|Gronk looks to forward to a healthy offseason. (Patriots.com)|
With this said, this projection is only accounting for the players that have been confirmed signed by the Patriots and have a contract.
With uncertainty surrounding several positions, I indicate players that I consider locks with ( ) around their name. Each position is numbered with a loose depth chart.
Using the Patriots roster on Patriots.com, here is my projection for the Patriots roster come September:
- (Tom Brady) - The Golden Boy will be playing opening night. Whether it be due to the suspension being overturned or the court system dragging this out, I fully expect Tom Terrific to be throwing for four touchdowns against that pitiful Steelers secondary.
- (Jimmy Garoppolo) - Prince Ali and future Golden Boy Jimmy G will be holding down the fort for the Patriots should something strange happen with the NFL. His summer will be pivotal for his growth, but all evidence points to Garoppolo stepping his game up.
- LeGarrette Blount - The closest player to a lock out of the backfield for New England. With reports that Blount lost a bit of weight in the offseason to potentially improve his speed/agility, he is poised to remain the 1st and 2nd down back for the Patriots.
- James White - Despite an underwhelming season last year, James White could already be the frontrunner for the 3rd down back role. His role last year wasn't much different than Shane Vereen's his rookie year. Vereen played in five games, had only 15 rushing attempts and didn't catch a pass. I know many people have been quick to move on from White, but he could be a difference maker this year.
- Travaris Cadet - While James White may be poised to be the 3rd down back, not many backs in the NFL are as good at catching passes than Cadet. His impressive 6'1" 210 frame makes for a WR-like build for a guy who can line up in the backfield or the slot. His role may be unique in that regard.
- Tyler Gaffney - Quite possibly the guy who beats out Jonas Gray for a roster spot, Gaffney has quietly been impressing the coaches over his last year with the Patriots. With good size at 6' 220 lbs, and a year to learn the playbook and return to good health, Gaffney is my most intriguing guy to watch this summer.
- Brandon Bolden - I was one of the people who was surprised when the Patriots announced an extension for Bolden last season. While that doesn't guarantee he makes the roster, it does make him seem like a likely candidate. Belichick loves what he brings on special teams, and Bolden has shown he can produce at times when asked to play out of the backfield.
- James Develin - The FB position is reliant on an offense that uses one. I do believe the Patriots will embrace a more smash mouth approach to their offense, as indicated with the drafting of Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason, and Develin is about as smash mouth as you get on the Patriots.
- (Julian Edelman) - One of the most popular men in Boston right now should look to continue his success of last year. Even if he doesn't reach the numbers he attained this year, Edelman will still be one of the most important cogs in the Patriots machine.
- (Brandon LaFell) - One of the best surprises of last year was the success of Brandon LaFell. His ability to pick up the playbook and contribute so quickly allowed the Patriots to be safe with Aaron Dobson and maintain a big body that could perform in the slot and outside. Brady trusts him, which is more than enough of a reason to expect to see LaFell around for quite some time.
- Danny Amendola - Had Amendola not come on in the playoffs and restructure his contract, he would've been on the cut list at the bottom of this article. We saw against Baltimore and Seattle what Amendola can bring to the table. If he continues that trend, he very well be worth keeping around.
- Aaron Dobson - Based on all of the things I've seen from reports and Dobson's own social media, no one on the Patriots roster is trying to work harder than Dobson. Injuries derailed his season last year before it even got started. Now he is on his last chance to catch on in New England. OTAs showed us the Dobson is looking good and healthy. If he can return to form and improve upon his rookie season we could see the big, deep threat WR we've been lacking for some time.
- Brandon Gibson - Not much has been said about Brandon Gibson so far during his stint in New England, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. While everyone was still fuming over the departure of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the Patriots went out and signed Gibson as the Patriots first free agent. Most fans groaned, but it is an indication that BB and Co. really wanted him. Gibson already knows the offense due to being with Josh McDaniels in St. Louis, and former Rams teammate Danny Amendola is also assisting him acclimate. So far Gibson has done everything he's been asked to do out on the practice field, which is all you need to do to stick in New England.
