The Patriots 2017 roster has a lot of talented players, some of them are ready for a breakout season where they play among the best at their position. The Patriots have a lot of veterans on their roster, although they have a handful of players from the 2015 and 2016 draft classes who are primed to take the next step in their development. Whether we see the 3 interior lineman take the next step or one of the young CBs from last year develop into the team’s slot corner, the Patriots certainly have their choice of breakout candidates.
Shaq Mason: Mason was one of the top guards in the 2nd half of the 2016 season according to Pro Football Focus. A terrific run blocking guard who lagged his piers in pass protection, that area of his game has become consistent enough where he has become the Patriots top interior lineman. If his 2017 season is as good as he played the 2nd half of 2016, Mason should be recognized as one of the top guards in the NFL.
Joe Thuney: A rookie who had a solid year overall, but a bit inconsistent as teams figured him out in the 2nd half, Thuney will have his first NFL offseason. I believe he has the potential to be an All-Pro Guard when he adds muscle and refines his pass protection technique. Originally drafted in the 3rd round last year, Thuney was immediately plugged in at left guard and showed he is the present and future at the position.
Jonathan Jones: Jones saw limited action for the Patriots, mostly as a slot CB when he got into the game. Primarily used on Special Teams, Jones has the potential to lock down a starting slot role for the Patriots. He’s going to need to stand out in camp in order to win the job and I look forward to watching it. Jones may lack the size to be a complete boundary CB, but I think he has the coverage skills to be a great slot defender. Even if he doesn’t end up winning the job, he has utility as an elite special teams player that can play on any unit.
Overall, I’m very confident in these three particular players taking the next step and developing into key contributors. Other notable players I considered are Kony Ealy, David Andrews, Mike Gillislee, Cyrus Jones, and Elandon Roberts as breakout players, but left them off for various reasons. Ealy and Gillislee are moving to a new scheme, Andrews is pretty close to his ceiling already, Cyrus Jones is a wildcard on both defense and special teams, and Roberts might be bumped out of a starting role by another player.