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Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 1.0 (Post-OTAs and Minicamp)

The early phase of the Patriots’ offseason program is in the books, which means it’s the perfect time for a 53-man roster projection!

In all seriousness, New England’s roster is still taking shape. While the team’s defense has continuity on its side, coordinator Alex Van Pelt and his overhauled offense are still in their infancy. Players and coaches are saying all the right things, and growing pains have been offset by moments that warranted genuine optimism, but the true test will come during training camp in late July.

OTAs and minicamps are more about installation and repping fundamentals than execution, making them nearly impossible to judge as an outsider. Players also aren’t allowed to wear pads or hit, so more physical skills like blocking, block shedding, tackling, and ball-carrying can’t be evaluated. Head coach Jerod Mayo also stressed to reporters that depth charts don’t even exist this early in the offseason.

While a grain of salt is necessary to avoid overanalysis, these practices do provide breadcrumbs for long-range roster observations. Player deployment can reveal potential roles and how certain position groups stack up. More objective success metrics like pinpoint accuracy, catches in tight windows, interceptions, and pass breakups can also show who’s made an early impression.

With these factors in mind, here is my way-too-early prediction for the Patriots’ 53-ma roster based on what we saw throughout OTAs and minicamps. If a player isn’t specifically mentioned, it’s because they didn’t do enough to stand out in practice.

Quarterback (3)

In: Jacoby Brissett, Drake Maye, Joe Milton

Out: Bailey Zappe

The Patriots’ future face of the franchise and bridge quarterback are as close to locks as you’ll find on their roster.

Jacoby Brissett was the unquestionable starter this spring, with his leadership and history with Van Pelt being invaluable for a rebuilding offense. Pressure and lack of separation contributed to some speed bumps, but no quarterback was more consistent. Whether Brissett starts every game for this season or never sees the field, he’s the perfect mentor for Drake Maye and should keep the offense respectable if called upon.

After repping behind Brissett and Bailey Zappe early in OTAs, Maye seized the top backup spot just before minicamp. The 3rd overall pick flashed consistently in practices open to the media. He complimented his big arm with impressive processing, improvisation, and ball placement. Maye’s short accuracy and decision-making were spotty at times, which was to be expected, but his steady improvement has garnered praise from both coaches and team leaders. If the rookie makes significant strides during the upcoming break, New England could have a real quarterback competition on its hands this summer.

Mayo told reporters the Patriots will carry four quarterbacks into training camp, but it’s hard to envision a role for Zappe post-roster cuts. He hasn’t been bad, per se, but there’s a sizable gap between him and Maye.

Joe Milton is purely a developmental prospect at this point, but his talent is undeniable. There’s more value in protecting him from waivers or practice squad poachers than rostering a veteran backup with little upside.

Running Back (3)

In: Rhamondre Stevenson, Antonio Gibson, JaMycal Hasty

Out: Kevin Harris, Deshaun Fenwick, Terrell Jennings

It’s tough for running backs to make an impact in non-padded practices, but Rhamondre Stevenson and Antonio Gibson were clearly New England’s top tandem throughout the spring. Gibson specifically was deployed in interesting ways that should be fun to watch during the regular season.

The only other member of this group who stood out was change-of-pace/receiving back JaMycal Hasty. He caught multiple touchdowns during the final day of OTAs and saw multiple underneath targets in minicamp. Hasty also brings value as a special teamer and returner, which could help his chances of making the roster.

Bruisers Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick are built for padded practices where their physicality can shine. Harris has been solid when called upon the past two seasons, but his ceiling is limited, as evidenced by extensive time on the practice squad. I believe Fenwick, who offers a more well-rounded skill set, could make a serious roster push this summer.

Terrell Jennings was limited during mandatory minicamp, but he was notably signed after being a tryout player in rookie minicamp. He could be one to keep an eye on when fully healthy.

Wide Receiver (6)

In: K.J. Osborn, DeMario Douglas, Jalen Reagor, Kayshon Boutte, Ja’Lynn Polk, Javon Baker

Out: Tyquan Thornton, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kawaan Baker, David Wallis, JaQuae Jackson

PUP: Kendrick Bourne

The Patriots lack a proven Alpha at wideout, but their receiving corps has more upside than it’s given credit for.

DeMario Douglas, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Javon Baker are a promising young nucleus with diverse skills. Each made plays this spring, and Douglas looks primed for a breakout season. Growing with Maye should make them a formidable trio in due time, even if New England adds one more player to put them over the top.

While Kendrick Bourne projects as another offensive cog after signing a three-year deal, he spent OTAs and minicamp rehabbing from his torn ACL. Mayo said everyone except Cole Strange should be ready to go by training camp, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Bourne start the regular season on the PUP list.

