It is no secret that the New England Patriots lost some serious talent over the course of the last few weeks. Free agency saw the departures of such cornerstone players like quarterback Tom Brady, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and special teamer Nate Ebner; free safety Duron Harmon was traded to the Detroit Lions a short time afterwards; place kicker Stephen Gostkowski was eventually released after 14 seasons.
Needless to say that the Patriots will look noticeably different in 2020 when compared to years past. With the team facing an uncertain future at some key positions — none bigger than quarterback, of course, with presumed starter Jarrett Stidham having to fill the role previously occupied by the most successful player in NFL history — making predictions about its success in Year One after Tom Brady is near impossible.
Based on the current roster and recent exodus, however, the outlook is not necessarily a rosy one. Just look at the recent unit-by-unit analysis released by ESPN prognosticator Mike Clay: the Patriots rank as only the 27th most talented team in football after free agency, with the quarterback and tight end spots listed with the lowest possible rating (0.1 out of 4.0 points) and other positions all over the board also not standing out.
The full breakdown, including the other 31 teams in the league, looks as follows:
As can be seen, there is a lot of red in the Patriots’ row especially on the offensive side of the ball: as noted above, both the quarterback and tight end groups are currently considered to be the worst in the NFL, with the wide receiver group (1.4 points) not ranking all that much higher. The running back position has earned a solid yet unspectacular 2.0 points, meanwhile, and should play a big role in the offense as a whole in 2020.
The strength of New England’s offense is considered to be the offensive line — for good reason. Not only did the team keep starting left guard Joe Thuney via the franchise tag, it also is expected to get center David Andrews back after a years on the sidelines due to blood clots in his lungs. Add solid starters at the other three positions and you get a unit that has earned 3.5 points and therefore ranks as the fifth best in the league.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots’ weaknesses are in the front seven: the interior line is the worst part of the unit and has earned only 0.8 points despite the addition of Beau Allen and returning Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler forming a solid core; the edge received just 1.0 points following the departure of the aforementioned Kyle Van Noy; the linebackers are not considered to be that much better (1.5 points).
As was the case last year, the strength of New England’s defense lies with a cornerback group that is among the best in football and was given 3.9 points — second behind only the Los Angeles Chargers’ 4.0. The safety group likely took a hit due to the Harmon trade, even though the team signed Adrian Phillips and also kept starting free safety Devin McCourty on a two-year extension. Still, the group received “only” 2.9 points by Clay.
Add it all up, and you get an offense ranked 25th in the league and a defense ranked 18th. While the rankings and evaluations can be debated — the wide receiver spot seems a bit overvalued, with both the defensive tackle and safety positions likely deserving more points — and special teams is not part of the consideration, the grades illustrate how projecting the Patriots’ future based on their current personnel can be tricky.
Take the quarterback position, for example. It is a complete wild card with Jarrett Stidham having attempted a mere four passes during his rookie season. If he provides only average play in 2020, however, the whole picture immediately changes for New England’s offense. The Patriots’ ranking should therefore be taken with a grain of salt: both the draft and the development of some crucial players on both sides of the ball will change the picture quite a bit — something that also needs to be said for coaching.
That said, it is not hard to look at the Patriots’ roster as of right now and based on what we know and conclude that the team is lacking proven talent in some key areas.