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A positional comparison of the current and 2016 pre-draft Patriots rosters

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Is examining how the 90-man roster was constructed from a pre-draft perspective in 2016 useful as we head into next week’s draft?

New England Patriots v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Flying home following the frustrating defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos in the 2015 AFC Championship game, Bill Belichick and his staff had roughly five hours to lament on the shortcomings of the game, and ultimately their season. Once the team’s airplane touched the tarmac in New England, the 2016 offseason began.

The team experienced very little roster turnover during free agency. Their only losses were defensive tackles Akiem Hicks and Sealver Siliga and former second-round pick and core special-teamer Tavon Wilson. The team then cut bait with a pair of wide receivers by releasing the struggling Brandon LaFell, and failing to tender Bryan Tyms a contract for 2016. Oft injured linebacker and special-teamer Dane Fletcher retired, and in a surprise move, the team released 2014 first-round pick Dominque Easley.

With a large amount of contracts already on the books heading into free agency, the team’s cap space was somewhat limited as they searched for potential pieces to accompany the core players already rostered. They brought back LeGarrette Blount, James Develin, and Nate Ebner while adding veterans like Chris Long, Terrance Knighton, and runningback Donald Brown (to only name a few). Their biggest “splash” of the free agency period was the acquisition of wide receiver Chris Hogan.

The season came and went, another championship trophy was brought home to Foxborough, and once the confetti of the victory parade was swept up and Bill’s final AT&T Pro-Am putt was holed, the 2017 offseason commenced.

While there are not many parallels that can be drawn between the events of the 2016 offseason and the explosion of transactions executed by Belichick and Caserio over the past two months, it is important to compare the state of the two rosters entering their respective drafts.


In 2016 the team went into the draft with 70 rostered players. When the dust settled, they had selected nine players. Of the 89 players they would eventually bring to training camp, 17 were either drafted or undrafted rookies.

Including the potential signing of Mike Gillislee, who technically counts against the Patriots’ salary cap as we await Buffalo’s decision, the 2017 Patriots roster stands at 65 players, 39 of whom remain from last April’s roster. They currently hold seven picks in this year’s draft, which would be reduced to six should Buffalo opt to let Gillislee walk.

Here is the positional breakdown of the roster heading into last year’s draft, and where each position currently stands.

Quarterback

2016:

2 - Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo

2017:

3 - Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Runningback

2016:

6 - LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden, Donald Brown, Tyler Gaffney

2017:

6 - Dion Lewis, James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster

Full Back

2016:

1 - James Develin

2017:

2 - James Develin, Glenn Gronkowski

Wide Receiver

2016:

8 - Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter.

2017:

6 - Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Devin Lucien

Tight End

2016:

5 - Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Clay Harbor, AJ Derby, Michael Williams (went on IR in June of 2016)

2017:

5 - Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler, Michael Williams

Tackle

2016:

6 - Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, Sebastian Vollmer, LaAdrian Waddle, Keavon Milton

2017:

4 - Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle

Guard

2016:

5 - Shaq Mason, Josh Kline, Tre’ Jackson, Jonathan Cooper, Chris Barker

2017:

6 - Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, Ted Karras, Chris Barker, Chase Farris, Jamil Douglas

Center

2016:

2 - Bryan Stork, David Andrews

2017:

1 - David Andrews


Edge Defender

2016:

6 - Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers, Rufus Johnson

2017:

4 - Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Geneo Grissom

Interior Defensive Line

2016:

6 - Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton, Markus Kuhn, Frank Kearse, Joe Vellano, Anthony Johnson

2017:

6 - Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Linebacker (off the line)

2016:

6 - Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jonathan Freeny, Shea McClellin, Ramon Humber, Kevin Snyder

2017:

6 - Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny, Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Trevor Bates

Cornerback

2016:

5 - Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, E.J. Biggers, Darryl Roberts

2017:

6 - Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Jonathan Jones

Safety

2016:

6 - Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Cedric Thompson, Brock Vereen

2017:

4 - Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards


Specialists

2016:

3 - Gostkowski, Allen, Cardona

2017:

3 - Gostkowski, Allen, Cardona

Special Teams

2016:

3 - Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King

2017:

3 - Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King

Follow Phillips on Twitter - @b7phillips