At this stage last offseason, the Patriots had one of the worst rosters in the NFL.
That, of course, was due in large part to the departure of Tom Brady, a handful of other players leaving in free agency and eight players opting out.
However, things are a little different in New England this time around, as they enjoyed their biggest free agent spending spree in franchise history.
Thanks to that splurge, the Patriots flaunt one of their most balanced rosters in recent memory, which has them poised to return to the playoffs.
That seems to be abundantly clear to almost every analyst in the industry.
However, that didn’t stop ESPN from ranking the Patriots 18th on their list of the NFL’s best rosters.
The Patriots were disrespected by ESPN’s preseason roster rankings.
As expected, ESPN highlighted the Patriots’ receiving corps as their biggest weakness and the biggest reason why they ranked so low on this list.
"“The Patriots invested roughly $77.5 million in guaranteed money into their receiving corps this offseason, but they still are missing a true No.1 wide receiver. Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers are among the top names on the depth chart, and all three are best suited somewhere between No. 2 and No. 3 options in an ideal world. Expect plenty of heavy personnel groupings featuring Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry at tight end.”"
So, a WR corps defines a team now? Good to know. We suppose that’s what made teams like the Vikings (No. 9), Broncos (No. 10), 49ers (No. 11) and Washington (No. 12), each of whom have middling receiving units, to be ranked so high, right?
In our eyes, those teams should flip flop with the Titans, Colts, Seahawks and Steelers, who make up the 13-16 spots. In turn, the Patriots shouldn’t be ranked any lower than No. 13, higher than Minnesota, Denver, San Fran, Washington and New Orleans (No. 17).
Let it be known that we aren’t advocating for New England to crack the top five, which was rightfully given to the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Browns, Bills and Ravens.
However, to think a roster that has elite individual talents like Cam Newton, Stephon Gilmore, Matt Judon, Dont’a Hightower, David Andrews, Kyle Van Noy and JC Jackson can’t even make it inside the top 15 is as disrespectful as it gets.
That’s to say nothing of underrated contributors like Shaq Mason, Damien Harris, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Lawrence Guy, Isaiah Wynn, James White and Jonathan Jones. We could rattle off a handful of more players, but you get the point.
In all honesty, Bill Belichick would rather it be this way. After all, his teams flourish as underdogs, so it’s probably better the Patriots enter 2021 with a chip on their shoulder. If they return with a vengeance next season, well, rival fans will know who to blame.