First off, this is not a roster PREDICTION. I’m not even going to try climbing inside Belichick’s nogin. This is just how I would round it out, using the Patriots historical tendencies as a guide. Also, given those tendencies, its safe to assume Bill will go external for at least one roster spot, either signing a player cut from another team, or bringing in a free agent (*cough* Dwight Freeney *cough*). I was tempted to do a 52 man roster projection to factor that in, but where is the fun in that? Without further ado, my 53 man roster projection for the Patriots 2017 season opener.
I was leaning out on Brissett going into the final preseason game, but he made it too difficult for Belichick to let him go with a 5 TD performance.
Running Backs (5)
James Devlin FB
The Patriots have needs at other positions that keeps DJ Foster off my roster. Lack of special teams ability hurts him here.
Wide Receivers (5)
There is virtually no way Austin Carr gets to the practice squad given his preseason performance, and just has too much potential for Belichick to let him go. Devin Lucien also played well enough to earn a roster spot, but there are too many players with a similar skill set. If Mitchell opens the season on PUP or IR, it could leave him with a spot.
Tight Ends (3)
Given Gronk’s injury history, give me a receiving third TE (Hollister) over a blocker (O’Shaughnessy). Similar to Carr, probably can’t get him on the practice squad either.
Offensive Line (8)
David Andrews C
Marcus Cannon T
Shaq Mason G
Nate Solder T
Joe Thuney G
Cam Fleming T
Ted Karras G
Conor McDermott T
Antonio Garcia (IR)
Antonio Garcia hasn’t been able to get on the field most of the preseason, even going back to training camp, which leads me to believe he’s heading to IR. Opens a spot for McDermott. Ferentz is a prime practice squad candidate, given his versatility and football pedigree (his dad is the head coach at Iowa).
Interior Defensive Line (4)
Butler was probably the most impressive UDFA this summer. Very agile and athletic for someone his size…sort of like Vince Wilfork.
Edge Rushers (4)
Deatrich Wise Jr
Hightower has been practicing with this group in recent weeks. According to PFF, Hightower’s pass rushing metrics were all top 5 last year, despite a limited sample size. With David Harris roaming the middle in 2017, look for him to be set loose at opposing QBs.
Kyle Van Noy
Shea McClellin (IR)
Shea McClellin seems destined for IR, if he ends up making it Langi is in trouble. Jonathan Freeny has a good history in Foxboro, but after missing all of last year it feels like they have run out of room for him on this team.
Despite what I said in my column a few weeks ago, it was an unimpressive year from a UDFA corner spot. Assuming the worst regarding the Cyrus Jones knee injury, one spot should be open. If any of the trio make the team, it will likely be Will Likely (I’ll show myself out). Eric Rowe low-key had a great summer.
It was an up-and-down summer for Richards, who needed to impress to stay on the team in the final year of his deal. Special teams ability puts him over the top and keeps him on the squad.
Special Teams (7)
The only thing that could upset a group that has been together for years is the edition of Marquise Flowers. If Belichick feels like he has enough special teamers, could swap out Brandon King for a James Ferentz or DJ Foster.
Thoughts? Questions? Let me hear ’em on Twitter @The_REAL_Alex_B
Written By: Alex Barth (@The_REAL_Alex_B)