With 16 games of football behind them and year 2015 in front of them, most first-year players around the league have played their final downs of the season. But not all members of the New England Patriots’ 2014 class have played theirs.
Some have left Foxborough. Some have been placed on injured reserve. And some have been placed on the practice squad over the last four months. Yet the end of the regular season marked a turning point for New England’s remaining rookies, and now is a fitting time for a follow-up.
Round 1, Pick 29 – Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle: Working back from a second ACL tear, Easley’s rookie season came to a close when he was placed on injured reserve with a lingering knee injury on Dec. 17. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Florida Gators one-technique rusher played in 11 games for the Patriots in 2014, starting two, and recording 10 tackles, one sack and an interception.
Round 2, Pick 62 – Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback: The Eastern Illinois product stepped into the huddle for Tom Brady to round out six games this regular season. Garoppolo finished 19-of-27 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown, accruing a quarterback rating of 101.2. He was sacked five times over his 37 pass plays, according to Pro Football Focus, and added nine yards rushing despite six kneel-downs.
Round 4, Pick 105 – Bryan Stork, Center: A captain on the Florida State Seminoles’ national championship team, Stork appeared in 13 regular-season games for the Patriots in 2014, starting the last 11 he played in dating back to Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The 2013 Rimington Award winner was, by all accounts, the team’s rookie of the year for his contributions on an offensive line that began in flux.
Round 4, Pick 130 – James White, Halfback: The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Wisconsin rusher played in three games for New England over the course of the regular season, gaining 38 yards on nine carries and 23 yards on five catches. But it was a redshirt year for White, who found himself behind the likes of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden at the running back position. He was inactive for 13 games.
Round 4, Pick 140 – Cameron Fleming, Offensive Tackle: The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Stanford offensive lineman carved a role early in the season as an eligible tight end in jumbo sets, and also stepped in at right guard and right tackle. Finger and ankle injuries sidelined him for a total of nine contests, but the 22-year-old Fleming played in seven contests and started two.
Round 6, Pick 179 – Jon Halapio, Guard: Halapio played over 100 snaps for New England during the preseason, yet was waived during the 53-man roster cut on Aug. 30. The Florida guard proceeded to play for the Boston Brawlers of the FXFL in October before joining the Denver Broncos’ practice squad in December.
Round 6, Pick 198 – Zach Moore, Defensive End: The first-ever draft pick out of Concordia-St. Paul, Moore stepped into the rotation to play in eight games for New England during the regular season, starting one. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive lineman finished with three tackles, notching a half-sack and forced fumble on Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in Week 8, while also recovering a fumble against Buffalo Bills halfback C.J. Spiller in Week 6. He saw an uptick in opportunities following fellow defensive end Chandler Jones’ hip injury.
Round 6, Pick 206 – Jemea Thomas, Defensive Back: After missing part of training camp due to injury, Thomas went on to play in two preseason games for Patriots as a cornerback, nickelback, safety and special-teamer. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket later went on to play in a third preseason game for the Dallas Cowboys after being waived by the Patriots on Aug. 26. Thomas was released by Dallas on Sept. 1 before joining the St. Louis Rams. He played in one game with the Rams before being signed off the practice squad by the Tennessee Titans to play in another.
Round 7, Pick 244 – Jeremy Gallon, Wideout: The prolific 5-foot-8, 185-pound Michigan Wolverine was placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp. He was later waived by the Patriots on Aug. 30 after two preseason games and two receptions for 20 yards. Gallon later signed with the Brooklyn Bolts of the FXFL in October. He signed a reserve-futures contract with the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 30.
Undrafted – Malcolm Butler, Cornerback: From West Alabama to the Patriots, the 24-year-old Butler’s standout preseason performances earned him a place on an NFL 53-man roster. And the 5-foot-11, 190-pound has remained there for the duration of the regular season for his play at cornerback and on special teams. Butler played 11 games and started one for New England as an undrafted rookie, collective 15 tackles and four pass deflections.
Undrafted – Deontae Skinner, Linebacker: Skinner came off the non-football injury list on Aug. 30 and played primarily on special teams for the Patriots in the preseason. But while he appeared on the defensive side of the ball in only two exhibition contests and was later waived at the 75-man roster cut, the undrafted Mississippi State Bulldog went on to appear in seven games for New England during the regular season. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound inside linebacker netted 16 tackles and a sack in the process, before being waived on Nov. 26 and re-signed to the practice squad on Dec. 3.
Skinner and Butler were the lone undrafted rookies to end the regular season having played in a game.
Former Cleveland Browns free-agent receiver Jonathan Krause and St. Louis Rams sixth-round quarterback Garrett Gilbert ended Week 17 as the lone rookies on the practice squad. Linebackers Cameron Gordon and James Morris, as well as former Carolina Panthers sixth-round running back Tyler Gaffney, meanwhile, saw their seasons end on injured reserve before August ended.
But on a roster of 73 they remain.