(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012.)
NAME: Marcus Forston
POSITION: Defensive tackle
2011 STATS: 3 games (all starts), 5 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble -- with Miami (FL)
INJURY STATUS: No known injuries
CHANCE OF MAKING 53-MAN ROSTER: 20%
WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: Forston is an intriguing prospect at a position where the Patriots have more question marks than quality depth. One of the nation's best at his position coming out of high school, Forston was set to enter the draft after the 2010 season, but decided to stay in Miami for his redshirt junior campaign. ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper rated Forston the second-best junior defensive tackle last summer, and he was on preseason watchlists for several college football awards. However, Forston was suspended for the first game of the season along with 11 other Miami players for receiving improper benefits while being recruited, and later suffered a season-ending knee injury. Should he emerge during the preseason, Forston could earn a role with the Patriots at a position the team didn't address through the draft or free agency.
WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: One major storyline that will continue through training camp and into the preseason will be the use of sub packages on defense, and how that affects playing time of defensive linemen. If the Patriots are comfortable with having defensive ends Jonathan Fanene and Brandon Deaderick slide inside in the event of an injury to interior linemen Vince Wilfork or Kyle Love, there will be less of a need to keep more than one or two reserve options at defensive tackle on the roster. This will put on a squeeze at the position where Forston would be better served on the practice squad, with more experienced players such as Gerard Warren or Myron Pryor grabbing the few roster spots that may be available.
CLOSEST COMPETITION: DT Ron Brace, DT Gerard Warren, DT Myron Pryor