With Bourne out, K.J. Osborn held down his starting “Z” role in practice. The former Viking didn’t make any splash plays but was generally consistent when targeted underneath. At this stage, Osborn’s leadership, reliability, and experience in a West Coast system make him a virtual lock to make the roster.

Jalen Reagor has been up and down as New England’s second-string “X” receiver. But his speed pops after the catch, and he brings more value as a kick returner than any other receiver, making him a borderline lock at this point.

Tyquan Thornton served as the Patriots’ top “X” receiver, which was surprising given his wiry frame but hinted he was being primed for a bigger role. The speedster had a productive second day of OTAs but failed to build on it and missed the final day of minicamp. Availability and consistency have plagued Thornton throughout his career, so he’ll need to bounce back in a big way this summer.

Kayshon Boutte took full advantage of Thornton’s minicamp absence, catching four touchdowns in Red Zone drills and making multiple impressive grabs. Boutte had been quiet up to that point, and his rookie campaign was disappointing, to say the least, but his frame, strong hands, and availability could give him an edge over Thornton during roster cuts.

JuJu Smith-Schuster told reporters he’s 100% after struggling with a knee injury last season, but you wouldn’t know it from watching him on the field. It would take a tremendous summer for him to crack the 53.

Tight End (3)

In: Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper, Jaheim Bell

Out: La’Michael Pettway, Mitchell Wilcox, Jacob Warren

Tight end is one of the weaker positions on the Patriots’ roster, but the selection of Jaheim Bell should inject some much-needed explosiveness into a group of reliable, if unspectacular, veterans.

Hunter Henry has the top tight-end job locked up and continues to dominate in scoring territory. He’ll serve as a safety blanket over the middle and big-bodied Red Zone target. Austin Hooper’s experience in Van Pelt’s offense and craftiness as a blocker should be enough to get him on the roster.

Bell came on strong in minicamp, catching multiple touchdowns in Red Zone work. He was locked up by Marte Mapu a couple of times, which isn’t surprising given Mapu’s skill set, but Bell is explosive and has strong hands. An increase in physicality should allow him to shine even brighter as a receiver and ball carrier.

La’Michael Pettway and Mitchell Wilcox have been more involved than expected, and Pettway has made some impressive catches during team drills. It may be too early to consider them dark horses, but they could shake things up with strong performances in padded practices.

Offensive Line (9)

In: David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, Sidy Sow, Chukwuma Okorafor, Nick Leverett, Calvin Anderson, Vederian Lowe, Caedan Wallace, Layden Robinson

Out: Atonio Mafi, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Michael Jordan, Liam Fornadel, Charles Turner III, Zuri Henry

PUP/IR: Cole Strange, Jake Andrews

No position group is more disadvantaged in non-padded practices than offensive linemen. These sessions feature almost exclusively pass plays, so defenders can tee off without much resistance. Considering those limitations, my observations will be based solely on where players lined up.

David Andrews remains the rock in the middle of the line, while tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and guard Sidy Sow were staples on the left side. During OTAs, Mike Onwenu was locked in at the other tackle spot, with Nick Leverett and Michael Jordan rotating beside him. During minicamp, New England’s search for its top five linemen led to an interesting development. Onwenu began repping at his old right guard spot while rookie Caedan Wallace, who was drafted to play on the blindside, flanked him at right tackle. The duo repped with the backup line on day one but was bumped up to the top rotation in the following practice.

With Cole Strange set to miss a chunk of the season as he recovers from a torn patellar tendon, it’s hard to argue against a line of Okorafor, Sow, Andrews, Onwenu, and Wallace. This grouping would place everyone but Okorafor, who did play left tackle in college, at their natural positions, with Wallace cross-training in practice to take over at left tackle next season.

Layden Robinson has been the top backup at right guard, and a strong summer for the rookie could cause another shakeup in the trenches. Leverett’s versatility and experience should earn him a roster spot, especially since Van Pelt’s Browns used extra linemen more than any other team. Calvin Anderson and Vederian Lowe offer solid tackle depth, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the team ultimately settles on just one.

Atonio Mafi has gotten a lot of run at center, but the experiment feels more like an attempt to see where he fits in the team’s future plans after a difficult rookie season. I could see the converted nose tackle and fellow backup center Charles Turner on the practice squad.

Jake Andrews missed all but one practice this spring, and given the team’s interior depth, he seems like a candidate to catch the Foxboro flu come roster cuts.

Defensive Line (11)

In: Christian Barmore, Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux, Keion White, Anfernee Jennings, Deatrich Wise, Joshua Uche, Daniel Ekuale, Jeremiah Pharms Jr, Armon Watts., Oshane Ximines

Out: Sam Roberts, Trysten Hill, William Bradley-King, John Morgan III, Jotham Russell

The defensive line was New England’s strongest unit last season, and it should be even better in 2024.

