NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Prior to the start of training camp I ranked the Patriots roster to examine where each player stood and to evaluate their chances of making the final 53 man team. Now that training camp is over and there’s less than two weeks until the first round of cuts, it’s time to re-examine where everyone stands once again. Which players have moved off the bubble and onto the roster? Which players elevated their stock the most over the last month? Did any Patriots players play their way off the roster? All these questions are answered as I re-rank the Patriots roster from #90 to #1.
Longshots to make the Roster (Potential Cuts during the first round of moves)
89. Chris Martin (24), OT – Martin hasn’t practiced at all during the summer and remains on the Non-Football Injury list. Martin was an undrafted free agent with limited upside and potential. Given the depth on the offensive line the chances of Martin sticking around are slim and none.
88. L.T. Tuipulotu (23), DT – Undrafted Free Agent out of Utah has struggled thus far. He has a limited skill-set and a low ceiling. If he can’t stop the run, then he doesn’t offer anything else. From the limited game reps I’ve watched, it’s clear to me his days are numbered in New England.
87. Derrick Johnson (23), WR – This Maine product was cut and brought back before start of training camp. He hasn’t distinguished himself at a crowded position and has failed to do anything to register during the preseason games.
86. Eathyn Manumaleuna (25), DT – Like L.T. Tuipulotu, he’s struggled to stop the run and play stout at the line of scrimmage. Manumaleuna plays a position with plenty of depth ahead of him and the fact that the Patriots recently had to go outside the organization to acquire defensive tackle depth when injuries occurred, doesn’t bode well for the BYU product.
85. Justin Jones (22), TE – When Jones was signed back in April fans got excited and were optimistic he could make the team. The only distinguishing trait of Jones is his massive size, other than that he’s a borderline NFL camp body. He struggles to block and really doesn’t look natural to the position. With the dire lack of depth at TE Jones had a huge opportunity in front of him and never took advantage. He’s already been released once and it’s likely going to happen again.
84. Deonte Skinner (23), LB – Missed time to start camp and hasn’t done much to leapfrog players on the depth chart. Linebacker depth is still an area of concern for the team, but Skinner hasn’t shown any indication that he can play a role during the regular season.
83. Shamiel Gary (24), SAF – Gary made a few plays on the goal line stand vs. Philadelphia on Friday Night, but it’s clear he’s way behind the other Safeties on the depth chart. He’s a borderline practice squad player that hasn’t done much to prove he belongs in the NFL to this point.
82. Wilson Van Hooser (23), WR – Patriots have a lot of depth at receiver making it difficult to crack the roster. On top of that Brian Tyms came in late and blew away all the other “UDFA-types” in terms of performance. Van Hooser acquainted himself nicely and might get himself a practice squad spot on another team’s roster.
81. Cameron Gordon (23), LB – Gordon has been a disappointment after receiving the largest guaranteed signing bonus amongst the undrafted free agents (35K). Gordon has been injured for the majority of camp and when he was on the field didn’t do anything to distinguish himself from the masses.
80. James Morris (22), LB – Morris was a draftable prospect that was signed as a high priority FA after the draft. He was immediately released due to a medical condition and missed too much time to make up ground on the players that were here for the off-season program. He could resurface on a practice squad.
79. Braxston Cave (25), OC – Cave spent last season on the practice squad and hasn’t been able to elevate himself up the depth chart during the summer. Drafting a Center in the 4th Round and re-signing Ryan Wendell in the off-season was a pretty good indication of how the Patriots viewed Cave’s future.
78. Ja’Gared Davis (23) – Undersized Special Teams only Linebacker. Patriots have plenty of players like him and better than him fighting for a reserve linebacker spot. His lack of size an inability to contribute in the base defense make him expendable.
77. Chris Barker (24), OG – The most anonymous member of the Patriots 53 man roster last season has maintained his anonymity during the summer. Barker has been passed on the depth chart by Josh Kline, Jordan Devey, as well as rookie Jon Halapio. Barker has a full year in the system under his belt, so he could make his way to the practice squad after he clears waivers.
76. Steve Maneri (26), TE – He was signed off the streets last week and put in a near impossible position to succeed. Besides running the wrong route early in the game, Maneri actually played okay considering the circumstances. He’s solely a blocking Tight End and doesn’t have much upside. The former Offensive Tackle turned Tight End could be re-signed at various points in the season when injuries strike, but for right now the Patriots need more for the position.
Unlikely to Make the 53 Man Roster (Practice Squad is a possibility)
75. Taylor McCullers (24), LB/FB – Undrafted free agent from Division II West Texas A&M has been a man without a position in camp. Coach Belichick recently said “Taylor has a long way to go” and while it’s encouraging to see his versatility there isn’t room for pet-projects on this Super Bowl ready team.
