Following the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio preached competition.
Take a quick glance through the Patriots’ 90-man roster and you’ll see the potential for plenty of it. The Patriots have more talented players at running back, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and cornerback than roster spots. So there will be some tough cuts come September.
Head coach Bill Belichick also will have some difficult decisions to make while putting together his depth chart over the next four months.
Here’s an early look at an ideal depth chart for the Patriots. This is if everything shakes out perfectly for the Patriots over the spring and summer.
Starter: Tom Brady
Reserves: Danny Etling, Brian Hoyer
Yes, in our ideal scenario, Tom Brady is the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots. Shocker.
You’ll also notice Etling, not Hoyer, is No. 2 on the depth chart. Who wouldn’t hope that the rookie quarterback would beat out the veteran for the backup spot, however unlikely it may seem?
Starter: Sony Michel
Reserves: James White (third-down back), James Develin (fullback), Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden, Ralph Webb
Michel has the potential to be a three-down back in New England. That’s not to say he’ll be a 400-touch player with the Patriots, however. New England’s backfield still is expected to be at least partially by committee. White is the pass-catcher, Burkhead is the do-everything reserve and Hill and Gillislee have to prove they’re more effective in short-yardage situations than Michel and Burkhead to lock down roster spots. Hill is above Gillislee on the depth chart simply because he makes less money.
Starters: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell,
Reserves: Jordan Matthews, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, Matthew Slater, Cody Hollister, Chris Lacy
Ideally, Mitchell is 100 percent recovered from all that ails him, and he’ll be inserted into the offense as the No. 3 receiver. He missed all of last season with a knee injury, however, so we’ll see if that actually occurs. Matthews has more upside in the Patriots’ offense than Dorsett or Britt.
Starter: Rob Gronkowski
Reserves: Will Tye, Dwayne Allen, Troy Niklas, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo, Shane Wimann
Man, you could just spin a wheel with those reserve tight ends. We have Tye at No. 2 because he’s cheaper and more athletic than Allen, and he has starting experience in an NFL offense. Allen’s No. 2 simply because his ceiling still remains higher than other tight ends on the roster because of his ability as a blocker and a pass-catcher.
Starters: LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason, RT Marcus Cannon
Reserves: Trent Brown, Antonio Garcia, Ted Karras, LaAdrian Waddle, Cole Croston, Matt Tobin, Luke Bowanko, Ulrick John, James Ferentz, Jason King, Andrew Jelks
Wynn was taken No. 23 overall, so he should be the favorite for the starting left tackle spot. He’ll have to prove it, though. We considered having Brown as the starting left guard, but he’s probably best suited as a swing tackle.
Starters: DE Trey Flowers, OLB/DE Derek Rivers
Reserves: Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Eric Lee, Keionta Davis, Geneo Grissom, Trent Harris
The Patriots play a hybrid defensive front where an edge defender stands up on the line of scrimmage. That’s what Rivers, a 2017 third-round pick, would do in this situation. Clayborn and Wise would serve as third-down situational pass rushers.
Starters: Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton
Reserves: Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler, John Atkins, Frank Herron
Shelton, a 2015 first-round pick, has higher upside than Guy. Brown, Shelton and Guy should rotate pretty evenly, however.
Starters: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy
Reserves: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Marquis Flowers, Christian Sam, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi, Nicholas Grigsby, Brandon King
Bentley is the best choice to play inside linebacker on first and second down. Flowers is the choice when the Patriots need a jolt of athleticism on passing downs. Sam was a sixth-round pick, but he has the potential to fill both spots.
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty
Reserves: Duke Dawson, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen, Ryan Lewis, J.C. Jackson, Jomal Wiltz
We want to see the twin magic in the Patriots’ secondary with Devin and Jason McCourty both starting. Dawson should see plenty of playing time if he can lock down the No. 3 cornerback spot, covering the slot. We have Cyrus above Jonathan because he still has more upside defensively after being taken in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Starters: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon
Reserves: David Jones, Damarius Travis, Nate Ebner, Jordan Richards, A.J. Moore
Richards is a known commodity at this point. The Patriots have to hope someone else can leapfrog him on the depth chart. It’s odd the Patriots didn’t bring on competition this offseason. Talented veterans like Kenny Vaccaro still are on the open market, however.
Starters: P Ryan Allen, LS Joe Cardona, K Stephen Gostkowski