On Logan! On Kenbrell! On Aaron and Duron! Ranking the Patriots 2013 Rookies

Injuries have forced the Patriots to rely on rookies more than anyone. The Pats currently have 13 rookies on the roster, which is surprisingly actually cut back from the 14 that made the initial roster in September. With the season's final week upon us, lets look back at the contributions from this year's rookie class.

1. Logan Ryan- Cornerback

Drafted in the third round out of Rutgers (that will be a theme of this post), Ryan found himself playing more snaps than anyone this preseason. That experience would prove invaluable when injuries hit fellow corners Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington, giving the rookie an opportunity to play. Ryan has done nothing but impress since getting that opportunity, displaying a knack for making big plays. He announced his presence early, marking his first extensive playing time with a pick-six against the Jets and a game changing strip sack against the Dolphins. For the season, he's racked up 5 interceptions, 10 passes defensed and 1.5 sacks despite only starting six games. It's frightening to think where the secondary would have been if he hadn't stepped up and proved to be deserving of playing time.

2.  Ryan Allen- Punter

Yes, the punter. When Allen, an undrafted rookie, beat out popular veteran Zoltan Mesko for the team's punting job, many accused the Patriots of penny pinching. 15 games later, Allen has established himself as a valuable weapon on special teams, while Mesko struggled before getting cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Allen has improved as the season has progressed, with perhaps his most impressive game last week against Baltimore, but it will be hard for anything to overtake his high, fluttering punt in OT that Wes Welker couldn't field as his most memorable play this year.

3. Duron Harmon- Safety

Harmon hasn't made as many splashy plays as fellow third-round-Rutgers-rookie Ryan, but like his college teammate, Harmon has stepped up and played well when called upon for this Patriots team. The best word to describe Harmon is "solid": the rookie displays solid instincts in coverage, he does a good job of not letting receivers get behind, and he's largely been a solid, fundamental tackler. Considering the importance of his position as the last line of defense, the Patriots are surely happy with his development as a reliable option next to Devin McCourty (or potentially in McCourty's place this week). For the season, Harmon has 2 interceptions and 4 passes defensed in only 2 starts, with one of those starts being an 11 tackle effort against the juggernaut Denver offense.

4. Jamie Collins- Linebacker

The book on Collins coming out of Southern Mississippi was that the second round pick had tons of athletic ability but might be a bit of project coming out of a small school. That certainly played itself out at the start of the season, when Collins played sparingly, but the rookie has really started to come on at the end of the year. Collins has started the team's last 5 games, where he has used his top notch speed as a badly needed asset in coverage. Like Harmon, Collins was one of the guys who really stepped it up against Denver, notching 10 tackles in only his third career start. For the season his statistics don't jump out, especially as the Pats highest drafted player this past year, but the rookie could be a key contributor in the playoffs.

5. Aaron Dobson/Kenbrell Thompkins- Wide Receivers

If I had to separate them, I'd probably go Dobson slightly ahead of Thompkins, but these two have been too close to call. Dobson, a second round pick out of Marshall, has started 8 of his 11 games, tallying 36 catches for 513 yards (14.2 per catch) and 4 touchdowns. Thompkins, his undrafted counterpart from Cincinnnati, has also started 8 of his 11 games, catching 32 passes for 466 yards (14.6 per catch) and 4 touchdowns. Both were thrown into the fire early thanks to injuries and free agency departures, and both fought through their struggles with drops and the playbook to make some big contributions. Each has one 100 yard game under their belt (Dobson's 5 catch, 130 yard, 2 TD game against Pittsburgh, Thompkins' 6 catch, 127 yard, 1 TD against Atlanta). Dobson's statistics are slightly better, but Thompkins does have that unforgettable game winning touchdown against New Orleans under his belt. It's been far from perfect, which shouldn't be a surprise, as rookie receivers have rarely made meaningful contributions in the Belichick era. However, both of these guys have proven to be capable playmakers who should continue to improve with more experience.

7. Chris Jones- Defensive Tackle

Jones was actually a sixth round pick by the Texans, but was cut by Houston on August 31st. He would go on to be signed by Tampa Bay, where he was inactive for their Week 1 loss to the Jets before getting cut again. The Patriots claimed him on waivers, and soon would find themselves without both Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, opening up the opportunity for Jones to start. While the rookie has had his share of struggles against the run, he has flashed some ability as a pass rusher, tallying 5 sacks. Jones also has improved his technique against the run in recent weeks, which has helped him vault past fellow rookie Joe Vellano as an every week starter. Again, it hasn't always been pretty with Jones, but the Pats can only be happy with what he's given them, considering how much they've asked of him.

8. Joe Vellano- Defensive Tackle

Like Jones, Vellano unexpectedly became a starter when both starting defensive tackles were lost for the season. An undrafted free agent out of Maryland, Vellano impressed the Patriots enough in training camp to make the squad, one of seven undrafted rookies to do so. Vellano has also had his struggles against the run, but it's important to consider how much has been asked of him as an undrafted rookie. The Patriots are surely happy with the 50 tackles and 2 sacks he's given them.

9. Michael Buchanan- Defensive End

A seventh round pick out of Illinois, Buchanan's intriguing combination of length and athleticism helped him to make the Patriots roster. The defensive end flashed pass rush potential in the preseason and tallied 2 sacks in the Pats first four games, but his biggest contributions this season have been on special teams, where he's been a regular on the coverage units. Not many defensive ends can run well enough to be on kickoff coverage. Look for him as a candidate to make a leap next year.

10. Josh Boyce- Wide Reciever

A fourth round pick out of TCU, Boyce has occasionally flashed his undeniable talent but has spent most of the year buried on the depth chart. The emergence of Kenbrell Thompkins has limited Boyce's opportunities, as he's been behind both Dobson and Thompkins on the depth chart, along with veterans Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. Boyce had recently established himself as the team's primary kickoff return man, but is currently out with an ankle injury. Boyce has too much talent to write off long-term, but it's largely been a lost season for the TCU rookie.

11. Josh Kline- Guard

An undrafted rookie out of Kent State, Kline was largely an unknown until Nate Solder's recent concussion forced the Patriots to reshuffle their offensive line. With Logan Mankins playing Left Tackle for Solder, Kline got his first career start last Sunday against Baltimore in Mankins' normal left guard spot. While Kline was occasionally pushed around by the likes of Haloti Ngata, he was part of an offensive line that did an excellent job both protecting Tom Brady and opening holes for both LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley in the running game. Yet another "next man up" to deliver from this rookie class.

12. Chris Barker- Guard

An undrafted rookie who was a casualty of the final round of cuts in Miami, Barker has been active for four games. He has yet to play meaningful snaps.

13. Steve Beauharnais- Linebacker

Like Barker, Beauharnais has only been active for four games this year, and has yet to play a meaningful snap. The former Rutgers standout will look to make a leap toward contributing next year in training camp.