With the draft now (finally) behind us, it’s time for the PatsPub “much too early” Roster Projection for the New England Patriots 53 man roster for opening day.

Since they haven’t even taken the field yet, it is strictly a projection and expect many changes to occur, but if I had to make the team (on paper) right now, this would be my team for opening day.

Offense: 25

Quarterback-
Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer,

The Patriots will again carry three QBs into the season, but I think Mallett supplants Hoyer as Brady’s backup this season

Running back-
Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Joseph Addai

The team’s depth was added to by the signing of Addai, who’s been beset by injuries the past few years. But he won’t be the feature back, the Pats don’t have one, but he will add depth as well as veteran presence and is a good pass blocker, receiver. Ridley, Woodhead and Vereen will the feature guys at least initially.

Fullback-
Spencer Larsen

Larsen has the versatility, having also played linebacker in Denver. How will the Patriots use a fullback in their offense this season? Expect some different looks with McDaniels back in New England.

Wide Receiver-
Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Donte’ Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman

Lots of new/old faces here, Lloyd will bring versatility to the team, Stallworth and Gaffney already have been successful with Brady and will upgrade their WR corps from last year. Branch slowed late last year so he and Ocho find themselves out and Ebert to the Practice Squad

Tight end-
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells

Fells will add depth and can catch the odd pass, no more extra tackles on the line. Gronkowski and Hernandez are the gold-dust twins at TE.

Offensive tackle-
Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Matt Kopa

With Matt Light retired it means both Solder and Cannon have to step up. One guy to watch will be undrafted signee  Markus Zusevics, the Patriots always have an undrafted guy make the roster and he may be it.

Center/guard-
Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Dan Connolly, Robert Gallery

This is if and it’s a big “if” Mankins is ready to play on opening day and not placed upon the PUP. But he was seen working out without a brace which is a good sign. If they go with less WRs they could add another body here, a definite possibility.

Defense: 25

Interior defensive lineman-
Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Jonathan Fanene, Gerard Warren

Lots of bulk as well as versatility here, expect these guys to move around a lot this season.

Defensive end/outside linebacker-

Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette, Markell Carter

If Andre Carter is brought back, and we think he may be if healthy, then he joins the mix that looks much more deep and talented than last year.

Inside linebacker-

Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Donta’ Hightower, Dane Fletcher, Tracy White, Jeff Tarpinian,

White and Tarpinian were standout special teams players last season who had to fill on defense, this season they won’t have to as the linebacking corps is deeper and more versatile. Hightower is more comfortable inside but can move outside as well.

Cornerback-
Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Will Allen, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard

There is the plenty of potential depth here, but who steps up will depend upon how training camp works out. Dowling will get another shot to play on the outside, meaning moving Arrington into the slot role. Moore remains in the mix and newcomer Dennard may find himself at safety like McCourty has been rumored to be. Denard may be a better fit at safety in the NFL, we’ll see how it works out.

Safety-
Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson

Chung remains the only sure bet here, but he has to stay healthy, it will be interesting to see how Wilson fits in the mix. I really think they move Denard to safety and regardless this unit needs to perform much better than in 2011, where they were a mess. One guy to watch will be Nate Ebner, not as a safety but as a special teams addition. He may supplant someone else on the roster.

Special Teams- 3
Stephen Gostkowski K, Zoltan Mesko P, Danny Aiken LS

The team could bring in another long snapper to compete with Aiken, but otherwise this area is pretty much set and solid.

This is an initial projection of the 53 man roster, this will change when the players hit the field and the inevitable injuries occur. But this team will be much deeper this season especially on defense and at wide receiver.

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