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Patriots 2021 roster breakdown: Can William Sherman follow the footsteps of Michael Onwenu and Justin Herron?

Related: Patriots roster breakdown: RB J.J. Taylor

NCAA Football: Utah at Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With the offseason workout program in the books and training camp being kicked off later this month, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2021.”

The team currently has 90 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in August and September and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots bounce back from what was a disappointing 7-9 season last year.

Today, the series continues with offensive lineman William Sherman.

Hard facts

Name: William Sherman

Position: Offensive tackle/Guard

Jersey number: TBD (Offseason No. 58)

Opening day age: 22

Size: 6-foot-3, 305 pounds

Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 UFA)

Experience

What is his experience? A sixth-round draft selection by the Patriots earlier this year, Sherman’s experience at the professional level is naturally limited. While the 197th overall pick did participate in New England’s rookie developmental program as well as the club’s voluntary offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp, he has yet to set foot on the gridiron for an actual NFL game. That being said, Sherman does have plenty of starter-level football on his résumé from his time in college.

After starting his career at the University of Colorado in a redshirt capacity, Sherman took over as the starting left tackle four games into his second year in the program. Despite playing under three different offensive line coaches over the past three years, he never looked back: Sherman started 27 straight games before declaring for the draft after his junior season. Moving between the left and the right tackle positions, he earned All-Pac 12 honors in both 2018 (honorable) and 2020 (second team).

What did his 2020 season look like? After spending the 2019 season as the Buffaloes’ starting right tackle, Sherman moved back to the left side of the line heading into his fourth year in Boulder. Moving him to the role he already filled in 2018 was a good decision by new offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue: despite the disruptions caused by the Coronavirus pandemic — three of Colorado’s games had to be canceled — Sherman looked very much at home at left tackle again and ended up being named to the second All-Pac 12 team.

Sherman ended the season having started all six of the Buffaloes’ games at left tackle and once again proving himself a productive and durable player. Being on the field for nearly all of the team’s 454 offensive snaps, he looked good as both a run blocker and a pass protector (he surrendered only four quarterback disruptions all year long). Even though he had some ups and downs and continued to be a work in progress from an NFL perspective, Sherman’s season as a whole was another successful one.

Even though he still had one year of eligibility available after redshirting during his freshman season in 2017, Sherman decided to leave school after the year. He decided to declare for the NFL Draft and, as noted above, was ultimately picked in the sixth round by the Patriots. Sherman did not have an opportunity to showcase his talents at the Scouting Combine, but he did participate in his school’s Pro Day in March.

2021 preview

What is his projected role? Sherman’s comparative lack of length might make him a candidate to move to the guard position, but as Isaiah Wynn has shown the Patriots are not married to any conventions when it comes to the size of offensive linemen. Based on this and his usage during offseason workouts, the belief is that the rookie will be trained as a swing tackle with the potential to kick inside if need be. With Wynn and Trent Brown locked in as the two starting tackles, Sherman will compete for the third or fourth spot on the depth chart.

What is his special teams value? Offensive tackles have only limited value in the kicking game due to their size, and Sherman is no exception. That being said, he should be able to see some action on special teams right away: the Patriots could use him as a protector on both field goal and extra point attempts, having him line up either on the perimeter of the formation or closer to long snapper Joe Cardona. Either way, the youngster should get used to jogging onto the field in select situations.

Does he have positional versatility? Even if the Patriots do not decide to move him to the guard position, Sherman still offers some good versatility for an offensive tackle. He started 15 games in college at the left tackle position, and in 2019 added 12 more starts during a one-year stint as Colorado’s right tackle. New England traditionally trains its tackles to play both positions, and Sherman already has some experience doing just that.

What is his salary cap situation? Entering the first season of his four-year rookie contract, Sherman is counting only $44,107 against the Patriots’ salary cap at the moment: while the NFL’s Top-51 rule is in place (until the regular season), only his fully-guaranteed signing bonus proration will hit New England’s books. If he makes the 53-man roster, his non-guaranteed salary $660,000 will be added for an in-season cap number of $704,107.

What is his roster outlook? Even though the Patriots invested one of their draft choices in Sherman, the 22-year-old is no lock to make the team’s roster this year and to follow the footsteps of former sixth-round picks Michael Onwenu and Justin Herron. In order to do that, though, he will have to prove himself in the competition for the third and fourth tackle spots. While Herron himself appears to be on a good way to making the team, Sherman will have to beat out Yodny Cajuste, Korey Cunningham and R.J.Prince. Even if he fails to emerge victoriously, however, he seems like a prime practice squad candidate.