Patriots Projected Depth Chart: Rookie James White Emerging As Key Reserve

New England Patriot's NFL team practice with the Washington Redskins in Richmond, Va.The New England Patriots released their first unofficial depth chart over the weekend, and quite frankly, it’s a bunch of bunk.

In typical Patriots fashion, the team listed all of their rookies last on the depth chart, despite mounting evidence from practice that certain first-year pros could have big roles on the 2014 team.

Because the Patriots’ depth chart can’t be trusted, NESN.com has filled out a more accurate version based on what we’ve seen at training camp practices. Check out where each player ranks as the Patriots are preparing to play their first preseason game on Thursday against the Washington Redskins.

QUARTERBACK

-Tom Brady
-Ryan Mallett
-Jimmy Garoppolo

Mallett is having a strong training camp, while Garoppolo has played like a rookie — to be nice. Mallett will have dollar signs in his eyes as he’ll be able to show his chops in the preseason, playing for an offseason contract.

RUNNING BACK

-Stevan Ridley
-James White
-Brandon Bolden
-Stephen Houston
-Jonas Gray
-Tyler Gaffney

Ridley will hold that No. 1 slot unless his fumbling issues start to creep up again. White has been impressive this summer, which has allowed him to pass Bolden on the depth chart. Bolden, Houston and Gray will be playing in the preseason in hopes of forcing head coach Bill Belichick to carry a fourth running back.

THIRD-DOWN BACK

-Shane Vereen
-James White
-Brandon Bolden
-Roy Finch

The Patriots were smart to draft a player like White, who can backup both running back roles on the team. He has shown sure hands in training camp so far. Finch has impressive speed and quickness, but his size (5-foot-7, 180 pounds) could preclude him from finding a spot on the 53-man roster.

FULLBACK

-James Develin
-Taylor McCuller

McCuller is listed as a linebacker, but he’s been backing up Develin at fullback in practice.

X WIDE RECEIVER

-Kenbrell Thompkins
-Aaron Dobson
-Brandon LaFell
-Brian Tyms

Thompkins has been seeing the most reps at “X” receiver, but LaFell has been nipping at his heels and still could grab the starting role. Dobson will be playing from behind when his broken foot finally heals, but he had an impressive end to his rookie season before injuries caught up.

Z WIDE RECEIVER

-Julian Edelman
-Brandon LaFell
-Josh Boyce

Edelman could be the team’s leading receiver for the second year in a row, playing the “Z” receiver role.

SLOT RECEIVER

-Danny Amendola
-Brandon LaFell
-Wilson Van Hooser
-Derrick Johnson

LaFell can play all three of the Patriots’ starting receiver roles, which added to his value as a free agent.

TIGHT END

-Rob Gronkowski
-Michael Hoomanawanui
-D.J. Williams
-James Develin
-Justin Jones
-Asa Watson

Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui and Williams are injured, which leaves the Patriots dangerously low on tight ends as they prepare for their first preseason game. Look for the Patriots to add another tight end this week.

TACKLE

-Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer
-Marcus Cannon
-Cameron Fleming
-Jordan Devey

Solder and Vollmer are locked into their starting roles, but the Patriots have two solid reserves in Cannon and rookie Fleming.

GUARD

-Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly
-Marcus Cannon, Josh Kline
-Jon Halapio
-Chris Barker

Connolly is the de facto starter, since he was the Patriots’ right guard in 2013, but Cannon and Kline are pushing the veteran.

CENTER

-Ryan Wendell
-Dan Connolly
-Bryan Stork
-Jordan Devey
-Braxton Cave

Wendell and Connolly both are seeing reps at center. The player who loses out on that starting role could be cut.

4-3 DEFENSIVE END

-Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich
-Will Smith
-Michael Buchanan
-Zach Moore
-Jake Bequette

If the Patriots elect to run a 4-3, Jones and Ninkovich will be the starters for the third straight year. Jones kicked inside to defensive tackle on third down in 2013.

4-3 DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly
-Sealver Siliga
-Dominique Easley
-Chris Jones
-Joe Vellano
-Marcus Forston
-L.T. Tuipulotu
-Eathyn Manumaleuna

The Patriots’ front seven was solid before Wilfork and Kelly suffered injuries in 2013. The two vets receive a do-over this season. Easley has yet to take the practice field, but his upside should push him up on the depth chart when he returns from a torn ACL.

3-4 DEFENSIVE END

-Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork
-Tommy Kelly
-Will Smith
-Dominique Easley
-Chris Jones
-Zach Moore
-Joe Vellano
-Marcus Forston
-Eathyn Manumaleuna

If the Patriots elect to run a 3-4 in 2014, Jones and Wilfork likely will start outside at defensive end. Jones looks to have added more muscle over the offseason, which should allow him to hold his ground better against the run.

NOSE TACKLE

-Sealver Siliga
-Vince Wilfork
-L.T. Tuipulotu

If Siliga isn’t the starter at nose tackle, that role will be passed on to Wilfork, and Kelly will play end.

3-4 OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

-Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower
-Michael Buchanan
-Jake Bequette
-Darius Fleming
-Cameron Gordon

Hightower has seen more reps playing a pass-rush role than Collins, who has been dropping back into coverage from inside linebacker. Hightower was an effective rusher in college at Alabama, and he could finally see an opportunity to get after the quarterback in his third NFL season.

LINEBACKER

-Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower
-James Anderson
-Steve Beauharnais
-Chris White
-Darius Fleming
-Ja’Gared Davis
-Cameron Gordon
-Taylor McCuller
-Deontae Skinner
-James Morris

The Patriots are strong at starting linebacker, and there’s a lot of upside in their reserves. Newly signed Morris is at the bottom of the depth chart now, but he could start rising once he’s able to practice with the Patriots. In a 3-4, Mayo and Collins would start on the inside.

CORNERBACK

-Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner
-Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington
-Malcolm Butler
-Justin Green
-Daxton Swanson
-Travis Hawkins
-Jemea Thomas

Browner looks primed to start for now, but he’ll miss the first four games of the season with a suspension. That could allow Ryan or Dennard to steal that starting role from the veteran.

SLOT CORNERBACK

-Kyle Arrington
-Logan Ryan
-Alfonzo Dennard
-Jemea Thomas

Arrington is solid as a slot corner, but he has two young, hungry reserves behind him, who are striving for playing time.

FREE SAFETY

-Devin McCourty
-Patrick Chung
-Tavon Wilson
-Jemea Thomas

McCourty has the starting free safety role locked down.

STRONG SAFETY

-Duron Harmon
-Patrick Chung
-Tavon Wilson
-Nate Ebner
-Kanorris Davis
-Shamiel Gary

Harmon, Chung and Wilson are still competing for the starting role. It will be interesting to see who gets the start on Thursday against the Redskins.

KICKER

-Stephen Gostkowski

PUNTER

-Ryan Allen

LONG SNAPPER

-Danny Aiken
-Tyler Ott

KICK RETURNER

-Josh Boyce
-Shane Vereen
-Roy Finch
-James White
-Travis Hawkins

Boyce could find a spot on the 53-man roster if he can prove he’s a dangerous kick returner.

PUNT RETURNER

-Julian Edelman
-Danny Amendola
-Roy Finch

Finch could steal a spot on the roster if the Patriots can trust him to handle punt return duties.

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