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Who are the front runners for the Patriots All-2010s Team?

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There are some obvious locks for the roster, but what are the current competitions?

I was looking at the New England Patriots Hall of Fame (click here for the details of Raymond Clayborn’s induction ceremony) and noticed how many players in the Hall belonged to various “Patriots All-Decade Teams”. We are about to enter the 2017 season, which means that seven years of the current decade are in the books (2010 through 2016). Who are the front runners to make this current decade’s squad?

Historically, the Patriots All-Decade Teams have utilized the base 3-4 defense (the Boston Patriots All-1960s team had a 4-3 defense). On offense, the 70s, 80s, and 90s team featured two running backs, while the 00s team had three wide receivers. The Patriots have a returnman and special teams ace to go with the kicker and punter on special teams.

For the 2010s team, I feel like it’s okay to modify the team to have a “flex” player on offense that could be a running back, tight end, or wide receiver. For defense, I would have two edge defenders, two defensive tackles, and two linebackers, to go with the five defensive backs in honor of the importance of the nickel defender this decade.

There are some obvious locks already; I won’t delve too deep into those positions. But there are a few positions that are wide open and up for debate.

Offense

Quarterback: Tom Brady

Running back: LeGarrette Blount

Blount’s 3,054 yards from scrimmage leads all Patriots running backs this decade and his 35 touchdowns are 11 more than second-ranked BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Knowing Bill Belichick’s track record of rushers with consecutive 1,000 yard seasons (nonexistent), it’s unlikely a player like Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, or James White will surpass Blount in production.

Wide receivers: Julian Edelman, Wes Welker

Edelman is a solid lock at this point with his 4,433 yards from scrimmage ranking the second most this decade behind a certain tight end. Despite playing just three seasons this decade, Welker’s 3821 yards from scrimmage ranks third for the Patriots since 2010 and it’s not really close. The next-highest wide receiver is Danny Amendola with 1,736 yards.

Tight end: Rob Gronkowski

Flex: ???

This is completely up in the air. Stevan Ridley (2,963 yards from scrimmage) is the most productive player not to be listed. Danny Woodhead is next (2,181 yards from scrimmage), followed by Aaron Hernandez (2,053 yards from scrimmage). Two strong years from WR Brandin Cooks could earn him this position on the All Decade Team. There isn’t an obvious choice to be the 5th player in the offense like Troy Brown in the 2000s.

Poll

Who should be named FLEX?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Stevan Ridley
    (107 votes)
  • 21%
    Danny Woodhead
    (226 votes)
  • 16%
    Aaron Hernandez
    (169 votes)
  • 33%
    Shane Vereen
    (347 votes)
  • 18%
    Other
    (189 votes)
1038 votes total Vote Now

Left tackle: Nate Solder

Left guard: Logan Mankins

Mankins played four seasons and reached the Pro Bowl all four years, including one First Team All Pro and three Second Team All Pro distinctions. He’s a lock unless Joe Thuney makes three straight First Team All Pro teams.

Center: David Andrews

Ryan Wendell started 36 games at center. Dan Koppen and Bryan Stork both started 17 games at center. Dan Connolly started 14 games at center. But with 27 starts under his belt, a nice contract extension, and no real standout at the position, Andrews is the favorite due to longevity.

Right guard: ???

Connolly started 57 games in New England at the guard position, including 36 at right guard, but it will be Mason that wins the ticket for the All-2010s team. Mason has just 15 starts at right guard, but he’s already a better player than Connolly was and will have three more seasons to surpass Connolly in starts on the right side. If Mason gets a contract extension (he isn’t eligible until the completion of the 2017 season), he will make the All-Decade team.

Poll

Who should be named right guard?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Dan Connolly
    (359 votes)
  • 56%
    Shaq Mason
    (458 votes)
817 votes total Vote Now

Right tackle: ???

Sebastian Vollmer was a six-season starter at right tackle, making 64 starts and one Second Team All Pro nod in 2010 (and a pair of other All Pro distinctions from Pro Football Focus). When healthy, Vollmer was a total beast at the position. Marcus Cannon has made 29 starts at right tackle, including 15 as a Second Team All Pro in 2016, and is primed to start for the rest of the decade. If Cannon stays healthy and earns another All Pro distinction, he will be named All-Decade. Otherwise this will be a tight vote.

Poll

Who should be named right tackle?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Marcus Cannon
    (164 votes)
  • 81%
    Sebastian Vollmer
    (730 votes)
894 votes total Vote Now

Defense

Edge defenders: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones

Ninkovich is a lock as a 101 game starter with 45 sacks and 12 forced fumbles this decade. Trey Flowers could dethrone Jones with a strong finish to the decade, but Jones was a 52 game starter with 36 sacks and 10 forced fumbles. Flowers has 8 starts, 7 sacks, and 0 forced fumbles and will need a few strong couple of seasons to catch up.

Defensive tackles: Vince Wilfork, ???

Wilfork is a lock with 68 starts, one First Team All Pro, and two Second Team All Pro nods. I’m debating between Alan Branch and Malcom Brown for that second spot. Branch has been a beast over the past two seasons for the Patriots and the players all consider him the best interior lineman on the roster- but Brown has been an outstanding run defender since he’s entered the league and could catch Branch on a decline over the next few seasons.

Poll

Who should be named defensive tackle?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Alan Branch
    (730 votes)
  • 16%
    Malcom Brown
    (149 votes)
879 votes total Vote Now

Linebackers: Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower

Mayo was named First Team All Pro in 2010, was a beloved team captain, and is a lock for one of these linebacker spots. Jamie Collins had a shot, but he’s no longer with the team and Hightower gained the edge and earned the nice extension.

Cornerbacks: Malcolm Butler, ???

Devin McCourty made 38 starts at cornerback and was named Second Team All Pro as a rookie in 2010. Aqib Talib started 18 games and was named Second Team All Pro in 2013. Darrelle Revis made 16 starts and was named First Team All Pro in 2014. Logan Ryan started 40 games from 2013-16 and his 13 interceptions are the most by a Patriots cornerback this decade. Kyle Arrington started 56 games from 2010-14, the most by any Patriots cornerback this decade. Without a defined candidate, there’s a chance that Stephon Gilmore could make a claim with three strong years to finish the decade. Who deserves to join Butler?

Poll

Who should be named cornerback?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Kyle Arrington
    (44 votes)
  • 7%
    Stephon Gilmore
    (69 votes)
  • 9%
    Devin McCourty
    (97 votes)
  • 22%
    Darrelle Revis
    (223 votes)
  • 41%
    Logan Ryan
    (407 votes)
  • 14%
    Aqib Talib
    (144 votes)
984 votes total Vote Now

Safeties: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung

Nickel: ???

I would expect whichever player that finishes second in the cornerback poll to be named to the Nickel position.

Special Teams

Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski

Punter: Ryan Allen

Returner: Julian Edelman

Edelman makes this team a second time. His 4 return touchdowns are more than the rest of the team combined (Brandon Tate, 2; Devin McCourty, 1). He ranks top 5 in the NFL in punt return yards, yards per punt return, and punt return touchdowns.

Specialist: Matthew Slater

Coach

Bill Belichick. Duh.