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Who is the MVP of the Patriots NOT Named Tom Brady?


There are certain "givens" around these parts (or at least when it comes to this digital neighborhood).

Ted Williams is the best hitter, world-class fisherman, and Marine Corps pilot to ever play for the Red Sox.

Bobby Orr is the greatest Bruin to ever wear the spoked "B."

Bill Russell owns the NBA's Mt. Rushmore.

Another given is this: Tom Brady is the most valuable player on the Patriots.

Without No. 12, all hope is lost. Even when the team went 11-5 without him, it missed the playoffs.

No Brady, no football season.

So the question remains, who is the Most Valuable Player for the Patriots NOT Named Tom Brady. (No, Belichick is NOT a player.)

Here's our countdown of the Top 10.

Let us know where we were right and wrong in the comments.

10. S Devin McCourty - Words to live by.

McCourty is entering his fifth (wow - has it been that long?) season with the Patriots. Now, with the Legion of Belichick officially taking shape with the arrival of Darrelle Revis (and Brandon Browner in Week 5 after his banned-substance suspension), does anyone care to guess where all those deep balls will be headed? Most likely anywhere McCourty and fellow starting safety Duron Harmon find themselves. McCourty had seven interceptions during his rookie season in 2010 as a cornerback but has only totaled eight since then. Either he will find the spotlight or, more ominously, the spotlight will find him.

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9. G Logan Mankins - Logan the Cable Guy? Mankins arrived at training camp this week completely clean-shaven. Take that, 2013 Red Sox. The veteran guard and offensive team captain, now 32, has help to cover Brady's blind side for nine seasons. He is the longest tenured Patriot without a Super Bowl ring and, apparently, plans on sticking around long enough to win one. Last year was his first full season since 2009. Brady will need Mankins around again for all 16 games to both remain healthy throughout the season and get back into the playoffs with at least a home playoff game.

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8. K Stephen Gostkowski - Nothing illustrates the frustrations the Patriots had with their offense last season better than this: Gostkowski led the NFL in both field goals (38) and in field-goal attempts (41). Sometimes, he was too good for the team's good, allowing Belichick to take the sure three instead of going for it on third-down situations inside the 30 (22 of Gostkowski's FGs came from inside the 30.) Having a "money" kicker is something the Patriots found essential in their three Super Bowl-winning seasons. The knock on Gostkowski is that he can't/hasn't made a "Super Bowl-winning" kick." Belichick showed little confidence in him back in Super Bowl XLII - a move which continues to haunt him with some fans and media types. Perhaps he'll have the chance to make up for it back in Glendale this February.

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7. DE Rob Ninkovich - The most important player on the defense who wasn't injured last season, Ninkovich gives the Patriots speed and power off the end rush. With the presence of Revis and (eventually) Browner in the secondary, look for Ninkovich to roll up some impressive sack and tackle numbers.

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6. DL Vince Wilfork - Another large missing piece during last January's demolition in the AFC title game was Wilfork. For some inexplicable reason, both Wilfork and his position was deemed nearly useless by the NFL intelligentsia and State Run Media types during his contract dispute. Wilfork's contract situation demonstrated both sides of the NFL business model. It showed that a contract really isn't a contract in the NFL. It also demonstrated that most often a player's best leverage is simply not showing up. After all the hugs and kisses, Wilfork should be able to digest both the ill feelings and the performance incentives in his new deal. He will be among the best surprises of 2014 on this team and remind us all the importance of having an extra-extra-extra large presence in the middle on short-down situations.

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5.Running Back TBD - The Patriots mastered the art of "Running Back By Committee" last season as Stevan Ridley (773 yards on 178 carries, 7 TDs) and LeGarrette Blount (772 on 153 carries, 7 TDs) posted nearly identical numbers. Blount is now in Pittsburgh. As Brady's Biological Clock ticks louder and louder each day - he turns 37 next week - a sustainable running game is perhaps the most important thing the Patriots can do on offense to extend his career. Ridley fumbled the ball four times last season and, miraculously, is still a Patriot - at least for now. He rushed for 1,232 yards in 2012. Shane Vereen fumbled once last season in 44 carries and could be atop the running back depth chart when training camp ends. Of course, in Belichick's universe, you're often only as good as your last carry/fumble.

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4. LB Jerod Mayo - Mayo led the Patriots with 87 solo tackles (147 total) during the 2012 season but missed all but six games last season due to injury. With Brandon Spikes and his idiocy shuffled off to Buffalo, Mayo will move to the outside and give the Patriots quickness on the edge and some lethality with Jamie Collins on the other side. Collins shined in the AFC divisional playoff game against Indianapolis. With Mayo's presence, the Patriots should get even more of an upgrade on both ends in the middle.

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3. TE Rob Gronkowski - After a summer of hard-partying and even tougher workouts, the oft-injured Gronk has been cleared to play for Week 1 by none other than Bill Belichick. Last year, Gronkowski played in only seven games for the Patriots last season. He was finally shelved after tearing his ACL in Week 14. His absence was most notable in the AFC title game, where Brady had no one credible to throw deep to on third and desperate. The fact that the Patriots made it to the AFC Championship game last season without much from Gronkowski shows he's also not completely indispensable. His presence is, however, very necessary to get past Denver in the playoffs.

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2. CB Darrelle Revis - You'll find Revis among the top three in any credible ranking of pass defenders in the NFL. Revis has the potential to become the most impactful free-agent signing in the history of the team. Like many others on the Patriots defense, Revis is coming off an injury-hampered season. A return to full strength and a schedule laden with games against Geno Smith/Mike Vick and E.J. Manuel should allow Revis the chance to flourish. With Revis (and Browner) roaming deep, Peyton Manning will not have the same free reign against the Patriots on Nov. 2 that he had in the AFC title game. Neither will any other QB they face this season.

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1. WR Julian Edelman - Smile everyone, it's football season.

Edelman did all the right things this offseason after he and the Patriots came to terms on a new contract. He worked out with Brady, he made the requisite charity appearances, and had plenty of fun on social media. But unlike Gronk, Edelman kept it rated PG and did not put himself into a position where if he somehow gets hurt, nothing he did off the field will be used against him. More importantly, Edelman gives Brady stability in targeting, especially on those crucial third-and-short situations where No. 12 needs his Binky to bail him out. Edelman did the unthinkable last season and helped Patriots' fans nearly forget about Wes Welker. Edelman averaged 10.1 yards over his 106 catches last season, scoring six touchdowns. Stellar numbers for a guy taken in the seventh round.

Both Edelman and Gronkowski play all-out and all-in football on every down. Edelman's biggest flaw may be his inability to know when to save himself for the next play.

Scrappy indeed.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address
. Thanks always for reading.

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