The New England Patriots invested heavily to bolster their offensive line depth during last month’s draft: three of their 10 total picks were spent on O-linemen, with one of them being used to bring Justin Herron on board. The sixth-round selection, who was chosen 195th overall by the Patriots, spent his entire career at Wake Forest as an offensive tackle but was announced as a guard by the team when the pick was made official.
Moving him to the interior seemed like a natural move: Herron’s body type — he was measured at 6-foot-3, 308 pounds at the scouting combine in late February — plus his lateral moving skills and flexibility made him appear to be a better fit on the inside at the next level. However, it seems as if the Patriots’ coaching staff does not plan to go a route previously also explored with college-tackles-turned-standout-guards Logan Mankins and Joe Thuney.
According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, New England intends to initially use Herron at offensive tackle. The 24-year-old, of course, brings considerable experience playing the position to the table. Despite missing a combined 13 games during his six-year college career because of ankle and knee injuries, he still set a school record for career starts: Herron played 51 games during his time at Wake Forest — all of which at left tackle — and was on the field for more than 3,600 offensive snaps at the position.
With Herron projected to be used at tackle rather than guard, the Patriots will currently have three players competing for the depth spots behind projected starters Isaiah Wynn (left) and Marcus Cannon (right).
2019 third-round selection Yodny Cajuste appears to be the frontrunner at the moment. After missing his entire rookie campaign while recovering from offseason quad surgery, the 24-year-old is expected to be fully available again once on-field preparations for the 2020 season begin. Alongside Cajuste and Herron, the Patriots also have Korey Cunningham under contract: a trade acquisition last year, Cunningham appeared in one game for the club so far.
Realistically and based on past precedent, the Patriots are not expected to carry more than four offensive tackles on their 53-man roster this year. This means that, unless the team decides to part ways with Marcus Cannon and his position-leading $9.6 million salary cap hit, at least one member of the Cajuste-Herron-Cunningham trio will get the axe come roster cutdown day and at best try his luck via New England’s practice squad.