MIAMI GARDENS, FL – DECEMBER 9: Tom Brady #12 talks with Josh Gordon #10 and Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots prior to the NFL game against the Miami Dolphins on December 9, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

With free agency and the NFL Draft officially concluded, the 2019 New England Patriots are starting to take shape. While there is obviously a lot of time left until the start of the season, it’s never too early to break down the current roster. Based on everything we know now, let’s take a stab at predicting the New England Patriots roster.

New England Patriots Roster Prediction 1.0

Quarterback

In: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham (3)

Out: Danny Etling

This one is pretty simple. Tom Brady is still going strong entering his age-42 season and is the unquestioned starter. As a fourth-round pick, Jarrett Stidham isn’t ready to beat out Brian Hoyer for the backup job. Historically speaking, New England typically has a rookie serve as the third-string quarterback for a season before earning the backup role during his second season.

Danny Etling, unfortunately, is the odd man out. The quarterback still has practice squad eligibility and reportedly has an NFL work ethic. He’ll probably remain in Foxboro even if he never sees the active roster.

Running Back

In: Sony Michel, James White, James Develin, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden (6)

Out: Nick Brossette

In a perfect world, all of these players make it healthy to Week One. While that seems unlikely, predicting injury is a bad way to perform this type of exercise. Assuming health, Sony Michel remains the main back with Rex Burkhead coming off the bench to give Michel some rest. Damien Harris can take the short-yardage role while James White does his usual thing out of the backfield. James Develin, reliable as ever, shall remain the fullback until further notice.

Brandon Bolden can fill in at running back, but he’ll primarily be a special teams player. Nick Brossette is a talented undrafted free agent but is facing a logjam at the position. Barring a series of injuries, it’s hard to see him making the active roster.

Wide Receiver

In: N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas, Jakobi Meyers, Matthew Slater (6)

Exempt: Josh Gordon

Bubble: Maurice Harris, Bruce Ellington, Braxton Berrios, Ryan Davis

Out: Damoun Patterson

Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Phillip Dorsett are locks, but everything else is completely up in the air. Demaryius Thomas suffered an Achilles injury in December is on the wrong side of 30. He could easily start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list or he might not even make the team. An undrafted free agent always makes the roster, and this year Jakobi Meyers is the undrafted find. The North Carolina State product was one of the best slot receivers in his conference and could start the year backing up Julian Edelman. Matthew Slater is a receiver in name only and will continue his elite special teams work.

Josh Gordon won’t be included in any roster projection until he’s actually eligible to play. Maurice Harris has flashed promise but has yet to put it together consistently in the NFL. Bruce Ellington’s best days are long behind him and his hamstring woes are well-documented. Ryan Davis could sneak on the final roster as a punt returner. If Damoun Patterson makes the roster, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Tight End

In: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ryan Izzo (2)

Bubble: Matt LaCosse, Andrew Beck

Out: Stephen Anderson

Austin Seferian-Jenkins should be the top tight end in the offense, but Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse, and Andrew Beck all stand a shot at earning the backup job. Izzo gets the nod for now, as the 2018 seventh-round pick reportedly impressed in 2018’s training camp. While a foot injury cost him his rookie season, he should be fully recovered for the start of 2019.

Stephen Anderson is a mediocre pass catcher who struggles as a blocker. With New England featuring a run-heavy offense, New England will probably value the blocking tight ends over Anderson.

Offensive Line

In: Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Cole Croston (8)

Bubble: Ted Karras

Out: James Ferentz, Jake Eldrenkamp, Tyler Gauthier, Calvin Anderson, Tyree St. Louis

Most of this grouping is pretty self-explanatory. Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon should comprise the starting offensive line. Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt will serve as the top depth options and are locks for the final roster.

This leaves Cole Croston and Ted Karras battling for the final roster spot. While either player could easily win it, right now the nod goes to Croston. Croston can play tackle, while Karras is purely an interior offensive lineman. With the relative uncertainty at the tackle position, New England should carry as many tackles as possible.

Defensive Line

In: Deatrich Wise, Chase Winovich, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Michael Bennett, John Simon, Adam Butler, Derek Rivers (8)

Bubble: Keionta Davis, Byron Cowart

Out: Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman, Trent Harris, Shilique Calhoun

Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, and Mike Pennel will start, but the fourth starting spot is up for grabs. Deatrich Wise has the best shot at earning that spot, but rookie Chase Winovich could easily take it. John Simon was one of the best under the radar signings of the off-season and should provide valuable depth. Derek Rivers has one last year to prove he was worthy of the third-round investment back in 2017. Now two years removed from his ACL injury, he should be back to full strength and ready to play.

Fifth-round rookie Byron Cowart was one of the last cuts on the roster and he could easily beat out a guy like Rivers for the final spot. Keionta Davis has struggled during his limited time on the field but the coaching staff seems to love him. He has NFL athleticism but needs to learn how to set the edge and not overpursue.

Linebacker

In: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King (5)

Bubble: Christian Sam

Out: Terez Hall, Calvin Munson

Barring injury, this group is set in stone. Dont’a Hightower played like his old self during the final half of the 2018 season and should maintain that level of play. Kyle Van Noy was arguably New England’s best linebacker during their playoff run and is one of the most underrated players in the league. Ja’Whaun Bentley looked like a star during his abbreviated rookie season.

Cornerback

In: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Johnathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen (7)

Bubble: Ken Webster

Out: D’Angelo Ross

There is no such thing as too many good cornerbacks in today’s pass-happy NFL. Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, and Joejuan Williams should combine to form one of the best secondaries in the league. Jonathan Jones is one of the better slot cornerbacks in the league and should hold onto his job for at least one more season. Duke Dawson didn’t see the field as a rookie but should benefit from a healthy off-season. New England needs to see if he can be the slot cornerback of the future.

Keion Crossen and seventh-round pick Ken Webster are fighting for the same job. Both players can play cornerback when required but are better suited for special teams. Seeing as Crossen already proved he can thrive in this role, he earns the nod in this projection.

Safety

In: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Obi Melifonwu, Nate Ebner (5)

Out: Malik Gant, A.J. Howard, Terrance Brooks

Patrick Chung should be healthy for the start of the 2019 season and should start alongside Devin McCourty. Duron Harmon will continue to be a valuable safety off the bench to help round out one of the best secondaries in football. Obi Melifonwu didn’t do much during his abbreviated season in New England, but his athleticism earns him a second look. Nate Ebner is a safety in name only and will continue to be a fixture on special teams.

Specialists

In: Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona (3)

Out: Ryan Allen

Stephen Gostkowski and Joe Cardona are locks, but the punter battle should be interesting. You don’t trade up for a punter if you don’t expect him to make the team, so Jake Bailey earns the nod over Ryan Allen. If this is the end of the road for Allen, it ends what was a pretty solid Patriots’ tenure.

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