- (Rob Gronkowski) - Next season very well could catapult Gronk into the greatest TE of all-time talk. His stats so far are legendary, without a doubt, but give him a full offseason at 100% health, in the prime of his career, with an improving offense around him, and Gronk could be Gronk Spiking constantly next year.
- (Scott Chandler) - Chandler is one player that has garnered polarized opinions about him from fans. Some loved his acquisition. Other thought it was pointless. Personally, I see Chandler as a stellar signing. An instant upgrade at the #2 TE position, and another reliable target for Brady over the middle. His sheer size will give Tom a huge radius to get the ball into and make for another big threat that defenses will have to focus on. If teams plan on doubling Gronk, the Patriots have Chandler right there to make plays and vice versa.
- AJ Derby - Many scouts, draft analysts, and college football fans in general are rooting for Derby to make the roster. A former quarterback, Derby has bulked up to the tone of 6'4" 255 lbs, or roughly the size of Michael Hoomanawanui. If Derby can show that he can block, his chances of making the roster skyrocket, and he should be able to replace Hooman on the game day roster.
- (Nate Solder) - Solder struggled at times last season, but after learning that he went through cancer treatment in the offseason, it is fair to say that was understandable. By the end of the season Solder returned to form and displayed his ability to protect Brady's blindside. With his 5th year option currently in effect, Solder remains a possibility for a contract extensions to lower his cap hit.
- (Sebastian Vollmer) - Despite his numerous injuries, Vollmer has proven himself as one of the best right tackles in the NFL. This year, Seabass will need to remain healthy in order for his future with the Patriots to continue, but this year he should be suiting up at tackle on opening day.
- (Bryan Stork) - Another pleasant surprise last year, Bryan Stock entered his first start and helped steady a terrifyingly awful offensive line. Stork should continue his growth at center for the Patriots, potentially captaining that line group for the upcoming season.
- Ryan Wendell - Should Shaq Mason or Cameron Fleming prove themselves a superior option than Wendell in camp, he may be looking for a new job. That said, as one of the senior-most players on the offensive line, Wendell is a needed commodity to have until a younger player is capable of starting. His ability to play guard and center also make Wendell a valuable player to have in case of an injury to Stork.
- (Tre' Jackson) - A steal in this year's draft, Jackson could be one of the Patriots starting guards on opening day. His size, experience, and film show that Jackson can be a good NFL guard. With his former linemate Bryan Stork assisting his transition to the Patriots, his expectations are quite high.
- (Shaq Mason) - Considered one of, if not the best run blockers in this year's draft, Shaq Mason is a force from the guard position. If Belichick feels confident enough in his pass blocking skills, Mason could be on the fast track to starting opposite of Tre' Jackson by the time the season is over with.
- Cameron Fleming - Flemming carved out a role last year as a tackle-eligible in six OL sets. Multiple times he flashed his athleticism and intelligence in that role, giving him some promising chances going forward. Without knowing Fleming's true position yet, it allows Belichick to craft him into whatever he needs him to be, whether it be guard or tackle.
- Marcus Cannon - Last year's contract extension came as a surprise to just about everyone at first glance. Cannon was paid a significant amount of money, despite not showing much over the last year. Once free agency came around, the move made more sense. On the market, Cannon would've garnered a much higher salary than what the Patriots gave him, and if the Patriots were put into a situation at the time they wouldn't have been able to match it and would have had to rely on young Cameron Fleming to be the only backup tackle worthy of being on the 53 man roster. By signing him they kept a veteran player who knows their offense, and a player the Patriots coaching staff clearly has confidence in.
- (Dominique Easley) - Can a second year player who didn't play much his rookie year become Comeback Player of the Year? If that's possible Easley could be a prime candidate. With no setbacks to his health, and with a starting role in his grasp, Easley has the potential to turn heads this year. With the influx of talent to the front seven, Easley's pass rush skills should allow him to beat the one on ones and get to the quarterback. I'll go on record and predict seven sacks for him this year.
- (Malcom Brown) - Another steal for the Patriots in the draft. I saw Brown as high as 10th on some mock drafts and none of them where he got past the Lions at 28. His youth and athleticism make Brown an extremely promising rookie who has room to grow. Pairing him with the likes of Easley, Siliga and Branch should make for plenty of opportunities for Brown to shine.
