There's nothing like the excitement of a rookie mini-camp to get the football juices flowing. OK, maybe that's not exactly the case. But that doesn't mean we don't have time to start thinking about the new players and how they may all fit into the Patriots plans come September.
Therefore, we offer our first way-too-early roster projection of the spring. There will be many to follow, and hopefully we won't be looking back laughing at too many of our calls.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
This could depend on Stidham's development, or perhaps that of Danny Etling, but it would be hard to imagine Bill Belichick feeling comfortable enough to go without a veteran backup.
Running back (5)
Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
Pretty straightforward with this deep and diverse group. Bolden provides leadership and special teams ability.
The Pro Bowler does his job as well as anyone on the roster. (Andy made me write that).
Wide receiver (5)
Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
PUP: Demaryius Thomas
Here's where things start to get tough. The top three are safe but from there it's a crapshoot. Harris has size and could emerge on the outside. Meyers offers size (6-2) and toughness to go over the middle and could be a surprise.
Tight end (3)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse
There may be room for another veteran (reports of a possible Benjamin Watson addition have circulated) but for now this seems like the group.
Offensive line (8)
Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Jared Veldheer, Hjalte Froholdt, Cole Croston
NFI: Yodny Cajuste
We're including Veldheer based on reports that he will sign. Rookie Cajuste is reportedly coming off surgery to repair his quad, which is projected to have him on the shelf for three months, therefore the NFI designation. Croston, Ted Karras and Brian Schwenke could be fighting for a spot.
Defensive line (9)
Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler, Chase Winovich, John Simon, Derek Rivers, Ufomba Kamalu
There is some versatility in this group as Winovich and Simon could be viewed as linebackers as well, leading to the high number.
Ja'Whaun Bentley, Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts
Christian Sam could slide into this mix as well.
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson
Our way-too-early prediction is Dawson and Jonathan Jones will fight for one spot. Jones is more expensive and could be the odd man out.
Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks
Obi Melifonwu will have a chance to factor in at safety, and Jason McCourty's work on the back end could come into play also. Brooks could replace Nate Ebner as the special teamer with more potential to work at safety.
Special teams (3)
Matthew Slater, Brandon King, Keion Crossen
Always tough to forecast these roles after Slater. Crossen and rookie Ken Webster have very similar measurable and could be interchanged.
Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona
Ryan Allen is back on a one-year deal but drafting a punter couldn't have made him feel secure. Sight unseen, we'll predict that Bailey steals the job a year after it was apparent that Belichick was intrigued by Corey Bojorquez.