Have to be accountable — for the good and the bad here at BSJ — so let's go over what we got right, and wrong from our final stab at the Patriots' 53-man roster. (Of course, this is all going to change in the coming days as they add and subtract from the roster, but we'll make do.)
I've made all four version of my picks and running roster conversation free for all to view so you can see some of the progression, if you like.
Let's post the final 53 with the picks highlight (green is good, red is bad) and then we'll go over it.
By the numbers:
- Patriots, by my count, had 89 players officially on the roster before the moves began. Of those, I erred on five players (Brandon King, Geneo Grissom making the team; Cole Croston, Riley McCarron and Brandon Bolden being released). So I was correct on 94.4 percent of the players. Not bad. And considering none would be major contributors, I'll take it.
- As far as position groups, I was perfect on my picks for seven of the 12 that I track — quarterback (layup), tight end, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, cornerback, safety and specialists (layup).
- I missed on running backs (Bolden), receivers (McCarron), guard/center (Croston), edge (Grissom) and linebacker (King).
- So basically when it boiled down to it, I lost McCarron to an empty spot, erred on which ST-only player they'd keep (King over Bolden), and thought they'd keep at least one more lineman instead of a ST special (Grissom over Croston).
A few notes on the players I missed on, and then we'll get into deeper thoughts and concerns about the roster:
- RB Brandon Bolden: Considering all the injury issues at this position, I figured Bolden was a shoe-in for a spot considering he can be productive when needed. Just a good, solid all-around player. Would not be surprised to see him back soon.
- WR Riley McCarron: This didn't surprise me, because it's not like McCarron actually won a spot; it was more by default. I just never thought the Patriots would actually keep just three real receivers. But they likely have confidence no one else will claim him, and he could be a p-squad addition if the waiver wire is not fruitful. Could see him being on call for much of this season.
- OG Cole Croston: This was absolutely no surprise because I thought he was one of the worst offensive linemen this summer. But the Patriots kept him on the roster all last year and Dante Scarnecchia almost always gets to keep some guy you can't figure out. But this year, Scar got no dead weight. Actually, he doesn't even have a full room and that's scary. More on that in a second.
- DE Geneo Grissom: Absolutely won a spot this year, and I thought about putting him on instead of Keionta Davis — who I still don't think earned a spot but I'm sure the Pats have their reasons — but KD is Bill's binky (he's the new Jordan Richards). Didn't think they had a spot for Grissom, but the guy had a great summer, and has really improved. He might actually see the field this season.
- LB Brandon King: OK, so the guy is great at special teams. Splendid. But don't come hollering at me when two of the top four linebackers go down because of injury and neither King nor Nicholas Grigsby (another STer at LB) have to play significant snaps but can't. King showed absolutely nothing on defense this summer — he didn't play one snap on defense in the preseason! Not only that, he was switching positions from safety to linebacker, so you'd figure he could use some practice. Nope. Not needed. Only the Patriots would keep a player on the roster who didn't play a snap of team during the preseason.
CONFIDENCE AND WORRY
Let's go through a (hopefully) fun little exercise where we discuss the spots/issues on the roster that I have confidence in, and where I'm a bit worried.
WORRY: The age and quality of the depth on this roster
Interesting work by Jimmy Kempski of the PhillyVoice where he annually looks at the average age of NFL rosters after initial cutdowns. The Patriots rank as the third-oldest team. Obviously, Tom Brady is going to skew some of that, but that doesn't explain all of it. I'm not even all that worried about the actual number. What's interesting, at least to me, is that in 2014 — the best Patriots team since '07 in my mind, and the one recent Pats team where you saw them on the practice field (or at least I did) and you said, "This team is absolutely going to and probably winning the Super Bowl," — was ranked 11th. It had a really good blend of experience and ascending young players. Going a little beyond the numbers, that '14 squad had two players who had 10-plus years of experience (Brady, Vince Wilfork) and five with at least eight years in. This year? The Patriots have seven of 10-plus years, and 12 with eight-plus years. Even if you don't want to buy into any of this, this is an absolute fact: those older players get very expensive, especially when you can't replace them with young talent. That leads to...
As far as the depth, the '14 squad had the following players on the roster who you thought at the time were/could be very good players that had four years or less experience: Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, Nate Solder, Dont'a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins plus Jimmy Garoppolo. All of them played premium positions.
This is the best of the bunch for the '18 roster with four years or less experience: Shaq Mason, Trey Flowers and Ja'Whaun Bentley (this is a reach, but we'll go with it for now, based on his preseason). You could go with David Andrews and Malcom Brown, but neither plays a premium spot, they're borderline and I left out Marcus Cannon, Duron Harmon and Malcolm Butler from '14 (unknown quantities at that time). You'd be really reaching to include Sony Michel at this point (plus, we left out James White and Shane Vereen from '14). The scariest thing? As it stands right now, Flowers likely wouldn't be on the roster next year.
CONFIDENT: In Brian Hoyer being the backup and don't think they'll add another to the active roster.
They'll be looking for a prospect for the practice squad and it could end up being Danny Etling, although I'm not confident in that. Hoyer isn't great, but with the state of this roster, if Brady goes down it's over. Hoyer can get you through some games with Josh McDaniels tailoring the gameplan.
WORRIED: About what's coming up the pipe
Not to harp on this, but this Patriots team has very little in the way of prospects for premium positions. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung have no young and talented understudies. Why not? Having players that good and for that long should have allowed them many swings at the replenishment pinata. Instead, we have Hoyer, no one, Nate Ebner and Jason McCourty. No bueno. I'd concede that Hightower does have one in Bentley, but even that might be pushing it with a fifth-round rookie.
CONFIDENT: In the starting offensive line
LT Trent Brown, LG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason and RT Marcus Cannon are, if healthy, one of their best units in some time. I am a little concerned about the durability of all three tackles (La'Adrian Waddle too).
WORRY: The numbers at receiver, offensive line
This is obvious and, hopefully, it will be corrected in the coming days. They don't have enough at either spot.
CONFIDENT: In the cornerbacks
I might be in the minority on this, but I think Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones are a very good starting unit. And I like all three of the kids (J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen and Duke Dawson) — and Jason McCourty is good to have around for whatever — behind them. A position with actual backups/future plan! Hallelujah! I also really like the defensive line group. A lot of different parts and a good blend of experience and youth.
Have your say on the current Patriots roster: