One of the more underrated spots in the defense is the nickel corner. While not a "starter", the role of the nickel was equally as important to the success of the team as the two starting outside corners. The Patriots had a very good nickel defender the last 3-4 years in Kyle Arrington, whose high cap number made him a cap casualty for the off-season and later sign with the Baltimore Ravens. So now the onus is on the players on the roster to slide into that role and produce from there.
Logan Ryan would have been a candidate for the slot, but given the turnover on the outside he will start there. Bradley Fletcher and Malcolm Butler have seen time in the slot in the past, but both players are better suited for the outside. We may ultimately see the loser of the camp battle on the outside get shifted into the slot. That leaves Darryl Roberts and Robert McClain. Roberts is difficult to project due to lack of game film, but I would be curious to see him take some snaps covering from the slot in preseason (anything you can do to help yourself). McClain is more of a fall-back option because he's played a lot of snaps in the slot, but hasn't been entirely successful so far in his career.
Contestants: Robert McClain, Darryl Roberts, Malcolm Butler, Bradley Fletcher, Jordan Richards
Projected Winner: Robert McClain
This is a case where Butler wins the outside job, which means it's between Fletcher and McClain for the slot role. Fletcher has been primarily an outside corner for the Rams and Eagles, so moving him inside is a difficult projection. Jordan Richards could be a dark horse in this competition because of his 6.74 3-cone and "Coach on the Field" reputation. While it never happened, the Patriots were going to use Devin McCourty in the slot role in 2010 before injuries forced him to the #2 CB (eventually became the #1 CB by the end of the season). We may see that in Roberts if he wins the job in preseason. For the time being, I'm going with McClain. He's leaping up from the Atlanta Falcons defense that was downright brutal at times last year to the Patriots defense, where there is real expectations to perform. The pass rush and Front 7 should easily be better, which should help his numbers because not many CBs, especially slot CBs can cover for 5+ seconds.