It’s an annual summertime tradition as rich in history as the Bristol, Rhode Island 4th of July Parade or the fireworks on the Esplanade.
Hell, with respect to Jim Nantz and The Masters, this really is a tradition unlike any other.
It’s also one that refuses to be wiped out by the coronavirus’ control of seemingly every aspect of our summer lives. Since it’s always been online, it’s always been virtual anyway. No mask needed.
That’s right, it’s my yearly meaningless, fruitless and at times retroactively embarrassing ranking of the Patriots pre-training camp roster from 1-89. Screw depth charts or roster projections! Go big or go home.
A journey that began back in the day to break up the summertime doldrums over at Patriots.com has indeed made the trek with me over to WEEI.
This year is special in many ways, most notably for the fact that for the first time the No. 1 overall spot on the Patriots roster will not go to Tom Brady. Nope, we have a new No. 1, although he may be just as obvious as the GOAT was for the bulk of his two-decade tenure in Foxborough.
Summer is here. Fall is around the corner. And the hope that the NFL and Patriots will play games is real if a bit tenuous.
If all goes well, Bill Belichick will soon welcome his roster to Gillette Stadium to open a socially distanced training camp, whatever that may be.
But before that happens, let’s take a swing at ranking all 89 guys Belichick will have to eventually carve down to a roster that will form his first team in New England that doesn’t include Brady.
This ranking is a tough job, especially without a single offseason passing camp or practice to base things on. But, here, goes!
Enjoy, question, critique and take care!
1 – Stephon Gilmore: Reigning NFL DPOY, need we say more?
2 – Julian Edelman: Until we see him slow down we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
3 – Devin McCourty: Earned his extension with one of his better seasons in 2019.
4 – Joe Thuney: May be “just a guard,” but he’s a franchise guard.
5 – Matthew Slater: Fills his role as well as anyone, on and off the field.
6 – James White: As reliable a pass-catching running back as you’ll find.
7 – Dont’a Hightower: Will be leaned on in 2020 as much as ever.
8 – Lawrence Guy: The most underrated player in New England the last couple years.
9 – Patrick Chung: Wear and tear may be catching up, but Chung’s tough to bet against.
10 – J.C. Jackson: Up-and-coming playmaker.
11 – Shaq Mason: Looking to bounce back from an injury-slowed down year.
12 – David Andrews: Assuming he returns to form, a huge piece in the middle of the line.
13 – John Simon: Solid veteran edge defender.
14 – Jason McCourty: Savvy veteran who may offer some safety versatility.
15 – Isaiah Wynn: Big third season for the former first-round pick.
16 – Rex Burkhead: If only he could stay healthy.
17 – Joe Cardona: Steady and solid.
18 – Adrian Phillips: Versatile newcomer will get a chance to move up this list.
19 – Jonathan Jones: Veteran slot corner with a knack for the big play at times.
20 – Sony Michel: Seems to be little more than a product of his line’s play.
21 – N’Keal Harry: Another former first-round pick with plenty to prove in 2020.
22 – Jarrett Stidham: Speaking of guys with something to prove.
23 – Marcus Cannon: Veteran’s best days would seem to be behind him.
24 – Kyle Dugger: The raw skills are there, assuming he can handle jump to NFL competition.
25 – Damien Harris: After red-shirt rookie season it’s time to see what he can do.
26 – Chase Winovich: Showed pass-rush ability as a rookie.
27 – Ja’Whaun Bentley: Will get his chance this fall.
28 – Jake Bailey: Pro Bowl potential.
29 – Brandon Bolden: Nothing flashy, just does his jobs.
30 – Adam Butler: Complementary contributor on passing downs.
31 – Shilique Calhoun: Could be a surprise contributor on the edge.
32 – Mohamed Sanu: Injured veteran newcomer struggled late last fall.
33 – Jakobi Meyers: Rapport with Stidham could boost former undrafted receiver.
34 – Marquise Lee: Free agent newcomer must stay healthy, then prove he can still play.
35 – Korey Cunningham: Probably the top backup offensive lineman.
36 – Josh Uche: Has a particular set of pass-rushing skills.
37 – Anfernee Jennings: There are rookie reps to be had on the edge.
