Yesterday the Patriots lost starting inside linebacker Brandon Spikes to a four game suspension for using a banned substance. Gary Guyton will probably be playing his position, but there is another player to keep an eye on. Dane Fletcher is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Montana State. He could also see some time at Spike’s position while he is out.

So, I was curious to learn a little more about this player who has come out of nowhere to play for the Pats this season. Who is Patriots inside linebacker Dane Fletcher?

The 24 year old is 6ft. 2 inches tall and weighs 244 pounds. Originally from Bozeman Montana, he played football at Montana State.

He had a very accomplished career at Montana State. In 2008 he had 6.5 sacks. Last season as a defensive end he had 7 sacks, 67 total tackles, and 17.5 tackles were for a loss.

He was the Defensive Most Valuable Player in the Big Sky Conference in 2009. He also was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award, an honor that goes to the Football Championship Subdivision’s top defensive player of the year.

So this takes us to his time with the Patriots. I noticed him late in the game against the Ravens. I looked at this linebacker with the number 52 and said to myself “who is that”?

The very next week he forced a fumble in the Chargers game and made 3 tackles. Against the Vikings he forced Brett Favre into an intentional grounding penalty. Overall he has 14 tackles for the Patriots. Not bad for a rookie free agent from Montana State.

What is interesting about Fletcher is that his senior season in college he played defensive end. With the Patriots he has made the transition to inside linebacker.

With Spikes out for the rest of the regular season there is a chance you will see Fletcher playing next to Jerrod Mayo in the middle of the Patriots defense. Gary Guyton played inside linebacker for all 16 games last season next to Mayo. He certainly will continue to play the position, but don’t be surprised to see Fletcher playing some at that position as well.

The Patriots have made a habit over the years of having many undrafted players playing significant roles on the team. Right now you have Danny Woodhead and Benjarvus Green-Ellis both undrafted as your main running backs.

Just because a player went undrafted does not mean he cannot play in the NFL. Fletcher should now get an opportunity to play more, and hopefully continue to make a positive impact.

Spikes has had a good season with the Patriots. He had 61 tackles with 1 interception. He was really good at stopping the run. The question for the rest of the year: can Guyton and a rookie free agent from Montana State named Fletcher stop the run? Only time will tell.