ahead of him if he wants to survive roster cuts — especially considering that New England already has three locks at the position in Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, and Danny Shelton.

Unless the Patriots make a surprising move and trade away Brown, a maximum of two spots appear to be open at the defensive tackle position. For Herron to fill one of them, he needs to get more reliable and consistent a player and also improve his ability to read plays properly and react accordingly. Furthermore, he has to show that the off field problems that caused him to miss multiple games at LSU are a thing of the past.

But even if he does all the right things, his upside might be too limited in the short term to warrant a roster spot over players like Vincent Valentine or Adam Butler. Realistically, Herron is fighting to make the Patriots’ 10-man practice squad and possibly attack the 53 again next season when one of the three locks — Brown — may no longer be part of the equation.