4.) Stephon Gilmore
This offseason, the Patriots made a huge splash in free agency when they signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore from the Buffalo Bills. Very rarely do the Patriots hand out huge money to players, but that is exactly what they did for Gilmore. Despite having a cornerback already on the team that was looking to be paid, the Patriots instead invested in Gilmore long-term.
To start the season, there were some issues for Gilmore. Learning the Patriots’ defense didn’t come easy, as there were a few miscommunications that resulted in Gilmore looking bad. However, as the Patriots defense improved starting in Week 5, so did Gilmore.
According to Pro Football Focus, Gilmore was graded as the highest player on the Patriots defense with an 86.1 grade. In the entire NFL, Gilmore was graded as the 16th best cornerback. Considering his struggles in the first few games, it goes to show how well he played afterward.
In the playoffs, the Patriots will be relying on Gilmore to lock down the wide receiver that he is facing. With a game against the Steelers seemingly inevitable, Gilmore and Malcolm Butler must be able to contain Antonio Brown, Martavius Bryant, and the emerging Juju Smith-Schuster. For his first season in New England, it was a great season for Gilmore.