Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Ex-Razorback Froholdt keeps Pats' link to UA alive
Arkansas offensive linemen Hjalte Froholdt gets ready to run a play against Vanderbilt in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas' football pipeline to New England kept flowing Saturday as the Patriots selected ex-Razorback offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
Froholdt, a native of Svendborg, Denmark, became the sixth Razorback drafted by the Patriots in the past nine years, joining Ryan Mallett, Jake Bequette, Trey Flowers, A.J. Derby and Deatrich Wise. Former Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema was hired as a consultant to New England head Coach Bill Belichick in July.
The first position player from Denmark ever taken in the NFL Draft, Froholdt was the 118th overall pick and the first choice in this draft with ties to Arkansas.
Froholdt was the first of three former Razorbacks taken during the final four rounds of the draft. The Razorbacks had multiple players taken for the ninth consecutive year, and extended their stretch of drafts with at least one player taken to 24 years, dating to 1996.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw went to the San Francisco 49ers with the 148th pick in the fifth round. Defensive tackle Armon Watts went to the Minnesota Vikings with pick No. 190 in the sixth round.
Froholdt, 6-5, 306 pounds, was the first Danish player invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, and the second Dane ever drafted after Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen's selection in 1982.
Based on video released by a Danish TV crew, Froholdt was draped in a flag of Denmark as he took a call from Bielema, then appeared to speak to Belichick while surrounded by family members and friends, including former Arkansas teammate Frank Ragnow, a first-round selection by the Detroit Lions last year.
Froholdt -- whose versatility could allow him to play center, where he started the first three games of 2018 -- was the seventh offensive guard selected.
"It's been a dream of mine for a long time, one that really came to reality a couple of years ago when I thought I could do this," Froholdt said on a call with Patriots reporters. "You're getting a player that really cares. I love the game of football. I always played it just because I loved it. I'm excited to be a Patriot, and I literally can't stress enough how excited I am."
Louis Riddick of the NFL Network praised the selection.
"When you have Dante Scarnecchia as your offensive line coach, this is where you live in the third and fourth rounds, collecting offensive linemen like Hjalte Froholdt," Riddick said. "Just a very steady, consistent guy, particularly in pass protection. He's like a granite block in there; he doesn't move.
"As far as the run game is concerned ... he could use more explosiveness at the point of attack. Just very, very consistent as far as playing smart, with intelligence, no blown assignments, picking up stunts. The kinds of things you know New England puts a premium on."
Froholdt had a stretch of 1,291 snaps in pass protection without allowing a sack, per Pro Football Focus, a streak that began in 2016 and lasted throughout the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Greenlaw's pick was made at the Ghirardelli Marketplace near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco by a member of a military family, who took the pick from inside a hollow chocolate football.
"I like his short-area quickness and what he did in the passing game," Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network said. "He's very instinctive against the pass."
NFL analyst Todd McShay said Greenlaw profiles as an off-the-ball linebacker.
"He had a really good week at the Senior Bowl," said McShay, noting Greenlaw's production as a four-year starter. "He's got to learn how to take on blocks a little better, but if you keep him free and let him run, he's going to be a productive player."
A former freshman All-America selection, Greenlaw topped all SEC rookies with 95 tackles in 2016. Greenlaw played in 2,039 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, while fighting through foot injuries. He piled up 299 career tackles to rank 10th at Arkansas.
Greenlaw, 6-0, 227, talked to San Francisco General Manager John Lynch, Coach Kyle Shanahan, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans in a video released by the organization.
"You're at a place that wants you, our guys are pumped to have you ... and we feel fortunate to get you here," Shanahan said.
"I'm ready. I've been ready," Greenlaw told Lynch. "I'm ready to get to work."
Watts, 6-5, 300, from St. Louis, was the 14th defensive tackle selected. He finished the season with an overall defensive grade of 85.6 from Pro Football Focus, the highest among all Arkansas defenders.
Watts had a breakout redshirt senior year in 2018 with 49 tackles, including 7 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He entered the season with seven career tackles.
In a FaceTime interview with Vikings.com, Watts said he was ready to hit the ground running with Minnesota.
"The first thing coaches look for is someone who can stay on the field as much as possible, as far as run and pass," Watts said. "In college this past season, I showed a lot of that. I was able to play the run, get off of blocks and also contribute in the pass game."
Among the known undrafted free agent signings, Arkansas defensive end Randy Ramsey agreed to a deal with the Green Bay Packers; the Arizona Cardinals inked Arkansas cornerback Ryan Pulley; and Arkansas offensive tackle Brian Wallace landed with Denver.
OG Hjalte Froholdt-Arkansas-4-118-New England Patriots
LB Dre Greenlaw-Arkansas-5-148-San Francisco 49ers
DT Armon Watts-Arkansas-6-190-Minnesota Vikings
Sports on 04/28/2019
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