- Sealver Siliga - Had Siliga not been injured last year, the Patriots defense would've looked even better than it had. Siliga continues to subtly improve over his time in New England, and will be asked to do more this year than he has previously. Should he remain healthy, Siliga should maintain his position as a regular contributor on defense.
- Alan Branch - Assuming the role as largest man on defense with Wilfork's departure, Branch will look to further his complimentary role from last year. While he may not have shown up in the stat book, his impact was felt by allowing Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower to rush the gaps by combining his efforts with Wilfork. His space eating mentality will help try to replace the double teams that Wilfork commanded in the past.
- (Rob Ninkovich) - The guy everyone hated for taking Mike Vrabel's number has become one of the Patriots most reliable players. With the additions of Flowers and Grissom, Ninkovich should be allowed some plays off during games, keeping him fresh. That in turn could result in him making more of an impact.
- (Chandler Jones) - Despite his injury never being fully disclosed, I speculate that he had a torn hip labrum, which isn't an easy thing to play through. Hopefully his recovery has been smooth and he can return to 100%. With the other players around him hopefully commanding more attention, Jones may finally have the opportunities to get after the quarterback.
- (Trey Flowers) - The opening bang of day three of the NFL draft for the Patriots was Flowers. Many saw him as a 2nd or 3rd round pick. His freakish athleticism should allow him to get a good number of snaps in this upcoming season and could result in him getting a handful of sacks and tackles for loss.
- (Geneo Grissom) - I list him as a defensive end despite his potential as an outside linebacker solely because I think its completely fluid and the Patriots official roster lists him as a defensive lineman. Grissom will be used all over the place most likely given his broad range of talents and his good athleticism.
- Zach Moore - Another one of my most intriguing players to watch is Moore. He is officially listed at 6'6" 275 lbs, but many people have noted that he looks much bigger, especially in photos of him at the White House. And not "fat" bigger, "muscle" bigger. This increase in size could result in him being used as Chandler Jones was last year, as a pass rushing defensive tackle on passing downs in sub sets.
- (Dont'a Hightower) - One of the most important players on the roster, Dont'a Hightower has proven himself time and again. Last postseason showed that he can be a franchise linebacker for this team for years to come. Hopefully he can return healthy by the start of the season and avoid being placed on the PUP list.
- (Jamie Collins)- A young superstar, Jamie Collins can do just about everything on defense. Whether it is covering a running back out of the backfield, stopping the run, or getting after the quarterback, there are no limits to what he can do. Hopefully another year in the league elevates him game to another level, if there is one.
- (Jerod Mayo) - Arguably the best linebacker on the Patriots before his injury, Mayo is now the true veteran leader on defense. Should he return to his former self, he will captain a Patriots linebacking corps that could claim its place as the best in the NFL.
- (Jabaal Sheard) - An outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid will have possibly the greatest impact of any of the free agent signings this offseason. Not only does he excel at getting to the quarterback, recording 23 sacks over the last four years, but he also plays the run exceptionally as well. Without knowing what scheme Matt Patricia and Belichick are thinking of playing, Sheard can still expect to be getting considerable playing time.
- Dane Fletcher - A return back home brings Dane Fletcher back into the fold with New England. A year of contributing quite a bit in Tampa Bay gave Fletcher more experience as a base defender which gives him more value than as a pure special teamer.
- Matt Wells - Wells is another hybrid player, and Belichick has confirmed it when addressing him by addressing him as a safety/linebacker. Given his size, 6'2" 215, he truly is more of a safety than a linebacker. That versatility, and his extreme athleticism, could make him an ideal special teams and sub defense contributor.
- James Morris - Morris was destined for the 53 man roster last year, and given his excess of snaps in OTAs, he looks to be on that course once again. Coaches raved about his intelligence and his leadership. Look for Morris to be around for some time if he continues to develop.
- (Logan Ryan) - I may be one of the few individuals who thinks our cornerbacks will be just fine. Logan Ryan will surprise people this year. As a starting rookie, Ryan had five interceptions and ten passes defended in 709 snaps. He ranked 5th out of all corners in 2013 in cover snaps per reception with 13.8 (meaning he allowed one catch every 13.8 times in coverage). Only Richard Sherman, Revis, Rodgers-Cromartie, Verner and Patrick Peterson had better numbers. His performance dropped when he wasn't given his practice snaps and when he was thrown into games without being the starter.
