As we begin the long countdown until the Sunday night opener against the Steelers (tomorrow will take forever), let's start our study of the team going right to the crux of the matter: ranking all 57 players in order, and putting them into tiers.
The overall criteria I used was value to the team, as in, if this player was out for the season, could the Patriots overcome it?
Plus, we divide the roster into several categories, including replaceables, luxury pieces, chemistry players, future prospects and those who should rent and not buy.
Let's kick this off right at the top with the four players who I see as essential to any possible Patriots' run to another Super Bowl title.
THEY'RE NOT WINNING A SUPER BOWL WITHOUT THEM
1. Tom Brady, QB: Duh. Sorry, I don't think the Patriots can pull an Eagles and win a Super Bowl with their backup. This scheme is too complicated and there's too much of a drop off (Grand Canyon) to the Jarrett Stidham.
2. Julian Edelman, WR: It's no coincidence that when Edelman has missed chunks of time (2015, '17) the Patriots have failed to win a Super Bowl. When he's been full-go in '14, '16 and '18 they have. Probably more than ever, Brady is going to need Edelman.