Way-too-early 53-man roster projection

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This is an old exercise we used to do in Dallas, and now that I see my old colleague Tim MacMahon’s done not one, but two Cowboys roster projections already, I figured the time was about right.

So here we go, folks, the first 53-man roster projection of many to come before those final cuts in September. Between now and then, there are sure to be some injuries affecting this list, and maybe even some more personnel moves throwing new names in or old names out.

But for now, we have 88 guys to work with, and I found a way to whittle it down to 53. One interesting thing to note here is that, in this projection at least, I looked back and saw that there are a total of just five players left from the 2006, ’07 and ’08 drafts — Laurence Maroney and Stephen Gostkowski (’06), Brandon Meriweather (’07), and Jerod Mayo and Jonathan Wilhite. Conversely, there are 18 from the last two drafts, nine coming out of each class.

As always, I’m subject to change my mind, and we’ll probably take another crack at this after the OTAs or the minicamp. This, too, is with the assumption that Wes Welker starts the season on PUP (sidelining him through Week 6). Here … We … Go …

QUARTERBACK (2)
Tom Brady
Brian Hoyer

The team has proven comfortable going with two players at the position in the past, and really likes Hoyer. Because of heated competitions elsewhere on the roster, Zac Robinson’s best shot might come on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACK (5)

Kevin Faulk
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Laurence Maroney
Sammy Morris
Fred Taylor

Maybe Pat Paschall’s got a shot to beat out Green-Ellis, or Maroney’s job really is in jeopardy. But I’m going with the chalk here, with age being an issue, and because the team needs the depth with Morris and Taylor both prone to injury.


RECEIVER (6)
Sam Aiken
Julian Edelman
Torry Holt
Randy Moss
Taylor Price
Brandon Tate

David Patten misses the cut, and the more you look at it, the more you realize Holt needs to shine to stick. The other five (Aiken because of special teams) are good bets to make it, and Holt doesn’t bring much special teams-wise, so he’ll have to be one of the top three on the list here, you’d think. Also, Welker’s return could force a tough mid-season decision.

TIGHT END (3)
Alge Crumpler
Rob Gronkowski
Aaron Hernandez

The easiest position to forecast on the roster. Maybe Rob Myers or Robbie Agnone surprise. But this is probably how it goes.

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OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Dan Connolly
Nick Kaczur
Dan Koppen
Ted Larsen
Mark LeVoir
Matt Light
Logan Mankins
Stephen Neal
Sebastian Vollmer

Rich Ohrnberger’s a bit of a surprise cut here — being a mid-round pick from 2009 — but I’m giving the nod to Larsen because of his experience as a center. Just a hunch. Rookie Thomas Welch gets cut, and the team tries to sneak him on to the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7)
Ron Brace
Brandon Deaderick
Damione Lewis
Myron Pryor
Ty Warren
Vince Wilfork
Mike Wright

Gerard Warren would be the biggest surprise cut. Deaderick makes it. Just have a feeling about that one. If that Alabama product (also a p-squad possibility) gets a roster spot, that would likely put Gerard Warren and Lewis in competition for a job, and I’m giving it to Lewis based on his ability to help the team’s pass rush in the nickel. Thought about Brace, but it’s still too early to give up on him.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5)
Tully Banta-Cain
Derrick Burgess
Jermaine Cunningham
Rob Ninkovich
Pierre Woods

Shawn Crable becomes the odd man out here. Banta-Cain and Cunningham are safe, and Burgess and Ninkovich stay aboard based on the need for rushers. If it comes down to the two ex-Wolverines here, Woods gets the nod on special teams ability.

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INSIDE LINEBACKER (4)
Gary Guyton
Jerod Mayo
Tyrone McKenzie
Brandon Spikes

Eric Alexander’s time in Foxborough runs out, as he’s caught in the numbers game. With Guyton likely to have his defensive snaps reduced, he can do more on special teams, which will help to fill the void Alexander leaves.

CORNERBACK (5)
Kyle Arrington**
Leigh Bodden
Darius Butler
Devin McCourty
Jonathan Wilhite

It’s early to give up on a second-round pick from 2008, in Terrence Wheatley, but writing appears to be on the wall. Arrington stays because of special teams, and Wilhite beats out his draft classmate for the final spot at corner.

SAFETY (4)
Patrick Chung
Brandon McGowan
Brandon Meriweather
James Sanders

Pretty straight forward. If Shawn Springs had been in the plans, he might’ve moved here and put McGowan’s status on shaky ground. Now that he’s not, this position seems fairly settled.

SPECIALISTS (3)

K Stephen Gostkowski
P Zoltan Mesko
LS Jake Ingram

The only guy who could upset the apple cart here is Aussie import David King, who’s chasing Mesko for a job.

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