NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
With the 2012 NFL Draft over, it’s time to focus on where the Patriots stand with all their new parts.
New England is nearing their 90 player limit with 86 players and only a few more needs to fill. It’s safe to say that the offense has only improved over the offseason and the defense is certainly getting there as well.
Some added youth from the draft, young players progressing and key free agent acquisitions will only help this Super Bowl losing team regain their 2011 form.
QUARTERBACK (4) Tom Brady, Mike Hartline, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
It would be hard to find a single criticism to make about the Patriots quarterback depth. So I won’t. They have an elite starter, a dependable backup, and one of the most promising young QBs in the league wearing sweats and cheering on his team from the sidelines.
Wait, I think it’s actually discrediting Brady to merely call him elite. Correction: one of the best QBs ever starting. That’s better.
The Patriots also have two WRs on their roster that played QB in college in Julian Edelman and Matt Roark. It’s nice to be six deep on the roster.
Last we saw the Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Patriots had three QBs on their roster.
Overall grade: A+
Roster prediction: Brady, Hoyer, Mallett
RUNNING BACK (3) Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead
The Pats aren’t quite as deep at the RB position. Ridley looked great in preseason, showed promise during the season and then showed some fumbling issues down the stretch. An injury during training camp essentially gave Vereen a glorified redshirt freshman season only seeing extensive action in two games. Woodhead is a great third down back, and plays in New England more than he would in other offenses due to his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and split out wide.
I’d like to see the Patriots add a veteran. There’s still some good players out there and they’ve shown interest in Joseph Addai, Tim Hightower and Ryan Grant. All three of those players would be classic Patriots RB pickups, Belichick loves his vet RBs.
The Patriots carried five running backs in the Super Bowl.
Overall grade: C-
Roster prediction: Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead, Vet RB TBA (prediction: Grant)
FULLBACK (3) Tony Fiammetta, Eric Kettani, Spencer Larsen
The Patriots are deep at fullback. Yeah, a little too deep (TMNT II reference).
Josh McDaniels loves his fullbacks, and even he might think this is a little absurd in today’s game. Fiammetta and Larsen are both quality player, and Kettani is nothing short of a terrific story. No matter how badly you want to pound the rock, it would be a little silly to carry three fullbacks during the regular season.
The Patriots carried one fullback in the Super Bowl.
Overall grade: B+
Roster prediction: Spencer Larsen
WIDE RECEIVER (12) Deion Branch, Britt Davis, Jeremy Ebert, Julian Edelman, Anthony Gonzalez, Brandon Lloyd, Chad Ochocinco, Matt Roark, Donte Stallworth, Matthew Slater, Tiquan Underwood, Wes Welker
The Patriots went a little crazy this offseason signing quality veteran wide receivers, but it was also much needed. The only two WRs Brady looked comfortable throwing to were Branch and Welker.
Adding Gonzalez, Lloyd and Stallworth will create great competition in training camp and should lead all twelve player to go into camp only wanting to show off their best skills. This will be one of the toughest positions to cut down, and it may lead the Patriots to carry a couple extra players, especially if they can provide versatility elsewhere.
The Patriots added some youth in the draft with Ebert, but I don’t expect him to make the final roster with so much depth. I think Ebert is a player the Pats should be able to slip through to the practice squad however.
The Patriots carried five wide receivers in the Super Bowl.
Overall grade: B+
Roster prediction: Branch, Edelman, Gonzalez, Lloyd, Slater, Welker
TIGHT END (4) Daniel Fells, Rob Gronkowski, Brad Herman, Aaron Hernandez
This is another area of strength for this Patriots team. Gronkowski and Hernandez are both elite tight ends. Gronkowski is the best combination of receiving and blocking in the league, while Hernandez has the best YAC moves I’ve ever seen from a tight end. Both add so much to this offense. Hernandez is also one of the most versatile players in the league, able to line up at TE, WR, FB and HB. He’s not the best blocking tight end by a long shot, but in a pinch he can do it.
Fells was an interesting signing to the Patriots, but if anything, it shows how much the Patriots value TEs who can catch. I expected another blocking TE to come into the offense, but to give Fells credit, he is a better blocker than Hernandez, especially in the passing game.
The Patriots carried just two tight ends in the Super Bowl.
Overall grade: A+
Roster prediction: Fells, Gronkowski, Hernandez
OFFENSIVE LINE (15) Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Robert Gallery, Kyle Hix, Matt Kopa, Dan Koppen, Logan Mankins, Nick McDonald, Nate Solder, Donald Thomas, Sebastian Vollmer, Jeremiah Warren, Brian Waters, Ryan Wendell, Markus Zusevics
This is getting slightly redundant, but once again, offensive line certainly has some top talent. The problem with the offensive line is a point I’ve highlighted a couple times, there are question marks abound. Fortunately, the position is fairly deep and every player who was on the team last year proved they could play in the NFL.
The Pats added the versatile Gallery in free agency and Warren and Zusevics in UDFA to further beef up the position. If any coach can get the most out of these players, it’s Dante Scarnecchia, one of the best position coaches in the league.
The Patriots carried ten offensive linemen in the Super Bowl.
Overall grade: B+
Roster prediction: Cannon, Connolly, Gallery, Mankins, Solder, Thomas, Vollmer, Waters, Wendell
CLICK PAGE TWO FOR DEFENSE