Who’s The FA? UDFA!

New England has made an annual habit of holding on to at least one undrafted free agent (UDFA) who had to wait out seven rounds of the draft before booking a plane ticket. Below, we review some of the guys reportedly signed by the Pats who might want to check out properties in the Foxboro area.

Plus, at my reader’s request (note the singular), a return of high school fun facts!

The Zach Pack: Nevada’s Zach Sudfeld (6-7, 253) offers another big target at tight end for Patriots camp, potentially giving Rob Gronkowski some rest.

Why undrafted: Sudfeld had only 11 bench reps at his pro day, a low output for a tight end. He was also injured plenty at Nevada, missing both the 2008 and 2011 seasons. The NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility.

Why invited: He showed decent speed (4.84 40) and good quickness (7.00-second 3-cone) at his pro day. Was third on the Wolf Pack in receptions with 45, averaging 13.3 yards per catch, and led the team in TD grabs with eight.

High School Fun Fact: Sudfeld lettered in football, track and field, basketball and tennis at Modesto Christian High in California.

Run As Fast As You, Ken: Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (6-1, 193) out of Cincinnati will get a once-over this spring as New England continues to revamp their pass-catching corps.

Why undrafted: While Thompkins had some production for the Bearcats, his stats won’t wow many – 34 catches, 541 yards, two touchdowns. Also had a mere eight reps on the bench at the combine.

Why invited: Some quick math on the above stats (or, for us English majors, a quick glimpse at his player page) shows he averaged 15.9 yards per reception. Thompkins also ran a 4.46-second 40 and had a 6.88-second 3-cone drill, solid numbers, both. Also had a decent game vs. Rutgers, and heaven knows, all roads to Foxboro go through Rutgers.

High School (and College) Fun Fact: While attending Miami Northwestern in Florida, Thompkins fell in with a bad crowd and got arrested a few times. He didn’t consider playing football again until, inspired by his younger brother Kendal going to the Miami Hurricanes, he went to El Camino Community College for two years and became a co-captain on the gridiron.

Original Cincy: Running back Quentin Hines (5-10, 194) out of Akron (and other places – see below), offers depth as a smaller back and return option for the Patriots.

Why undrafted: Hines has had a – shall we say – interesting go of it, attending Cincinnati (three years), Murray State (spring semester) and Akron (one year). Did little for the Zips, averaging fewer than three carries per game.

Why invited: Averaged over 5.5 yards per carry. Plus, wowed at his pro day, running a 4.40-second 40, leaping a whopping 42.5-inch vertical and an eye-opening 11.5-foot broad jump. Seriously – take a 10-foot hoop, lay it down on the ground, and jump 18 inches beyond it. Ridiculous.

High School Fun Fact: Hines rushed for 1,491 yards and 21 TDs as a senior at Mt. Clemens High in Detroit. He also ran the 100-meter dash in 10.6 seconds.

For Those About To Walk, We Saluki: Well, apparently the rumors of Southern Illinois longsnapper Jason Stegman coming to Foxboro turned out to be false. Such a shame: we really liked that reference.

Morris The Cat: Nittany Lion cornerback Stephon Morris (5-8, 188) will compete for a special teams slot while hoping to add depth to the Patriots’ defensive back group.

Why undrafted: Height-wise, Morris leaves a bit to be desired. He also tallied zero interceptions last year.

Why invited: Myriad reasons. First, he had five pass breakups, five passes defensed, and 1.5 sacks. Second, he ran a 4.35-second 40 at his pro day. Third, with former Pats offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien now at Penn State, the locals must have gotten a solid heads-up.

High School Fun Fact: Morris was a three-year football captain at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he played corner, running back and kick returner.

Look, Kids: Big Ben! Tennessee fullback Ben Bartholomew (6-2, 245) could become the prototypical run-blocker that New England has lacked since Fred McCrary in 2002.

Why undrafted: It seems that coaches always believe they can fill the fullback spot with players from other positions, from tight ends to offensive linemen to linebackers. Also, Bartholomew had exactly two carries his entire college career.

