The New England Patriots have one of the best rosters in the entire league. You don't go to an NFL record five consecutive conference championships without having a talented squad.
Next year is expected to be more of the same, at least according to Pro Football Focus and ESPN.
According to Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson, the Patriots aren't just one of the most talented teams in the league. They have more talent than anyone.
The Broncos come in at 11th, the Bills are 14th, the Jets are 23rd, the Dolphins are 26th, and the Colts come in at a laughable 28th. The Seahawks rank 13th. The top five include the Eagles, Steelers, Panthers, and Packers.
And the New England Patriots rank 1st.
Monson places tight end Rob Gronkowski, quarterback Tom Brady, linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and safety Devin McCourty as the Patriots five best players, which is hard to argue against. I'd project edge defender Jabaal Sheard, safety Patrick Chung, and wide receiver Julian Edelman to be on the same tier as McCourty, and I wouldn't be shocked if second-year defensive tackle Malcom Brown joined the conversation during the season.
Monson also highlights four positions that need to be improved for the 2016 season. He points a finger at one of the guard spots held by Shaq Mason, center Bryan Stork, edge defender Rob Ninkovich, and running back LeGarrette Blount.
"The Brady-Gronkowski connection continues to be one of the best in the game," Monson notes, "But the unique collection of smaller, quick receivers who can operate within a horizontal-based passing attack are all important players for the Patriots.
"The one weakness is the offensive line, where they have yet to be able to nail down five reliable performers. New England, however, is unusually qualified to mitigate this issue with the offense it runs and the speed at which Brady can get the ball out of his hands, consistently among the quickest in the league."
The hope is that Mason and Stork can continue to improve this upcoming season and that will open up more rushing lanes for Blount. The Patriots really need to cross their fingers for the returned health of receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, and the continued health of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Ninkovich is clearly in the twilight of his career and it's possible that free agent signing Shea McClellin could be asked to be his eventual replacement, although we can't count out the likes of 2015 additions Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers, and Rufus Johnson.
"The defense has been rebuilt countless times over the past few seasons but remains a strength with key players in important areas," Monson adds. "The Patriots have found gems in players such as Malcolm Butler, who not only won them a Super Bowl with a miraculous play, but then followed it up with a solid season in 2015. This is the most talented top-to-bottom roster in the league."
Hopefully the Patriots can stay healthy in 2016 because they are going to have serious trouble retaining all of their talent in 2017, with the majority of the defense looking for new contracts. This could be the last time this core of players ride for a Super Bowl, before the team has to rebuild- or reload- yet again.