If the New England Patriots are going to win their fifth world title on Sunday in Super Bowl LI in Houston, they are, once again, going to do it with late round and undrafted players that most of the NFL passed on.
Everyone knows the story of Tom Brady being a sixth round draft pick in the 2000 NFL draft, but the weapons that surround Brady have similar stories.
In the AFC championship game, wide out Chris Hogan hauled in nine receptions for 180 and two touchdowns in the 36-17 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hogan was undrafted in 2011 after playing only one season of football at Monmouth University. Prior to that, Hogan was a Lacrosse player for three seasons at Penn State. After playing both ways during the 2010 season at Monmouth, Hogan signed a free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers. In three seasons, Hogan never made it to an official roster, spending time on the practice squads of the 49ers, New York Giants, and the Miami Dolphins. He broke though for the Buffalo Bills, and after three modest seasons, he signed a three-year offer sheet with the New England Patriots for $12 million, with $7.5 million guaranteed. Bill Belichick, who also serves as the de facto general manager of the Patriots, front loaded the contract so the Bills would have trouble matching the offer. Belichick was intrigued by Hogan’s athleticism and envisioned him as a burner with big play capability. His plan came into fruition, as Hogan averaged 18 yards per reception on the season and his big game against the Steelers helped propel the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
It doesn’t end with Hogan. The backfield of the Patriots is filled with cast-offs and guys who weren’t highly regarded coming out of college.
LaGarrette Blount, in his second stint with the Patriots, leads the team in rushing with 1,161 yards and led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns. Blount’s off the field troubles through his college career and parts of his NFL career, made him expendable to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers, so the Patriots claimed him off waivers late in the 2014 season.
Third down, do everything back Dion Lewis was acquired off waivers in 2015 after spending time on the rosters of the Colts and Eagles, touching the ball less than 40 times in three seasons.
And last, but certainly not least, New England’s leasing receiver Julian Edelman is another rags-to-riches story of football fame. Edelman was a seventh round draft pick out of Kent State after being a three-year starter at quarterback. Now, Edelman is the go to receiver in Brady’s offense, averaging 90 receptions over the last four seasons.
Bill Belichick is unanimously considered the best head coach in the NFL. Maybe it’s time to anoint him as the best general manager, as well.
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