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Perry: Taking a stab at the Patriots' depth chart, projected starters for 2022

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Rhamondre Stevenson

Now that the Patriots are through the draft, we may be able to get a better sense of where they'd still like to add if we comb through the roster and stack up some way-too-early depth charts at individual positions.

This exercise can also give us a sense of where the Patriots are deepest and whether or not a subtraction may be coming.

Without further adieu (our projected starters are in bold) ...

Quarterback

  1. Mac Jones
  2. Brian Hoyer
  3. Bailey Zappe
  4. Jarrett Stidham

Mac Jones is not in danger of losing his starting gig. Don't be ridiculous. And Brian Hoyer isn't in danger of losing his roster spot after being guaranteed $3 million. The Bailey Zappe pick doesn't bode well for Jarrett Stidham's chances at making the roster come September.

Early-down running back

  1. Rhamondre Stevenson
  2. Damien Harris
  3. Kevin Harris

The Patriots are constantly rotating early-down backs, but after Stevenson showed eye-opening contact balance and some receiving skills out of the backfield, it'd come as no surprise if he got more first-team reps this summer.

The Patriots may have been trying to build some depth by selecting Kevin Harris in the sixth round -- particularly with Damien Harris in the final year of his rookie deal -- but the South Carolina product likely doesn't have the juice to threaten either veteran.

Third-down running back

  1. James White*
  2. Pierre Strong
  3. JJ Taylor

James White's health bears watching. Will he be cleared for contact by the time pads are introduced in a few months? If not, how will the Patriots attack this position? JJ Taylor has been touted as a promising player the last couple of offseasons, but he saw just one snap in pass protection last year. Would he get the first bite at sub-package work if White misses time? Or would it be Pierre Strong, who was just taken in the fourth round?

 

'X' receiver

  1. DeVante Parker
  2. Tyquan Thornton
  3. Nelson Agholor
  4. N'Keal Harry
  5. Kristian Wilkerson

N'Keal Harry certainly can't figure into the team's plans -- barring injuries elsewhere -- now that the Patriots have added a second-round receiver in Tyquan Thornton. The question is what happens with Nelson Agholor. His contract will make him difficult to trade, and he'd represent a massive chunk of dead money should the Patriots release him. But if both Parker and Thornton are healthy and available, it's hard to envision much work being left over for Agholor.

'Z' receiver

  1. Jakobi Meyers
  2. Kendrick Bourne
  3. Ty Montgomery
  4. Tre Nixon
  5. Malcolm Perry
  6. D'Eriq King

Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne look like staples for this passing attack. One lingering question from the Thornton selection -- especially if Agholor can't be moved -- is whether or not the team would ever consider trading Meyers. That would be a mistake, in my opinion, but he's in the last year of his contract and on a very reasonable salary. One would assume he'd bring back real value in a trade.

The Patriots would lose the route-running and blocking ability Meyers brings to the table, but perhaps they feel Bourne can man the slot -- he played over 200 snaps there last season -- which would then offer more snaps on the outside for Parker and Thornton in three-receiver sets.

'F' tight end

  1. Jonnu Smith
  2. Dalton Keene

Jonnu Smith could change the shape of this offense by returning in 2022 and being the player the Patriots paid for last offseason. If he doesn't, it has the potential to go down as one of New England's biggest free-agent misses.

'Y' tight end

  1. Hunter Henry
  2. Devin Asiasi

Hunter Henry ain't going anywhere. He may even find himself as a candidate for an extension this offseason, which could help the Patriots free up some much-needed salary-cap space.

Left tackle

  1. Isaiah Wynn
  2. Justin Herron

No changes here, but the Patriots should be thinking about the future of this position as Wynn heads into the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. (His fifth-year option was picked up last offseason.)

Left guard

  1. Cole Strange
  2. Drew Desjarlais
  3. Arlington Hambright
  4. Liam Shanahan

Patriots Talk: Leave Cole Strange alone! | Download & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Opportunity knocks for the rookie Devin McCourty nicknamed "Doctor Strange" soon after he was drafted. The Patriots had a glaring need at guard headed into the draft, and they selected a player they believe can play a real role from Day 1. CFL Western All-Star Drew Desjarlais, who signed a future contract with the team back in January, is an interesting depth piece here.

Center

  1. David Andrews
  2. James Ferentz
  3. Kody Russey

David Andrews is the glue for an interior offensive line group that has been shaken up this offseason by the departures of Shaq Mason and Ted Karras. 

 

Right guard

  1. Mike Onwenu
  2. Yasir Durant
  3. Chasen Hines
  4. Will Sherman

After a couple seasons of being bounced around the offensive line, Onwenu will have a chance to carve out a regular role. On the right side, alongside fellow behemoth Trent Brown, he could be a road-grating presence. 

