In honor of the Taylor Swift concert tonight at Gillette, we’ve waited until today to unveil the pre-season roster projection for the New England Patriots. Why wait for Tay-Tay? Because the shelf life of this projection being accurate is about as long as a Taylor Swift relationship. There is about as good a chance of this projection being correct as there is of the Lakers winning the Larry O’Brien this year.
Full honesty for moment. When I hand wrote the projections out last night, I had Troy Niklas making the squad as a veteran blocking tight end. While working today he was released, so I’ve obviously adjusted. When you get something wrong, you’ve got to just shake it off and move on.
Below you’ll find the opening day 53 man roster. Keep in mind that some familiar names will be around, but not in pads. Julian Edelman will be suspended for the first 4 games of the year, and I suspect that the Jones boys, Cyrus and Jonathan will open the season on the PUP list. There will be injuries, cuts, and almost certainly a camp trade will occur.
Creating an early roster projection for a Belichick led team is like pissing in the wind, so lets toss on a raincoat and lets go:
I fully expect them to try to sneak 7th round pick Danny Etling to the practice squad, but I don’t see him making the final 53, that’d only happen if they see Etling as an eventual heir apparent.
Running Backs (5):
First round pick Michel, superbowl hero White, and swiss army knife Burkhead are certainties. Develin is secure as long as the Pats intend to use a fullback (which they will). The real questions are does Brandon Bolden make it due to his special teams prowess and does Hill beat out Mike Gillislee?
Wide Receivers (6):
Keep in mind that Julian Edelman is the #1 of this group, but will miss the first 4 games because the league identified something they can’t identify in his piss, that they think is his, but they’re not positive because they mishandled the sample. What this group lacks in star quality, it makes up for in depth. Camp cuts include former first rounder Phillip Dorsett, and Malcolm Mitchell, either of which could easily make this squad over guys like Kenny Britt, or Braxton Berrios.
Tight Ends (4):
All the pundits stating that the Patriots don’t have a #1 receiver (I’m looking at you Colin Cowherd) just like making headlines for their hot takes when every reasonable person would tell you that New England’s number one receiver is tight end Rob Gronkowski, and he is every bit the prime receiving target as other top receivers. Dwayne Allen will be looked at as the solid sidekick, If he can get back to duplicating his receiving numbers from Indy, he’ll win fans over. The bottom two rungs on the depth chart are manned by a development move tight end, Hollister, and a development blocking tight end, Izzo
Offensive Linemen (9):
The real questions here are how will the players be used? Will Wynn be a swing tackle for a year before moving into a full time tackle roll next season like Nate Solder and Matt Light before him? Will he work in at guard and tackle, allowing the Pats to go into the off season knowing they need to just sign one of the Shaq Mason/Trent Brown pair with Wynn on his rookie deal sliding into the other spot? Will they try a Brown/Wynn/Andrews/Mason/Cannon line (like I’d suggest) with Thuney as a utility super-sub type guy considering his experience all over the line in college? Either way, I trust in Dante
Special Teams (3):
No surprises here, Cardona and Gostkowski are pretty much set in stone. Allen has some training camp competition, but I think at the end of the day he’ll win out.
Defensive Ends (5):
Deatrich Wise Jr.
The top four seem like locks. Lee was one of the last guys to make it. But based upon the injury history of Rivers, and Clayborn, I think a 5th guy is key. And yes, Guy or Butler can kick outside from DT, or Hightower can drop down to put his hand in the dirt, but I think Lee showed some flashes in his time after coming over from the Bills’ practice squad.
Defensive Tackles (4):
If Vincent Valentine doesn’t make this squad, and Malcolm Mitchell doesn’t play another down for the Pats, then the 2016 draft will not go down as one of the better Patriots drafts in recent years. This is a solid group, Brown and Shelton up the middle will be tough to run against.
Kyle Van Noy
Hard to argue with the top two guys on the depth chart (even though many fans are anti-Van Noy), it’ll be interesting to see how the others are deployed. Flowers is a heavy contributor on special teams, with Sam and Langi the young developing linebackers. The biggest question was will one of the run stuffing backers, Elandon Roberts, or Ja’whaun Bentley make the team. Previously Brandon Spikes held the roll for a number of years, but with the strong Brown/Shelton pairing they may look for more speed on the outside to contain and funnel the run back into the middle. That’d be Sam and Langi, not Roberts and Bentley.
Corner Backs (5):
McCourty SHOULD stick, but he also fits the profile of a Patriots off season veteran acquisition that is jettisoned in favor of a young developmental guy the average fan has never heard of. I expect that Cyrus Jones will open the seaon on the PUP list, and I suspect Jonathan Jones will as well. Both Superbowl starting corners return in Gilmore and Rowe. McCourty has been a steady vet through out his career. Dawson was a high draft pick, and should slide into the slot corner position. Then there are a few options, Ryan Lewis was a practice squad darling last year. Jonathan Jones was showing signs on defense as a slot corner while shining as a special teams gunner. Cyrus Jones has thus far been a bust as a returner, and didn’t make a large mark as a rookie corner. Jackson physically has all the tools, but has a checkered past. I have to imagine his leash is short, but he’s got the talent to be the next undrafted rookie free agent superstar.
McCourty in my book remains one of the most underrated defensive players in the league. Aside from his actual playing skills, his obvious leadership is crucial to the success of the defense. He, Chung, and Harmon have been together for a while now and function very well as a unit. Ebner and King are primarily special teamers. Richards barely misses the cut, and could easily make the team if they decide to keep another DB, or if there is an injury.
The last few drafts have been a bit subpar, in large part because they’ve concentrated more on trading picks for established vets. This group would see 7 real rookies, with a couple of guys who are Ben Simmons rookies as Langi missed the majority of last season following a car accident, and Rivers missed the whole year.
Either way, hope you enjoyed the analysis, and stay dry out there.
- By Jason Sullivan
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