Seemingly every season, there’s an undrafted rookie that emerges in training camp and becomes an impact player for the New England Patriots—take Kenbrell Thompkins last season, for example. This year, it will be Roy Finch who muscles his way from anonymity onto the Patriots’ 53-man roster.
If you look at Finch on paper, there’s not much to get excited about. Sure, he ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash, but come on—the guy is listed at 5-foot-7, and he’s also been measured at 5-foot-6. And he weighs only 177 pounds, so it’s hard to imagine Finch even stepping on an NFL field.
But with one glance at Finch’s highlights, it’s easy to get excited about the Oklahoma product. Despite his diminutive stature, Finch is an aggressive runner, and he’s not afraid to lower the shoulder on would-be tacklers. He is smooth in the open field, making quick, purposeful cuts to juke and spin around defenders.
Breaking down Finch’s potential routes to make the Pats’ roster, it’s evident that he has little room for error. Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and James White are each locks to make the team, leaving Finch in a competition for the fourth and likely last running back spot.
Look for the speedster to separate himself from fellow backs Brandon Bolden, Stephen Houston, and Jonas Gray by carving out a role in the kick return game. The Patriots have ranked middle of the pack for the past several years in average kick return yardage, so the opportunity is there for Finch to distance himself, quite literally, from his competition.
Bolden is Finch’s main roadblock, but the veteran has been a weak link in the Patriots’ backfield this offseason. Finch brings freshness to the depth chart while he also fills the need at kick returner, something that Bolden cannot. As training camp wears on, expect Finch to light up the field enough times so that Bill Belichick simply can’t bear to cut him.
It’s also worth noting that Ridley, Vereen, and Bolden will all be free agents in 2015. The Patriots wouldn’t want to find themselves depleted at the position come next spring, so bringing on Finch would be a good way to lessen the potential blow from a personnel standpoint.
Finch is just the latest in a string of undersized offensive role players that the Patriots have groomed. But unlike Danny Woodhead, for example, Finch presents a legitimate threat to score every time he touches the ball.