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Which Patriots player ranks 61-70 on NFL Network?

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Malcolm Butler talks with the media.

A little good ol' fashioned analysis should be able to narrow us in on who that player might be in this ranking of top talent as voted on by other NFL players.

First, it's probably safe to say that while Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker are all clearly locks to be represented on the list, they also should find themselves much higher in the top 100. Brady, who was No. 1 overall a year ago, should remain near the top spot. Coming off the greatest season in the history of the league by a tight end, Gronkowski could be in the top 10 or 15. And another 100-catch season leading the NFL could have Welker in the top 20 or higher, after coming in at No. 50 last year.

So for this year's 61-70 grouping, who are some other Patriots in that next tier of top NFL talent? Let's start with the team's other Pro Bowl players from last season. That includes Vince Wilfork, who was already on the list at the No. 81 spot overall after coming in 35th on last year's list.

Eliminating Wilfork as a possibility leaves Logan Mankins (39 in 2011), Brian Waters, Andre Carter and Jerod Mayo (62 in 2011).

Two guys not invited to the Pro Bowl who had very impressive 2012 seasons also need to be pondered – the recently-retired Matt Light and Aaron Hernandez.

Since Light didn't get a Pro Bowl nod a year ago, which includes player votes, let's eliminate him. Hernandez was an alternate for the Hawaii all-star game, even if overshadowed a bit by Gronkowski. Hernandez ranked t-15th in the NFL in receptions and 14th in yards. Those would be great numbers if he didn't play with Gronkowski and Welker.

Waters and Carter also had great years in their first season in New England, so they could be legitimate options here as well respected veterans basking in the attention of playing on a Super Bowl team late in their careers.

But if I had to guess, I'd go with Hernandez due to the overall success of the Patriots offense and the attention that the passing game gets in today's NFL.

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