Why invited: Maybe the above sentence isn’t such a bad thing, as it means the man’s a devoted blocker. Bartholomew did catch 11 passes for 102 yards last year and filled in at tight end. His 4.75-second 40 is noteworthy considering his size, and his 30 bench reps mean he can take on NFL linebackers.

High School Fun Fact: At Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Bartholomew won the state shot put championship (51 feet, two inches) and the state wrestling championship (215-pound division) in 2007.

Jonesing For One More Knight: Cornerback Brandon Jones (6-0, 191) out of – big surprise – Rutgers, joins about sixty thousand other Scarlet Knights in Patriots camp.

Why undrafted: Jones probably got overlooked playing alongside Logan Ryan and some other more notable defenders, most of whom live in Foxboro now. He also had some injury issues in school. Posted a mediocre 40 time (4.56 seconds).

Why invited: The big reason begins with an “R” and ends with an “-utgers.” But Jones did start for two years on a strong defense and had five interceptions and nine pass break-ups in 2012. Also showed some quickness in his pro day drills (4.08 20-yard shuttle, 6.76 3-cone drill). Strong special-teamer.

High School Fun Fact: At Winslow Township High in New Jersey, Jones played both sides of the ball his senior year, picking off eight passes and returning two for touchdowns while notching 47 receptions for 997 yards. Also averaged almost 17 yards per punt return.

A Sandwich Is A Sandwich, But A Stankiewitch Is The Deal: Center Matt Stankiewitch (6-3, 302) out of Penn State could add some insurance to the interior line, a needy part of the Patriots’ roster.

Why undrafted: Scouts viewed this as a meh year for centers. Not a huge guy (relatively speaking). Displayed little speed at his pro day, running a 5.42-second 40.

Why invited: Oh, where to begin? Stankewitch led Penn State’s offense, which – again, due to the Coach O’Brien connection – had a lot of similarities to what he’ll see in Foxboro. Had 27 bench reps at the combine, a respectable O-line number. Was named All-Big Ten First Team by conference coaches. Started at center for the past two years and played guard as a sophomore.

High School Fun Fact: Playing center and D-line for Blue Mountain High in Pennsylvania, Stankiewitch was named the Berks Inter-County League Offensive Lineman of the Year and the Reading Eagle All-Anthracite Defensive Player of the Year.

In The Midnight Hour, We Cried Moe, Moe, Moe: Missouri wide receiver T. J. Moe (5-11, 204) will fill out an ever-growing field of pass-catchers for the Patriots, likely in a flanker role.

Why undrafted: At the combine, Moe ran a 4.74-second 40. Though he bettered that at his pro day (4.62), he may have fallen off some lists. Had only 40 receptions for 399 yards in 2012. Also, judging by this past offseason, flanker doesn’t seem like a coveted slot in the NFL. (Literally.)

Why invited: The guy’s got quicks, with a 3.96-second 20-yard shuttle and a 6.53-second 3-cone drill (for comparison, Julian Edelman had 3.92 and 6.62, respectively). Let’s wrap up this part with NFL.com scout Gil Brandt’s quote from Missouri’s pro day: “Moe has very good hands and reminds you a lot of Wes Welker.”

High School Fun Fact: Moe played QB at Fort Zumwalt West High in Missouri, where his senior year he passed for – if you have a hat, hold onto it – 2,557 yards and 31 touchdowns and ran for – seriously, hold on – 2,029 yards and 30 touchdowns.

A Serious Load Of Bull: Defensive tackle Cory Grissom (6-1, 306) out of South Florida could help inject some youth into an aging interior defensive line.

Why undrafted: At 6-1, Grissom’s a bit undersized (a funny word to use for a 300-pounder, but still). Though he did well for the Bulls, the Big East football conference doesn’t receive much national attention. None of his combine numbers stand out.

Why invited: Coach Belichick loves him some South Florida football. Grissom made the All-Big East Second Team, and he excelled against solid competition (including two sacks vs. Florida State).

High School Fun Fact: Grissom lettered in football for three years and wrestling for two years at Troup County High in LaGrange, Georgia.

