For the 2017 Patriots, this week marks the start of training camp. And while the franchise has spent the better part of the offseason shaping the roster, things will start to come into sharper focus beginning this week when practices begin. That’s when the real business of evaluation begins. Things are going to change pretty dramatically between now and the start of the regular season, but armed with the knowledge we have right now, here’s our first attempt at forecasting what the 53-man roster will look like come opening night against the Chiefs.
Offense — 25
Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
On the bubble: None
Analysis: No reason to expect anyone else here.
Running Back (5)
Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden
On the bubble: D.J. Foster
Analysis: Bolden is more of a special teamer, but we’ll include him here for position purposes. Foster will likely find a way to hang around Foxboro in some form or fashion.
Tight End (4)
Rob Gronkowski, James Develin (FB practices with TEs), Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy
On the bubble: Jacob Hollister, Matt Lengel
Analysis: We have a soft spot in our heart for Lengel, a Northeastern guy who came up big on occasion last year. But it’s unlikely the Patriots would part with O’Shaughnessy after the Patriots traded down from the fifth to the sixth to acquire him.
Offensive Line (8)
Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon, Tony Garcia, Shaq Mason, Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras
On the bubble: Conor McDermott
Analysis: While you figure last year’s starters are safe — barring injury — there’s the potential for some movable parts at the back end of the depth chart, including McDermott. One scenario? He develops a case of the Foxboro Flu before the end of the summer and spends the year on IR.
Wide Receiver (5)
Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan
On the bubble: Andrew Hawkins. Hawkins has done some dynamite things at his previous stops, but we have no clue as to how he might perform in the New England system. One of the biggest wild cards of camp.
Analysis: The best and most complete group of receivers Brady and the Patriots have had since 2007.
Defense — 23
Defensive Line (7)
Malcom Brown, Kony Ealy, Alan Branch, Derek Rivers, Vincent Valentine, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich
On the bubble: Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy
Analysis: No shockers here. Ealy will get a chance to try and replicate Chris Long’s impact, while Rivers could also be in the mix. We’re going to put Ninkovich here, even though he’s also linebacker-ish at times. With the numbers being what they are, Wise needs a strong opening act if he wants a spot on the final 53, but could find a way to stick around as a redshirt.
Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, David Harris, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi
On the bubble: Jonathan Freeny
Analysis: The arrival of Harris and the fact they gave Langi so much dough means that Freeny is the one on the outs, at least at this point. But it’ll be interesting to see who lines up with Hightower when the Patriots elect to go with two linebackers.
Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Eric Rowe
On the bubble: Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman.
Analysis: With Butler and Gilmore set, the Patriots are in excellent shape at the top of the depth chart. The battle is going to come in the race for the third and fourth spots. New England would dearly love for Cyrus Jones to assert himself this summer and seize the job, but Rowe will certainly be a part of the conversation. Regardless, Cyrus is the only guy who we have simultaneously on the bubble and on he roster. It'll be a big summer for the young man. Coleman is a tough cut who could find a way to stick around with a good camp/preseason.
Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Brandon King
On the bubble: None.
Analysis: No surprises here, although we could envision a scenario where Richards doesn’t make the team if someone else has a productive summer. And truth be told, King could probably fit in at linebacker, safety, or special teams. But we rolled the dice and put him here for now. He’s fast developed into one of those back-end-of-the-roster glue guys who Belichick has grown fond of.
Special Teams — 5
Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner
On the bubble: None
Analysis: No surprises here.