Right tackle

  1. Trent Brown
  2. Yodny Cajuste
  3. Andrew Stueber

When Trent Brown has been on the field, he's been excellent. What do the Patriots do if he misses time, though? Justin Herron? Yodny Cajuste? Yasir Durant? Or would the team kick Onwenu outside and get someone like Chasen Hines into the mix? These are the contingency plans the Patriots will have to pay attention to understanding Brown could very well miss time.

Special teams

  • Nick Folk
  • Joe Cardona
  • Jake Bailey
  • Matthew Slater
  • Quinn Nordin
  • Jake Julien

Same group here. Even with a young, strong-legged kicker around in Quinn Nordin, it's Nick Folk's job to lose.

Defensive tackle

  1. Christian Barmore
  2. Lawrence Guy
  3. Deatrich Wise
  4. Davon Godchaux
  5. Henry Anderson
  6. Daniel Ekuale
  7. Byron Cowart
  8. Sam Roberts
  9. Bill Murray
  10. LaBryan Ray

It'll be fascinating to see if Bill Belichick can get anything out of Henry Anderson after the veteran missed all of last season. Will he be an afterthought? Or can he provide some value at a position that struggled at times to stop the run in 2021? Deatrich Wise is an edge defender who can come in to play in four-down situations in Patriots sub packages. He'll continue to have a specialized, but important, role.

Nose tackle

  • Carl Davis

The lone player on the roster at the moment who looks like a true nose tackle based on his body type is Carl Davis.

Inside linebacker

  1. Ja'Whaun Bentley
  2. Mack Wilson
  3. Cam McGrone
  4. Raekwon McMillan
  5. Harvey Langi
  6. Jahlani Tavai

It surprised some that the Patriots didn't take a linebacker in the draft, but there are a number of options here for the Patriots to find their top-two interior 'backers. Ja'Whaun Bentley will be one after signing a contract that pays him an average of $3 million annually. Alongside him, Mack Wilson, Cam McGrone and Raekwon McMillan all are worthy of an extended look.

Outside linebacker

  1. Matt Judon
  2. Josh Uche
  3. Ronnie Perkins
  4. Anfernee Jennings
  5. DaMarcus Mitchell

This position did not receive nearly as much attention as some others before the draft. And the Patriots didn't address it, which tells you how they feel about what they have here. But after Judon, there are plenty of questions. Uche played 218 snaps on the edge last season with snap counts in his final four games looking like this: 5, 19, 4, 6. Ronnie Perkins saw no regular-season work as a rookie in 2021.

Strong safety

  1. Kyle Dugger
  2. Adrian Phillips
  3. Jabrill Peppers
  4. Cody Davis
  5. Josh Bledsoe
  6. Brenden Schooler

The Patriots have plenty of depth here and one could see them having four players from this group active on game days. The team could even use Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers on the field simultaneously along with Devin McCourty in some four-safety looks.

Free safety

  • Devin McCourty

It's unclear who would be the primary backup to McCourty as their post safety. It could be Kyle Dugger, who played that spot in college and has the athleticism to roam the back end. It could also be one of the team's slot corners. Jon Jones certainly has the speed to handle the job, and he's been used as a safety at times since there are some similarities between the "star" position and the safety spot in Belichick's defense.

Slot corner

  1. Jonathan Jones
  2. Marcus Jones
  3. Myles Bryant

After taking Marcus Jones in the third round, it seems clear the Patriots would like to try to get the Houston product on the field defensively relatively early. He can be a return specialist, but he also looks like a slot complement to Jon Jones and a potential matchup piece for the smaller blazing quick receivers dotting the league. The two who now reside in Miami would be of particular interest to the Patriots. 

 

Cornerback

  1. Malcolm Butler
  2. Jalen Mills
  3. Terrance Mitchell
  4. Jack Jones
  5. Justin Bethel
  6. Shaun Wade
  7. Joejuan Williams
  8. Devin Hafford

After passing on Trent McDuffie with the No. 21 overall selection in this year's draft, Malcolm Butler looks like the best option as the team's top corner. Jalen Mills is poised to reclaim his 2021 role, and Terrence Mitchell looks like a good option to play the role of the third boundary cover man.

Rookie fourth-rounder Jack Jones is very light (171 pounds at this year's combine), but he has some length (5-foot-11) and seems better suited to play on the outside -- away from dealing with big-bodied blockers on the interior -- than he does on the interior. He'll likely see time at both spots before the Patriots pigeonhole him one way of the other, though.