The New England Patriots have added significant depth to their team over the last few days: the world champions drafted a total of ten players and are also expected to bring up to eleven additional unrestricted free agents signings on board. There will be plenty of competition over the upcoming months for a finite number of roster spots, naturally. But even those that make the team are not guaranteed to have much of an impact in year one.
In fact, there is a real chance that only a handful of players will see considerable playing time outside of the kicking game in 2019. After all, New England’s roster is set at the top at most positions — one notable exception being tight end — with primarily only depth spots up for grabs. Considering the current composition of the Patriots’ roster and the players added via the draft, however, some might still have a comparatively big impact this year.
The most obvious choice is wide receiver N’Keal Harry: the first-round draft pick adds an element of height and physicality to the Patriots’ passing game the team sorely lacks after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. Expecting Harry to fill Gronkowski’s shoes would be unrealistic, of course, but he will likely still see considerable chances in his first NFL season alongside Julian Edelman — even if Josh Gordon returns from suspension.
Three of the Patriots’ four day two picks also have a good chance at getting plenty of playing time right away: Joejuan Williams will probably primarily be used depending on the opponent, but should still see his fair share of snaps alongside Stephon Gilmore and company. Damien Harris will be the 1B early down back after 1A Sony Michel. And Chase Winovich should be able to carve out a rotational role at the Patriots’ defensive edge.
The rest of New England’s rookie class will mostly have to settle for backup roles (offensive linemen Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt, quarterback Jarrett Stidham) or have to fight for their spot on the team altogether. Of this group, fifth-round punter Jake Bailey might actually have the best chance of earning considerable playing time in 2019: the strong-legged and versatile rookie will be in a position to earn the spot against incumbent Ryan Allen.
It would therefore not be a surprise if the rookie with the most consistent playing time turned out to be the one at the least prominent position tackled through the draft. Bailey’s roster outlook depends on his performance over the summer, however, while the other players named above — Harry, Williams, Harris, Winovich — are all locks to be on the team come the first game of the regular season.
And when looking at that group and how each player fits onto the team, it is not hard to see Harry carving out the most prominent role right away: his selection addressed a major need on New England’s roster and his competition for the X-receiver spot is an equal unknown in the Patriots’ system. While Demaryius Thomas and Maurice Harris could surprise and earn a starting role, or the aforementioned Gordon return to the active squad at one point, it would be surprising if Harry did receive plenty of chances to prove his value right away.
Either way, the Patriots have positioned themselves well to not rely on rookie contributions all too much in 2019 but to still give them opportunities to carve out bigger roles with every passing week.
With all that in mind, what do you think?
Which Patriots rookie will have the biggest impact in year one?
This poll is closed
WR N’Keal Harry
CB Joejuan Williams
DE Chase Winovich
RB Damien Harris
P Jake Bailey
Other (name in comments)