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Where Does the Patriots Roster Stand, Post 2020 NFL Draft?

Steve Balestrieri
2 months ago at 7:40 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Where Does the Patriots Roster Stand, Post 2020 NFL Draft?Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots 2020 draft is now in the books and the first wave of undrafted free agents (UDFA) have been signed. However, this isn’t the catch-all, be-all, there will be others added while some of these young men will be released. But now is a good time to take an early look at the Patriots roster. Again, this is E-A-R-L-Y. The roster we see around Thanksgiving will look quite different from this one.

So, here we go, we included the UDFAs as they’re part of the team now and a few of them could not only make the team but contribute. The Patriots have had an UDFA make the team for 16 years running…will it be 17?

Quarterbacks:

Jarrett Stidham
Brian Hoyer
J’Mar Smith
Brian Lewerke

So much for “the Patriots are all in on Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Mariota, et al. Jarrett Stidham is the guy now, but it isn’t written in pen. He’s going to have to earn the coaches and his teammates’ trust every day. But the fact that the team didn’t reach for a QB after Burrow and Tua were gone, speaks volumes. 

Hoyer is the back-up and will provide the veteran presence and be in Stidham’s ear every time he comes off the field. Which leaves us to who is #3? It is wide open but I wouldn’t bet against Smith, still a little surprised he went undrafted…we’ll see.

Running backs:

Sony Michel
James White
Rex Burkhead
Damien Harris
Brandon Bolden
JJ Taylor

The team is really deep and just added Taylor who is one of those intriguing UDFAs. Michel remains their main back in the running game, James White is your passing down back. Burkhead does both well but has a long injury history. If the team decides to part ways with him, they’d save nearly 3 million in salary-cap space. And waiting in the wings is Monsieur Harris, who had a red-shirt type of season in 2019. 

Bolden is an outstanding STs guy and can contribute here and there on offense. It doesn’t leave much room for a guy like Taylor. But again, don’t go to sleep on him, I think he’s a good player. Although he’s small, he runs like he’s Legarrette Blount, seeking out contact like a play much larger than himself. He’ll be an immediate fan favorite. If he can pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield…

Fullbacks:

Danny Vitale
Jakob Johnson

So sad to see James Develin retire but those neck injuries are very unforgiving and his loss is bigger than people imagine. This is wide open between Vitale and Johnson. 

Wide receivers:

Julian Edelman
Mohamed Sanu
N’Keal Harry
Jakobi Meyers
Damiere Byrd
Marqise Lee
Gunner Olszewski
Devin Ross
Quincy Adeboyejo
Will Hastings
Sean Riley
Jeff Thomas
Isaiah Zuber

A lot of people had the Patriots drafting another WR in the 1st round…and yet they didn’t draft anyone. Surprised would be a bit of understatement here. Especially considering that most pundits (including many here in Boston) have them the least talented group in the league. Obviously, the team feels differently. 

Edelman is returning, which is great news for Stidham as he’ll be his go-to guy. But a return to health for Sanu and Harry will be huge for the team. Expect to see some Year 2 growth from both Harry and Meyers. The Patriots gave Byrd a lot of guaranteed money ($600,000), which tells me that Belichick believes he’ll contribute. Lee is intriguing if he’s healthy, which he hasn’t been for the past two years. While everyone is going gaga over Hastings because he played with Stidham at Auburn, Thomas is very intriguing and very explosive, if he can get his head screwed on straight. Which he hasn’t yet.

.Tight ends:

Matt LaCosse
Devin Asiasi
Dalton Keene
Ryan Izzo
Jake Burt
RaShod Berry

Although veterans LaCosse and Izzo return, neither stood out in a good way in 2019. Newcomers Asiasi and Keene could both conceivably be the starting pair by Week 1. Both of them are roster locks because of their draft status… one of the veterans is going to get released.

Tackles:

Isaiah Wynn
Marcus Cannon
Yodny Cajuste
Korey Cunningham

Both starters return although we heard earlier this winter that Cannon wasn’t returning and he currently carries a $9.5 million dollar cap hit. If he’s released, it would save around $3.5 million, or they could restructure. But depth is a big issue, even if he does return. However, if they do move on from him, is Cajuste ready? He didn’t play a snap last season, in a game or in practice. So, he’s a complete unknown. 

