In Tuesday's ESPNBoston.com Patriots mailbag, a "ridiculously early" 53-man roster projection was included. Before posting the projection, the question was asked to colleagues Mike Rodak and Field Yates if there were any glaring absences.
One thought was that maybe it was too heavy on defensive backs, and too light along the lines.
Then we looked closer at personnel and here were four players debated:
1. Brian Waters. The veteran offensive lineman wasn't included in the projection. I took the easy way out and projected that he won't play in 2012, even though there are no definitive signs that will be the case. One of the big questions I had was: "Can this team keep both Waters and Robert Gallery?" Both are basically 1-year players at this point. Waters is solely a guard, while Gallery offers a little more flexibility between guard and tackle. If both stick, it could come at the expense of a younger prospect who projects to help more in the future. Those can be tough calls.
2. Gerard Warren. The veteran defensive lineman signed a one-year deal to return to the club last week, and his versatility and production provided value in a part-time role last year (27 percent of the snaps). If choosing between Warren and a younger, healthy Myron Pryor (who is in the last year of his contract), which direction do you go?
3. Bobby Carpenter. The 2006 first-round pick joined the club on a one-year deal, and he has some versatility and coverage skills that figure to help the team in some form. But if deciding between him and second-year player Jeff Tarpinian (assuming good health for Tarpinian), what do you do? Special teams contributions and projecting Tarpinian's future growth would likely be a big factor if it came down to one or the other.
4. Nate Ebner. The sixth-round pick from Ohio State might be best served beginning his career on the practice squad. His presence on the 53-man roster could mostly affect someone line Sergio Brown, who has a similar profile.
There is a long way to go, and this "ridiculously early" 53-man projection notes that a lot can happen on the practice field to alter the picture. But going through the exercise highlighted some of the great competition -- and potentially tough roster decisions -- the Patriots will have in 2012 training camp.