This week’s theme around the SB Nation NFL sites is “which newcomer has played the best for your team,” and the Patriots were supposed to have a lot of options. Remember back in the summer when the Patriots were on top of the world and Kony Ealy was still considered a solid rotational piece of the defensive line.
Now Ealy’s apparently the best defensive lineman for the New York Jets. Whoops.
There are 16 players on the Patriots roster that were not on the team last season and wide receiver Brandin Cooks is clearly the best of the lot. More on him in a second, but there are three clear categories and three tiers of players:
Categories: 1) Veteran signing; 2) Late summer trade; 3) Rookie
Tiers: 1) Starter; 2) Rotational; 3) Ghost
A player should be in the “starter” category to be considered the best, regardless of the category in which they fall. Only two players qualify for that title: Cooks and Stephon Gilmore. Anyone who has watched a game can tell you that Cooks has been the far superior addition as Gilmore has made numerous communication errors each week.
And with regards to categories, I personally give recently acquired and young players the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their contributions, so I’d consider a rotational rookie to be a “superior newcomer” to a rotational veteran.
Here are my rankings.
Nothing to write about
16. OL Cole Croston. The rookie has played zero snaps this year.
15. LB David Harris. The veteran linebacker has played 7 defensive snaps and 0 special teams snaps. He’s a likely candidate for release when Shea McClellin returns.
14. LB Harvey Langi. The rookie has 6 defensive snaps and 12 special teams snaps.
13. TE Jacob Hollister. Hollister is the third tight end on the depth chart with 51 combined offensive and special teams snaps. He has 2 catches for 24 yards.
12. RB Rex Burkhead. Burkhead has only played 18 offensive snaps (surprising, right?), but has 67 yards and a touchdown. He also has 10 special teams snaps.
11. TE Dwayne Allen. Allen has 0 catches on 6 targets, but has been a solid blocker. He’s played 99 offensive snaps and 15 special teams.
10. ST Johnson Bademosi. The Patriots acquired Bademosi leading up to week 1 and he’s already a core special teams player, ranking 4th on the team with 83 snaps.
9. WR Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett was also acquired before the start of the year and he’s lined up for 66 offensive snaps and zero on special teams.
8. LB/ST Marquis Flowers. Flowers was another late-summer acquisition and he ranks third on the team with 90 special teams snaps and he also played 24 defensive snaps after Elandon Roberts suffered an injury.
7. CB Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore has been one of the starters and he hasn’t been consistently bad- there have been times when he’s actually been really good- but it seems like every mental error yields a touchdown.
6. DL Adam Butler. The undrafted rookie has played 122 snaps on the defensive line and 6 on special teams. He has just four tackles on the year and no sacks, no quarterback hits, and no tackles for loss and he didn’t play much against the Panthers. But, hey, he’s an undrafted rookie.
5. DL Lawrence Guy. Guy has played 154 defensive snaps as the number two defensive tackle next to Malcom Brown and has added 53 special teams snaps. He’s been a solid rotational option.
4. EDGE/ST Cassius Marsh. Marsh leads the Patriots with 102 special teams snaps and he’s also played 103 defensive snaps as part of a rotation on the edge. He let up a big play in week 1, but he’s settled in as a nice contributor.
3. RB Mike Gillislee. Gillislee leads the Patriots with 194 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns and he’s looked more comfortable in the Patriots backfield over the past two games. He’s primed to have a breakout performance soon.
2. EDGE Deatrich Wise. Wise played 115 snaps over the first quarter of the season and he’s been the team’s second best pass rusher after Trey Flowers. He has a team-best 9 quarterback hits and 3 tackles for loss, while his 2 sacks rank second behind Flowers. He also has a pass defended.
1. WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks has been an every-down player on offense and ranks 11th in the league with 294 receiving yards. His 2 receiving touchdowns are tied for 6th most in the league. His average receptions of 22.6 leads the league. He’s already contributing at a high level and he’s only going to get better.