Two days ago the New England Patriots and the 31 other NFL teams wrapped up the final four rounds of the NFL Draft, and promptly headed into undrafted free agency, to sign some of the leftover players. Now that everything is starting to come to a close, it also means that we have a good vision of what the Patriots 53 man roster will look like when the regular season finally rolls around again. The Patriots may add some free agents here or there (Dustin Keller), but other than that, we are looking at about 83 players that will be fighting it out for the 53 regular season roster spots. Here are my prediction as of two days removed from the draft…
Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett
The Patriots made one of the more interesting decisions in the second day of the draft when they picked quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, and did not move current backup Ryan Mallett afterwards. This is a bit odd considering the Patriots normally never carry three quarterbacks on their roster, but unless a random trade comes along that wows them, Ryan Mallett is sticking around. Of course Tom Brady is still here, and that’s all that really matters.
Notable Cuts: None
Running Back/Fullback (4):
Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, James White, James Develin
The Patriots acquired some good depth at running back when they selected James White out of Wisconsin in the fourth round of the draft. This was important considering that both Ridley and Vereen are coming into contract years, and even if they wanted to keep both, it could be hard, and they might only have the resources to sign one. White brings solid running, and good ball carrying. Develin has grown on Patriots fans, and proved his worth as a short yardage runner, and solid blocker. His effort is what will keep him on the team.
Notable Cuts: Brandon Bolden
Wide Receiver (6):
Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Josh Boyce, Jeremy Gallon
The Patriots didn’t exactly tackle the wide receiver position like everyone thought they would in the draft, but they did manage to grab one of the most productive receivers in college football in Jeremy Gallon. Out of Michigan, Gallon might not be the biggest receiver, but he’s tenacious, and an awesome playmaker. He can also produce in the return game, which is an obvious plus. Other than that, the one big surprise is that Kenbrell Thompkins is not on this list. With an undrafted rookie free agent contract, Thompkins is guaranteed nothing, and with the way he played last year in the second half of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of the last players cut. Right now, I think Thompkins has peaked as a player, whereas compared to Aaron Dobson who is only scratching the surface of his potential.
Notable Cuts: Kenbrell Thompkins, Mark Harrison
Tight End (3):
Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, Justin Jones
In a very Belichik-ian move, the Patriots did not draft a tight end in the NFL Draft, which made most of Patriots Nation’s heads explode. However, they were more than active in undrafted free agency, picking up four tight ends. I’d expect the Patriots to make two more signings in the near future, those being undrafted free agent Joe Don Duncan, and of course Dustin Keller. Both I feel would make the team. The other name is Justin Jones, a massive 6’8, 275 pound, “move” tight end. He’s not much of a blocker, but could add something in the passing game, and hopefully he won’t become Zach Sudfeld 2.0. The tight end position is still in the biggest state of flux, as the signing of Keller could change this pretty drastically.
Notable Cuts: None
Offensive Tackle (4):
Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming
The Patriots managed to bolster their offensive line nicely at all three positions along the line in the draft, and Cameron Fleming might be the very best one. Fleming might also be one of the smartest people in the NFL now with his degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics. He provides a huge body that could eventually move inside and play guard in the coming years. He’s excellent and versatile depth for the Patriots line, that lacked size and toughness last year. Marcus Cannon is interesting to note here because with Fleming now on board, maybe Cannon could become the starting guard this season, and make Fleming the swing tackle the Patriots always like to have on board. Fleming is also important incase Vollmer does go down with another injury.
Notable Cuts: None
Offensive Guard (4):
Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, Jon Halapio
The Patriots bolstered their guard position with the addition of Jon Halapio in the sixth round, and continued the overall re-hauling of the offensive line. Halapio describes what the Patriots will want to do next year, puns the football, and control the clock. Clearly the Patriots coaching staff doesn’t feel as if explosive high flying offences win Super Bowls, and the best way to do it now, is to control clock and control the game. Halapio is a road grader, and one of the most impressive prospects in terms of pure strength. Again, this is all about adding some toughness and grit, that the interior of the line so desperately missed last season. Josh Kline is highly thought of in the Patriots organization and provides excellent depth, and will be challenging for a starting position with Connolly gone next season, and Mankins on his way out as well unless he restructures.
Notable Cuts: Chris Barker
The Patriots tend to only keep one full time centre on their roster, and with a projected eight combined guards and tackles already, it would make sense to think that Bryan Stork is going to be the guy from day one. It would be hard to think that the Patriots would take on 10 offensive lineman. I feel that the drafting of Stork, Fleming and Halapio signified the end of Wendell’s time with the Patriots, especially coming off a season where he was one of the worst centres in football. Stork fits what the Patriots are trying to create, in a physical, control the clock football team. Wendell just doesn’t have the size or the grit to be a part of this new line.
Notable Cuts: Ryan Wendell
Defensive End (5):
Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Michael Buchanan, Zach Moore, Armond Armstead
The Patriots have done a pretty good job of building up a rotation this off-season. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninovich are the starting book ends. Hopefully Michael Buchanan can turn into a designated pass rusher in his second season. Zach Moore is a project player, but has the physical talent needed to become a designated pass rusher. Finally, Armond Armstead is on this list thanks to the intrigue that he brings. Armstead should’ve always been an NFL player, and now he’s got the chance to prove himself. If he’s healthy and ready to go, I believe he’s making the team. All together, they create a mixed rotation of players, that can hopefully take some pressure off of Jones and Ninkovich.
