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Gaffney's 2023 New England Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 1.0

As of today, we're exactly two weeks out from rookies and rehabbing players reporting to Foxborough for training camp, with everyone else on the Patriots set to report in the four or five days afterward. With that said, figured it'd be a good exercise to see what this team could look like after the final cuts have been made. There are some interesting position battles at several spots, most notably at cornerback with the recent Jack Jones news. So without delay, here's what you should know about this Patriots' roster, and the battles within the walls of 1 Patriot Place, ahead of camp.


- All rookies are italicized. (any rookie reports will be linked to their names if available)

- Not accounting for anyone currently not on the roster (DeAndre Hopkins, Dalvin Cook, etc.)

- We're operating under the assumption that Jack Jones will not be making the final roster given the nature of his legal situation.

New England Patriots' Offense

Quarterbacks (3) - Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, Trace McSorley

Outside Looking In - None

Especially with the 'Brock Purdy' rule coming into effect this season, the expectation should be that the Patriots carry three quarterbacks going into September. Should they, unfortunately, find themselves in a spot like the San Fransisco 49ers in the NFC Title Game, Trace McSorley will be the next man up. Didn't feel like too long ago he was just a tagline for a TikTok song, and now he's a five-year NFL veteran. Last year, McSorley was a part of the Arizona Cardinals, getting a late season start after Kyler Murray went down, a losing effort against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In other news, Mac Jones was with Tom Brady at some point relatively recently, do with that information what you will.

Running Backs (4) - Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong Jr, Kevin Harris

Outside Looking In - J.J. Taylor

Dalvin Cook has suddenly become a hot name tagged to the Patriots as of late, but as of now, my guess is that the plan is to go with four running backs, no matter what. Taking Jakob Johnson out of the equation, that's what the Patriots have done in three of the last four seasons.

One of the better Patriots pre-camp stories this year is how things will shake out behind Mondre. I think most fans are on the same page he's in for another big year, but there's a huge hole to fill left by Damien Harris. We saw a bit of Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris at the back end of 2022, and they made the most of the opportunities they got. In years past, Belichick has redshirted backs before letting them lose in year two, Mondre being the rare exception ironically enough. With that said, I think Strong gets the bulk of those missing carries, but Harris could have some staying power down by the goal line.

Since he's in the news and was briefly mentioned, I think any move relating to Cook coming to New England strictly speaks to how Belichick and O'Brien feel about Strong and Harris. I wouldn't bite on Cook unless the money is simply too good to pass up. As elite a back as he is, he'd be far more of a luxury than a need right now.

Wide Receivers (6) - DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton, Juju Smith-Schuster, Demario Douglas, Malik Cunningham

Outside Looking In - Kayshon Boutte, Tre Nixon, Ed Lee

Even without Nuk Hopkins in the building, the competition for that final spot in the receiver room should be interesting, assuming they opt to go with five receivers again instead of six. As things stand, Parker, Bourne, Thornton, and Smith-Schuster feel like locks, and my gut tells me Douglas will be the guy to grab a brass ring in August. Between him, Kayshon Boutte, and URI's finest Ed Lee, Douglas feels like the best option at this juncture. I also feel like Belichick will try his absolute best to get converted QB Malik Cunningham on this roster. He'd fill the annual 'UDFA makes the Patriots roster' quota if nothing else, but he's a fascinating project player.

Tight Ends (3) - Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Anthony Firkser

Outside Looking In - Matt Sokol, Johnny Lumpkin, Scotty Washington

No real surprises for the tight-end room, including the newest face of the room, Anthony Firkser. Patriots fans should be ready to see the former Atlanta Falcon in the run game this year early and often. PFF had the one-time Harvard player down as the ninth-best blocking tight end in football last year (80.9 grade). Hunter Henry can block, but I wouldn't say he's a great blocker, and Gesicki is a wide receiver in all but name. This was a sneaky great move by Belichick this late in the game.

Offensive Tackles (4) - Trent Brown, Riley Reiff, Calvin Anderson, Sidy Sow

Outside Looking In - Connor McDermott, Anthony Stueber

Now in July, offensive tackle remains the area where Patriots fans should be the most concerned. I wasn't too keen on the Riley Reiff deal given his age, while Trent Brown's availability was less than ideal in the offseason program. The Patriots can get out of the final year of Brown's deal and save a ton of money against the cap (which isn't real) but should try to keep him around. As shakey as he was last season, Brown is still probably their best outright tackle. Anderson is a very good veteran swing tackle option with starting experience for this team. Sow, meanwhile, gives the Patriots a body that can play inside or out. Granted, his profile would tell you he's a pure tackle.

