Ranking the Patriots from 1 to 82
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If you were to dissect the New England Patriots' roster and rank each player from 1-82, what would your list look like?
That was the task at hand, and it was a challenging one.
The first thought that came to mind was establishing some guidelines for the rankings. These rankings are primarily based on four factors:
2. Importance in the short and long term (which projects development).
3. Positional value.
4. Economic value.
The top 53 aren't necessarily the projected players who will make the final roster coming out of training camp, as a younger player might sometimes be kept over a veteran, even though the veteran could contribute more in the short term. Also, special teams contributions can often be a deciding factor when forming the final 53-man roster.
Layering the roster this way provides a different lens through which to view the team, and also can spark debate as to which players are ranked too high or too low. The plan will be to revisit the list as training camp unfolds.
2010 Patriots Player Rankings
This is another reminder of why Welker's recovery -- and when he might return -- will be a big story. Vollmer is ranked ahead of any other offensive lineman as he projects as a starter at right tackle in 2010 and the team's likely left tackle of the future, protecting Tom Brady's blind side. Butler also finds himself in the top 10 because he's a likely starter at the premier left cornerback spot. Although guard isn't a premier position, seeing Mankins in this area highlights his importance to the team.
Edelman's (pictured) presence shines a spotlight on his remarkable rise from a 2009 seventh-round draft choice learning to play receiver to a player who will be relied upon as a key cog in the offense, especially if Welker is not ready for the start of the regular season. Chung is right there as well, as the Patriots will be counting on their top draft choice from '09 to emerge.
At one point this offseason, the Patriots had a bare cupboard at tight end, but now the position is stocked with a trio that falls into this area on the roster. All three should make the club, and all three have a good chance of being active on the 45-man game-day roster. Gronkowski (pictured) gets top billing because of his draft status (second round), although he might not contribute as much as the others right away.
One of the intriguing position battles in training camp will be at inside linebacker, where Guyton (pictured), McKenzie and Spikes will vie for playing time next to Mayo. At this point, it's a challenge to see how that will shake out, but all three should be on the club, contributing in some form.
Special-teams value starts to come into focus around this layer of the roster. Aiken (pictured) has served as a special-teams captain, while Woods tied for the team-high in special-teams tackles last season. It's a challenge to project a veteran like Lewis who has yet to play in a Patriots-type scheme, so he could shoot up the ranks, or down, once training camp begins.
More special-teams competition shows up this area (Arrington, Lockett, Murrell), as well as the team's continuing process of developing young offensive linemen. This is the area where players project to be on the roster bubble, and where coaches are often projecting development when considering whether to devote a roster spot to them.
Wheatley (pictured), the 2008 second-round draft choice, could have a tough time making the club if everyone is healthy. As a projected fifth corner at this point, special-teams contributions will be key, and he hasn't been a major factor in that area. Williams' versatility to play fullback could make him a sleeper candidate to rise up the ranks.
The Patriots drafted 12 players in 2009 and another 12 in 2010, which will make it tough for any undrafted player to break through. This group is comprised mostly of rookie free agents, including former Brown receiver Farnham (pictured), and since they face long odds for a roster spot, a more realistic goal is sticking on the practice squad.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.