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Predicting the Patriots 53-man roster: Start of training camp edition

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With training camp only days away now, it’s time to take a first attempt at trying to decipher what the team might look like come week one. We’ll talk about who is predicted to make the team right now and also players who may be “on the bubble” as well as the team is soon entering training camp.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In years’ past, it has always been difficult to “crack the code” precisely when it comes to figuring out who will make the week one roster for the Patriots. This year is no different as the team made plenty of solid additions to the team via trade, free agency and the draft. As many have said, this is one of, if not the most, complete rosters in the entire league. With that being said, there are going to be less spots up for grabs on the final 53-man roster. With likely many more of these to come, let’s get down to business with the first 53-man roster prediction of the 2017 season.

Offense

Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

On the bubble: None

Analysis – There is no surprises here. The Patriots only have three quarterbacks on the roster and they probably won’t even bring any training camp bodies either with all three gun-slingers healthy.

Running back (5): Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James White, James Develin

On the bubble: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden

Analysis – For all of the talk about whether Lewis makes the team or not, it’s hard to imagine him not on the team. He is a versatile jack-of-all-trades back who has shown to be an asset when healthy. Bolden could make the roster but with how deep this team is, his special teams prowess may not be enough this time around.

Wide Receiver (5): Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola

On the bubble: Austin Carr

Analysis – With Andrew Hawkins retiring on Tuesday, Carr steps up as the potential number six wide receiver on this team. It’s by no means a guarantee he makes the roster, but he has the best shot out of himself, Cody Hollister, Devin Lucien.

Tight End (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy

On the bubble: Jacob Hollister, Matt Lengel

Analysis – You can make an argument for O’Shaugnessy, Lengel and Hollister all making the team as the number three tight end. In the end, it seems like they go with the tight end they traded for back during the draft in O’Shaughnessy. It’s possible they keep four tight ends with the injury histories of Gronkowski and Allen. But for now, we will it at three.

Offensive Line (8): Nate Solder, Tony Garcia, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras

On the bubble: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott

Analysis – There are no real surprises here. The five starters (Solder, Thuney, Andrews, Mason and Cannon) are all locks while Karras represents the only interior offensive line depth currently. The team drafted Garcia with their top pick in May’s NFL Draft and Fleming performed moderately well in their swing tackle role last year. Waddle was a healthy scratch for the majority of 2016 and McDermott is a sixth-round pick who is very raw. He may have a better shot at the practice round in his rookie season.

Offense Total: 24

Defense

Edge Rusher (5): Kony Ealy, Trey Flowers, Derek Rivers, Rob Ninkovich, Deatrich Wise

On the bubble: Geneo Grissom

Analysis – This group is a little barren after losing Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard in free agency. They did trade for Ealy and draft Rivers and Wise but the group looks like one of the team’s weaker positions. Flowers is a star and Rivers has a lot of upside. Ninkovich isn’t the presence he once was and Wise is another project with a moderate ceiling. Don’t be surprised if the team adds to this depth prior to week one.

Defensive Tackle (4): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine

On the bubble: Woodrow Hamilton

Analysis – This has the makings to be one of the better positional groups for the team this year. Branch was an anchor for the team last year while Brown had another solid season. Valentine is coming into his second year and flashed some potential in his rookie season. Guy was the under-the-radar free agent acquisition (Stephon Gilmore got a lot of attention) and did well during his time with the Ravens. This is a high-floor group with room to have a high ceiling in 2017.

Linebacker (5): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi, Shea McClellin

On the bubble: Jonathan Freeny, Kyle Van Noy

Analysis – While it’s one of the weaker position groups on the team, the team did bring back Hightower this off-season. The addition of Harris is a solid one while Roberts flashed against the run as a seventh-round rookie. McClellin improved as the season went on and Langi was signed to a large amount of money as an undrafted free agent. Van Noy had an OK season after being acquired by the Patriots during the 2016 season, but the depth chart filled up a little and the team saves over $1.1 million dollars if they release him with no dead money hit.

Freeny was injured for most of 2016 and wasn’t exactly a difference-maker before his injury. He is on the outside looking in.

Cornerback (5): Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones

On the bubble: Justin Coleman

Analysis – The big free agent signing was Gilmore, who signed a very lucrative five year, $65 million-dollar contract during the off-season. He will be a starter on the outside along with Butler while Rowe will likely be the top reserve on the outside. Jonathan Jones had a very solid 2016 after being signed as an undrafted free agent and will have a chance to compete for the slot cornerback job. Cyrus Jones is coming off a very disappointing rookie season but it is much too early to give up on someone who was a second-round pick only a year ago.

Safety (6): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Brandon King, Nate Ebner, Jordan Richards

On the bubble: D.J. Killings

Analysis – This safety group doesn’t make any changes from a season ago. McCourty and Chung are the starters but Harmon is a very valuable nickel defensive back and will see the field quite a bit again. King and Ebner are more of special teams specialists but provide depth if needed. Richards has proven to be a bust so far but lucky for him, the team doesn’t have any other suitable back-ups for Chung.

Killings is an interested prospect out of Central Florida. He has been called a “genius” by his teammates and is a high-character player too. He doesn’t have the strongest chances of making the team, but he could be the surprise defensive back addition this year like Jonathan Jones was last season.

Defense Total: 25

SPECIALISTS

Specialist (4): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater

On the bubble: None

Analysis – No surprises here. Gostkowski, Allen and Cardona all return as the kicker, punter and long-snapper respectively. Slater is a captain on the team and is coming off another All-Pro season on special teams.

Specialist Total: 4