by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
Whether in the story of The Alamo or the movie Rudy, the theme of the underdog gets a lot of attention. Overall, few undrafted rookies make a final roster, but Foxboro fledglings have a better chance than most, as Gary Guyton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Vince Redd showed last year.
Due to New England’s large intake of rookies last weekend, this year’s free agent crop has been limited. The list has been compiled with any available information (solid sources include Christopher Price’s blog and NEPatriotsdraft.com and remains flexible.
(In fact, if you hear of an addition to the list, let us know in the comment section below. What’s the Internet for if not sharing?)
SIGNED FREE AGENTS
Antonio Appleby, Virginia ILB (6-4, 245): Appleby was listed as a PD Day Two Draft Board hopeful pegged to go in the sixth round. He contains the Redd factor in that he’s got good size, good workout numbers (4.65-second 40-yard dash, 24 reps in the bench press), and tutelage under former Bill Belichick cohort Al Groh.
Why undrafted: Not as aggressive nor as productive as one might hope. Overshadowed by Clint Sintim’s athleticism and Jon Copper’s numbers while with the Cavaliers.
Jamar Love, Arkansas CB (6-0, 191): Along with Appleby, Love made PD’s Day Two Draft Board in the late-sixth-round range. The Razorback had a heck of a pro day for himself, running a 4.35-second 40 and a 4.07 short shuttle. Had eight pass breakups last year, second on the Razorbacks.
Why undrafted: Unspectacular stats (39 tackles) and a lack of experience. Only started two games his junior year. Where was the Love, indeed?
Brian Hoyer, Michigan State QB (6-2, 215): Now known as one of the poor saps who let ESPN film him sitting at home waiting for a call, Hoyer comes in as another camp arm with some athleticism. Had a strong junior season at MSU (20 touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions).
Why undrafted: You’ll note above it reads junior season. His senior year, Hoyer had a mere 51 percent completion rate and drew even in TDs and INTs with nine apiece.
Marcus McClinton, Kentucky S (6-0, 210): The Wildcat had a decent combine and solid follow-up pro day, running his 40 in the 4.5 range and demonstrating his power (10-foot broad jump, 37-inch vertical). Had 50 total tackles and four interceptions in 2008.
Why undrafted: As the Patriots showed by trading down to draft the first safety off the board, 2009 wasn’t a strong year for the position. McClinton’s numbers don’t look so hot when compared to Patrick Chung’s 92 tackles.
Jermail Porter, Kent State wrestler (6-6, 312): The Stephen Neal Project, Part II, Porter looks to begin the official conversion from All-American wrestler to New England offensive lineman this weekend.
Why undrafted: Um, did you catch the whole “wrestler” thing? According to this article, Porter has never played organized football. If you need an underdog to root for, he’s your guy. Although in a one-on-one match-up, he would absolutely crush Rudy.
Josh Allen, RB/WR Troy (5-11, 193): Small, quick pass-catcher who got a tryout with New England last year but got hurt. Had 32 grabs for over 14 yards apiece in 2007 with the Trojans.
Why undrafted: Less than spectacular stats from a smaller school. Runs about a 4.6 40. Played receiver in college but is projected as a running back in the NFL. One of three Josh Allens trying to make it in the NFL, which some might find annoying. (Like, someone searching for him online, for example.)
Aaron Perez, UCLA punter (6-4, 232): Regarded as one of the best in the nation as he averaged over 45 yards per punt.
Why undrafted: He’s a punter. The Patriots drafted a long snapper in the sixth round. Had they taken a punter, too, there may have been a small riot in Gillette.
I assume that the Patriots will invite more free agents to Foxboro for mini-camp, but I’m out of the prediction business, so let’s just call this next part:
GUYS I’D LIKE TO SEE IN FOXBORO
As a potential power back, Brandon Mason of Stony Brook has the right size (6-2, 230) and the right pro day numbers, including a 4.63 40 and 27 bench reps. The Pats already look loaded at the big-back position, but two are over 30 years old and one is Laurence Maroney. Having another pounder on the practice squad wouldn’t hurt, as Green-Ellis proved last year.
Rumors that Navy receiver Tyree Barnes (6-2, 197) had signed with New England have since been quashed, as Barnes will probably fulfill his commitment somewhere beyond commuting distance to Gillette Stadium. As much as I’d like to see Barnes or Navy fullback Eric Kettani here, I’ll consider another receiver:
Maurice Covington from Virginia has the frame for a big man role at 6-4, 224 pounds. Last year he had 33 catches averaging over 12.5 yards apiece. His reported 40-inch vertical leap at his pro day would make defensive backs cringe on end zone fades. Plus, with the whole Groh thing, Belichick would get a proper heads-up on the guy. (Update: Covington reportedly has a tryout with the Giants.)
Villanova’s Darrel Young (5-11, 245) moved from linebacker to safety his senior year. The Patriots might not have room on their roster for Ray Ventrone, Part II (another former Wildcat safety), but having one on the practice squad seems like a good fit.
Antwain Robinson (6-2, 258) of Arkansas remains one of the few DE/OLB conversion projects still available. He only started a couple of games for the Razorbacks and managed 22 tackles, two sacks and six QB hits. Showed great quickness at his pro day, including a 4.6 40.. Showed less quickness two years ago at the Northwest Arkansas Mall, where he was arrested for shoplifting. Beggars can’t be choosers. Or robbers, apparently.
As they usually do, I figured the Pats would bring in a kicker, and that they’d gotten a decent look at Tony Ciaravino during UConn’s pro day. At 225, Ciaravino was the heaviest kicker available, but sadly at 6-2 he’s no Tony Franklin.
Every year, we wonder where on the roster an undrafted rookie would fit. On average, at least one makes it to Foxboro every season. Again, feel free to post any updates in our comments section.
Chris Warner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org