LINEBACKER (9) Bobby Carpenter, Dane Fletcher, Dont’a Hightower, Niko Koutouvides, Jerod Mayo, Mike Rivera, Brandon Spikes, Jeff Tarpinian, Tracy White
The inclusion of Hightower immediately improves this unit, which had some of the weaker depth last season leading to players like Koutouvides and White playing valuable snaps during real, live games. Parcells-favorite Carpenter was an interesting FA pickup, and will certainly add some competition in camp.
Mayo is the best of the bunch, Hightower should be a quality starter, Spikes is a great two down player, Fletcher adds versatile depth, White is a great special teamer, and well, Koutouvides is friends with Gronk.
The Patriots carried six linebackers in the Super Bowl.
Overall grade: B
Roster prediction: Fletcher, Hightower, Mayo, Spikes, Tarpinian, White
DEFENSIVE END/OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (8) Jake Bequette, Markell Carter, Jermaine Cunningham, Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Alex Silvestro, Aaron Lavarias, Rob Ninkovich
With Mark Anderson gone and Andre Carter still recovering from injury/unsigned, this position needed serious depth in the draft. Fortunately, that was provided in Jones and Bequette. Suddenly, a previous weak position now turns into a major battle in training camp.
Cunningham may find himself on the outside unless he seriously impresses. The 2010 2nd round pick showed promise his rookie season, then pretty much disappeared last season. Cunningham played just nine games last season and piled up a single tackle all year.
Trevor Scott could be this year’s Mark Anderson. He was another player that showed promise early in his career before having a couple down seasons playing out of position.
The Patriots carried just four “pass rushers” last season, and that includes the pass rushing deficient Shaun Ellis. The addition of Hightower as a situational pass rusher probably limits the number the Patriots carry here.
Overall grade: C+
Roster prediction: Bequette, Jones, Scott, Ninkovich
DEFENSIVE TACKLE/DEFENSIVE END (9) Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Jonathan Fanene, Marcus Forston, Marcus Harrison, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork
I was really hoping the Patriots might improve this position in the draft. I view Deaderick and Love both as “replaceable starters” and there’s not a lot of upside at this position either.
I really liked the UDFA pickup in Marcus Forston. I thought it was a poor decision on his part to leave for the draft early, since he missed most of the season with a knee injury. He could be a Myron Pryor-type interior pass rush threat though. FA pickup Fanene can provide similar ability inside, especially when he’s playing the 3-tech.
Brace is a serious roster cut casualty. He made it through last season as a PUP-list guy who could bring depth after injuries hurt the Patriots DL. I’ve never seen a major spark out of Brace worthy of a roster spot.
The Patriots carried five interior defensive linemen last season.
Overall grade: B-
Roster prediction: Deaderick, Fanene, Love, Pryor, Wilfork
CORNERBACK (6) Will Allen, Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole, Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore
You may notice a notable name missing here in Devin McCourty, and that’s because Boston Globe beat writer Greg Bedard said he was told by a league source that McCourty was playing safety this upcoming season. You may choose to believe that report or not, and given the Patriots FA signings and drafting, it could go either way. Until further notice though, I trust the respected Bedard.
I don’t think this is the deepest group of players, but they do have a great deal of upside. Dowling looked like a potential shut down corner last year to start the season, Dennard is a perfect fit for the slot, Moore showed quality and clutch play down the stretch, and Arrington looked very good last season before he got injured. If McCourty does indeed slide back to safety, or more predictably, he plays both, it will be pretty easy to guess who will be on the roster after training camp.
The Patriots carried five cornerbacks in the Super Bowl.
Overall grade: B-
Roster prediction: Allen, Arrington, Dennard, Dowling, Moore
SAFETY (9) Josh Barrett, Sergio Brown, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, Steve Gregory, Devin McCourty, Ross Ventrone, Malcolm Williams, Tavon Wilson
This is the position that needed the most work after last season, and Belichick and Caserio have gone to town on it. McCourty is, for now, switching over to FS to help out deep, Gregory was brought in as FS depth and Tavon Wilson was drafted in the second round to provide further depth/become a future starter. If Wilson or Gregory can flash starter-quality skills in training camp, I wouldn’t be surprised to see McCourty playing corner again.
I didn’t love taking Ebner in round six, and I can’t see him making the final roster, but I do think he’ll be able to slip through to the practice squad. Markell Carter and Malcolm Williams slipped through last year, I won’t be surprised if Ebert and Ebner do this year.
The Patriots carried four players in last year’s Super Bowl.
Overall grade: B
Roster prediction: Chung, Gregory, McCourty, Wilson
SPECIAL TEAMS (4) Danny Aiken, Stephen Gostkowski, Chris Koepplin, Zoltan Mesko
Overall grade: B+
Not much time needed to be spent here. It’s obvious as the roster currently stands that Aiken, Gostkowski and Mesko will be making the final roster.
Currently, the Patriots have 86 players on their roster. I expect them to pick up at least one running back in free agency, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sign a linebacker or defensive back as well.
Tarpinian and Gonzalez were my “last players” to make the roster and the fullback position is a bit of a crapshoot. I could see that going to Larsen, Fiammetta or both.