Early Prediction of Patriots’ 53-Man Roster Includes Wes Welker on PUP List


May 22, 2010

Early Prediction of Patriots' 53-Man Roster Includes Wes Welker on PUP List This was originally supposed to be the earliest roster prediction in the history of football, but a pair of scribes cracked out their sniper rifles and caught us by surprise. Oh well, can't win them all. Either way, the Patriots are set to launch their voluntary organized team activities on Monday, so let's handicap the field before they participate in a single practice.

For the time being, NFL teams can have a maximum of 80 players under contract, but the number of unsigned draft picks will temporarily inflate that number. Teams must drop to 75 players by Aug. 31, and they've got to slim down to 53 players by Sept. 4. Here are the 53 Patriots with an inside track.

Defensive Linemen (7)
Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Mike Wright, Gerard Warren, Damione Lewis, Myron Pryor, Derrick Burgess

Note: Bill Belichick stockpiled depth along the line this offseason, and the signings of Gerard Warren and Lewis gave the Patriots plenty of opportunities to use a four-man front. If this list proves prophetic, 2009 second-round pick Ron Brace would be the big casualty.

Linebackers (8)
Jerod Mayo, Tully Banta-Cain, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Tyrone McKenzie, Jermaine Cunningham, Pierre Woods, Rob Ninkovich

Note: The last two or three spots will likely come down to Woods, Ninkovich and Eric Alexander, and they're all valuable on special teams. That will be a really good competition.

Cornerbacks (6)
Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, Jonathan Wilhite, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Terrence Wheatley

Note: The release of Shawn Springs gave new life to Wheatley, who had a lost season in 2009. Even still, the last spot on the 53-man roster could come down to Wheatley, Brace, Alexander and offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger.

Safeties (4)
Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Patrick Chung, Brandon McGowan

Note: Meriweather is really emerging as a star. The big challenge among this group is finding enough playing time for all four of them, as each one can bring a unique asset to the field.

Offensive Line (9)
Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, Nick Kaczur, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Mark LeVoir, Ted Larsen

Note: This is a really deep cast of linemen. Vollmer will likely start at right tackle, and the Patriots will have two serviceable backups in Kaczur and Connolly.

Quarterbacks (2)
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Note: Brady had the second-best statistical season of his career, but he clearly wasn?t himself in the fourth quarter. Look for him to really return to full strength two years after the devastating knee injury.

Wide Receivers (6)
Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, Torry Holt, Sam Aiken, Brandon Tate, Taylor Price

Note: This prediction includes Wes Welker beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list, which means he'll miss at least six weeks.

Running backs (5)
Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Note: The committee system was effective last season when the coaching staff remained dedicated to the ground game. Oh, and all five of these backs are in a contract year.

Tight ends (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Alge Crumpler, Aaron Hernandez

Note: This is a really versatile group. Crumpler is an elite blocker, and Gronkowski is the jack of all trades at the position. Hernandez will probably spend most of his time lined up in the slot or on a heavy line outside of Crumpler or Gronkowski.

Kicker (1)
Stephen Gostkowski

Note: Gostkowski made 26 of 31 field goals during his fourth season in New England.

Punter (1)
Zoltan Mesko

Note: Mesko was killing the ball during the Patriots' rookie camp a few weeks ago, and he looks like an instant upgrade to Chris Hanson.

Long Snapper (1)
Jake Ingram

Note: The Hawaii native filled in flawlessly for local legend Lonie Paxton.

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