Patriots Depth Chart Update: Who Fills In For Opt-Outs, Departed Starters?

The New England Patriots have a lot to sort out on their depth chart over the next month.

The Patriots lost numerous starters to free agency, trades and opt-outs this summer. They’ll have two weeks of training camp and no preseason games to reshuffle the depth chart before the season begins in September.

Here’s our best guess at how the Patriots’ depth chart currently appears:

QUARTERBACK
Cam Newton
Jarrett Stidham
Brian Hoyer
Brian Lewerke

It’s not a foregone conclusion Cam Newton will be the Patriots’ starting quarterback or even take the first snap in training camp. But he is the favorite to start the 2020 season, so that’s why he’s at the top here.

RUNNING BACK
Sony Michel (PUP)
Rex Burkhead
Damien Harris

Michel was placed on the physically unable to perform list. If he stays on there through the start of training camp on Aug. 12, then Burkhead and Harris will see increased opportunities carrying the football. We’d like to see what Harris could contribute this season.

Running back/special-teams ace Brandon Bolden opted out for the 2020 season.

SUB BACK
James White
Rex Burkhead
J.J. Taylor

Burkhead has the versatility to play as an early- and third-down back. We think Taylor, who’s just 5-foot-5, 185 pounds, is a better fit as a pass-catcher in the Patriots’ offense.

FULLBACK
Jakob Johnson
Dalton Keene

Prospective starting fullback Danny Vitale opted out and longtime Patriot James Develin retired, leaving the team with Johnson, an international pathway program player, and Keene, a rookie tight end. Undrafted tight end Jake Burt also potentially could see snaps at fullback. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Patriots also looked at veteran fullbacks.

WIDE RECEIVER
Julian Edelman
Mohamed Sanu
N’Keal Harry
Jakobi Meyers
Damiere Byrd
Gunner Olszewski
Quincy Adeboyejo
Devin Ross
Jeff Thomas
Will Hastings

Sanu just came off of the PUP list Tuesday. Edelman is the only guaranteed starter in this position group as Sanu, Harry, Meyers and Byrd are the top options to start alongside of him.

Olszewski, a converted Division II cornerback, will need to make a giant leap forward in his second season to see meaningful snaps on offense. Thomas is an intriguing undrafted wide receiver who was a four-star prospect coming out of high school.

Veteran wideout Marqise Lee opted out for the 2020 season.

TIGHT END
Ryan Izzo
Devin Asiasi
Dalton Keene
Jake Burt
Rashod Berry

The Patriots should hope Izzo only stays atop this list for a brief time. Asiasi and Keene are both 2020 third-round picks with upside. The Patriots should be looking to add another tight end with more experience after Matt LaCosse opted out.

More Patriots: What’s The Present Plan At Tight End?

OFFENSIVE LINE
LT Isaiah Wynn
LG Joe Thuney
C David Andrews
RG Shaq Mason
RT Korey Cunningham
G Jermaine Eluemunor
G Hjalte Froholdt
OT Yodny Cajuste
G Michael Onwenu
OT Justin Herron
C Dustin Woodard

We have no idea who will start at right tackle after Marcus Cannon’s opt-out, and it might not even be a player currently on the Patriots’ roster. Veteran players like LaAdrian Waddle and Demar Dotson are still available as free agents. The Patriots could even move Thuney to right tackle and figure out who would fill in at guard. One other option would be to sign a player like Cordy Glenn and then move Wynn to right tackle.

DEFENSIVE LINE
DT Lawrence Guy
DT Adam Butler
DE Deatrich Wise
DT Beau Allen
DT Byron Cowart
DT Nick Thurman
DE Tashawn Bower
DT Bill Murray
DE Nick Coe

Allen could wind up being the Patriots’ starting nose tackle, but we thought the same things about Mike Pennel last season, and then he wound up getting cut and Danny Shelton, who has moved on to the Detroit Lions, took over. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Guy and Butler as the Patriots’ top two defensive tackles this season. They have players with potential like Cowart, Thurman, Murray and Coe, as well.

LINEBACKER
ILB Ja’Whaun Bentley
OLB John Simon
OLB Chase Winovich
ILB Brandon Copeland
OLB Shilique Calhoun
ILB Josh Uche
OLB Anfernee Jennings
OLB Derek Rivers
ILB Cassh Maluia
ILB Terez Hall
ILB Scoota Harris
OLB Rashod Berry

Your guess is as good as mine here after the Patriots lost Dont’a Hightower to opt-out and Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts in free agency.

Bentley seems guaranteed to start, and Simon will at least take on a big role. Is Winovich ready to start? Do the Patriots view Copeland as an inside or outside linebacker? How will Uche and Jennings, both 2020 draft picks, emerge this summer?

This position group is wide, wide, wide open.

CORNERBACK
Stephon Gilmore
Jason McCourty
JC Jackson
Slot Jonathan Jones
Joejuan Williams
Justin Bethel
Slot D’Angelo Hall
Slot Myles Bryant

The Patriots bring back the same exceptional group from last year. There are no real mysteries here unless Jones takes on a bigger role at safety, where he played some snaps in 2018 and 2019.

SAFETY
FS Devin McCourty
SS Adrian Phillips
SS Terrence Brooks
SS Kyle Dugger
FS Cody Davis

Patrick Chung opted out, leaving a hole at strong safety. We like Phillips as the favorite to take over, but Brooks is capable, and Dugger was the Patriots’ top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as a second-rounder. Free safety Duron Harmon was traded to the Detroit Lions. Dugger, Davis or Jones could take over his role, sharing the deep half of the field with Devin McCourty.

SPECIAL TEAMS
K Justin Rohrwasser
P Jake Bailey
LS Joe Cardona
WR Matthew Slater
LB Brandon King (PUP)

The Patriots have no competition in the specialist roles.

More Patriots: Reduced Roster Comes With Advantages, Major Risks

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images