Originally Posted by patsinthesnow
You can also throw in Bolden. He's Ridley's primary backup and has starting potential if he puts the work in next year.
Thanks for the reminder about Bolden.
There are a number of other potential contributors for the long term. The Pats effectively "red shirted" 2 rookies in Jake Bequette (healthy scratch most of the year, though he garnered some practice player awards) and Jeff Demps (IR). I'm hoping they can contribute next year, especially Demps in the return game. Marcus Forston also got several practice player awards, and could challenge for a roster spot as a backup DT/interior pass rusher. And Markus Zukevics earned a roster spot though he didn't see the field, and could be in the mix for depth at tackle or guard.
Add those guys in, and the 2012 class hsould be a big part of the Pats' future. Note that though the Pats had many fewer draft picks, they ended up with no less than 11 guys who could be a long term part of the team:
1. Chandler Jones - 1st round pick, foundation player at RDE
2. Dont'a Hightower - 1st round pick, significant contributor/cornerstone in the front 7
3. Alfonzo Dennard - 7th round pick, starting outside CB
4. Tavon Wilson - 2nd round pick, big nickel safety, possible future starter
5. Brandon Bolden - UDFA, significant contributor on STs and in the RBBC mix
6. Justin Francis - UDFA, reserve DE, contributed significantly down the stretch
7. Nate Ebner - 6h round pick, ST ace, possible upside at DB
8. Jake Bequette - 3rd round pick, way down depth chart as rookie, work in progress
9. Jeff Demps - UDFA, on IR, but should be an impact kick returner and possibly in the RB/WR mix as a big play threat
10. Markus Zusevics - UDFA, reserve OT/OG, down depthy chart
11. Marcus Forston - UDFA, PS DT
So it seems like we got pretty good returns given what we had to work with.