FOXBOROUGH — The seven new Patriots expected to backfill the team's roster have one trait in common: they all present some level of versatility.
Between the offensive linemen selected, running back James White, defensive end Zach Moore, defensive back Jemea Thomas, and wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, there's an opportunity for each player to compete in multiple roles.
"I feel like we improved our team today," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We had seven picks and we kind of had them in clumps there, but I felt like we were able to take some players that will be able to compete. We'll see how it all goes."
Offensive lineman Bryan Stork, taken with the 105th pick in the fourth round, has played both center and guard. Offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, taken 140th overall, has played on both the right and left sides. White, the running back taken 130th overall, is seen as both a pass-catching threat and someone who can run between the tackles. Division II stud Zach Moore, drafted 198th overall out of Concordia St. Paul, is seen as someone with tremendous upside as defensive end and elephant linebacker. Defensive back Jemea Thomas from Georgia Tech can play multiple positions. And wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, the 244th overall pick, is primarily a slot receiver but can play outside.
Only offensive guard Jon Halapio (179th overall in the sixth round) seems to be limited in his experiences, playing his entire Florida career at right guard.
But the overall versatility, a trait Belichick and company have been known for, is probably the overarching value for each individual. For a player like Moore, who will have the biggest adjustment to the pro game, the upside he provides was too much to pass up on. Maybe even something for Belichick to get excited about.
"Yeah, well I think Zach has a real interesting skillset to develop and I think he will develop," Belichick said. "He’s a hardworking guy and he’s played very well at the level of [competition] that he was at. Obviously it’s going way up, but I think he definitely has the skills to move up. As he gains experience and technique and all that – I mean, he’s long, he’s got good quickness, he’s got good burst, can get off the ball – but he needs a lot of work. Obviously he’s going to be playing against a lot better people than he played against. But I think if he works hard and can develop the skills that he has, I definitely think he can be a productive player for us, sure."
Thomas, the defensive back from Georgia Tech, may be the most versatile player of the bunch, able to play cornerback, slot cornerback, or safety. He could be another interesting project for Belichick along with Moore, especially in a crowded secondary.
"Yeah, I think we’re going to have to see how that goes," Belichick said. "But based on our experience with him, our workouts, watching him play, I think he has the ability to work at all three spots. I think he has some versatility, he’s smart, he runs well, he’s a tough kid, he’s a good tackler. I think that there’s definitely a place defensively to have a player like that.
"Logan Ryan was different but had some similarities to that last year where he played outside, he played in the slot, played some snaps at safety. And just depending on the offense you’re going up against and the particular way that your roster is comprised from game to game with an injury or a guy that’s out or four wides or whatever it is, it’s good to have a couple players that are versatile and can move around and handle different responsibilities like that.
"We’ll see how much Jemea can do there," Belichick continued. "He’s done all those things in the past plus he’s been a good special teams player. We’ll see exactly what that role is. Maybe he becomes very good at one thing or maybe he becomes a versatile player that is able to do multiple things. We’ll have to see but it looks like he’s got the ability to compete at all three of those spots – safety, nickel corner and on the perimeter."