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Way-too-early Patriots 53-man roster projection includes 10 rookies, handful of veteran cuts

The undrafted streak ends thanks to a deep rookie draft class.

NFL: New England Patriots Training Camp Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to their 12 draft selections and a trio of undrafted signings, the New England Patriots now have a full 90-man roster. The next four months will be about cutting that down to 53.

Here’s my look at what I’d project the team to do.

Quarterback (2)

In: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe

Out: Trace McSorely, Malik Cunningham

The Patriots start 2023 hoping to throw out 2022 and build off of the version of Mac Jones we saw during his 2021 rookie season. He is backed up by Bailey Zappe as Bill Belichick opts for just two quarterbacks on the roster in favor of improved depth elsewhere.

Neither Trace McSorely nor undrafted rookie Malik Cunningham do enough to make the roster in this projection, but one may just earn a spot on the practice squad.

Running back (4)

In: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong Jr., James Robinson

Out: Kevin Harris, J.J. Taylor

Rhamondre Stevenson is the only true lock in this group, and he figures to be the bell-cow in 2023. Pierre Strong Jr. is set to take on a bigger role after a de facto redshirt year as a rookie. Both Ty Montgomery and James Robinson edge out Kevin Harris to make the roster here, although it should be noted that neither has a significant amount of guaranteed money in his contract.

Montgomery works as the top receiving back, giving Mac Jones a threat out of the backfield, while Robinson adds some more power to the group. Neither are locks to make the roster.

Kevin Harris and J.J. Taylor narrowly miss the 53-man for the second consecutive year in this one.

Tight End (2)

In: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki

Out: Scotty Washington, Matt Sokol, Johnny Lumpkin

It’s a two-man show at tight end once again for the Patriots. This time around, it’s Mike Gesicki paired with Hunter Henry. The latter looks to bounce back after a tough second year in New England, while the former gets to finally play for Bill O’Brien after being recruited by him at Penn State. Both players offer significant upside in the passing game.

Scotty Washington and Matt Sokol were both elevated from the practice squad at points last season, and both could be in the same position this year. Johnny Lumpkin is a big body with upside as a blocker, and he could have the best shot of any undrafted player to make the team thanks to his contributions in the running game. In this version, the team opts to keep some extra offensive linemen around instead and stashes Lumpkin on the practice squad.

Wide Receiver (6)

In: DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kendrick Bourne, Matthew Slater, Demario Douglas

Out: Kayshon Boutte, Lynn Bowden Jr., Tre Nixon, Raleigh Webb

DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, and Kendrick Bourne return to the receiving corps looking to improve on 2021. JuJu Smith-Schuster joins them, adding some explosion in the slot to help replace free agency departee Jakobi Meyers.

Demario Douglas beats out Kayshon Boutte thanks to his explosiveness with the ball in his hands allowing him to be used sporadically as a Marcus Jones-like gadget player. Matthew Slater is also technically in this group, although he will be used exclusively on special teams, except for his role as the deep man on kneel-downs.

Offensive Line (10)

In: Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, Riley Reiff, Calvin Anderson, Conor McDermott, James Andrews, Sidy Sow, Antonio Mafi

Out: Yodny Cajuste, Andrew Stueber, James Ferentz, Bill Murray, Kody Russey, Chasen Hines

After New England’s lack of depth up front got exposed last season, Bill Belichick decided that would not happen again. He bolstered the line in the offseason, adding two veteran tackles and selecting three linemen on Day 3 of the draft. As a result, the team rosters 10 offensive linemen on opening day for the first time since 2020.

The team returns all five starters from the end of last season, and all five additions mentioned above, with Riley Reiff nabbing the starting tackle job opposite Trent Brown. Adrian Klemm could go full-on hockey lines with this group if he wanted (please don’t).

Defensive Line (6)

In: Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Carl Davis Jr., Keion White

Out: Daniel Ekuale, DaMarcus Mitchell, Sam Roberts, Jeremiah Pharms Jr.

The Patriots have a nice rotation with depth and versatility on the defensive line. Christian Barmore provides the pass-rushing from the inside, while Deatrich Wise Jr. and Keion White can bring it from anywhere on the front. Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, and Carl Davis provide a stout, run-stuffing force.

DaMarcus Mitchell was a core special teamer last season, but White and Wise Jr. can do enough there to make him expendable.

Linebacker (8)

In: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Matthew Judon, Jahlani Tavai, Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche, Olakunle Fatukasi, Chris Board, Marte Mapu

Out: Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson Sr., Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Ronnie Perkins, Jourdan Heilig

Between inside and outside linebacker, New England has a ton of bodies on the roster (that may or may not include Jamie Collins, who is listed on the team site but whose contract expired after the season). Ja’Whaun Bentley, Matthew Judon, Jahlani Tavai, Anfernee Jennings, and Josh Uche all reprise their roles after collectively having a very successful 2022.

Bill Belichick brought back Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson as well, but neither makes the cut here. Newcomers Chris Board, Olakunle Fatukasi, and Marte Mapu fill their roles on defense and special teams. Board and Fatukasi should help improve a special teams unit that was dreadful last season, while Mapu provides the speed at the second level that the unit needs.

Cornerback (6)

In: Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Myles Bryant, Christian Gonzalez, Isaiah Bolden

Out: Shaun Wade, Quandre Mosely, Rodney Randle Jr., Ameer Speed

The Jones triplets are back after combining for eight interceptions last season. So is Myles Bryant, with the veteran once again providing solid depth. Joining them are a pair of rookies, with first-round pick Christian Gonzalez expected to jump into a big role right away and Isaiah Bolden able to provide an impact on special teams.

Safety (6)

In: Kyle Dugger, Jalen Mills, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Cody Davis, Brendan Schooler

Out: Joshuah Bledsoe, Brad Hawkins

It’s weird to not have Devin McCourty in this group, but Jalen Mills and his apparent switch to safety should help mitigate the loss. This is an incredibly deep group, with Kyle Dugger flashing Pro Bowl ability and Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers both providing a spark. How they work together remains to be seen, but the top four here are all good players who should spend plenty of time on the field.

Behind them are a pair of core special teamers, with Cody Davis returning after a season-ending knee injury last year.

Special Teams (3)

In: Chad Ryland, Bryce Baringer, Joe Cardona

Out: Nick Folk, Corliss Waitman, Tucker Addington

With the team drafting both a kicker and a punter, it would be a shock if both failed to make the roster. Chad Ryland’s leg and experience with cold weather make him a better option than the aging Nick Folk, and his kickoff experience should help with field position. Bryce Baringer has a cannon as a leg and can flip field position as well, and he has experience as a holder where he’ll be asked to play for the Patriots. Joe Cardona returns to his regular role as the long snapper.

Add in contributions from the aforementioned Matthew Slater, Olakunle Fatukasi, Chris Board, Marte Mapu, Isaiah Bolden, Cody Davis, and Chris Board, and this is a much better group on paper than Cam Achord had by the end of last season.

Practice Squad

QB Malik Cunningham, RB Kevin Harris, TE. Scotty Washington, TE Matt Sokol, TE Johnny Lumpkin, WR Kayshon Boutte, OT Andrew Stueber, DE DaMarcus Mitchell, LB Jourdan Heilig, CB Ameer Speed, CB Joshuah Bledsoe

That’s the group of players that could be asked to return to the team via the practice squad. It includes all three undrafted free agents. While I project the UDFA streak to end here, look for Lumpkin and Heilig to have chances to make the final roster by creating an impact on special teams. Kayshon Boutte and Ameer Speed are the only drafted players to miss the cut, but both end up on the practice squad.