The Patriots added some talent during the 2013 NFL Draft to a roster that was one of the four best in the NFL last year.
Come July, these players are going to be having a high-stakes competition for the last few spots on the 53-man roster.
Who made the cut?
Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett,
Kafka offers a quality third option at quarterback, but ultimately I think the Patriots only carry two quarterbacks this year. After two years, the Patriots needs to be able to trust Ryan Mallett if he needs to come in and start.
Running Back (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount
Blount and Bolden might be in a competition for the final spot if Belichick decides to carry only four running backs, a battle that could go either way.
Wide Receiver (6): Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Donald Jones, Matthew Slater,
T.J. Moe, Michael Jenkins
T.J. Moe is going to make it very hard to cut him. If he doesn’t make the team, I don’t see any way that he makes it onto the practice squad, but I’d be excited if he did. I don’t think Jenkins has a prayer of making this team with the addition of Boyce and Dobson.
Tight End (3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jake Ballard,
Michael Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells
“Illinois Mike” and Fells were two tough cuts and perhaps the two I feel least comfortable about. The three tight ends that I’m keeping here are all coming back from injuries, which is sure to make Belichick wary.
Offensive Tackle (4): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Markus Zusevics, Will Svitek
Solder and Vollmer are the starters. Svitek can play both left and right tackle, while Zusevics can play both right tackle and guard. This is a very solid group of tackles – I love Zusevics’ upside with Coach Scar.
Guard (3): Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon,
Josh Klein, Chris McDonald
Chris McDonald is getting a lot publicity, but I think Josh Klein is the undrafted lineman that has the best chance of making the roster. He played all five positions in college, which will endear him to Belichick and Scarnecchia. In the end, I think that the Patriots try and sneak both of the UDFA linemen onto the practice squad.
Center (2): Ryan Wendell, Nick McDonald,
Wendell played very well in 2012 in my opinion. McDonald offers a decent backup option here as well.
Defensive Tackle (5): Vince Wilfork, Armond Armstead, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Tommy Kelly,
Wilfork and Love will man the nose / 2-gap responsibilities while Kelly and new acquisition Armond Armstead can play the 1-gap roles on this hybrid defense. Brandon Deaderick is a versatilie guy that can play in an even or odd front.
Defensive End (5): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette,
Jason Vega, Jermaine Cunningham
In my opinion, this is going to be the hottest competition in camp, with the possible exception of strong safety. Vega and Bequette could very easily switch roles, but I’m going to give the former 3rd round pick the benefit of the doubt. I think this is a do or die year for Cunningham. If the Patriots finally land John Abraham, this competition is going to get even tougher.
Linebacker (5): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Steve Beauharnais,
Dane Fletcher, Jeff Tarpinian
Collins does a lot for this linebacker group. He can play inside if he needs to, can rush standing up or with his hand in the dirt from the edge and everything in between. He is almost like having 1.5 players on the roster instead of just 1. Beauharnais gets the nod for me over Fletcher (injury return) and Tarpinian (limited in defense) due to his ability to play in the nickel defense and be a core-four special teams player.
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan,
I’d be fine with Cole as a special teams player and fifth corner if one of the top five guys gets injured. If Dowling is healthy though, he is by far the superior player.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon, Adrian Wilson,
I have Nate Ebner being the cut here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Adrian Wilson is the guy. If Tavon Wilson wins the SS competition and Duron Harmon looks decent in the “money” role, Wilson might be the odd-man out. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Wilson still has a lot to offer, but there is a youth movement afoot in Foxborough. If the competition is close, they might error on the side of the younger player. If cut, Wilson would count $1 million against the cap.
Specialist (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken,
Mesko might get a bit of competition this off-season, but ultimately I think the specialists stay the same this year.