New England Patriots final depth chart prediction, pre-training camp

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1. Dont’a Hightower

2. Jerod Mayo

3. Jamie Collins

4. Darius Fleming

5. Dane Fletcher

Cut: Matthew Wells, D.J. Lynch, James Morris, Jonathan Freeny, Eric Martin, Chris White, Dekoda Watson

The Patriots easily have one of the very best starting linebacking trios in the NFL with Mayo, Hightower and Collins. Out of those three, Mayo is actually the one with the most to prove entering 2015 after playing only six games in each of the past two seasons.

However, it is not yet clear if Mayo or Hightower will be available for Week 1. That  ups the stakes a bit heading into training camp because if either one of those guys isn’t good to go, there will be an extra spot on the game-day 53-man roster.

Assuming Mayo and Hightower are healthy, Fleming and Fletcher will round out the depth chart. Fleming is finally getting his chance to play after a pair of ACL injuries wiped out his first few years in the league, and Fletcher is familiar and experienced in the Patriots’ complicated defensive system, so he’s a near-lock to make the roster.

As for the rest of the group, the Patriots will be forced to part ways with several journeyman veteran types. Freeny, Martin and Watson are all relatively new to the team (Martin signed in December, Freeny and Watson this spring), so it probably won’t be too difficult to cut those three players.

White was useful on special teams last year, so the Patriots will probably try to find a way to retain him. But I don’t have White even making the practice squad because of the promising pair of rookies, Wells and Lynch. They will end up on the practice squad in position to be activated during the regular season.

Next: Cornerbacks