Interior Offensive Lineman (4) - David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, Cole Strange, Jake Andrews

Outside Looking In - Chasen Hines, Atonio Mafi, Kody Russey, James Ferentz, Bill Murray

The grouping of Andrews, Onwenu, and Strange mostly yielded positive results, save for some hiccups along the way by the latter. Jake Andrews getting picked in the fourth round, along with his experience at guard and center, makes him the easy favorite to make the opening 53-man roster in his first try. I'd also be sure to keep up with how Atonio Mafi, and more so Chasen Hines, are doing come camp time. Hines started 2022 on the NFI list but still made the initial 53-man unit despite that. Assuming he can stay healthy in year two, I wouldn't rule out him getting that last spot over Andrews.

New England Patriots' Special Teams

Specialist (3) - Chad Ryland, Bryce Barringer, Joe Cardona

Outside Looking In - Nick Folk, Corliss Waitman, Tucker Addington

Especially after some of the woes Nick Folk had last year, his days in Foxborough feel as numbered as they've been since he got here. Chad Ryland should be the favorite to land the kicker job for his ability on kickoffs if nothing else. Last year, things were as bad on kickoffs as they've ever been in my lifetime, and you could argue it cost the Patriots two games. Hangtime issues were a concern at Michigan State for Barringer, but he mostly put those to bed at the combine with a monster outing.

Core Special Teamers (3) - Matthew Slater, Chris Board, Brendan Schooler

Outside Looking In - N/A

I don't have enough words to express how happy I am that Slate is back. Nothing else to add there really, just happy. Having him for at least one more season is big, especially if Board and/or Schooler become mainstay fixtures for the Patriots moving forward. Board specifically should get into Patriots Nation's good graces in short order. Spoiler: ELITE tackler.

New England Patriots' Defense

Interior Defensive Line (6) – Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise, Daniel Ekuale, Carl Davis

Outside Looking In - Sam Roberts, Jeremiah Pharms

Health was a notable issue in the middle of this defensive front midway through last year, but I don't think you'll see too many changes. I'm still under the assumption that Lawrence Guy will get a reworked deal before the start of the season, but if not, Sam Roberts is the most logical name to take that final spot. He has some front versatility and some special teams value which is always a plus.

EDGE (4) – Matt Judon, Josh Uche, Keion White, Anfernee Jennings

Outside Looking In - Ronnie Perkins, DeMarcus Mitchell

This will be recurring on this side of the ball, but no surprises at all off the edge here. While Keion White is slotted here, I have zero doubts we'll see him kick inside occasionally in pass-rush situations. As for one Josh Uche, he's another fourth-year player on the cusp of getting a big-time bag. But I wonder if the Patriots brass will wait until after the season and let him test the market as opposed to signing him now. Anfernee Jennings is also in the last year of his deal as well, and on a look-through, he played a lot more than I thought last season. Would like to think he's close to a lock to making the roster once again, but given that this is gut check time for Ronnie Perkins, that could turn into a fun camp battle.

Linebackers (3) – JaWhaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, Mack Wilson

Outside Looking In - Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Olakunle Fatukasi, Jourdan Heling (Raekwon McMillian is out for the year with a partially torn Achilles injury)

Losing out on Raekwon McMillan before the season starts again is a bummer, but it's hard to say if his roster spot would have been guaranteed if he was healthy. With the way the Belichicks and Jerod Mayo have been using some of these safties, my educated guess would be no. That said, the three names you see here should be locks barring something drastic. Love the JaWhaun Bentley extension as well since we're here.

Cornerbacks (5) – Christian Gonzalez, Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, Myles Bryant, Isaiah Bolden

Outside Looking In - Jack Jones, Ameer Speed, Shaun Wade, Quandre Mosely, Rodney Randle

The Jack Jones situation will likely take a while to resolve itself, and the call of if he'll even play this year could be out of the Patriots' hands, depending on what the folks at the NFL offices decide to do. Any situation that involves him not being on this roster means a couple of things. 1) Jalen Mills will 100 percent be joining Myles Bryant as a true corner/safety tweener. 2) One of Isaiah Bolden or Ameer Speed will make this roster, but give the inside track to the Jackson State product via his athletic profile, inside-out versatility, and the fact he's a plug-and-play return man should anything happen to Marcus Jones.

Safeties (5) – Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jalen Mills, Marte Mapu, Jabrill Peppers

Outside Looking In - Josh Bledsoe, Brad Hawkins, Raleigh Webb

Not only do I think this is the best safety group in the NFL, I don't even think it's particularly close. I would be stunned if this group of five isn't the one Belichick carries into the regular season. Barring anything outside of injury, anyway. Jalen Mills getting the chance to move around a bit more at corner and safety should help a ton on the back end, but he needs to stay healthy after missing the final six games of 2022. Take this for what it's worth: Mills has logged 95% or more snaps in eight total games since he landed in Foxborough and 80% or more in 16 out of his 20 games, all of which he started. All this is to say Mills is a big part of what they've been trying to do on defense.

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