Their defensive line was not seen as a major need for the New England Patriots heading into the NFL Draft, but the team making an investment up front would still not have come as a surprise. Indeed, they used one of their selections to add to the group: with the 200th overall selection in the sixth round, the Patriots picked Sam Roberts out of Northwest Missouri State.
While not a roster lock based on his draft status, the 24-year-old will still get a chance to carve out a role on the team. So, let’s get to meet him a bit better.
Name: Sam Roberts
School: Northwest Missouri State (RS-Senior)
Position: Interior defensive lineman
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6046, 293 lbs, 33 1/2 arm, 81 1/2 wingspan, 9 1/2 hand
Measurements: 5.10 40-yard dash, 30” vertical jump, N/A broad jump, N/A short shuttle, 7.82 3-cone, 25 bench press
Career: A Patriots fan growing up, Roberts was a no-star recruit out of Waynesville High School and originally was recruited by Northwest Missouri State to play along the team’s offensive line. However, he was eventually moved to defense and after a redshirt freshman campaign went on to become a productive player for the Bearcats.
Over the next five seasons, he appeared in 50 games and registered 184 tackles — 47 for loss — as well as 18.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. He also blocked five kicks during his college career, and was named MIAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. The team captain also earned the Cliff Harris Award, given annually to the best non-Division I defender.
Strengths: Standing at 6-foot-5, 293 pounds with a massive 81 1/2-inch wingspan, Roberts has some good size as an interior lineman. A productive player, who held his own at the East-West Shrine Bowl, he did what he was supposed to do at the Division-II level: dominate.
Weaknesses: As evidenced by his 5.10-second 40-yard dash and 7.82-second three-cone drill, Roberts is not the most impressive of athletes. He also needs to improve his pass-rushing technique in order to find consistent success against NFL-level blockers.
What is his projected role in New England? Roberts’ role projects to be two-fold. On the one hand, he will serve as an interior defensive lineman who will primarily attack from the 3- and 5-technique spots. Initially, he might see more action in the running than the passing game. He furthermore, will be used on special teams as a blocking specialist on field goal and extra point tries.
Where does he fit on the defensive line depth chart? The Patriots’ defensive line is a deep one, but there are few players of his stature. It would not be a surprise if Roberts served as the third defensive end in 3-4 fronts behind Deatrich Wise Jr. and Henry Anderson. As noted above, he is not guaranteed a spot on the roster; Roberts will compete against the likes of Anderson and Byron Cowart to make the team.
Does he have positional versatility? As far as defensive linemen are concerned, Roberts offers some versatile upside. He will primarily align in the B-gap between guard and tackle as a 3-technique, but might also move to the inside on select downs to attack from the 1-tech spot; additionally, it would not be a surprise to see him kick out to play over the tackle as a 5-tech. The Patriots will likely move him around quite a bit in training camp and preseason to give him a chance to prove himself and find out where he best fits.
What is his special teams value? Roberts, as noted above, was a menace as a field goal and extra point blocker in college. He was able to get his hands on three field goal attempts plus two more PATs, and projects to play a similar role at the next level. While blocking kicks at the Division-II level is easier than in the NFL, his long reach makes for an intriguing option.
One-sentence verdict: As far as sixth-round investments go, Roberts certainly has some intriguing tools to at least push the players currently ahead of him on the depth chart.
How would you grade the Patriots’ selection of DT Sam Roberts at No. 200?
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