- (Malcolm Butler) - NFLPA nonsense aside, Butler continues his ascension to stardom with good news from OTAs. Butler should be a starter this season and make plays. Given the broad range of size and skill sets for the Patriots corners, I expect a matchup based secondary, with corners being played accordingly to the opponents receivers. Butler may be an exception to that though, given his success against such a variety of receivers.
- Bradley Fletcher - Last year's struggles were a result of a flawed defensive scheme and awful safeties in a division filled with elite receivers. If Fletcher can gel in Belichick's defense, he may very well end up as the #3 cornerback. Before last year, Fletcher was a very good player. Hopefully a change of scenery, an improved coaching staff, and a better team around him will elevate his play.
- Darryl Roberts - Some draft analysts claim Darryl Roberts was the steal of day three. Some had him with a second round grade. His size, athleticism, and style make for him to be a good press man corner. He will need to tone down his physicality to avoid being penalized in the NFL, but don't sleep on this kid making an impact early on this season.
- Robert McClain - Kyle Arrington's replace will be used in the same role. His smaller stature and quickness allows him to be a slot corner that can double as a safety. Reports are that he has been doing the right things in meetings and at practice and that he is fully embracing the Patriot Way.
- (Devin McCourty) - McCourty re-signed with New England solidifying his future with the Patriots. With the exodus of veterans during free agency, McCourty will need to assist the newcomers and rookies in their transition to the Patriots defense.
- (Jordan Richards) - As typical with Patriots tradition, the Patriots drafted someone much earlier than media analysts predicted. Rumors were that there were a handful of teams interested in taking Richards in the third round and the Patriots weren't going to let that happen. His leadership, intelligence, and team-first mentality have been lauded by former coaches and teammates. It will be interesting to see if he is thrust into the starting role alongside McCourty if the Patriots keep with the two safety concept.
- (Duron Harmon) - My candidate to earn more playing time this year and eventually replace Chung. Harmon was placed in key situations last year and made plays when he needed to. One such play was his game sealing interception of Joe Flacco in the divisional round. Harmon has shown improvement over the last two years and should continue that trend.
- Patrick Chung - After leaving for Philadelphia several years ago, Chung returned and provided a pleasant surprise. While he was nowhere near elite, his play improved and he provided some hard hits from the safety position. His use on special teams will also keep him around, especially after his contract extension last year.
- (Stephen Gostkowski) - Given the franchise tag deadline coming up in a few weeks here, Ghost will either play the season under his franchise tag or will need to get down to work on getting a contract done before the July 15th deadline. Other than that, Gostkowski looks to remain as the top kicker in the NFL.
- (Ryan Allen) - The lefty had an okay season last year after impressing as a rookie. No reason to assume he won't make the team this year.
- Joe Cardona - After unofficially receiving his Navy service waiver, Cardona very well could become the best long snapper in the NFL. Hopefully his success will allow him to continue to put off his service and remain with the Patriots for the foreseeable future.
- (Matthew Slater) - Listed as a WR, Slater is the captain the Patriots need and is arguably the best special teams player in the NFL.
- Xzavier Dickson, LB/DE - The 7th round pick falls to the practice squad due to a plethora of other players at his position. His potential is enough to keep him around.
- Dax Swanson, CB - Two straight promising offseasons should keep Swanson on the short list of players that could be called up in an injury occurs in the secondary.
- David Andrews, C - The Patriots paid Andrews the most money allowable for an UDFA. Given that information, he was highly thought of by Belichick and will likely stick around unless he disappoints.
- Jimmy Jean, CB - His size alone is enough to intrigue coaches at 6'3". Excelled at UAB and could use further coaching and a season to bulk up to potentially factor in for a role in 2016.
- Vince Taylor, DL - Undrafted free agent will serve his purpose as a body in training camp and will likely be on the practice squad due to his space eating and incredible strength (36 reps of 225 lbs at his pro day).