All the talk of moving Wynn to RT or inside to LG seems kind of moot now since they didn’t draft a tackle but picked up Justin Herron as a UDFA but he’s projected to be a guard in the NFL. Look for them to address this position with some bodies this summer, if not before. .

Interior linemen:

Joe Thuney
David Andrews
Shaq Mason
Hjalte Froholdt
Michael Onwenu
Justin Herron
Dustin Woodard
Jermaine Eluemunor
Najee Toran

The team got great news with David Andrews cleared to return to football after his issue with blood clots last year. With that, and the team placing the franchise tag on LG Joe Thuney, all three interior starters return in 2020. But after that, there remain questions. 

Froholdt got injured in training camp last year, with Ted Karras now in Miami, they have little in the way of experienced depth. Eluemunor has more than a two million dollar cap hit, so he’ll be looked at hard. Competition is wide open behind the top three. I really like the signing of Onwenu, the huge (6’3, 345) guard out of Michigan. He’s a road grader in the running game with limited athleticism but could be a mauler as the extra OL in goalline situations. 

We’d be remiss without mentioning that the team will really miss Dante Scarnecchia.

Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers:

John Simon
Chase Winovich
Josh Uche
Anfernee Jennings
Deatrich Wise
Shilique Calhoun
Derek Rivers
Tashawn Bower
Nick Coe
Trevon Hill

Top six players are all very good or have very good potential, but no one really jumps off the screen as an impact player that opponents have to game plan against. Simon is terrific at setting the edge and is an underrated pass rusher. The team expects big things (here too) out of Winovich in Year 2. 

Uche and Jennings are both intriguing picks. While Uche has the kind of wow athletic talents and has a higher ceiling. Jennings is more pro-ready and should produce more in Year 1. He played in Nick Saban’s defensive system, which is much closer to New England’s than Uche did in Michigan. That, coupled with no rookie minicamp, probably no OTAs or June minicamp means he should be much farther along in his development when training camp finally rolls around. 

Wise and Calhoun are valuable depth pieces, but for Derek Rivers, who has been hurt time and again…the clock is ticking. Coe is intriguing, but like Thomas, he needs to get his head straight, take to coaching, and commit to the program.

Interior defensive linemen:

Lawrence Guy
Beau Allen
Adam Butler
Byron Cowart
Nick Thurman
Bill Murray
Courtney Wallace

Danny Shelton is gone, replaced by Beau Allen. Guy returns and is invaluable. Butler returns and was a very good subpackage interior pass rusher. Cowart and Thurman had good summers a year ago. Bill Murray (not that one) is an intriguing kid with a penchant for blocking kicks in college…Bill will love that. 

Linebackers:

Dont’a Hightower
Ja’Whaun Bentley
Brandon Copeland
Terez Hall
Cassh Maluia
Brandon King
De’Jon Harris
Kyahva Tezino

Hightower returns as does Bentley and the team needs big (healthy) years from each. The team bid goodbye to Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Elandon Roberts. That’s a huge loss. They brought in Copeland and will need him to step up. After that, it is wide open. And pretty thin. Expect them to add a veteran here this summer.

Cornerbacks:

Stephon Gilmore
J.C. Jackson
Jason McCourty
Jon Jones
Joejuan Williams
Justin Bethel
D’Angelo Ross
Lenzy Pipkins
Myles Bryant

The deepest and most talented positional group on the team. The top six players are all locks with Bethel being one of the best STs players in the league and an excellent addition to Slater. No issues here, it will be hard for Bryant to make a splash here.

Safeties:

Devin McCourty
Patrick Chung
Terrence Brooks
Adrian Phillips
Kyle Dugger
Malik Gant
Cody Davis
Adarius Pickett

McCourty and Chung return (for the final time?) and still play at a very high level. Phillips will replace Belichick pet Nate Ebner on STs while Brooks will try to hold off rookie Dugger this year for Chung’s backup, but the team invested in him because they believe it will be his job. Gant had a really good camp last year but got hurt, but maybe a victim of a numbers crunch in 2020. 

Special Teams:

Kicker: Justin Rohrwasser
Punter: Jake Bailey
Long snapper: Joe Cardona
Gunner: Matthew Slater

With Stephen Gostkowski out, Rohrwasser, tattoo flap notwithstanding, is the head-scratching replacement. Right now, no one has competition for camp. Expect that to change. 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2020 NFL Draft 2020 Patriots Offseason Bill Belichick New England Patriots NFL Patriots patriots 2020 draft Patriots edge rushers

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