After the draft and subsequent free agency period, the New England Patriots were left with 25 rookie players under contract. Not all of them will have the same impact on the team in 2020, however, as only a few will actually make the 53-man roster — and even those who do are no locks to see prominent snaps. With that in mind, we started to ask ourselves the following question: Which rookies will have the biggest impact on the Patriots this year?
Before we turn the question over to the Pats Pulpit community, let’s see what the staff thinks.
Bernd Buchmasser: K Justin Rohrwasser
Based on their offseason, the Patriots will have to rely on their defense and special teams to help carry an offense that is moving forward without the greatest quarterback in pro football history. Among the players added to the two units, fifth-round kicker Justin Rohrwasser might just become the most impactful addition: he will regularly see the field, and if New England indeed finds itself in plenty of low-scoring contests, every kick he attempts could just be the difference between winning or losing.
Oliver Thomas: LB Anfernee Jennings
The part No. 87 overall played along Nick Saban’s Alabama front, from setting the edges and diagnosing screens to blitzing off-ball and batting down passes, fits the framework. A 54-game redshirt senior who took on a little of everything, Jennings finished as a first-team All-SEC selection while leading the Crimson Tide in both stops for loss and sacks.
Alec Shane: K Justin Rohrwasser
As of now he’s the only kicker on the team, so tough to make the case that any other rookie will have a bigger impact than the guy taking every field goal and extra point attempt
Brian Phillips: LB Josh Uche
After the departures of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, Bill won’t be able to keep a guy with his versatility off the field. Uche can make an impact from either edge, or off-ball.
Michael McDermott: LB Josh Uche
I’m going to agree with Brian and pick Uche. I see him being used primarily on special teams and on obvious passing situations early in the year but could become a key player after Thanksgiving.
Ryan Spagnoli: LB Josh Uche
Uche for me as well. His athleticism and explosiveness as an edge rusher should get him north of what Chase Winovich saw in his rookie year (29% of defensive snaps). Also his ability to play multiple spots on defense and with Van Noy and Collins gone now, it’ll be hard to keep a guy like that on the bench despite being a rookie.
Mark Schofield: QB J’Mar Smith
Might be random to go with one of two UDFA quarterbacks, especially one that likely does not see the field in a regular season game, but Smith has shown enough trait-wise to be considered an intriguing prospect at the position. Beyond that, however, there is this: Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Sam Darnold (x2), Josh Allen (x2), Tua Tagovailoa (potentially x2), Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson. That’s a partial list of the quarterbacks the Patriots will face in 2020. Smith has the best skillset to replicate what those players can do, and therefore is a great choice to prepare the Patriots’ defense for what they are going to see on Sundays.
Pat Lane: TE Devin Asiasi
Tight end is usually a tough transition from college to the NFL, but Asiasi has the skills to make a difference, and the Patriots have a gaping hole at the position. I expect the rookie to be a big part of the passing, and rushing, offense this season.
Matthew Rewinski: K Justin Rohrwasser
Put me in the Justin Rohrwasser camp (god I hope my autocorrect learns how to spell that soon), just because Bill wouldn’t have spent the pick if he didn’t think Justin could make those previously-automatic kicks automatic again. With cold-weather and long-distance bombs on his resume, some welcome consistency at kicker after last year will (let me channel my finest Lonely Island) PROMOTE SYNERGY in a kicking game (and offense) that severely lacked it in 2019. Plus, if I’m reading the question literally, Belichick tends to ease rookies in on defense, rookie TEs rarely make a game-breaking impact, and if everyone’s right that points on the board are gonna be at a premium with Jarrett Stidham at the controls, a sniper-scope kicker will be a welcome dose of “take the points” actually meaning getting points.
Slot Machine Player: K Justin Rohrwasser
For completeness, I will go with K Justin Rohrwasser despite the ink, because after the kicker carousel we had last year, I think he’ll come in and give us stability and range for the foreseeable future.
Keagan Stiefel: TE Devin Asiasi
Asiasi is my pick, the need at tight end is glaring and he seems more conventional than Dalton Keene (who’s role is getting harder and harder to pinpoint for me). Overall, I feel like Asiasi will be leaned on the most outside of Rohrwasser.
With that all said, who do you think will have the biggest impact on the Patriots’ roster in 2020 among the rookies added through the draft and free agency? Let us know in the comments!