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Pre-Camp UDFA Rankings

With two and a half weeks until training camp, there's little new to discuss besides overanalyzing what little info we got from minicamp reports. So let's overanalyze away.

Last year broke a 19-season streak of the Patriots having at least one undrafted rookie on the opening day roster. With a roster in need of turnover and a 15*-man UDFA class, there's a very good chance New England starts a new streak in 2024. Which player or players might start that streak will become clearer throughout camp and the preseason, but there's plenty of time to guess.

Below I've ranked New England's 15* undrafted rookies by my estimated likeliness of their making the initial roster. Again, this is just my own estimation, though I have taken minicamp reports into account.

*This count includes one player who has played in the CFL and XFL, but not the NFL.

15) Jotham Russell, ED, #66, Intl. Player Pathway Program (Australia)

Russell spent his first years of adulthood playing rugby before landing an NFL contract through the International Player Pathway Program. The 20-year-old Russell is the youngest Patriot but also the one with the least football experience, so he'll likely need significant development if he is to make it onto the field. New England has seen an IPPP success in fullback Jakob Johnson; whether Russell can reach or surpass Johnson's level is to be seen.

14) John Morgan III, ED, #54, Arkansas

In theory, Morgan should have a better chance at a roster spot due to the lack of depth on the edge. However, I've ranked him here because I was really underwhelmed by his college tape. I hope he does better than what I saw.

13) Zuri Henry, T, #65, UTEP

Henry is also in the position where the lower level of depth at his position could give him an edge into breaking onto the roster. However, Henry missed nearly all of minicamp due to an unknown injury, so he has the deficit of not having been able to show himself on an NFL practice field.

12) Dell Pettus, S, #34, Troy

Pettus is in the position where he's an intriguing prospect at a position where the Pats have back-of-roster questions, but we just haven't heard a lot about him yet. Don't take this 12th spot as a dismissal of his roster chances, though.

11) JaQuae Jackson, WR, #82, Rutgers

Jackson feels like a receiver the fanbase would have adhered to in the Bill Belichick era: aside from the Rutgers stereotype, Jackson is a bigger wideout who ran a 6.84 three-cone. The reason he's down here is that the Patriots in theory have the top five of their WR depth chart already locked in, leaving maybe one or two spots open.

10) David Wallis, WR, #30, Randolph Macon

That's also why Wallis is down here; both he and Jackson feel like they could show the talent to stick around in the NFL, but depth chart questions make for uncertainty. Wallis gets the 10 spot over Jackson simply because he was signed earlier.

9) Liam Fornadel, G, #63, James Madison

Fornadel comes to Foxboro by way of Winnipeg (CFL) and Washington, D.C. (XFL), the latter location in which he was a two-year starter. Given the unknown status of the starting and backup offensive line spots, Fornadel could push for a role.

8) Kaleb Ford-Dement, CB, #30, Texas State

Ford-Dement has classic cornerback measurables (4.49 40, 6.80 three-cone) and picked off Drake Maye in minicamp. The difficulty with Ford-Dement is that the Patriots have an insanely deep cornerback depth chart, so it's going to be a battle for him to earn a spot, though he very well can do so.

7) Terrell Jennings, RB, #29, Florida A&M

The Pats have a clear opening for the third running back spot behind Rhamondre Stevenson and Antonio Gibson, and the Pats signed two UDFAs who will compete for spots there. Jennings is more of an elusive back and can contend for a role on offense early.

6) Steele Chambers, LB, #43, Ohio State

I don't know how Chambers went undrafted, and I don't know why the Lions waived him. In any case, one of my favorite linebacker prospects is now a Patriot, and I want him to do well if only for his awesome name. A running back convert, Chambers is a classic coverage 'backer, a role the Patriots have typically used safeties in (even shifting last year's third-round pick Marte Mapu into more of a safety role), so there's absolutely a path to the roster for him.

5) Jontrey Hunter, LB, #58, Georgia State

As with Wallis and Jackson below, I've rated Hunter above Chambers because he signed with the Patriots earlier. However, while Chambers excels in coverage, Hunter is more of your Brandon Spikes-style downhill linebacker. I do think as with Chambers there's a path to a roster spot for Hunter; it's going to be obviously about on-field execution once they take the field again.

4) Jacob Warren, TE, #45, Tennessee

I feel like Warren went completely under the radar, both as a prospect and a UDFA signing. As a prospect, Warren's final season was overshadowed by his tight end teammate McCallan Castles, who was considered the receiving tight end (22 catches, 283 yards, 5 TDs) to Warren's blocker (16-141-4). While both went undrafted (Castles signed with the Eagles), Warren has hardly been mentioned with the Patriots' selection of dynamic tight end Jaheim Bell in the seventh round. By all accounts, Bell has earned the intrigue surrounding his potential; however, there's still room in New England for a tight end who specializes in blocking, and they've signed a guy who can do just that.

3) DeShaun Fenwick, RB, #35, Oklahoma State

Everything I said about Jennings four spots up applies to Fenwick, with one addition: Fenwick has a lot of untapped potential as a receiving back. I'll defer to the write-up from Halil (prominent in the NFL Draft subreddit community) for details:

...what stood out was his attention to detail in that regard, altering tempo, throwing in rocker-steps and freezing the feet of guys covering him. Along with that, he has clearly worked on his technique as a pass-protector, erasing the space to blitzer and striking them with a tight punch.

2) Charles Turner III, C, #61, LSU

The highest-rated UDFA by consensus board signed by the Patriots, Turner has a fantastic chance to land the backup center job. Last year's fourth-round pick Jake Andrews played terribly, and the Patriots have been working last year's fifth-round guard Atonio Mafi (who also played terribly) into the mix. Turner missed some time in minicamp with an injury, but I think he should see significant time come summertime practices and games.

1) Mikey Victor, CB, #47, Alabama State

While the same concerns about the deep CB chart that I mentioned with Ford-Dement apply as well to Victor, the Alabama State corner has been seeing significant snaps in minicamp against some of the top receivers. He's had plays where he's been beaten, but those reports have also come with the words "tight coverage" attached. There are many talented young corners on New England's depth chart, and if this trend continues, Victor may prove himself the next one on the Gillette Stadium turf.

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Matt Monitto
Memorable Sports Moments
Super Bowl XXXVIII, Super Bowl LI, 2004 World Series, 2008 MLB All-Star Game, Attending the final two minor league games at New Britain Stadium

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