74. Ben Bass (24), DT – Patriots were a little desperate for Defensive Line depth last week which led them to acquire Bass from the Dallas Cowboys. They obviously liked him enough to sacrifice a young, depth Cornerback option in Justin Green to acquire him. Bass won’t make the final 53, but should secure a spot on the practice squad with a good showing in the final two pre-season games.
73. Dax Swanson (23), CB – Swanson was one of the standouts in Mini-Camp and OTA’s according to people that watched those practices. He entered camp with the expectation of fighting for the 5th cornerback spot and really hasn’t done much to distinguish himself this summer. Malcolm Butler quickly caught and passed him on the depth chart. It now looks like Swanson will be only a practice squad candidate.
72. Jonas Gray (24), RB – Gray has impressed in reserve duties during the first two preseason games. He’s broke off a few long runs and looks more agile than expected for a back of his build. Right now there isn’t room on the roster for another back, but if Stevan Ridley goes down during the season Gray could make his way back to New England.
71. Travis Hawkins (23), CB – Prior to the start of camp I heard positive things about both Hawkins and Malcolm Butler from people inside the organization. Hawkins hasn’t matched Butler’s level of play, but he’s performed well enough to warrant a practice squad spot. He’s shown the versatility to play both safety and cornerback, something Bill Belichick values greatly.
70. Marcus Forston (24), DT – Looks like the end of the road for Marcus Forston in New England. After spending two seasons shuttling between the streets, the practice squad, and brief appearances on the active roster Forston has plateau’d. He hasn’t developed into the rotational defensive tackle the team had hoped and he’s been replaced by as many as three players ahead of him on the depth chart.
69. Jeremy Gallon (24), WR – Gallon was finally activated off the PUP list earlier this week, but it will be impossible to make up enough ground to win a roster spot. The Patriots used a 7th Round pick on Gallon, making it very likely he’ll be on the practice squad if he makes it through waivers. Gallon can provide depth at slot receiver as he develops within the organization.
68. Kanorris Davis (24), SAF – The safety position opposite Devin McCourty is still wide open and quite frankly a concern. If Davis were able to contribute to the base or sub-package defense he’d have a great chance to make the roster. The fact that he’s a Special Teams only safety makes it difficult to keep him on the roster, especially since Nate Ebner plays a similar role. The Patriots simply need more Safeties that can play on both special teams and in the base defense.
67. Danny Aiken (25), LS – He’s not a bubble player because he officially “won” the long snapper job this week with the release of Tyler Ott. Not a fan of ranking long snappers and wish the NFL created a roster exemption so they didn’t count against the 53 man roster or the 46 man game day rosters.
66. DJ Williams (25), TE – “You can’t make the club if you’re in the tub”. With the lack of depth and the injury situation that hit the Patriots during training camp Williams had a huge opportunity to showcase his skills and win a roster spot. He’s done neither and because of injuries he hasn’t even been on the field in over two weeks. The Patriots need better from this position group.
65. Tyler Gaffney (23), RB (IR)– He could be higher on this list based on talent, opportunity, and the fact that he’ll be around into next summer. Gaffney was picked up with the intention of stashing him on Injured Reserve until next season. He’s better than some of the other backs currently on the roster, but the Patriots will have to wait awhile to see him on the field.
64. Jordan Devey (26), OL – Devey was on the field for every snap vs. Philadelphia last week, but his performance left a lot to be desired. He can play multiple positions on the offensive line, but his ceiling is that of a reserve lineman. He’s already 26 years old and probably won’t be getting much better. I don’t think the Patriots keep him over the younger offensive linemen whom they invested a draft pick on.
63. Jake Bequette (25), DE – Bequette is more than halfway through his third training camp and has yet to do anything memorable in his time with the Patriots. It’s just not going to happen for him in New England and it’s probably in the best interest of both parties if they go their separate ways.
62. Will Smith (33), DL – Smith has been a disappointment thus far during the preseason. The Patriots signed Smith to boost the pass rush and provide some experience at a position where it was sorely needed. When he’s been on the field he’s been used mostly as a 3-4 Defensive End and hasn’t looked particularly dangerous rushing the passer. At this point it’s 50-50 whether he even makes the final roster.
61. Chris White (25), LB – Good special teams player and a horrible defensive player. White is incapable of playing linebacker in meaningful situations and was exploited badly vs. Philadelphia during the second half. His Special Teams ability might get him on the roster, but I think the Patriots can do a lot better adding to their linebacker depth.
60. Roy Finch (22), RB – Finch has looked dynamic and explosive with the ball in his hands. He adds a dimension to the backfield that the Patriots don’t currently have and he can return kicks. The problem is he’s very raw and the Patriots will have to live with the growing pains if he’s on the roster. He probably ends up on the practice squad and gets called up later in the season when he’s settled in a little bit more.
59. Tavon Wilson (24), SAF – Started to build a little momentum and was carving out a Strong Safety type role for himself in the early parts of camp. Now he’s injured again and forced to make up more ground. The bottom line is this kid will never live up to the expectations of a second round pick and it was probably counter productive to his career to make him a 2nd round pick. No one else in the NFL thought he was even worthy of a 4th round selection, so expecting Tavon Wilson to be something that he isn’t probably wasn’t fair from the start. I honestly don’t know if he’s on the team or not, but the new practice squad rules help him greatly.
