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8 great Patriots heading into '18

With eight days to go till training camp, we rank the top eight players on the New England roster.

Patriots QB Tom Brady and OL Shaq Mason
Patriots QB Tom Brady and OL Shaq Mason

Considering that Tom Brady is now in the conversation as the greatest football player of all time, it would be hard to argue for any other player as the top Patriots star heading into 2018.

But, after you get past the first couple guys on this all-positions New England depth chart, the water gets a little murkier.

One person's preference for consistent, proven play might be trumped by another's bias toward offense (or defense). We all have different tastes and criteria for greatness.

Still, as we count down the days to the opening of training camp, we rank the top eight Patriots stars heading into 2018!

8. Devin McCourty – A former Pro Bowler at two positions, captain and unquestioned leader on and off the field, McCourty is about as solid as they come. He's getting up there in years and doesn't make as many big plays as some would like, but McCourty remains a key core cog in the Patriots winning machine.

7. Trey Flowers – Flowers has almost had to carry the Patriots pass rush over the last couple years. He'll get more help in 2018 in what's a contract year for the former fourth-round pick. Flowers is a hard worker who just goes about his business quietly getting the job done.

6. Julian Edelman – After missing all of 2017 to a torn ACL and set to serve a four-game suspension to open 2018, the 32-year-old Edelman has something to prove. In the past he's been Brady's most frequent target and a tough, clutch playmaker with the game or season on the line.

5. Shaq Mason – Conclusion of the Super Bowl aside, Mason has developed himself into a mauler in the ground game and a solid pass protector. Heading into a contract year he could be in line for a massive contract next spring thanks to his strength and athleticism.

4. Stephon Gilmore – The big-ticket free agent couldn't have gotten off to much worse of a start to his new job a year ago. But by the end of the season he wasn't just New England's best cornerback but maybe the team's best defender. Gilmore has to play at an elite level to live up to his paycheck and showed he's capable of just such production.

3. Dont'a Hightower – The Pro Bowl linebacker and captain proves his value every time he steps on the field. When he's missing time to injury – which has been an issue in recent years – his value to the Patriots defense is highlighted even more.

2. Rob Gronkowski – An argument can be made that Gronk is the greatest tight end in the history of the game. No one could argue against his spot as the top tight end in the NFL today and one of a handful of the top offensive playmakers regardless of position. With the game on the line he's New England's go-to guy.

1. Tom Brady – He's the G.O.A.T. Despite all the talk of the offseason and approaching his 41st birthday, Brady remains the Patriots top star and the top quarterback in the NFL.

What do you think of our list? Let us know with a comment below!

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