The New England Patriots boast an extremely strong rookie class ahead of the 2019 season, with several newcomers set to make big impacts in their first season.
So far in the preseason, several rookies have made an impact from high draft picks to several undrafted free agents. The first training camp for these rookies will define whether or not they are cut out for the league, and there’s no place more rigorous than New England.
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The Patriots have seen rookie contributions over the past few years boost their production on both sides of the ball. With coach Bill Belichick pushing the right buttons, these rookies can turn from unknowns to superstars in a flash.
Which Patriots rookies will shine the brightest in their debut seasons?
There have already been talks of a potential offensive rookie of the year award for the rookie receiver out of Arizona State. Harry has struggled with drops in training camp, but has already taken reps in goal-line offense and has even made a few ridiculous catches.
His size is his most daunting feature – 6-foot-4, 225 pounds – while his speed will win him several routes against even some of the premier defensive backs in the league.
But with a ton of expectations already, how will Harry handle the spotlight? The one concern early could be his ability to adapt as a number-one receiver in a title-contending offense. Arizona State, albeit a power-five school, did not have the same spotlight as many schools in their conference.
If Harry can adjust to the NFL game quickly, he can thrive in the New England offense.
The Patriots have been searching for a corner like Williams for years. At 6-foot-4, his height, speed, and physicality will allow him to cover opposing deep threats. Williams has impressed early on, but with a deep group of defensive backs, Williams’ task of making the team isn’t easy.
In college, he proved to be an excellent run defender while limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 48 percent completion rate. The Patriots traded up to grab Williams in the second round due to his versatility and defensive awareness.
Perhaps one reason the Patriots are seeking Williams could be to help cover opposing tight ends, something the Patriots were effective yet inefficient in doing last year.
He already looks like a Patriot.
The Michigan man is looking to become the third Wolverine to achieve Hall-of-Fame success in Foxborough, and he’s already taken advice from greats like Tom Brady and Willie McGinest.
Winovich can fill in at either linebacker or defensive end. His quickness allows him to excel on the pass rush and he has the toughness to drop into zone coverage.
He has yet to make a major impact in training camp, however, but has been working hard towards earning a starting role. The Patriots’ pass rush is looking to replace Trey Flowers, and Winovich might be the answer should he develop well in his rookie season.
The New England running game came into its own last year, yet they have lacked a big, bruising type of back they had in LeGarrette Blount.
Enter Damien Harris.
The Alabama-product is establishing himself as New England’s third-down back. He has gotten work in short-yardage situations and is looking like he might be a fit for the Patriots goal-line back.
A report came out that the addition of Harris as a ‘contact back’ could even help Sony Michel develop into a more elusive, finesse type of runner. Harris averaged 6.4 yards per carry in college, including a pair of 1,000-yard seasons.
With Harris given a defined role early in camp, he is poised to improve drastically ahead of the season opener.
The biggest surprise on the list and another receiver, Meyers was signed as an undrafted free agent. A slot receiver at NC State, his 6-foot-2 stature may be deceiving for his position. But his height only makes Meyers a more versatile option at receiver.
Meyers could benefit from a wide-open competition at receiver. The Patriots are looking to replace Chris Hogan and Meyers’ size and ability fit the mold perfectly. In camp so far, he has dazzled with a few acrobatic catches.
Of course, having a guy like Julian Edelman in front of you and Tom Brady threading the needle always helps in player development. And already, Meyers has made progress, looking more and more like a sure shot to make the team.