New England Patriots: Looking back at recent preseason standouts
By Luke O'Brien
AJ Derby – TE – Arkansas
Derby was a 6th round pick in 2015 that ended up on injured reserve early in preseason. When he returned to full health in 2016, he joined a crowded tight end room with Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Michael Williams and Clay Harbor. He flashed in the preseason games and stood out as a frontrunner for the third string tight end spot.
The Patriots kept him on the roster early in the season but he was traded for a 5th round pick to Denver before the trade deadline. Not only did the Patriots get decent value for Derby but he was predominantly a pass-catching tight end, where the Patriots usually like a player that can act as a blocker first and catch second as their third tight end option – think Steve Maneri, Michael Williams, Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan for comparison. Derby is currently on injured reserve again going into the 2017 season.
Marcus Forston – DT – Miami
Forston is a more obscure “Preseason Darling”. His college career was blighted by injury but when he did play he displayed NFL talent. After going undrafted in 2012, he showed his ability in the preseason and made the final 53-man roster. At the time the Patriots has an anemic defensive interior, so Forston’s preseason play had the fans excited that Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick and Jermaine Cunningham had some competition.
The reality was Forston couldn’t really cut it against starting NFL Offensive Linemen and was subsequently waived and signed to the practice squad. He would spend the 2012-13 seasons alternating between the active roster and the practice squad until he was finally cut in August 2014. Forston fell out of the league in 2014 but re-signed with the Rams for 2015 but failed to make the roster. He is now working as a policeman in Atlanta.