The NFL is expected to increase the size of practice squads from eight players to ten players, increasing the football workforce by 64 persons. The Patriots love to grow their trenches with players from the practice squad, so this expansion will greatly help one of the better teams at evaluating talent.
The pipeline of NFL talent in the Patriots practice squad is...storied? Current linemen Dan Connolly (practice squad class of 07) and Ryan Wendell (class of 08) earned roster spots with their efforts. In 2010, the Patriots practice squad included OLs Thomas Austin and Steve Maneri, and DB Ross Ventrone. The 2011 practice squad included DE Aaron Lavarias, OT Matt Kopa, LB Mike Rivera, TE Dorin Dickerson, and Ventrone. The 2012 class includes FB James Develin, WR Andre Holmes, and LB Jeff Tarpinian.
While none of those are household names, they present an important list of depth options that have filtered throughout the league. Through the practice squad, the Patriots can avoid spending cap space on depth linemen and instead flush out the roster with talent grown from within the program. 2013 practice squad alum Jordan Devey, the only player in the league to play every single preseason snap thus far, is the next in a long line of linemen expecting to make an impact.
With the expansion from eight players to ten players, the Patriots will be better able to stash talent, instead of recycling players. The team often brings in situational quarterbacks and offensive weapons based upon upcoming match-ups, in order to have the starters practice against a similar style of play. With two extra roster spots, there's a greater chance that these bubble players can make an impression, as well as provide a more thorough practice environment for players who have seen their camp time cut with the recent CBA.
A few Patriots on the roster can greatly benefit from this growth. While players like 6th round picks DB Jemea Thomas and OG Jon Halapio, 7th round pick WR Jeremy Gallon, and undrafteds like WR Brian Tyms, RB Roy Finch, TE Justin Jones, and OLB Cameron Gordon might not make it through waivers, as other teams might claim the players for their services, the odds of their impact as rookies are very slim.
An RB like Jonas Gray could sit knowing that Stevan Ridley might not be signed in 2015, and that he could have an inside lane at a potential starting role.
By sitting for another year, these players could have more time to grow and have a better chance to make an impact once they see the field. A player like Gallon, who has missed practice all summer, yet has NFL-caliber tape, will be more likely to find a home- and it will allows players more freedom to pick a home of their own.