The New England Patriots ended last week’s cutdown day with 10 rookies on their 53-man roster. Some of these players will make a major impact for the team, while others may spend a lot of time on the sideline learning and developing their skills.
Let’s take a look at them, and what kind of impact can be expected during the upcoming season.
QB Bailey Zappe, RB Pierre Strong Jr.
Bailey Zappe does not project to see any sort of major playing time unless something crazy happens. He is unofficially listed as the third string quarterback behind Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer. If something were to happen to Jones, Hoyer projects to be the beneficiary and will get the first crack at playing time. You may see Zappe late in a couple games this season if the score is very one sided. Other than that, he will spend most of his time learning from the two quarterbacks ahead of him and get valuable practice reps.
Pierre Strong Jr. is in a similar situation as he is projected to be buried on the depth chart. Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Ty Montgomery should see almost all of the backfield snaps. The fourth rounder will likely be inactive for a lot of games this season unless he carves a role out on special teams or Montgomery’s ankle injury turns out to be a longer-term affair than anticipated.
G Chasen Hines, DE DaMarcus Mitchell
Chasen Hines profiles to be a monster in the trenches given his physical tools, but we likely will not see him much in 2022. He may be active on game days strictly because of the lack of offensive line depth at guard, but he dealt with an injury in the preseason that limited him. Without those valuable training camp reps, it is risky to send a sixth-round pick out and ask him to protect your franchise quarterback. Hines is a nice depth piece for the Patriots who just is not ready to carve out a major role.
The Patriots’ streak of having an undrafted free agent make the 53-man roster will continue this year as they have two guys in that category that made the team. Mitchell played outside linebacker/defensive end at Purdue and shined in the preseason; he looked great on special teams and made some plays rushing the quarterback. His high motor helped him make the cut and his energy could allow him to carve out a special teams role, but for now he profiles as a depth pass rusher.
DT Sam Roberts, CB Jack Jones, WR Tyquan Thornton
Sam Roberts dominated Division II last season, taking home the Defensive Player of the Year Award in his respective conference. He was a sixth-round pick who continued his dominance in the preseason. The defensive linemen is on track to work his way into a key backup/rotational role. He can line up as a defensive tackle or at defensive end, so his versatility makes him a valuable player to have.
Jack Jones was an elite coverage corner in the preseason. He projects to as a key reserve who might just turn into a starting corner at some point this season, and might just be able to carve out a major role in the secondary as the year goes along. Jones was a fourth-round pick but figures to have an impact on the Patriots defense this season.
Tyquan Thornton is dealing with a broken collarbone and will start the season on injured reserve. The speedster was impressive in camp, though, and seemed to be carving out some sort of role in the offense before the injury. He will be a key backup once he is back and do not be surprised if you see him make some game-breaking plays down the stretch.
S/ST Brenden Schooler, CB Marcus Jones, G Cole Strange
Brenden Schooler will not be starting in the Patriots’ secondary anytime soon, but he will have a prominent role within the special teams unit — effectively taking Justin Bethel’s former spot on the team. The undrafted free agent hits hard and plays aggressively, which will help him force turnovers and have an immediate impact.
Marcus Jones was a third-round pick who will see the field on certain snaps as a defensive back, and might just earn the starting slot cornerback job when all is said and done. He can play on the inside and the outside, and will also see action on special teams: Jones could be the Patriots’ primary punt returner as he excelled in that role throughout the preseason. Don’t be surprised to hear his name quite a bit in 2022.
Arguably the most important rookie in this year’s draft class is first-rounder Cole Strange. The Chattanooga alum will be the starting left guard for the Patriots this season. He looked good in preseason and New England is hopeful that this will also be the case when the regular season comes around. Strange will protect the quarterback, spark the run game and will have a massive impact as a rookie this season.