38 – Deatrich Wise: Playing time took a dip a year ago.
39 – Beau Allen: Free agent addition likely to fill Danny Shelton’s reps.
40 – Damiere Byrd: Speedy newcomer to wide open wide receiver depth chart.
41 – Joejuan Williams: Second-year DB has size to be a rotational contributor in stacked secondary.
42 – Yodny Cajuste: Red-shirt rookie year could lead to swing-tackle duties.
43 – Brandon Copeland: Certainly has the versatility to be a contributor as an FA newcomer.
44 – Byron Cowart: Could build on rookie experience.
45 – Hjalte Froholdt: Potential interior backup after IR rookie season.
46 – Devin Asiasi: After one season of college production might be leaned on as a rookie.
47 – Matt LaCosse: Veteran tight end never was healthy in first season in New England.
48 – Brandon King: Speedy special teamer coming off injury.
49 – Dan Vitale: Former college “superback” brings new look to fullback spot.
50 – Dalton Keene: Jack of all trades TE who may very well become a fan favorite.
51 – Brian Hoyer: Journeyman veteran backup. Nothing more or less.
52 – Justin Bethel: Can never have too many gunners.
53 – Justin Rohrwasser: Looks like the kicking job is the rookie’s to lose.
54 – Cody Davis: Might be a Nate Ebner replacement.
55 – Gunner Olszewski: Punt returner will be in a fight for his roster life again this summer.
56 – Terrence Brooks: Diminishing returns in terms of defensive reps.
57 – Jakob Johnson: Injury derailed dream season a year ago.
58 – D’Angelo Ross: Scrappy practice squader might have a shot if not for secondary depth.
59 – Michael Onwenu: Big, young guard draft pick.
60 – Justin Herron: Athletic OL draft pick.
61 – Ryan Izzo: Former late-round pick with limited upside at tight end.
62 – Jermaine Eluemunor: Probably not worth his RFA tender.
63 – Nick Coe: Once had a promising career at Auburn.
64 – Malik Gant: Practice squad safety can lay the lumber.
65 – Derek Rivers: Time would seem to be running out for hard working, oft-injured former top pick.
66 – Cassh Maluia: Could compete for a special teams job.
67 – Nick Thurman: First-year player has experience with a couple NFL teams.
68 – Terez Hall: Practice squader looking to battle for backup role.
69 – Brian Lewerke: Certainly played in some big games at Michigan State.
70 – Will Hastings: A slot receiver who can do onside kicks? Belichick must be intrigued.
71 – Lenzy Pipkins: Two career starts to his interesting name.
72 – J’Mar Smith: Undersized UDFA QB who had a promising baseball career too.
73 – Najee Toran: With all due respect, likely a camp-body guard.
74 – Dustin Woodard: Late-round interior line project.
75 – Quincy Adeboyejo: Just one NFL game since entering as undrafted rookie in 2017.
76 – Rashod Berry: DE/TE background could make him a solid practice player at the very least.
77 – J.J. Taylor: Not too many 5-5 NFL running backs or players for that matter. Good luck!
78 – Kyahva Tezino: Has the look and feel of core special teamer.
79 – Jake Burt: Boston College tight end stays local to start pro career.
80 – Tashawn Bower: Has one sack in seven career games over three seasons.
81 – Myles Bryant: Known as a sound CB tackler who didn’t give up a TD in his final college season.
82 – Jeff Thomas: Plenty of raw talent and plenty of questions after unfulfilled career at Miami.
83 – Courtney Wallace: Played in 48 games at La Tech.
84 – Devin Ross: Practice squader with loads of competition in front of him at CB.
85 – Sean Riley: Well-rounded production at Syracuse, including slot, kickoff returns and blocked kicks.
86 – Adarius Pickett: A safety with the nickname “Pick-Six” can’t be a bad thing.
87 – De’Jon Harris: Linebacker started 36 games at Arkansas, got good guarantees to sign as UDFA.
88 – Isaiah Zuber: Used to being near the end of every list he’s on thanks to his last name.
89 – Bill Murray: An undrafted rookie out of William & Mary who gets no respect. Oh wait, that was another comedian.