Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection: How Do Opt-Outs Change Prediction?

The New England Patriots’ roster has changed dramatically over the last week as they released nine players and had six more opt out for the 2020 NFL season over coronavirus concerns.

Five of the six players who opted out — running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale, right tackle Marcus Cannon, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung — made our last 53-man roster projection in June. So, you’ll see at least five new names on this list.

Here’s our latest prediction for the Patriots’ 53-man roster:

QUARTERBACK (3)
In: Brian Hoyer, Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham
Out: None

The Patriots don’t want to be left without a quarterback because of an injury or positive COVID-19 test. They have three solid options here. Prior to signing Newton, the Patriots had one of the worst quarterback depth charts in the NFL. When you account for their third-stringer, the Patriots are now looking in very good shape.

RUNNING BACK (4)
In: Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White
Out: J.J. Taylor
Opt-out: Brandon Bolden

The Patriots don’t necessarily need to keep five running backs, as they did last season. Taylor is an injury away from a roster spot, and this is always a prone position group.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)
In: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Mohamed Sanu, Matthew Slater, Jeff Thomas
Out: Quincy Adeboyejo, Damiere Byrd, Will Hastings, Marqise Lee, Gunner Olszewski, Devin Ross

We’re going young here with Meyers and Thomas over Byrd and Lee. We like their upside, and experience should be less of a factor with Tom Brady out of the equation. Thomas is one of two undrafted rookies we have making the squad.

TIGHT END (4)
In: Devin Asiasi, FB Jakob Johnson, Dalton Keene, Matt LaCosse
Out: Rashod Berry, Jake Burt, Ryan Izzo
Opt-out: FB Danny Vitale

If Keene can fill in at fullback then maybe Johnson gets left off. We’ll keep him on for now.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
In: C David Andrews, OT Yodny Cajuste, OT Korey Cunningham, G Hjalte Froholdt, G/OT Justin Herron, RG Shaq Mason, G Michael Onwenu, LG Joe Thuney, LT Isaiah Wynn
Out: G Jermaine Eluemunor, C Dustin Woodard
Opt-out: RT Marcus Cannon, G Najee Toran

This was the toughest group to assemble with Cannon out. In this situation, Thuney or Froholdt would be the backup center. If the Patriots aren’t comfortable with that situation, Woodard would probably make the team over Onwenu or Herron. New England desperately needs some veteran tackle depth without Cannon. This position group could look a lot different by September.

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DEFENSIVE LINE (5)
In: Beau Allen, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Lawrence Guy, Bill Murray
Out: Tashawn Bower, Nick Coe, Nick Thurman, Deatrich Wise

We’re leaving off Wise because he’s no longer a great fit in the defense, and he played just 22.7 percent of defensive snaps last season. Murray gets the nod as a UDFA out of William & Mary.

LINEBACKER (8)
In: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Brandon Copeland, Anfernee Jennings, Brandon King, Cassh Maluia, John Simon, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich
Out: Shilique Calhoun, Terez Hall, De’Jon Harris, Derek Rivers,
Opt-out: Dont’a Hightower

This was another difficult group to figure out. Calhoun gets left off for Maluia because the Patriots need another traditional inside linebacker behind Bentley and Copeland. With Hightower out, expect Uche to also get a long look in the middle as a rookie.

CORNERBACK (6)
In: Justin Bethel, Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams
Out: Myles Bryant, D’Angelo Ross

We like Bryant and Ross, but this is a tough group to crack. They’d have to beat out Bethel, Williams or a safety for a spot.

SAFETY (5)
In: Terrence Brooks, Cody Davis, Kyle Dugger, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips,
Out: None
Opt-out: Patrick Chung

If Chung opted in, Brooks and Davis would be fighting for one spot. They both make it in this scenario as special teamers and reserve safeties.

SPECIALISTS (3)
In: P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, K Justin Rohrwasser
Out: None

There’s no competition on special teams at this point.

New in this edition: Newton, Johnson, Herron, Onwenu, Murray, Brooks

More Patriots: Defensive Strengths Depleting With Opt-Outs

Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images

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