NFL

NFL draft: The 50 best players to go undrafted

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The NFL’s 2021 draft is officially in the books, but the team-building process is just getting started. Over the next few days, teams will start filling out the rest of their 90-man offseason rosters with undrafted free agents and there are still plenty of quality players available. As a look at the big board created by The Athletic’s Arif Hasan shows, some big names did not hear their names called over the draft’s seven rounds.

With that said, let’s go through the top of this year’s undrafted class considering that a few of those players could eventually find their way to the New England Patriots.

Quarterback

Jamie Newman (Wake Forest/Georgia), Feleipe Franks (Arkansas), Shane Buechele (SMU)

Given that the Patriots released Jake Dolegala one day after drafting Mac Jones in the first round it seems that the need to add another passer is minimal at the moment. While one of them could be brought in as a camp arm, New England sticking with Jones as well as Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham would not come as a surprise.

Running back

Jaret Patterson (Buffalo), Javian Hawkins (Louisville), Pooka Williams Jr. (Kansas)

New England drafted Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round but adding a developmental running back to compete for a depth spot on the roster would make sense. At the very least he would push second-year J.J. Taylor

Wide receiver

Cade Johnson (South Dakota State), Sage Surratt (Wake Forest), Tamorrion Terry (Florida State), Austin Watkins Jr. (Alabama-Birmingham), Trevon Grimes (Florida), Josh Imatorbhebhe (Illinois), Jonathan Adams Jr. (Arkansas State), Marlon Williams (UCF), Whop Philyor (Indiana), Tyler Vaughns (USC), Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

The Patriots waited until the 242nd selection to pick a quarterback in the draft, but that does not disqualify them from also adding a player at the position through free agency. Unless the team feels such a player would not have a shot at contributing, New England might try to get one or two additional wideouts in.

Tight end

Kenny Yeboah (Ole Miss), Tony Poljan (Virginia), Matt Bushman (BYU), Nick Eubanks (Michigan), Quintin Morris (Bowling Green)

Given that the Patriots signed both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in free agency, there is no need for more tight end depth. Any player signed at this point would be only a camp body.

Offensive tackle

Alaric Jackson (Iowa), Robert Jones (Middle Tennessee), Adrian Ealy (Oklahoma), Carson Green (Texas A&M), Kayode Awosika (Buffalo)

The Patriots did address the offensive tackle position in the draft by picking William Sherman in the sixth round, but seeing another player added to the fold in free agency would not be all that surprising. At the very least they would provide competition for Sherman as well as Justin Herron, Korey Cunningham and Yodny Cajuste.

Interior offensive line

David Moore (Grambling State), Drake Jackson (Kentucky), Sadarius Hutcherson (South Carolina), Jared Hocker (Texas A&M), Tommy Kraemer (Notre Dame)

The Patriots have a deep interior offensive line after (re-)signing David Andrews and Ted Karras in free agency. They also did not address the position group during the draft, which could be seen as an indication that they are feeling good about the current depth. Of course, there are some question marks behind Karras, who himself is only playing on a one-year pact.

Interior defensive line

Marvin Wilson (Florida State), Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (Oregon State), Darius Stills (West Virginia), Malik Herring (Georgia)

The Patriots did not just invest considerable resources in their interior defensive line in free agency, they also traded up on the second day of the draft to pick Christian Barmore. With the Alabama product added to the mix, the need to bring more depth options aboard is minimal.

Outside/edge linebacker

Charles Snowden (Virginia)

New England already had a deep defensive edge entering draft week, with the addition of Ronnie Perkins in Round 3 bolstering it even further. Signing more edge linebackers for depth purposes is a possibility, but certainly not a need to speak of.

Inside/move linebacker

Dylan Moses (Alabama), Justin Hilliard (Ohio State), Paddy Fisher (Northwestern)

New England invested its fifth-round draft pick in Cameron McGrone, but with him recovering from a season-ending ACL injury there is no guarantee he will be able to contribute in 2021. Accordingly, the Patriots might turn to the undrafted rookie pool to add more depth alongside Dont’a Hightower.

Cornerback

Trill Williams (Syracuse), Shakur Brown (Michigan State), DJ Daniel (Georgia), Olaijah Griffin (USC), Bryce Thompson (Tennessee), Bryan Mills (North Carolina Central)

While there was some speculation that the Patriots might trade either Stephon Gilmore or J.C. Jackson during the draft, no move materialized. Accordingly, the team’s cornerback depth chart heading into the 2021 season remains one of the deepest in football — one that has little actual room for any undrafted rookie additions. Then again, given the organization’s past success in developing UDFA cornerbacks, bringing one or two signings in might not be a mistake.

Safety

Ar’Darius Washington (TCU), Paris Ford (Pitt), Christian Uphoff (Illinois State), Tariq Thompson (San Diego State)

While sixth-round selection Joshuah Bledsoe is no lock to make the roster this year, he can provide depth alongside projected top-three safeties Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips. As a result, any other safeties added in free agency would be little more than depth pieces with little actual chance of making the roster or seeing meaningful practice time.

Best of the rest: LB Amen Ogbongbemiga (Oklahoma State), DT Naquan Jones (Michigan State), WR Brandon Smith (Iowa), TE Briley Moore (Kansas State), RB Brenden Knox (Marshall), DT Mustafa Johnson (Colorado)

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