Notable Cuts: Jake Bequette
Defensive Tackle (4):
Vince Wilfork, Dominique Easley, Tommy Kelly, Sealver Siliga
The defensive tackle position was one of flux at one point, but now it has some direction and purpose. Vince Wilfork is back, and hopefully has one or two good years left in him. Tommy Kelly also returns from an ACL injury, and provides a big spark to the Patriots interior pass rush, that was sorely missed last season. Sealver Siliga gets a spot thanks to his stalwart job in plugging up the middle in Wilfork’s absence later in the season. Lastly, is Dominique Easley, the Patriots first round draft pick. Easley is the man who could change this entire defense. He’s so incredibly quick in creating contact, and strong for his smaller defensive tackle size. Sure, he might be a bit limited with his ACL tears, but he’s got the talent of a top 10 pick. As for cuts, Joe Vellano and Chris Jones get the axe, not because they didn’t perform admirably last season, but that they’re just not very good. Patriots had a lack of talent last season, this year they don’t. I’d be surprised if one of them made it.
Notable Cuts: Chris Jones, Joe Vellano
Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Will Smith, Steve Beauharnais, James Morris
The Patriots strongest position last season, comes back relatively as strong, just minus Brandon Spikes. Spikes presence in the middle will be missed, but the Patriots will benefit with his lack of versatility gone. The Patriots will probably be asking their linebackers to cover a bit more this season, and they should excel. Mayo, Hightower and Collins are all among the best at their positions. Mayo is good at everything he does, Hightower is a hammer, but a smarter player than Spikes. Finally, Collins is a freak capable of doing a bit of everything, and adds an exciting dimension to this team. As for backups, first is newly signed Will Smith. Smith should hopefully be able to contribute here and there as a pass rusher, in the mould of Andre Carter. Beauharnais I’m expecting to be a special teams contributor, and the same with undrafted James Morris.
Notable Cuts: None
Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington
The cornerback position is finally a position of strength for the Patriots! Darrelle Revis leads the way here being the best cornerback in football, and being capable of shutting down an entire side of the field. That makes it great to have a super sized, physical corner like Brandon Browner on the field, and put him in positions where he can use his immense size to his advantage. Logan Ryan has been a big favourite of the coaching staff and should be in line for extra playing time not only at cornerback, but at safety as well. Alfonzo Dennard suffers the most here because of his recent arrest, but should still be a contributor when the Patriots need a third cornerback. As for Kyle Arrington, he’d be a potential roster casualty, but his fat contact will keep him around. He can still provide in the slot when surrounded by help.
Notable Cuts: None
Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Jemea Thomas
Devin McCourty leads the way at the safety position, generally beings considered the second best safety in the NFL today, only behind Earl Thomas. The Patriots are hoping that Duron Harmon can make some strides in his second season, and maybe be McCourty’s wing mate, but that’s uncertain right now. Chung makes the team because of his familiarity with the scheme, and presence on special teams. The final one is rookie Jemea Thomas. He’s considered just generally a DB, but his role will most likely be at safety, playing mostly special teams, but perhaps contributing in the box, which is his strength. The one notable cut here is Tavon Wilson, who I feel has worn out his welcome. He just has not improved since that first solid game two years ago vs the Titans. He’ll have to make way for Thomas, and of course Harmon and Chung.
Notable Cuts: Tavon Wilson
Not much to say here. I expect to see some competition brought in for Gostkowski, but that’s a normal thing that happens every year. Gostkowski’s talent and contract make him about as sure a thing on the team. Gostkowski might be heavily criticized at times, but he’s one of the best kickers in football.
Notable Cuts: None
Unlike last year, this is another position that’s pretty much filled. Save for some extra competition brought in like with Gostkowski, Ryan Allen is making this team, and looks to improve on his very good rookie season. It wasn’t the most popular choice cutting Zoltan Mesko in favour of Allen, but it ended up paying off.
Notable Cuts: None
Special Teams (2):
Matthew Slater, Charlie Hughlett
Finally, I have primary special teasers here. These guys won’t be doing anything at their listed positions unless there is a major emergency. Slater is a lock to make the team being a former All-Pro special teamer. The other one is a bit of an unknown, but I expect Charlie Hughlett to make the team thanks to his smaller contract. We all know how Bill Belichick feels about saving a couple bucks, but cutting a special teamer. I expect Aiken to be challenged in training camp, and unfortunately be cut.
Notable Cuts: Danny Aiken
So there is my very early, post draft look at the New England Patriots 53 man final roster. I don’t see too many big time cuts, but we should see a few that could make us scratch our head like every year. If you’d like a look at what the Patriots depth chart if this was their actual 53 man roster, I made a a quick Excel document. Red slots are free agents, and green slots are draft picks. You can find that right here. Over the course of the summer Musket Fire will be doing more of these, including group articles where we get all our awesome writer’s opinions, and put them all together in one article, so make sure to keep an eye out for that when training camp nears. Finally, a question: What are your thoughts on this first attempt to figure out the Patriots final roster? Let me know in the comments below.