New England Patriots fans have become accustomed to the ever present undrafted free agent (UDFA) on the roster. Every opening day roster since 2004 has seen one or more UDFAs — a total of 34 players over that span. This year, there are 15 Patriot hopefuls looking to extend the streak and make the final 53. Let’s take a look at each player and how they can make the roster.
First things first, I would like to acknowledge that J’Mar Smith’s full name is “Jamarius Contrell Smith” which is so strong I would give him a roster spot based on name value alone. Additionally, the kid can sling it. In three-and-a-half seasons as Louisiana Tech’s starter, Smith threw for 9,523 yards and 51 touchdowns. The son of former Patriot defensive lineman Kenny Smith has a chance to follow in his father’s footsteps and stick around in New England, even with no preseason games and early cut-downs, as long as he shows what he did in college.
Before we get into Smith, though, please check out the other UDFA blogs as we’re down to the last few.
- Myles Bryant, CB, Washington
- Rashod Berry, TE/DE, Ohio State
- De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, LB, Arkansas
- Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State
- Bill Murray, DT, William and Mary
- Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
- Kyahva Tezino, LB, SDSU
- Jake Burt, TE, Boston College
- Sean Riley, WR, Syracuse
- Will Hastings, WR, Auburn
- J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona
Smith grew up around football. As I mentioned earlier, his father was with the Patriots for a few seasons between 2007-2009. The elder Smith spent time on the active roster, practice squad, and injured reserve during his stint in New England but came away with one hell of a story, mentioning it in his interview with meridanstar.com last month:
‘I actually took (J’Mar) up there my second trip up there,’ Kenny Smith recalled of his stint with the Patriots. ‘I came out of the weight room and he was in the locker room throwing the ball with Tom, so I knew I had lost him as a defensive player that day.’
Kenny did lose his son as a defender that day as he soon started playing quarterback, and playing it well. He played quarterback as well as catcher on his high school baseball team and was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 24th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. However, he chose to go to Louisiana Tech to play college football, following in the footsteps of his throwing buddy Tom Brady, who did the same thing 20 years prior. It’s a small world.
J’Mar got to Louisiana Tech and quickly took over the starting job: halfway through his redshirt freshman season he earned the gig and never lost it. Smith started 43 games in his college career and helped his team improve its record each year, eventually leading it to a 10-3 record in 2019 and an Independence Bowl victory over Miami.
I dove into what he looks like as a player over on my Twitter:
I want to start off by showing off his athleticism. Smith has really good vision in the open field and looks natural as a runner. Kind of reminds me of Josh Allen the way he runs the ball. Watch him get skinny and take a hit to get the TD in the Rice clip. Good run, better celly. pic.twitter.com/b5kLebtOFp— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) July 22, 2020
He doesn’t just chuck it either. He has really good ball placement as well. May run into trouble if he were to ever play more athletic safeties and corners but he made some very impressive throws in college. pic.twitter.com/y02uTlyWC6— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) July 22, 2020
“But Keagan, can he put all three of those things together?” You bet your ass he can. pic.twitter.com/PaCWcKhD0F— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) July 22, 2020
It’s safe to say I'm all aboard the Jamarius hype train. I may even be the captain.
We know about his college career but where does he fit in on the Patriots’ current roster? Well, I think he can carve out a great role for himself as a scout team quarterback, whether that be on the active roster or the practice squad. This season, the QB room is pretty full. With no preseason and a possibly early cutdown. it seems safe to say that fellow UDFA Brian Lewerke probably isn’t sticking around too much longer. That would leave Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, and Smith.
Newton and Stidham will battle it out for the starting spot and Hoyer is a reliable backup option incase of injury. This scenario would leave Smith as a likely option to come down with the so-called “Foxboro Flu,” with the focus on getting him ready for next year. It feels like I see someone talking about the Foxboro Flu with every UDFA profile, but Smith is a prime candidate due to the way this year’s roster is shaking out.
The loser of the starting competition will handle most of the scout team duties and there is a good chance the Patriots still keep Hoyer on as a third quarterback, especially with Newton’s injury history. There isn’t really a spot for Smith this season. I don't expect to see Newton around next year, whether he plays well or not, so Stidham has another shot at the starting role next season — opening up a spot for Smith to come in and grab.
Admittedly, this is a ton of future planning for an UDFA, something Bill Belichick isn't exactly known for. A lot of things would need to swing in the same direction, but if they do, I see this as being a likely scenario. J’Mar Smith is a talent worth planning for, whether he was drafted or not.