NEPD Editor: James Christensen
The Patriots got richer during the 2013 NFL Draft, adding youth and talent to a roster that has made multiple deep playoff runs.
Starting later this week, training camp will play host to a brutal competition for the last few spots on the 53-man roster.
Who made the cut?
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow
I originally had the Patriots only keeping two quarterbacks this year, but Tebow’s potential versatility gives Coach Belichick the opportunity to keep three. I say “potential versatility” because Tebow could be inactive for 19 games this year, or he could play in every single one.
Running Back (4): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, Brandon Bolden,
LeGarrette Blount, George Winn
Ridley and Vereen have a bright future. Washington will play his role. I’d like to keep five running backs, but the numbers just didn’t work out. I decide to keep Bolden over Blount for his special teams ability. Winn is going to get some looks as well.
Wide Receiver (6): Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater, Michael Jenkins,
Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson are going to need to contribute or Tom Brady is going to have his work cut out for him. I really wanted to keep Thompkins. That said, due to being an UDFA, he is going to have to out-perform a veteran like Michael Jenkins – who is currently slotted in as a starter – to make the team. Mark Harrison is another player you can’t count out, although starting the year on the NFI list doesn’t help.
Tight End (4): Rob Gronkowski, Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Sudfeld,
With the uncertainty around Rob Gronkowski and Jake Ballard’s health – both will start on the PUP List – I have to keep four tight ends here. I even thought about keeping five. In one of the hardest decisions, I kept Sudfeld over Fells for his pass-catching upside and team-friendly rookie contract. Don’t sleep on Brandon Ford either, both he and Sudfeld will get plenty of reps this July.
Offensive Tackle (3): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Will Svitek,
This is a very good group of tackles with Solder and Vollmer. Svitek is very capable as the swing backup as well. I’d love to keep Zusevics, as he exhibited some talent at Iowa. If Gronkowski is deemed 100% and only three tight ends make the team, Zusevics could be the extra lineman. If not, the Patriots would love to see him on the practice squad.
Guard (3): Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon,
Josh Klein, Chris McDonald
If Cannon continues to develop and Mankins is healthy, this is another solid group. Klein and McDonald are two linemen that the Patriots would love to get on the practice squad. Klein especially has some tools as a swing backup and has an outside chance of making the roster.
Center (2): Ryan Wendell, Nick McDonald,
Wendell played very well in 2012 in my opinion. McDonald offers a decent backup option here as well, although he is starting the year on the PUP list.
Defensive Tackle (4): Vince Wilfork, Armond Armstead, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Forston,
Anthony Reshad White, Cory Grissom
This is one of the few positions that I’d like to see some extra depth, especially with Armstead starting the year on the NFI list. Grissom, White and Forston are three promising UDFA’s that will battle it out for the fourth or perhaps fifth spot here. All would be coveted practice-squad players as well.
Defensive End (5): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette,
Jason Vega, Jermaine Cunningham, Marcus Benard
This group is exciting. Ninkovich is an unheralded star. Jones and Francis had flashes of brilliance in 2012. Buchanan, Bequette and Vega all bring loads of promise, but I think only two of them make the team. If the Patriots move to more of a 3-4 look, I think Vega could also make the team at the expense of perhaps a tight end or wide receiver. Cunningham has been a disappointment and barring a spectacular pre-season, he might be on his way out. Benard is certainly a darkhorse to make the roster, he could surprise if healthy.
Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Steve Beauharnais, Dane Fletcher,
Niko Koutovides, Mike Rivera, Jeff Tarpinian, AJ Edds
With Mayo, Spikes, Hightower and Collins, the Patriots are developing a solid young core or play-making linebackers. I have Beauharnais and Fletcher in at this point, but special teams are likely to play a huge part in determining who the last linebacker or two to make the team are.
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan,
I get the Dowling criticism, but when he is on the field, he is the best corner in New England. If the rest of the crew stays healthy – and out of trouble – this might actually be a position of strength.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon, Adrian Wilson, Nate Ebner,
This is an incredibly tough spot to predict after McCourty. Tavon Wilson and Duron Harmon are almost certain locks to make the team due to their draft position, along with Wilson’s play as a rookie. Ebner is probably the least talented as a safety, but his cheap contract, youth and special teams play make him attractive. That leaves the two relatively high-priced veterans. Wilson, as a big nickel, brings something extra to the table that Gregory can’t, which ultimately leads me to giving him the undeserved axe.
Specialist (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken,
Mesko will have all the competition he wants with Allen. This could go either way – especially with rookie contracts being so cheap – but ultimately I think Belichick sticks with the proven commodity.
IR: T.J. Moe