Analyzing 2012 Patriots roster

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
6:00
AM ET
The Patriots made seven selections in the 2012 NFL draft, and here is a snapshot look at the roster (rookies in italics), not including undrafted free agents tight end Brad Herman and offensive linemen Jeremiah Warren and Markus Zusevics, who agreed to terms with the team but whose deals have not yet been announced:

Quarterback
Personnel:
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Mike Hartline
Quick hit: For the second straight year, the Patriots project to keep three quarterbacks on the roster.

Running back
Personnel:
Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen
Quick hit: The thinnest position on the roster coming out of the draft, but could be boosted if the team pulls the trigger on any of the veteran running backs that visited the team two weeks ago (Tim Hightower, Ryan Grant, and reportedly Joseph Addai). 14-year veteran Kevin Faulk also could be back in the mix by training camp.

Fullback
Personnel:
Spencer Larsen, Tony Fiammetta, Eric Kettani
Quick hit: The first time in years the Patriots have invested this much into the position, expect at least one of the players here to make the roster. Larsen has positional versatility, having also played linebacker in Denver. How the Patriots use a fullback in their offense will be a storyline coming into this season.

Wide Receiver
Personnel:
Wes Welker*, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Donte' Stallworth, Chad Ochocinco, Anthony Gonzalez, Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman, Jeremy Ebert, Tiquan Underwood, Britt Davis
Quick hit: While this position is deep with veterans, it contains few sure bets. Welker's franchise tag situation is still unresolved, and outside of Lloyd and Slater, none of Branch, Stallworth, Ochocinco, or Gonzalez are complete locks to make the roster. The team did not draft a receiver in the early rounds, and none of these personnel outside of Edelman are considered kick returner options.

Tight end
Personnel:
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells
Quick hit: Fells adds depth to a position that was thin in 2011, while undrafted free agents like Herman will supplement it going into training camp.

Offensive tackle
Personnel:
Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Matt Kopa, Kyle Hix
Quick hit: The retirement of Matt Light, although expected, thins this position to some extent, although the Patriots seem to be high on Cannon. Between Kopa, Hix, and undrafted signees like Zusevics, the Patriots will have young players competing for the potential fourth spot here.

Center/guard
Personnel:
Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Robert Gallery, Ryan Wendell, Nick McDonald, Donald Thomas
Quick hit: While deep, there is still some uncertainty in the interior offensive line. Mankins is coming off ACL surgery, while Waters, 35, had considered retirement earlier this offseason. However, Connolly, Wendell, and McDonald proved to be viable fill-in options last season.

"Big" defensive lineman
Personnel:
Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Jonathan Fanene, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, Alex Silvestro, Marcus Harrison
Quick hit: Another veteran body could be needed here, with a Gerard Warren re-signing one potential option. Expect the Patriots to add some roster bulk here through undrafted free agency.

"Light" defensive end/outside linebacker
Personnel:
Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette, Jermaine Cunningham, Markell Carter
Quick hit: With free agent Andre Carter's return timetable from quadriceps surgery still up in the air, this position received an infusion of young talent through the draft. Former second-round pick Cunningham faces an uphill battle to make the roster in his third season. Scott is two seasons removed from a knee injury that diminished his production in 2011, and the Patriots seem to have eyed him more for his pass-rush potential than his ability to play special teams or as a stand-up linebacker.

"Big" linebacker/edge defender
Personnel:
Rob Ninkovich, Dont'a Hightower, Aaron Lavarias
Quick hit: Ninkovich is a unique player who can play the edge in a 3-4, strong-side linebacker in a 4-3, and also be used as an edge rusher in a four-man line in a sub package. How the Patriots fit pieces like Ninkovich, Hightower, Jones, Scott, and Bequette into their defensive puzzle will be a major storyline heading into training camp. Hightower can just as easily fit into the "space" linebacker group, but also saw time as a down lineman in a rush package at Alabama.

"Space" linebacker
Personnel:
Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Tracy White, Niko Koutouvides, Bobby Carpenter, Jeff Tarpinian, Mike Rivera
Quick hit: This position is stocked with special team core players, including some (White, Tarpinian) who had a role in the defense last season. In a 4-3 last season, Spikes (middle) and Mayo (weak-side) played off the line, in the second level of the defense, while Ninkovich played at the line of scrimmage.

Cornerback
Personnel:
Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Will Allen, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard, Marquice Cole
Quick hit: There is the potential for depth here, but how the position shakes out at the top remains to be seen. Dowling could get another chance to play on the outside, likely shifting Arrington into more of a slot role. At this point, it does not seem probable that McCourty returns to safety, where he saw time late last season. Moore could be a player to watch as he comes off a strong end to his 2011 campaign.

Safety
Personnel:
Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Josh Barrett, Sergio Brown, Nate Ebner, Ross Ventrone, Malcolm Williams
Quick hit: Chung, if healthy, remains the ace of this group. How Gregory and Wilson fit into the scheme remains to be seen, while Barrett and Brown, who were fill-ins when this position was left thin early last season, will be fighting for roster spots.

Specialists
Personnel:
Stephen Gostkowski (kicker), Chris Koepplin (kicker), Zoltan Mesko (punter), Danny Aiken (long snapper)
Quick hit: The Patriots could bring in an undrafted rookie snapper to compete with Aiken, but otherwise this position is set.

* Assigned franchise tag, but has not yet signed it

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?