While it is early in the 2017 season (season doesn’t start for just under four months from now) to be discussing what the final 53-man roster would look like come week one, it’s important to examine the roster and keep an eye out for players who could surprise (and also disappoint). For this series, there will be four categories: “roster lock”, “good shot”, “on the bubble” and “long-shot”.
“Roster lock” is pretty self-explanatory. “Good shot” means that a player isn’t necessarily a “lock” but is in good standing. “On the bubble” means a player has a fighting shot to make the team but will have to impress in order to make the team. And lastly, “long-shot” means they are more likely to be a “camp body” than have a real shot at making the team, but could have a shot if they blow away expectations in training camp/regular season.
With that, let’s look at the 46 offensive players currently on roster and dissect their odds of making the team come week one.
Roster locks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, James Develin, Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Tony Garcia [R], Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Matthew Slater, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola (21)
Breakdown: three quarterbacks, three running backs, one fullback, two tight ends, three offensive tackles, two offensive guards, one center, six wide receivers
- No real surprises here. While Brissett is a third-string quarterback, he is a high-level project going forward that the team has a lot of faith in. New running backs Burkhead and Gillislee were signed to solid free agent deals while White has become a building block after signing a three-year contract extension this off-season. Develin signed a two-year contract this off-season and will remain the team’s lead fullback. Garcia is a third-round pick who could be Solder’s replacement in 2018 if not re-signed. He is the only “non-starter” offensive lineman here.
- Allen was brought over in a trade from the Colts and will function as the number two tight end with New England. Cooks, Edelman and Hogan are starters at wide receiver for the team while Mitchell is a high-ceiling sophomore and Slater is a core special teams player and a captain. Amendola re-structured his contract yet again this off-season, so he is set to take the last wide receiver spot it seems.
Good shot: James O’Shaughnessy, Ted Karras, Dion Lewis (three)
Breakdown: one tight end, one center, one running back
- O’Shaughnessy has the inside track to being the team’s number three tight end after being brought over in a trade from the Chiefs. He will still have to prove himself. Karras is valuable depth who can play both guard and center but not necessarily at a high level. He has the best shot to being the “swing guard” and back-up center, but will have to prove himself against competition.
- It may seem surprising to see Lewis on this list to some. But Lewis is going into the last year of his contract with the team and when the Patriots signed White to a long-term extension, it’s clear he is ahead of Lewis on the depth chart. Still, Lewis is very likely to make the team barring any catastrophic as he is still an explosive player who can wear every hat when it comes to playing the running back position.
On the bubble: Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, Matt Lengel, Michael Williams, Jacob Hollister [R], LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming, Conor McDermott [R], Austin Carr [R] (nine)
Breakdown: two running backs, three tight ends, three offensive tackles, one wide receiver
Editor’s note: Williams was released after this article had been submitted.
- Bolden was re-signed this off-season to a one-year contract with no guaranteed money. He doesn’t provide value on offense but is a core special teamer. Him and Foster could be fighting for one roster spot, assuming Lewis makes the team and the team decides to carry five running backs.
- Lengel, Williams and Hollister are likely fighting for one, maybe two spots on the roster with Gronkowski, Allen and O’Shaughnessy (likely) locked in. Williams is coming off an ACL tear, Lengel was sparsely used and Hollister is an undrafted free agent. Hollister was given a hefty $90,000 guaranteed when he signed, a large amount for an undrafted free agent. All three may be on pretty even ground going into training camp.
- The Patriots carried four offensive tackles last season. With Solder, Cannon and Garcia locked in, Waddle, Fleming and McDermott are likely fighting for one spot. Fleming was the team’s “swing tackle”, Waddle was the team’s fourth tackle (and often a game-day inactive) while McDermott is a sixth-round draft pick who the team traded up for. It seems more likely down to McDermott and Fleming. McDermott is a long-term project but Fleming was reliable as the number three tackle. It’ll be a battle to watch.
- Carr is a favorite of several Pat’s Pulpit writers, including myself. He was a highly-productive receiver at Northwestern and seems destined for a solid career as a slot receiver in the NFL. His issue is Amendola, who appears locked in to a spot in 2017. If he can up-seat Amendola or convince the team to keep six “true” wide receivers (Slater is listed as a wide receiver but plays strictly special teams), he has a shot at making the final roster.
Long-shot: LeShun Daniels Jr. [R], Rob Housler, Glenn Gronkowski, Andrew Jenks [R], Cole Croston [R], Chase Farris, Max Rich [R], Chris Barker, Jamil Douglas, Jason King [R], Cody Hollister [R], Devin Lucien, Devin Street (13)
Breakdown: one running back, one tight end, one fullback, four offensive tackles, three offensive guards, three wide receivers
- Daniels is unlikely to obtain a roster spot with so many running backs ahead of him. Housler is a veteran signing who has nearly a zero percent chance of making the team with the team’s tight end depth being so strong. Glenn Gronkowski was a constant fixture on the team’s practice squad in 2016 and could be ticketed for that again as long as Develin is healthy.
- Jenks, Croston, Farris and Rich are on the outside looking in with several battles at offensive tackle already taking place. Theoretically, the Patriots could need another guard after Karras to give them back-ups at both positions, but they didn’t do that last year for the most part. So Barker, King or Douglas could have a shot potentially, but would need to wow in training camp and preseason.
- Both Lucien and Street were members of the team’s practice squad last season and may be fighting for a spot there again with such strong wide receiver depth. Cody Hollister, the twin brother of Jacob Hollister, got a cool $20,000 guaranteed as part of his contract as an undrafted free agent. He may have an upper hand on Lucien and Street because of that, but still faces an up-hill battle to seriously contend for a final roster spot.