This is our third of at least five annual predictions (we hit 50/53 in last year’s final prediction) for who makes the New England Patriots opening-day roster.
Quarterbacks – Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett (3)
Running Backs – Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Kevin Faulk (5)
Wide Receivers – Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate (6)
Tight Ends – Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Lee Smith (3)
Offensive Line – Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Nate Solder, Steve Maneri, Ryan Wendell (8)
Defensive Line – Albert Haynesworth, Vince Wilfork, Shaun Ellis, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Mike Wright (6)
Defensive Line / Linebackers – Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Andre Carter, Rob Ninkovich, Markell Carter (5)
Linebackers – Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton, Jeff Tarpinian (5)
Cornerbacks – Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler (5)
Safeties – Pat Chung, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Sergio Brown (4)
Specialists – Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Matt Katula (3)
PUP/NFI: Marcus Cannon, Ron Brace
Last three in: Markell Carter, Jeff Tarpinian, Kevin Faulk
Last three out: Matthew Slater, Sammy Morris, Mark Anderson
Four hybrid DE/LB’s give the Patriots the flexibility they need to play 4-3, 3-4, and anything in between. It essentially gives them
11 defensive linemen and 10 linebackers.
Jonathan Wilhite is the odd man out for us at cornerback – his ceiling is too low. Josh Barrett can’t stay on the field, so Sergio Brown wins the backup safety job in our opinion. Brett Lockett is a darkhorse if they REALLY love his special-teams play.
If the Patriots are really hard-up for a roster spot, Lee Smith and Rob Ninkovich can both long-snap, although Matt Katula has done a spectacular job.
Marcus Cannon’s readiness to hit the field determines whether or not he could overtake Ryan Wendell or Steve Maneri for the final OL roster spot.
Wendell’s ability to backup Koppen gives him a roster spot for now. We like Maneri’s upside over long-time veteran swing-tackle Mark Levoir.
With Shane Vereen turning up a bit gimpy and the emergence of Stevan Ridley as a powerful runner, we’ve completely flip-flopped on the Faulk vs. Morris debate. If he is healthy, we see Faulk making the team.
Mark Anderson was the hardest choice in this exercise. While he does bring some legitimate pressure off the edge, we feel that the youngsters Carter and Tarpinian bring a bit more to the table.
Both of the rookies are fantastic special-teams players. Tarpinian would add some depth as a linebacker with experience in a patient 4-3. Carter has the flexibility of playing 3-4 OLB and 4-3 DE.
If the Patriots feel that they can slip one of the rookies onto the practice squad, Anderson could get a reprieve.
Slater was a tough one for us as well – his gunner role is seen as pretty important by the coaching staff. That said, we just couldn’t drop Brandon Tate or Kyle Love off the roster. The depth that they give the Patriots is very useful.