- Darius Fleming, LB - With Dane Fletcher returning and James Morris being healthy Fleming becomes dispensable on the 53 man roster, but his experience will come in handy should the Patriots need a linebacker.
- Rufus Johnson, OLB/DE - A large linebacker (6'5" 272 lbs) who can play both OLB and DE which provides the Patriots with more uses for him on the practice squad.
- Jonas Gray, RB - Could be on the roster week one to replace Blount's roster spot and then return to the practice squad. Unfortunately, he may not last long on the practice squad due to another team claiming him.
- Jeremy Mundine, TE - An athletic weapon that could be used as an H-Back. His college highlights are impressive and coaches have been very high on him so far.
- Brian Tyms, WR - Drops and a limited route tree make Tyms too unreliable to be on the 53 man roster. The practice squad is the ideal place for Tyms who could contribute if LaFell or Dobson get injured.
- Matt Flynn, QB - I see Brady either getting his suspension overturned or it being dragged out to the point where he won't have to deal with the outcome this year, eliminating the need for Flynn to be kept.
- Derek Cox, CB - He has a chance to make the roster if he shows he can play, but after not playing much at all last year, he has a long way to go.
- Nate Ebner, DB - The special teamer may very well be replaced by less expensive and younger players that were taken this year. Matt Wells and Jordan Richards are likely his successors.
- Justin Green, CB - The journeyman corner has given his time to the Patriots for several stints, but with more promising and skilled players coming in Green will need to find a new home.
- Tavon Wilson, DB - Tavon Wilson's time in New England has run its course. Last year was a let down for a player who didn't see much playing time as the season wore on.
- Antonio Johnson, DL - A veteran with eight years of experience has an uphill battle to get a roster spot with the talented youth at his position.
- Chris Jones, DL - Despite giving the Patriots a capable DT for the past two years, Chris Jones will be supplanted by the likes of Malcom Brown.
- Jonathan Freeny, LB - His main competition will be Dane Fletcher as the premier special teams linebacker, but I give the nod to Fletcher given his potential use on defense.
- Brandon King, DB - An UDFA who faces a tough road to making it on either the roster or practice squad.
- DJ Lynch, LB - Another UDFA who lacks in size and speed, and is coming off an injury plagued senior season at Bowling Green.
- Eric Martin, LB - A three year veteran who has been sticking around in New England, but the younger draft picks will likely push him off the roster.
- Chris White, LB - A surprise re-signing, White will likely be replaced by Dane Fletcher or Jonathan Freeny as a special teams linebacker.
- Jake Bequette, TE/DE - His place on the roster relies solely on his potential to play tight end successfully. The practice squad is a possibility, but I'm not sure he can pull it off.
- Chris Barker, OL - The following three offensive linemen all have potential to become members of the practice squad, but with the depth the line now has with their rookies, players like Barker will be forced off the roster.
- Caylin Hauptmann, OL - One of the few players that has been highly spoken of from the past few months out of the linemen. Hopefully he surprises people and makes the practice squad.
- Josh Kline, OL - Despite being the best Patriots backup offensive linemen last year, with the most experience, the influx of youth will push him off the roster.
- Dion Lewis, RB- Despite a promising offseason so far, Dion Lewis will need to beat out the likes of James White and Travaris Cadet to make the roster, and I wouldn't count on that happening.
- Jordan Devey, OL - Finally the Patriots can cut ties to the player many fans lamented seeing on the field. The tuba player can return to the band.
- Kevin Hughes, OL - Three year veteran looking to stick around, but likely is just a placeholder until Vollmer is back at 100%.
- Michael Hoomanawanui, TE - Regardless of his contributions in the playoffs, Hooman had a terrible year last year. He struggled blocking and was rarely involved in the passing game. His higher salary cap hit will make this an easy decision should Derby prove worthy of a roster spot.
- Josh Boyce, WR - If he cannot stay healthy this summer, he will be shown the door quickly. A once promising player has been hurt more than he has been healthy. Potentially a practice squad candidate.
- Chris Harper, WR - An UDFA who fits in as a slot receiver in the offense. Could make the practice squad if he nails down the playbook, but it is a long road ahead for him.
- Jonathan Krause, WR - Another slot WR who will potentially battle for a practice squad spot.
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