NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
New England enters the offseason well-stocked with practice squad talent; this article will profile the Patriots’ most likely reserve options in 2013 based on their current roster.
QB Mike Kafka
A former fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, Kafka is a 25 year-old passer with no accrued seasons in the league (six games or more on the active roster.) He has prototypical size at 6’3” and 225 pounds, and was once considered a potentially valuable trade asset while playing under Andy Reid. It’s doubtful that Kafka still holds the same appeal to other teams (he was unsigned in 2012), but he could make sense as a long-term developmental option in New England.
WR Jeremy Ebert
The Patriots drafted Ebert in the seventh round last season, but released him during final cuts; he spent some time on Philadelphia’s practice squad but eventually re-signed with New England. It’s possible that Ebert could make New England’s 53-man roster depending on how many wide receivers they add this offseason, but is most likely a practice squad option. Ebert has impressive speed and change-of-direction skills and could eventually develop into a slot receiver.
WR Andre Holmes
The biggest wide receiver on New England’s roster at 6’4” and 225 pounds, Holmes was considered an intriguing developmental player after graduating from Hillsdale College, running the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds and posting impressive numbers in the three-cone drill (6.69) and broad jump (10’10”) as well. Without many legitimate receiver options on roster, it would be wise for the Patriots to consider seeing whether or not Holmes, who is eligible for the practice squad because he has only one accrued season of less than eight games, can contribute at some point.
OT Kyle Hix
Without much depth along the offensive line, Hix makes sense as a reserve option. He spent each of the last two seasons on injured reserve, but was considered an athletic tackle with some size (6’7”, 315) back in 2011. Although Hix is not considered to be especially strong, he has a large body of collegiate experience to fall back upon – 39 starts and 51 games played at Texas – and has upside as a swing reserve option in the future, having played on both sides of the line with the Longhorns. This move makes even more sense if New England parts ways with Sebastian Vollmer, a free agent.
DT Marcus Forston
Marcus Forston played a handful of snaps with the Patriots last season after going undrafted in 2012. The former Miami Hurricane is considered a developmental three-technique prospect with an intriguing blend of size (6’3”, 305) and short-area quickness. He missed most of his junior season with an injury but nonetheless decided to declare for the draft; had he remained in school for his senior season, he almost certainly would have been picked at some point. New England is relatively deep at defensive tackle, but it’s also possible (albeit unlikely) that Forston could make the final 53-man roster.
DE Tracy Robertson
A defensive tackle/defensive end ‘tweener, Robertson spent time with the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions last season before landing on New England’s practice squad. Robertson’s explosiveness and his movement skills leave something to be desired, but he remains a young player with some power. At 6’4” and 280 pounds, Robertson could eventually develop into a two-gap defensive end in New England’s 4-3 defense or a one-gap defensive tackle in the same front, similar to what the Patriots hve attempted with Brandon Deaderick and Shaun Ellis in the past. Of the players on this list, Robertson may be the least likely to remain with New England in 2013.
DE Jason Vega
A native of Brockton, Massachusetts, Vega totaled twelve sacks over the past two seasons with the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers; he has ideal size for a pass rusher at 6’4” and 255 pounds. As an edge rusher, Vega appears proficient at timing snap counts and exhibits enough bend and explosiveness to win the edge. With players such as Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Deaderick, Justin Francis, Jake Bequette, and Marcus Benard competing for roster spots, it will be difficult for Vega to make the team, but he has value as a practice squad player considering his youth (25 years old) and prior pro experience in the CFL.
DB Malcolm Williams
Williams, a 2011 seventh-round pick, has spent the past two seasons with New England but nonetheless has failed to accrue a season of experience, making him eligible for the practice squad once again. He was considered an outstanding special teams player during his time at TCU, and is versatile enough to play either cornerback or safety. To sweeten the pot, Williams has some intriguing physical tools: a 4.47 40-yard dash and 1.48 second ten-yard split, a 40” vertical, and an impressive 6.90 second three-cone drill time, all recorded at TCU’s 2011 pre-draft Pro Day. Williams is also a candidate for the active roster, potentially as a replacement for free agent Marquice Cole.