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Will Patriots' investment in undrafted rookies pay off?

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Bolstering a draft class reduced to just four players this past offseason, the Patriots invested more heavily than any other team in undrafted free agents.

If the preseason opener is any indication, that investment could pay dividends on the 53-man roster.

New England made BYU linebacker Harvey Langi the highest-paid undrafted rookie in the league, shelling out a $100,000 guaranteed base salary and a $15,000 signing bonus. Although Langi started against Jacksonville, he was overshadowed by a pair of pass catchers on offense.

Wyoming's Jacob Hollister, signed to a contract featuring $80,000 in guarantees plus a $10,000 signing bonus, was rated the NFL's No. 1 tight end for the first week of the preseason, per Pro Football Focus' grades. Hollister is tied for second in the league in both receptions (seven) and receiving yards (116) entering the second week of the preseason.

"He's done a good job of adapting to the things that we've asked him to do," coach Bill Belichick said last Friday. "He's learning. ... He's out there every day and he's made improvement. Had an opportunity to make a couple of plays last night and made them so that was good."

As eye-catching as Hollister's stat line may be, it was Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr who impressed the most on NFL Game Pass.

Beyond the savvy route running and sensational leaping ability on the 3-yard touchdown that graced highlight reels, Carr came through with a diving catch and a toe-tapping sideline grab.

Joining Penn State's Allen Robinson and Ohio State's David Boston as the only receivers to lead the Big 10 in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns over the past two decades, Carr finished his senior season atop the list of 511 qualified FBS wideouts ranked by Pro Football Focus.

Although almost exclusively a slot receiver in college, Carr was highly effective in the red zone and on deep routes -- perhaps due primarily to an exceptional catch radius that belies his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame.

It's no surprise that undrafted free agents would choose to join a perennial Super Bowl contender. The flip side of that, however, is the inevitable roster crunch coming at final cuts for a team boasting the strongest 53-man collection in the league.

Will Carr, Hollister and Langi show enough in the next three weeks to squeeze established veterans off the roster? If not, the Patriots run the risk of losing a trio of prospects to the waiver wire before they can be stashed on the practice squad.

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