The New England Patriots won Super Bowl LI just over three months ago, and they’re already set to begin practicing again soon.
The Patriots open organized team activities next Monday, and they have just one roster spot to fill before non-padded practices begin. With the 2017 NFL Draft in the books, let’s project the Patriots’ pre-OTAs depth chart.
Starter: Tom Brady
Backups: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
ProFootballTalk speculated Monday whether Brady would stay in the NFL as a backup.
We’ll wait at least another year or five to answer that question.
Starter: Mike Gillislee
Backups: Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden, LeShun Daniels
It seems unlikely the Patriots would have given up a fifth-round pick if they didn’t view Gillislee as a starter. Burkhead is the next-best bet to receive early-down carries.
Starter: James White
Backups: Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, D.J. Foster
The Patriots have committed to White as their pass-catching pack for another four years. He adds — and will continue to add — valuable continuity on offense.
Starter: James Develin
Backup: Glenn Gronkowski
It would be a major upset if Develin was unseated.
Starters: Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan
Backups: Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Devin Street, Devin Lucien, Austin Carr, Cody Hollister
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Cooks, Edelman and Hogan all play a similar number of snaps by the end of the season. The Patriots showed a willingness to spell Edelman in 2016 to keep him healthy. They could take a similar approach with Cooks, who is similarly undersized. Hogan can play inside or outside in the Patriots’ offense.
Starter: Rob Gronkowski
Backups: Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler, Jacob Hollister
Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett didn’t share the field as often as many believed they would in 2016. Expect the same with Gronkowski and Allen as the Patriots mostly stay in 11 personnel with one running back, one tight end and three receivers.
Starters: LT Nate Solder, LG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason, RT Marcus Cannon
Backups: OT Cameron Fleming, G/C Ted Karras, OT Antonio Garcia, OT Conor McDermott, OT LaAdrian Waddle, G Chris Barker, G Jamil Douglas, G Chase Farris, OT Max Rich, G Jason King, OT Cole Croston, OT Andrew Jelks
Don’t expect any surprises with the Patriots’ starting offensive line.
Starters: DE Trey Flowers, DT Alan Branch, DT Malcom Brown, DE Rob Ninkovich
Backups: DE Kony Ealy, DT Lawrence Guy, DT Vincent Valentine, DE Derek Rivers, DE Deatrich Wise, DE Geneo Grissom, DT Woodrow Hamilton, DT Darius Kilgo, DE Corey Vereen, DT Josh Augusta, DT Adam Butler
Ealy, or perhaps Rivers, could replace Ninkovich as a starter.
Starters: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts
Backups: Shea McClellin, Jonathan Freeny, Brandon King, Trevor Bates, Harvey Langi, Brooks Ellis
Van Noy and Roberts both should take on big roles. Van Noy is more likely to play on passing downs, while Roberts is the better run defender.
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler
Backups: Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings, Kenny Moore, Dwayne Thomas
It will be interesting to see how many snaps Rowe receives. It would behoove the Patriots to keep him off the field for more than half of their defensive snaps. If Rowe plays 50 percent of defensive snaps in 2017, the Patriots must give a 2018 third-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles. If he plays less than 50 percent of snaps, they only have to give the Eagles a fourth-round pick. Rowe begins training camp as the No. 6 defensive back on the depth chart.
Starters: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung
Backups: Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
Harmon is a pseudo-starter and should be the Patriots’ fifth defensive back over Rowe.
Starters: K Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, LS Joe Cardona
The Patriots didn’t bring in any other specialists.
Thumbnail photo via Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports Images