Now that the NFL’s team OTA’s are underway, we can take a look at what might be the Patriots starting lineup. Going into the draft, many believed New England would take a Cornerback in the 1st round. But there was also a sense that the Patriots might move up for CB Byron Jones out of UCONN, the Patriots didn’t do that either. But when it came to their 1st round choice, they picked 6’2″ 320 lb Defensive Tackle Malcolm Brown out of Texas. Scouts said he was a top 20 talent, but as many players do, Brown slid further and further down the draft board till pick #32. Lucky enough for New England, they had just lost All-Pro Defensive Tackle Vince Wilfork to the Houston Texans. So New England thought Brown would be a perfect replacement.
After the draft the Patriots would go on to sign multiple free agents, even some Patriots fans should remember. The Patriots inked LB Brandon Spikes and LB Dane Fletcher to 1-year deals.
The Patriots were hurting for depth at Linebacker and this is the exact veteran depth they needed. The Patriots filled their roster to the brim at 90 players. The Patriots have exactly $9,998,212 in salary cap after they signed their draft picks and multiple free agents after the draft. So lets get to assessing the roster.
Lets play devil’s advocate and say Tom Brady’s suspension stays at 4 games, for the first 4 games you have Jimmy Garoppolo under center, after that. Tom Brady re-claims his throne and the Patriots continue their winning ways.
We all know at Running back LeGarrette Blount is the starter, but with Shane Vereen going to the Giants, the Patriots need a receiving back, my best guess for a starter is last years 4th round pick out of Wisconsin James White. The 5’10” 205 lb back has great hands and is great at finding open space. The Patriots drafted White to prepare for the departure of Vereen. James White is my pick, but he has other competition like Tyler Gaffney, Dion Lewis and Travaris Cadet.
At Wide Receiver the top 4 starters would be Edelman, LaFell, Amendola and Dobson. I believe that Dobson (if healthy, which is a huge “if”) can put up some good numbers for New England. The former 2nd round pick out of Marshall has all the ability to be the Patriots deep threat. In Dobson’s first season he put up good numbers for New England. Dobson went for 37 receptions, 519 yards and 4 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a rookie. But Dobson will have to out battle Brandon Gibson, Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms.
The Patriots added great Tight end depth this offseason, bringing in, 6’7″ Buffalo Bills Scott Chandler. Scott Chandler will add an extra dimension to the Patriots offense, with Chandler and Gronkowski working the seams, it makes LaFell and Edelman even more dangerous. The Patriots also added former Washington Redskins Fred Davis. Davis will have to beat Michael Hoomanawanui for a roster spot, but I believe that you could pencil in Chandler’s name next to Rob Gronkowski.
Now, time to see who will protect Tom Brady. I strongly believe Nate Solder is a shoe-in at Left Tackle for the Patriots. While at Left Guard, its up in the air, the Patriots could go with their 4th round pick out of Florida State, Tre Jackson. The 6’4″ Guard was listed as the 2nd best all around Guard in the draft behind the Redskins Brandon Scherff. But they could go with their other 4th rounder, Shaq Mason. Mason is a big mauler at Guard, the 6’1″ 300 lb beast could fit very well in the run game. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he believed Mason was the best run blocker in this draft. But the one thing that allowed Mason to drop in the draft, was his lack of skill in the pass blocking department. At Center, Bryan Stork is an obvious starter. For Right Guard, its a little tougher. The Patriots don’t have a plug-and-play Right Guard, their only options are Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey & Ryan Wendell. Wendell isn’t exactly the Patriots fix at Right Guard. He did a pretty solid job last year, but maybe the Patriots could get more out of a Marcus Cannon who is younger and bigger. Lastly at Right Tackle the Patriots have a fine starter in Sebastian Vollmer. Vollmer has been in the NFL for several years and has a great experience at the position.
Overall, the Patriots offense looks to have only gotten better in the off season, maybe New England will have a juggernaut of an offense and defense that is sub par at best. Only time will tell.