58. Steve Beauharnais (24), LB – Beauharnais has been inconsistent during game play, but he’s probably earned some more time to keep developing in the Patriots system. He’s one of the only players on the roster than can step into the inside linebacker role and play a large volume of snaps if someone were to go down. He’s far from a finished product, but he’s shown flashes of being a depth NFL linebacker.
57. Darius Fleming (25), LB – For a player coming off two ACL surgeries and over two years of relative inactivity he’s played better than anticipated. He’s performed well against the run and is strong at the line of scrimmage taking on blocks. He’ll struggle in coverage, but he’s probably the best option on the current roster for one of the final linebacker spots.
56. Brian Tyms (25), WR – Tyms looks like a tremendous early summer find. He’s stood out in both preseason games and ProFootballFocus has him ranked as the top WR performer through the first two games. Tyms is a great story, but until he gets reps with Tom Brady and has success vs. top tier defenders people need to manage expectations. He’s going to stick around for at least the first part of the season until his suspension is up. There can’t be a drop off in production during these next two games if he wants to be here after his suspension.
55. Joe Vellano (25), DL – It’s going to be tough for Joe Vellano to win a job out of camp this year. The Patriots have more depth at the position including a first round selection, a former second round pick whom was just acquired, and two defensive tackles who outperformed Vellano late last season. If Vellano is waived there is a good chance he’ll land on his feet with another team. If not he’ll be back here on the practice squad for sure.
54. Brandon Bolden (24), RB – Still an enigma and oft-injured. Bolden looked good on his limited carries the other night, but still has a tendency to bounce runs to the outside and not take what is blocked. I still don’t think he’s a sure thing to make the roster.
53. Jon Halapio (23), OG – Halapio, a 6th round pick out of Florida, has been up and down during training camp. He’s a better run blocker than pass blocker and brings some toughness to the interior offensive line. He’s on the roster bubble, but ultimately I think he makes it over 2nd year OL Jordan Devey.
52. Jemea Thomas (24), DB – Missed the first three weeks of camp with an undisclosed injury, so he has plenty of ground to make up. It’s a positive sign that he was part of the top Special Teams units during his first game action vs. the Eagles. He offers more versatility than other defensive back prospects vying for a roster spot and was one of the best special teams players in the draft.
51. Patrick Chung (27), SAF – Chung still has the same flaws in his game that he revealed during his first stay in New England, but he’s getting major reps with the starters and adds some experience to a group without a proven player. Chung is one of the toughest roster calls on the entire roster and I could envision either scenario playing out. Right now I believe he’s one of the last players on the final roster
50. Ryan Wendell (28), OC – Plenty of omnious signs abound for last year’s starting Center. Despite the fact he was resigned in the off-season, his roster spot is in major jeopardy. Dan Connolly has been taking the first team snaps and Wendell is playing into the fourth quarter. Not to mention Bryan Stork needs to work his way into the rotation as he’s the eventual starter. Wendell is on the outside looking in.
49. Zach Moore (23), DE – Moore has played major snaps during the preseason in an effort to integrate him to the NFL game. In all likelihood he’s on the 53 man roster, but it’s unlikely he’ll be active on game days until he’s fully adjusted to the NFL game.
48. Josh Kline (24), OG – The Patriots coaches and front office spoke highly of Kline all off-season. He entered camp with an inside track toward a roster spot, but I’m not sure he’s outperformed his competitors. These next two games will go a long way to determining how the reserve offensive line slots are awarded. He might not be the lock that everyone predicts him to be.
47. Michael Buchanan (23), DE – Buchanan is another player with inconsistencies in his game. The Patriots could really use his pass rush ability on 3rd downs, but he’s such a liability vs. the run that it’s difficult to rely on him. Unless something changes he’s probably on the roster because there aren’t many alternatives that are immediately known. With that being said it wouldn’t surprise if he’s cut at the end of August.
46. Jerel Worthy (24), DL – It’s impossible to project Worthy or what he’ll bring to the Patriots without seeing him play extended reps during these next two games. He’s ranked this high based on a number of factors including what he showed in college, his versatility, and the fact he’s a better fit in the Patriots 4-3 front.
45. Josh Boyce (23), WR – He’s become a popular “cut” throughout media roster projections. He hasn’t been great during training camp and still makes some mental mistakes, but if the Patriots cut him they better be ready to lose him. Unlike other players on the roster bubble, Boyce will not clear waivers. There’s a very good chance he’s claimed at the top of the waiver chain. If he makes it to the Dolphins or the Jets they’d definitely grab him. Boyce’s speed and ability to return kicks are skills this team needs. There is still time for him to cement his spot and ultimately I think he sticks around.