Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for the New England Patriots

James Christensen@@nepatriotsdraftContributor IMay 11, 2014

Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for the New England Patriots

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    Tom Brady is still No. 1 on the depth chart.
    Tom Brady is still No. 1 on the depth chart.Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    The 2014 NFL draft has concluded, and the New England Patriots now have nine rookies to fit into their reconfigured depth chart.

    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.

Quarterback

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    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.

Running Back

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    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.

     

Wide Receiver

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    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.

Tight End

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    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.

Offensive Line

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    Winslow Townson/Getty Images

    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.

Defensive Line

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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.

Linebackers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    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.

Defensive Backs

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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.

Specialists

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Starters: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Danny Aiken

    Depth: None

    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.