Christian Barmore and Anfernee Jennings earned new deals after breakout campaigns. Keion White found a rhythm late last season, and Mayo said the second-year defender took on more of a leadership role this offseason. A year-two jump from White could turn the Patriots’ front from very good to potentially great.

Mayo acknowledged that staples Matthew Judon and Davon Godchaux, both of whom were present during minicamp, are looking for new deals. Judon was a full go in practice, but Godchaux did not participate. I anticipate the team finding a middle ground with both players, but their situations will be worth monitoring.

Joshua Uche had a down year after an excellent 2022. He took a hometown discount to stay in New England, hinting that defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington’s scheme is more suited to his strengths. Deatrich Wise’s play also took a step back last season, but he’s still a solid player with invaluable versatility and leadership.

Daniel Ekuale, Armon Watts, and Oshane Ximines offer versatile, well-rounded depth. Ximines may be a darkhorse to make the roster, but his special teams ability could be a difference-maker. Jeremiah Pharms also quietly came on down the stretch and could help make up for Lawrence Guy’s departure.

Linebacker (4)

In: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, Sione Takitaki, Raekwon McMillan

Out: Joe Giles-Harris, Steele Chambers, Jontrey Hunter

There’s not much to say about this group of run-stoppers following a set of non-padded, pass-heavy practices. Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, and Sione Takitaki are virtual locks, though Tavai and Takitaki missed time due to injury.

Raekwon McMillan has suffered two season-ending injuries since joining the Patriots, but he was re-signed both times and seems like a valued depth piece and special teamer.

Steele Chambers may be a long shot for the roster, but he’s a name to watch after the team waived rookie Jay Person to sign him.

Cornerback (6)

In: Christian Gonzalez, Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, Alex Austin, Isaiah Bolden, Marcellas Dial Jr.

Out: Shaun Wade, Marco Wilson, Azizi Hearn, Mikey Victor, Kaleb Ford-Dement

Christian Gonzalez and Jonathan Jones, who was recovering from offseason surgery this spring, are virtually locked into the top two corner spots The third, however, is currently up for grabs.

Marcus Jones seems like New England’s slot corner of the future, but he didn’t participate on defense this spring following a season-ending shoulder injury.

The Jones’ absences have led to more reps for Isaiah Bolden, who missed all of last season due to a concussion. Mayo said Bolden is viewed as more of a perimeter corner, but he played all over Jackson State’s secondary and hasn’t looked out of place. Bolden is also expected to be a heavy contributor on special teams.

Alex Austin and Marco Wilson seem to be duking it out for a job, as both have spent time opposite Gonzalez with the top defense. Austin was competitive, if imperfect, throughout the spring, while Wilson was mostly quiet. I think Austin’s upside will ultimately win him the job, but this will be a battle to watch.

Marcellas Dial hasn’t gotten many opportunities in a crowded position group, but he offers more potential than a fringe veteran like Shaun Wade. Azizi Hearn, Mikey Victor, and Kaleb Ford-Dement had their moments in practice, but they’ll need excellent camp and preseason performances to crack the 53.

Safety (4)

In: Kyle Dugger, Jabrill Peppers, Marte Mapu, Jaylinn Hawkins

Out: Joshuah Bledsoe, Dell Pettus

After re-signing Kyle Dugger this offseason, the Patriots have wisely kept one of the league’s best safety duos intact.

Marte Mapu still projects as a position-flexible player, but he’s been used heavily in Mack Wilson’s old role as a dime linebacker. Mayo described him as “a big slot corner, a bigger safety, or smaller linebacker.”

Newcomer Jaylinn Hawkins has spent significant time deep in three safety packages. The former Charger was mainly a special teamer last season, but he started for the Falcons in 2022, showing solid range and instincts. If Hawkins continues to hold it down at free safety, he could free Dugger and Peppers to play near the line of scrimmage where they thrive.

Special Teams (4)

In:  ST Brenden Schooler, LS Joe Cardona, P Bryce Baringer, K Joey Slye

Out: K Chad Ryland, ST Christian Elliss

While Joe Cardona and Bryce Baringer were as consistent as ever this spring, kicker is still a major question mark. Chad Ryland’s kicking form has changed since his difficult rookie season, but he missed at least one field goal in every practice open to the media, and his makes included several close calls.

Former Commander Joey Slye seemed like a depth player in OTAs, but he made all eight field goal attempts in minicamp. Ryland is easy to root for, but it’s impossible to justify putting him on the roster after his recent performances.

Taylor Kyles

Taylor Kyles is the lead NFL Analyst for CLNS Media covering players, schemes, and tendencies through a New England Patriots-centric lens.

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