The New England Patriots, who will return to work when they open their training camp tomorrow, currently have 89 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s draft picks.
Name: Hjalte Froholdt
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #55)
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’5, 310 lbs.
2018 review: Prior to the 2016 season, Hjalte Froholdt converted from defensive tackle to interior offensive lineman. He went on to start thirty-seven games on the offensive side of the ball for Arkansas — twelve of which during his final collegiate campaign. His durability and upside as a blocker was not the only defining feature about the native Dane: Froholdt also displayed tremendous versatility over the course of his 2018 senior season.
While lining up almost exclusively at left guard in 2016 and 2017, he moved inside to center for the first three games of the season. He eventually returned to his original spot, but showed that he can be quite productive no matter where he plays: after all, Froholdt did not surrender a single sack in 2018 despite splitting his 815 offensive snaps between two positions. In total, according to Pro Football Focus, he surrendered only 5 quarterback pressures (3 hits, 2 hurries) on the year.
While not all was perfect for Froholdt last year — he did have some issues with consistently setting his anchor in the running game, mostly tied to his limited arm length — his season as a whole was mostly an impressive one. He was competitive in pass protection due to his already quite solid technique, moved well when asked to pull across the formation, and displayed a high football IQ; all while showing the aforementioned versatility as well.
As a result, the second-team All-SEC selection entered the pre-draft process as one of the better interior offensive line prospects. He also tested well during the scouting combine, ranking fourth in the bench press (31) in his position group and sixth in the 40-yard-dash (5.20). Add it all up, and you got a player projected to enter the NFL as an early mid-round selection — which is exactly what happened.
2019 preview: In the fourth round of the draft, Froholdt heard his name called when the Patriots made him the 118th overall selection. While his draft pedigree does not guarantee him a spot on the team this year, it would be a surprise if he failed to earn one: the Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick have never released a fourth-round choice before week one of the regular season. This is not expected to change in 2019.
After all, Froholdt offers intriguing upside as a versatile backup along the interior offensive line. The question will therefore be how his actual role on the team will look like this year — especially after seeing only limited action during spring practices. Ultimately, it would not be unreasonable to project him as a second depth option at guard and center behind veteran backup Ted Karras. While Froholdt would likely not see a lot of action in this role, he would receive valuable practice reps and experience.
This could pay dividends further down the line: with starting left guard Joe Thuney entering the final year of his rookie contract, the Patriots may have to turn to Froholdt to replace him in case he leaves via free agency. Getting the 22-year-old ready in 2019 is therefore imperative, even if it may not include giving him plenty of actual in-game snaps.