Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for the New England Patriots
Many of the players might not be Week 1 starters, but the reverberations from this draft will be felt for years to come in New England. Instead of trying to add players at positions of strength, Bill Belichick carefully added players who will be able to contribute to the Patriots multiple seasons into the future.
Here is how the Patriots depth chart could stack up as of now.
Starter: Tom Brady
Depth: Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett
Roster Bubble: None
Tom Brady is the starter here. The race for backup quarterback, however, is just starting to heat up. The Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo and chose to hold on to Ryan Mallett rather than trade him. It is possible that New England could choose to carry three quarterbacks through the season.
Next year, Mallett will be a free agent and Garoppolo can step into the void with a season under his belt.
Starters: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen
Depth: Brandon Bolden, James White
Roster Bubble: James Develin, Roy Finch
Ridley and Vereen look entrenched as the opening-day starters, but the fact that they are on the last year of their rookie contracts gives an opportunity to some other players to step up and shine. Bolden has shown that he can carry the load in a pinch, but I think that White will get the first chance at backing up Ridley and Vereen.
Depending on whether the Patriots choose to carry three quarterbacks this year, Develin's fullback position might be the first to go.
Starters: Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman
Depth: Kenbrell Thompkins, Brandon LaFell, Josh Boyce, Jeremy Gallon, Matthew Slater
Roster Bubble: Mark Harrison
Unless his ankle injury hampers his timely return, Dobson should start the year on the field as the "X" receiver next to Amendola in the slot, with Edelman across the field at "Z."
There is also a solid group of receivers behind the starters. Thompkins can fill in as the "X," Boyce and Gallon can help out at "Z" or in the slot, while LaFell can do all three.
Harrison has a chance to make the roster—perhaps at "move" tight end—but he'll need to learn how to be a receiver first.
Starters: Rob Gronkowski
Depth: Michael Hoomanawanui
Roster Bubble: D.J. Williams, Justin Jones
The New England Patriots missed out on the top talent at the tight end position, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them try to add a veteran like Dustin Keller in free agency. Michael Hoomanawanui is a solid backup that can be counted on to contribute when called upon.
In free agency after the draft, the Patriots were able to pick up Justin Jones, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com. While Jones doesn't have a lot of refined skills, it is hard to teach a player to be 6'8". He could be a surprise roster addition as a red-zone threat.
Starters: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins, Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell
Depth: Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Jon Halapio, Josh Kline
Roster Bubble: Dan Connolly, Chris Barker, Braxston Cave
Three of the starting five—Solder, Vollmer and Mankins—seem to be set going into the 2014 season. And provided that he is healthy, Stork will have a fierce competition with Cannon, Wendell and Connolly for the last two interior spots. Halapio could also be a sleeper there.
If the competition is close at all, I see Connolly losing out. The New England Patriots could save $3 million by cutting him, according to Over the Cap.
Fleming will likely be the backup for both Solder and Vollmer.
Starters: Vince Wilfork, Dominique Easley, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones
Depth: Sealver Siliga, Tommy Kelly, Chris Jones, Michael Buchanan
Roster Bubble: Jake Bequette, Joe Vellano, Zach Moore, Armond Armstead, Will Smith
The New England Patriots addressed a huge need in adding a penetrating defensive lineman in Dominique Easley with their first-round pick. If healthy—Easley seems to think he is—you can plug him in next to Wilfork and let him live in the offensive backfield.
Jones and Ninkovich are top-flight starters at defensive end, but the roles behind them are up for grabs. Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette and Zach Moore will likely duke it out for one or two spots.
Joe Vellano looks like the odd man out, barring injury. If Armond Armstead or Will Smith are healthy—a big if—they could crash the starter party.
Starters: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins
Depth: James Morris, Steve Beauharnais, Ja'Gared Davis
Roster Bubble: Chris White, Josh Hull
The starting trio of Mayo, Hightower and Collins looks set in stone. Behind them, Morris, Hull, Davis, White and Beauharnais don't have a lot of experience. They can all play special teams and contribute in sub-packages. Hull, especially, has excelled in that area.
Morris—signed by the Patriots, according to Scott Dochterman of Cedar Rapids, Iowa's The Gazette—is my pick to be first linebacker off the bench. He was incredibly productive as a middle linebacker for four years at Iowa.
Starters: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan
Depth: Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Brandon Browner, Jemea Thomas
Roster Bubble: Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Patrick Chung
The starting lineup will likely change once Browner's four-game suspension is over. Look for Ryan to get some reps—along with Jemea Thomas and Duron Harmon—at safety alongside Devin McCourty.
One of the biggest competitions on the team will be for the ninth defensive back. Chung probably has the best chance due to his defensive experience. All three can contribute on special teams.
Starters: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Danny Aiken
Roster Bubble: None
The New England Patriots will likely bring in some camp competition for this trio—you need players to take extra reps so the starters don't exhaust themselves—but it is doubtful that a change will be made.
Gostkowski and Aiken are on the last years of their deals, however, so if New England brings in a strong undrafted free agent, you might see a situation like Allen taking Zoltan Mesko's job last year. Rookie contracts are just that valuable.