The New England Patriots, who are currently in their middle of their 2019 preseason, have 90 players on their active roster at the moment. 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 undrafted rookie free agents.
Name: Andrew Beck
Position: Tight end/fullback
Jersey number: 86
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’3, 255 lbs.
2018 review: After redshirting in 2017 because of two consecutive foot injuries, Andrew Beck returned for his senior season in 2018 and again filled the role of Texas’ starting tight end. As such, he saw considerable action again: Beck started all fourteen of the Longhorns’ games and finished the season with 28 receptions on 42 targets for a combined 281 yards and a pair of touchdowns — solid numbers for a player primarily used as a blocker.
All in all, Beck’s first season back from his year-long absence was a positive one. Not only did he set or tie career-marks in every major receiving statistic in 2018, he was also named to the first All-Big 12 team. Furthermore, he ended his college career on a high note with a victory in the Sugar Bowl over Georgia — a game during which he had a 5-yard catch. But despite all his accomplishments, Beck entered the draft with little actual hype surrounding his name.
One reason for that might have been his limited upside as a pass catcher and somewhat inconsistent performance as a pass protector. Even though he looked good blocking in the running game, the non-combine invitee was therefore not expected to hear his name called on draft weekend — which is exactly what happened.
2019 preview: The Patriots brought Beck on board as part of their first wave of undrafted rookie signings, adding him to a position group that underwent some drastic changes this offseason. But despite Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister no longer being a part of the equation, and Beck hitting New England’s salary cap with only $500,000 — $100,000 of which guaranteed — he seems to face an uphill battle to actually make the team.
After all, other players competing for a role at tight end appear to currently be higher up on the depth chart: Matt LaCosse and Benjamin Watson are the frontrunners to make the team, with Ryan Izzo arguably the third option at the moment. In order to move past Izzo on the depth chart and earn a spot on the team on opening day alongside LaCosse — Watson will open the season suspended for four games — Beck will need to keep improving fast.
One way to do that is by working on his versatility, something he has done so far during preseason: of the 36 offensive snaps he played over the last two games (of 152; 23.7%), the majority came with him lining up at fullback. While he looked serviceable as a lead blocker, Beck’s chances of making the roster actually appear to be worse at fullback than tight end considering that James Develin is a lock to play the role again this season.
Putting all this into account, it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots let the rookie go during roster cutdowns. That being said, it is not unrealistic to see him return via the practice squad if the team sees enough developmental upside as a tight end/fullback hybrid in him. Beck, who currently has one 9-yard catch on his preseason résumé, has two more weeks to show it.