…since everyone else is doing it. Kinda early for me though really. Since I haven’t seen any practices or any preseason games (yes, I watch them!), I don’t know the difference between Cameron Fleming and Darius Fleming or who the hell guys like Wilson Van Hooser or L.T. Tuipulotu are. Plus there are always are a couple of undrafted guys that come out of nowhere (see Kenbrell Thompkins), guys that are highly touted for what they do on the practice field but are stiffs (see Zach Sudfeld) or guys that get cut from other teams at the end of camp being added (perhaps Benjarvus Green-Ellis coming back this year?). Among other circumstances, including 4 games worth of injuries to factor into. But here goes anyway…the players marked with (L) I would consider a lock at this point:
QB: Tom Brady (L), Jimmy Garoppolo (L), Ryan Mallett:
Billy B has cut high picks before, but as bad as the reports about Jimmy have been, doubtful it will be him this year. I’m hesitant to make Mallett a lock for a couple of reasons. First, the Patriots rarely carry 3 QB’s. Second, I still feel like they could make a trade involving him at some point during the preseason…if he shows well.
RB: Stevan Ridley (L), Shane Vereen (L), James White (L), Brandon Bolden:
People that think Ridley is going to get cut are delusional. He still can’t catch, but he remains the best back on the roster. If he doesn’t fumble (BIG “if”, I know), he could have another year like 2012. There is no “big” back likely to make the roster either. Maybe Bolden, but he is not a threat for main back duties. Bolden makes it here because of special teams and he has some RB ability. But if someone like Green-Ellis becomes available, I wonder if Bolden is gone. Also if one of the undrafted kids (Roy Finch, Stephen Houston or 1st year player Jonas Gray) shows well. There is a lot of love for James White, but I am not going to get too excited yet. We’ve been there before. Vereen will play a ton, but he will also get hurt. You can pretty much count on that.
WR: Julian Edelman (L), Danny Amendola (L), Kenbrell Thompkins (L), Josh Boyce (L), Matthew Slater (L), Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson:
Yup, there is room for all 7. Especially since Slater doesn’t really count. Have to put him somewhere though. Don’t have Dobson as a lock for the simple reason that I would not be shocked to see him start the year on the PUP list. Would allow them some more room for another body. Plus, if I’m not mistaken, he had his surgery later than expected and would give him more recovery time. Amendola will get one more chance to prove dependable. I believe he can be cut after this season with no salary cap implications, so this is kind of make or break for him. One of the reasons Boyce sticks too. Hard to believe they would axe him after a year too. Don’t know which way to go on LaFell. They gave him a big bonus, but you have to wonder why a team with no WRs (Carolina) would let him walk. Jeremy Gallon was drafted, but he likely ends up staying on PUP or the practice squad.
TE: Rob Gronkowski (L), Michael Hoomanawanui (L), James Develin:
Hoo-man is dinged up I guess, but he really is the only other suitable choice behind Gronk. Feel like Develin makes it as TE/FB combo. But there are a couple of young TE’s in Asa Watson and Justin Jones that have some promise…they say anyway. If the Pats feel like they cannot sneak these guys onto the practice squad, maybe one of them takes Develin’s spot. DJ Williams is also lurking, but feel like they could re-sign him quickly if needed. Hasn’t been a lot of demand for his services.
OL: Nate Solder (L), Logan Mankins (L), Ryan Wendell (L), Dan Connolly (L), Sebastian Vollmer (L), Marcus Cannon (L), Cameron Fleming (L), Jon Halapio (L), Joe Kline (L), Bryan Stork (L):
Again, room for all 10 exists. No one knows what’s wrong with Stork, but he is injured and has missed some practices. People are quick to write off Wendell and Connolly, but these guys have been around and have positional flexibility. There is room under the cap for them. The 3 draftees (Stork, Fleming, Halapio) may have promise, but probably aren’t ready. Cannon has impressed at times and Kline showed well last year. But I feel like Wendell and Connolly both stick, especially now that Stork is “behind”. Chris Barker was carried for all 16 games last year and if they want to make a spot for him, then maybe one of them goes. But my sense is that if Barker showed them anything last year, they wouldn’t have drafted 3 linemen this year. With injuries though, all 11 could stick somehow.
Defense and specialists to follow…