Earlier this season, I did a "power rankings" of sorts, where I ranked Patriots' rookie and 2nd year players. Officially mid-way through the season, I thought now would be a good time to re-visit that.
1. Patrick Chung, S, #25 | Drafted: 2nd round, 34th Overall, 2009 | PR: 1st
Although Patrick Chung has missed the last two weeks due a minor knee injury, I'm not going to push him down this list. Right now, there's not a play on this Patriots roster that has made the jump that Chung has from year one to two. While the Patriots run defense struggled Sunday against the Browns, there's no question, in my opinion, that Chung's ability to cover sideline to sideline would have helped slow down Peyton Hillis.
2. Devin McCourty, CB, #32 | Drafted: 1st Round, 27th Overall, 2010 | PR: 3rd
Sunday against the Browns, rookie Devin McCourty had a rough game. Placed in one on one situations on the outside due to the team's inability to stop the run, McCourty failed on a few occasions to stop Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi off of the play action. Aside from Sunday, McCourty has looked terrific this season and is on the way to becoming a shut-down corner, which is why he moved up my list.
3. Aaron Hernandez, TE, #85 | Drafted: 4th round, 113th Overall, 2010 | PR: 4th
Aaron Hernandez also moved up one spot on my list. Despite now being the Patriots' primary receiving target, Hernandez has yet to see a real drop in production. Sunday against the Browns, 'Herndo' came up with five grabs and his first two career NFL touchdowns. We all know his versatility, but he's now proving to still be a threat despite drawing the attention of opposing defenses.
4. Sebastian Vollmer, OT, #76 | Drafted: 2nd Round, 58th Overall, 2009 | PR: 2nd
Sebastian Vollmer is a really solid right tackle in this league. Hopefully, in the year or two, he'll be ready to move over to the left side full time. While Vollmer has been mistake free for the most part, he hasn't been quite as elite as he showed last year, occasionally letting in a hit on Tom Brady.
5. Brandon Spikes, ILB, #55 | Drafted: 2nd Round, 62nd Overall, 2010 | PR: 5th
Brandon Spikes stays in the same spot here. He's had a little bit of an up and down year so far. At times he looks great. Then at times, like on Sunday, he can struggle. Right now, Spikes is on track for 94 tackles. Not bad for a 2nd round draft pick who was reportedly "too slow" for the NFL.
6 - 10 as well as who just "missed the cut" after the jump!
6. Jermaine Cunningham, OLB, #96 | Drafted: 2nd Round, 53rd Overall, 2010 | PR: NR
Jermaine Cunningham has made one of the biggest jumps since week two. Going from unranked, Cunningham was injured the entire preseason. Immediately, people thought "bust." However, following a solid week two performance, Cunningham entered the starting line-up and has started the past six games. So far, he's picked up 20 tackles and one sack. While the Patriots would have hoped for more than just one sack, he's arguably been the team's best pass rushing linebacker thus far, and has really made strides in setting the edge.
7. Brandon Tate, WR, #19 | Drafted: 3rd Round, 83rd Overall, 2009 | PR: 6th
In just have of a healthy season in the NFL, Brandon Tate has emerged as a special teams phenom, as evidence by the Browns' refusal to kick off to him on Sunday. At wide receiver, Tate is still working on some things. He has yet to emerge as a reliable deep threat, but is still dangerous every time he catches the ball. Tate slides down one spot due to the emergence of Jermaine Cunningham.
8. Rob Gronkowski, TE, #87 | Drafted: 2nd Round, 42nd Overall, 2010 | PR: 7th
Gronkowski had a very rough game on Sunday, despite having a career day statistically. Gronkowski had a couple of drops, a miscue on a kickoff, and a fumble at the Browns' five yard line. Ouch. Despite all of this, Gronkowski has recently seen a surge in playing time as his future looks very bright.
9. Ron Brace, DL, #97 | Drafted: 2nd Round, 40th Overall, 2009 | PR: 8th
Two weeks ago, Ron Brace would not have made this list. While he is no longer the starting defensive end, Brace looks like he may have finally solidified a role for himself. Recently, Brace has established himself as a solid run stuffer, come up with some big plays at the goal line and in short yardage situations, racking up 8 tackles over the last two weeks.
10. Brandon Deaderick, DL, #71 | Drafted: 7th Round, 247th Overall, 2010 | PR: NR
When Deaderick entered the starting lineup a few weeks ago, I don't think anyone expected him to have the immediate impact that he did, coming up with 2 sacks in his first two weeks. Since then, he's cooled down a little bit but has the overall combination of size, strength, and athleticism the Patriots look for in the defensive ends.
DROPPED OUT: Julian Edelman, WR, #11 (PR: 9th); Myron Pryor, DL, #91 (PR: 10th)
Just Missed the Rankings:
Julian Edelman, WR, #11 (232nd, 2009): Over the last month, Edelman has endured a concussion, fallen out of the Patriots offense, and had his stock drop. I still believe in him in the long run.
Zoltan Mesko, P, #14 (150th, 2010): Mesko has been pretty average this year as a rookie. He's a little inconsistent, but practically won the Patriots a game with a punt in overtime against the Ravens.
Myron Pryor, DL, #91 (207th, 2009): Hasn't recorded a sack since week one, but has a defined role.
Dane Fletcher, LB, #52 (Undrafted, 2010): Is moving up the ranks, playing well against San Diego, and playing solid on special teams since. Has seven tackles and a forced fumble in five games.
Brian Hoyer, QB, #8 (Undrafted, 2009): 0/2 with an interception in only performance against the Browns. Still a solid back-up QB with future potential.
Jake Ingram, LS, #46 (198th, 2009): Has struggled at times this year, and reportedly has now been replaced.
Darius Butler, CB, #28 (41st, 2009): Has really fallen down the rankings. Hasn't started since week two, and has lost the faith of the coaching staff. Don't count him out long term quite yet though.
Taylor Price, WR, #17 (90th, 2010): Has been inactive for every game this year. I would like to see him get some run, but it seems unlikely for now.
Kyle Love, NT, #74 (Undrafted, 2010): Active for two games, played one. Yet to be active since.
Rich Ohrnberger, OG, #60 (124th, 2009): Was cut, placed on practice squad, now is back on the 53, but has yet to play.