Elvis Was A Hero To Most, But He Never Meant It To Me: Ah, had to go with a little Public Enemy there. Here’s hoping Missouri offensive tackle Elvis Fisher (6-5, 296) gets to mean something to Foxboro fans.

Why undrafted: Fisher hurt his knee last September and missed several games. That setback came after having been granted a hardship year due to a season-ending knee injury in 2011.

Why invited: Started all 40 games at left tackle over his first three years. Ran a respectable 5.13-second 40 at his pro day. Served as team captain for the Tigers over the past two seasons. A little underweight, but could be a rewarding project.

High School Fun Fact: While at St. Petersburg Catholic High in Florida, Fisher was ranked number 53 on the Super Prep list of the U.S.’s top offensive tackles.

His Game Is Afoot: Punter Ryan Allen (6-2, 215) of Louisiana Tech will compete with Patriot Zoltan Mesko throughout the preseason. Allen gives coaches and players a different look at a special teams position.

Why undrafted: He’s a punter. No offense. (Get it?)

Why invited: Allen won the Ray Guy Award as the best college punter in the nation the past two years in a row. If you’ve ever heard Coach Belichick talk about Ray Guy, you understand his interest. Averaged 48.4 yards per punt and notched an 85-yarder at New Mexico State, the longest anywhere in 2012.

High School (and College) Fun Fact: Allen only played two years of football but lettered twice as a kicker and punter at West Salem High in Oregon. He redshirted at Oregon State in 2008 but left there after riding the pine as a backup in 2009.

As Tough As Ford Knocks: Clemson tight end Brandon Ford (6-3, 245) looks like a smaller hybrid type who could demonstrate some versatility in New England’s offense.

Why undrafted: A combine snub, Ford failed to wow at his pro day, running a 4.74-second 40 and benching 225 pounds 17 times. Size-wise, he looks like a ’tweener, though he did gain 10 pounds after the season.

Why invited: An All-ACC First Team pick by both coaches and media, Ford had eight touchdown receptions in 2012 and caught 40 passes for 480 yards. Also excelled against tough competition, catching five passes for 51 yards against Auburn and four for 69 at Florida State.

High School Fun Fact: Besides playing football at Hanahan High in South Carolina, Ford was MVP of the basketball team and also ran the 100- and 200-meter events for the track squad.

Just In The Time Of Nick: Michigan State offensive guard Chris McDonald (6-4, 300) joins brother (and current Patriot lineman) Nick in Foxboro. After the position got overlooked during the draft, New England has bolstered it in rookie free agency.

Why undrafted: Similar to Stankiewitch’s situation, this draft never had a big run on interior linemen as teams seemed less than overwhelmed by available centers and guards.

Why invited: First and foremost, we have to assume that the Pats like what they’ve seen in his brother. For his part, the younger McDonald started his last 30 games in a row at right guard and earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. He also had a noteworthy pro day, running his first 40 in under five seconds and benching 225 pounds 31 times.

High School Fun Fact: McDonald played both offensive and defensive line at Henry Ford II High in Sterling Heights, Michigan. His 22 career sacks broke the school record.

Offensively In Kline: Kent State offensive guard Josh Kline (6-3, 307) jumps on the rookie free agent O-line bandwagon. Coach Dante Scarnecchia is driving, so behave yourselves.

Why undrafted: Julian Edelman notwithstanding, Kent State has never been a hotbed of NFL draft activity. Add to that the aforementioned note of interior lineman getting picked later, and Kline’s quiet Saturday afternoon makes sense.

Why invited: Named to the All-MAC Second Team, Kline helped the Golden Flashes (definitely a Top Ten mascot) become the nation’s 11th-ranked rushing offense. He also garnered attention at his pro day, running the 40 in 5.06 seconds, the 20-yard shuttle in 4.59 seconds, and putting up 225 pounds 25 times. Also showed position flexibility by playing right tackle his junior year.

High School Fun Fact: Besides excelling in football at Mason High in Ohio, Kline also posted a 45-1 record wrestling his senior year, winning the state title.

