The New England Patriots have kept at least one undrafted free agent for 18 consecutive seasons. Texas alum Brenden Schooler might be the guy with the best chance of keeping the streak alive.
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox calls Schooler the Patriots’ best UDFA in training camp this season.
The uber-athletic former Longhorn offers positional versatility after spending time in college as a WR and then as a defensive back (first at Oregon as a WR). The Patriots have had some past success with players who were without a definitive position. Knox pointed out Julian Edelman as an example. The former Patriots receiver played QB at Kent State before being drafted in the seventh round by New England in 2009.
Like Edelman, Schooler brings impressive athleticism to go with his experience at multiple positions. During the Longhorns’ Pro Day, Schooler was clocked at 4.38 and 4.40 in the 40-yard dash, per Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins, qualifying him as having above-average NFL speed.
Texas safety Brenden Schooler dazzled at Pro Day. He was clocked at 4.38 and 4.42 by some scouts in the 40. Schooler worked on DB and WR drills today. Might be a late round/UDFA.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) March 10, 2022
The quickness is even more impressive because Schooler is listed at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds per Pro Football Focus. His size profile suggests he could succeed as a receiver, safety, or at the very least, a special teams ace in the mold of two other former Patriots players, Nate Ebner and Brandon King.
Schooler seemingly made the biggest impact as a defensive back in college. During the 2021 season, Schooler had 50 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks while forcing a fumble and defending two passes successfully. During his freshman season with Oregon, while playing as a WR and DB, Schooler had four interceptions to go with 74 tackles.
As a receiver, which he saw some snaps on that side of the ball every year he was in college, Schooler had 55 receptions for 661 yards and 6 TDs. One potential downside with Schooler is his age.
He’s 25 and played a whopping six years of college football. He played four years with Oregon before taking advantage of an opportunity to extend his stay in school after new rules were put in place to compensate for the impact of COVID-19 on the 2019-20 college football seasons.
If Schooler was 22 years old, perhaps a team might have taken a chance on drafting him in the seventh round. However, at 25 years old, his best chance to make an NFL team became the UDFA route.
Look for Schooler to be given a chance to earn playing time initially on special teams, and he may have a chance to work his way into a depth position behind Adrian Phillips later in his career–if he makes the roster.
New England signed eight undrafted rookie free agents this spring.
Only Julien, Mitchell, Ray, Russey, and Schooler remain with the Patriots as training camp opened this week. Hafford, King, and Shanahan were all released just weeks after being signed as undrafted free agents.
If you’re looking at the group and considering what other player besides Schooler has a chance to stick, Ray and Julien might make the most sense.
Ray was an elite prospect coming out of high school in 2017. Injuries have derailed him a bit since, but many believe the talent to be an NFL player is still there if he can remain healthy.
Julien might be in the right place at the right time. The Patriots’ former All-Pro punter Jake Bailey was mentioned as a potential candidate for release just after the 2022 NFL Draft. Bailey’s production dipped a bit in 2021 after his 2020 All-Pro season. While not entirely his fault, Bailey had a league-high 3 punts blocked in 2021 compared to none in 2020. His touchback percentage fell from 58.3% to 46.7%, and his average yards per punt dropped from 48.7 to 47.3. By releasing him, New England could save all but $75,000 of the $3.98 million Bailey is set to make after earning a pay bump thanks to his stellar 2020 campaign.
If Julien can impress in his opportunities at training camp while also making it to the preseason, he may have a chance to become a low-cost option that justifies releasing Bailey. From a practical standpoint, that path might be a more realistic one than what’s in front of Schooler.
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