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Jim McBride

Which undrafted free agents could actually make Patriots roster?

Central Florida cornerback D.J. Killings (center) caught the eye of a few teams.jason behnken/Getty/Getty

The Patriots made cornerback D.J. Killings of Central Florida a priority after the final name of the NFL Draft was called out early Saturday evening.

The undrafted free agent received an $11,000 signing bonus and $20,000 in guaranteed money on a three-year contract.

The money is an indication of how highly the team regarded Killings and the fact that other teams may have been bidding for his services. The Packers had Killings in for a predraft workout and could have been among his suitors.

Though roster spots are never guaranteed, the 5-foot-10-inch, 187-pound Killings will be right in the mix for a backup job in New England along with second-year players Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones and third-year man Justin Coleman.


At Central Florida, Killings played opposite Shaquill Griffin, a third-round selection of the Seahawks. Killings started 13 games as a senior after battling through an injury-riddled junior campaign. He collected 48 tackles, 11 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, and a sack in 2016.

Killings ran a 4.48 in the 40, clocked a 6.97 in the three-cone drill, and banged out 22 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press at his Pro Day. He did not participate in the NFL Combine.

Killings leads a group of players who could follow in the footsteps of Malcolm Butler, Brandon King, and Jonathan Jones as undrafted free agents who not only made the Patriots roster, but made an impact.

The Patriots also were quick to act on Harvey Langi, an athletic linebacker out of BYU who dazzled at the Combine with a 4.32 in the 20-yard shuttle and an 11.83 in the 60-yard shuttle.

Langi, a converted running back still learning the position, could fill a depth spot as he watches and gets acclimated to the Patriots’ system (think redshirt season).

The Patriots added three pass-catching candidates who could find their way onto the 53-man roster despite the receiving and tight end groupings being stacked with established veterans.


Austin Carr, the Big Ten Receiver of the Year, played slot at Northwestern and could slip into the role of Julian Edelman’s understudy.

Arkansas’s Cody Hollister is a big target (6-4, 209 pounds) who could give the receiving corps a physical presence, while also contributing on special teams.

“Cody is the epitome of hard work and perseverance,’’ Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Monday. “He wasn’t even on my radar when I went to watch Arizona Western [Community College] practice. I was there evaluating a tight end we were trying to recruit and I said, ‘Who is this cat?’ He was just mixing it up on every play. He’s catching the ball left and right. Their coach said to me, ‘Coach, you’re going to find 20 ways to use him.’ ’’

Bielema said Hollister has a great feel for special teams and served on the Razorbacks kick coverage, punt protection, and punt return teams.

Asked if Hollister may benefit from a year of special teams work while he learned the offense, Bielema let out a hearty laugh.

“I know this: I’m not going to tell the Patriots where to put a player,’’ he said. “Anywhere they put him, they’ll find success.

“Seriously, I’m blown away by him. He’s a big, good-looking athlete that can run. And he’s physical. He’s a very physical player.’’

Hollister had modest offensive numbers in 2016 (10 catches, 140 yards), but Bielema said those numbers are deceiving as the senior broke his foot and missed a lot of time.


He had a Pro Day about a week before the draft and Bielema said the Patriots were one of about five teams that showed up.

Jacob Hollister, Cody’s twin, also worked out at that Pro Day and signed with the Patriots. Jacob is a 6-3, 243-pound tight end who had more than 500 receiving yards for Wyoming in 2016.

He could provide depth and insurance at a position where the Patriots are loaded but need to protect themselves given the injury histories of Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen.

Bielema said he believed Jacob performed well at the Pro Day, too.

“Obviously, I should have taken Jacob, too,’’ he said, laughing at the memory. “I just ran out of scholarships.”

Jim McBride can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@globejimmcbride.