The Place That Launched A Thousand Hits: Troy has had a number of solid defenders enter the league; safety Kanorris Davis (5-9, 211) hopes to add his name to that list.

Why undrafted: Davis played the season as a linebacker and looks to make the transition to safety. His lack of both size and top-line speed (4.57 40) have set him back.

Why invited: If the dude played linebacker at 5-9, you know he’s tough. Showed some athleticism with a 37.5-inch vertical and a 7.07-second 3-cone drill. Made the All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team with 62 solo tackles on the season. Had an impact on special teams.

High School Fun Fact: For his career at Perry High in Georgia, Davis tallied 398 tackles, 24 sacks and eight forced fumbles. He was a two-time all-state selection.

Here Comes Dewayne Again: At 6-2, 345 pounds, defensive lineman/condominium Dwayne Cherrington of Mississippi State seems memorable. New England has gone with smaller, speedier D-linemen of late; Cherrington could add some bulk to the inside.

Why undrafted: Teams seeking faster defenses these days have less of a demand for Cherrington’s services. He ran a very slow 40 at 5.57 seconds. Failed to open eyes on the stats page with just 24 tackles last year for the Bulldogs.

Why invited: The Patriots drafted Vince Wilfork in 2004. Time to inject some youth into the position and see if Cherrington can hold down the middle. His 36 bench reps show he might prove up for the challenge.

High School (and College) Fun Fact: Cherrington attended Central Gwinnett High in Georgia and played both sides of the ball at Holmes Community College in Mississippi.

A Cup Of Joe With The Patriots? Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano (6-1, 306) hopes to stick around Gillette a while. He adds another penetrating interior presence to New England’s 4-3 defense.

Why undrafted: Vellano lacks what scouts call length, which I believe is a fancy way of saying he’s not all that tall. Doesn’t have a ton of straight-line speed: ran a 5.35-second 40. Was listed at 285 pounds in his college program.

Why invited: The stout pass-rusher was named to the All-ACC First Team by both coaches and the media. He compiled 61 tackles, including 14 for loss (six sacks). At his pro day he demonstrated some quickness for his size (4.47-second 20-yard shuttle, 7.58-second 3-cone). Also had 27 bench reps.

High School (and College)Fun Fact: Vellano captained his team at Christian Brothers Academy in Albany, NY. After being named an All-American his junior year in college, Vellano and his father Paul (Maryland class of 1974) became the first father-son duo to each receive such an honor in ACC school history.

Which of New England’s UDFAs will you be rooting for this summer? Comment below.

You can email Chris Warner at [email protected] or tweet @cwarn89

  • alex

    I’m sure one of the listed OL will make the team and contribute at some point this year. Scarnecchia is just good like that.

    I’m afraid of picking an UDFA to make the team though, because my picks tend to be the kiss of death. I still remember being SUPER PUMPED about STEALING Gary Guyton away from 31 other NFL teams back in 08. Turns out 40 times don’t mean all that much…who knew!

    Great work on this year’s draft, Chris. Hope you and your puns are back again next year.

    • Chris W.

      Alex, if you want some UDFA predictions that are real doozies, look at some of mine from past seasons. Remember Pat Paschall? No? Well, I figured he’d make the team over a guy named Kyle Love, among others.

      Lots of guys to like out of this current lot. Corey “Porkchop” Grissom (nod to reader Al for pointing out that nickname) was ranked as a mid-rounder by many. T. J. Moe has a similar skill set to Julian Edelman. Brandon Jones went to Rutgers, the equivalent to a golden ticket. Should be fun to watch.

      Thanks for writing in, Alex. Hope to see you next year.

  • Cape Cod Scott

    Chris….this was one of the most enjoyable columns regarding the draft I’ve read…the puns were awesome, although I admit, it took me a few google searches to figure out the Saluki reference…when I finally did, I laughed out loud.
    Salukis are a lot like greyhounds and I used to own a rescued one…when the organization who we adopted her from sent us a survey a year later and asked how our experience had been, we said “she was delicious!”
    Love your writing…thanks!
    Cape Cod Scott