Tom Brady is wearing a non-contact red #12 jersey. Bill Belichick is standing on the sidelines with his arms folded, looking miserable as always. That can only mean one thing: training camp has begun and football is finally back. This is an exciting time in the sports world. It is also a very serious time, the start of a journey where 32 different franchises are looking to win a Super Bowl. Speaking of Super Bowls, the Patriots just won their sixth Lombardi trophy last season. It was Tom Brady’s sixth ring. It was Bill Belichick’s sixth ring too. That does not mean they are taking their foot off the gas pedal anytime soon. The Patriots reported to camp last week, so an opening 53-man roster projection seems fitting. There will be another projection towards the back end of training camp. By that time, some of these predictions are almost guaranteed to change.
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Danny Etling will have to have a very strong camp to beat out Stidham, the Patriots fourth round pick in this past draft. Hoyer is a strong veteran option to have behind TB12.
Running Back (5): Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden
One of the Patriots stronger position groups, this backfield has a little bit of everything. Burkhead is firmly on the roster bubble after the Damien Harris draft selection, an exciting player who has strong run, catch, and block potential. Bolden is a near lock on the roster for his special teams impact and familiarity with the organization.
Fullback (1): James Develin
For a fullback, Develin plays a ton of snaps. As he is considered one of the better fullbacks in the game and a coaches favorite, he is a lock.
Wide Receiver (5): Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman
Edelman and Harry, a first rounder with tons of ability, should be getting majority of the snaps. Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely and who knows when he will be reinstated. Demaryius Thomas is expected to start the season on the PUP list. In the meantime while their situations play out, the Patriots may elect to take some savy veterans to fill out their rotational receivers. Dorsett knows the system, Harris has been extremely impressive in practices, and Inman has been around with the Colts and Chargers. The Patriots could very well try stashing Braxton Berrios on the practice squad. If they fear another team could sign him, he is likely to take Inman’s spot.
Tight End (2): Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo
Tight End is the weakest position on the roster and because of Gronk’s retirement, there could be some cause for concern. Izzo could provide quality snaps, a late round draft pick last season. Lacosse brings a veteran presence to the group, having been a member of the Broncos in the past. These guys along with Develin should provide quality blocking. The question is pass catching.
Offensive Line (9): Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, James Ferentz
The Patriots are hoping Wynn lives up to his billing of a first round pick. He is healthy and should be able to show why the Pats took him in the first round last year. The rest of the starting line is rock solid and has a lot of continuity. Cajuste and Froholdt were mid-round picks in this past draft and will hopefully provide solid depth. Karras has been around as a backup and can play all three interior positions. Ferentz provides additional depth.
Defensive Line (7): Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Deatrich Wise Jr., Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Chase Vinovich
Derek Rivers could be the “surprise” cut of the group. He is a third rounder entering his third year, but has not offered anything so far in his career. They could elect to keep Cowart instead, a fifth round pick this year who is believed to have untapped potential. He was widely regarded as the best player in the country out of high school. Guy, Pennel, and Butler will be manning the middle of the line. Bennett and Wise could slide in as well. Vinovich, their third rounder this year, will be a pass rushing specialist, either as an end on the line or standing up as an outside linebacker.
Linebacker (6): Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Jon Simon
A very impressive group of players, this bunch has the ability to play off the ball as well as rush the passer. Simon will be the pass rushing specialist of the group, playing as a third down rusher. Bentley looked very impressive last season as a rookie before going down with a season-ending injury. Jamie Collins is back and if he anything like he was his first go-around, that is a scary sight for the rest of the league. Roberts is a Belichick favorite and will provide quality special teams and backup linebacker play.
Secondary (10): Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason Mccourty, Jonathan Jones, Jojeuan Williams, Duke Dawson, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrance Brooks
Cornerback is probably the best position on the roster. That is reflected with Keion Crossen and Ken Webster, a sixth rounder the team is high on, missing out. If Obi Melifonwu can prove to provide some special teams help, he should make the team over Brooks, a special teams specialist. This secondary is nicely loitered with a blend of veterans and youth. Dawson and Williams are the wildcards, two second rounders in the past two years, and could make this secondary even more scary. The rest of the guys have proven themselves in the system and figure to play a lot of snaps.
Special Teams (5): K Stephen Gostkowski, P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, ST Matt Slater, ST Brandon King
Bailey will have his work cut out for him to beat out Ryan Allen. While Allen had a great Superbowl performance, his overall play has dropped off. The team clearly sees potential in Bailey, as they used a fifth round draft pick on him. They may try to develop their punter of the future now. Nate Ebner figures to have a spot on the roster once he returns from the PUP list. Terrance Brooks could be the man in trouble when that happens.