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Patriots reset 2015: Roster inflated with rookie talent

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With the methodical precision that took them to another Super Bowl championship last season, the New England Patriots ignored trade requests in the draft and, Ted Wells be damned, re-inflated their roster with 11 prospects who might fit right in.

Or, as coach Bill Belichick says, they will be immediately immersed in the Patriots system and better fit in fast.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, New England’s first-round pick, fell in line quickly and certainly isn’t lacking for confidence. The 6-foot-2, 320-pound Brown will have a chance to fill the vacancy left by departed Pro Bowl star Vince Wilfork, who signed with Houston in free agency.

Asked on his introductory conference call with the New England media if he had a message for Patriots fans, Brown set his goal high.

“You guys drafted me, so you’re about to get the best player you’ve ever drafted,” Brown said. “So just be ready for when I touch the field.”

Brown said the only thing he knows about Boston is the Celtics, but he’s well aware that he joining a well-oiled, championship machine.

“It means a lot,” Brown said of going to the defending Super Bowl champions at the end of the first round. “You go to a winning team, contributing to something that’s already great and trying to add whatever I can to the program. It’s a great feeling.”

The Patriots continued to bulk up the defense with the next four draft picks — Stanford safety Jordan Richards (Rd. 2/64 overall), Oklahoma defensive end Geneo Grisson (Rd. 3/97 overall) and Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers (Rd. 4/ 101 overall).

Grissom spent time as a tight end at Oklahoma before settling in on the Sooners defense. He worked out as a tight end at his school’s pro day and, according to Belichick, was as impressive in that role as anyone could have expected.

“We’re not trying to make him a tight end, but I’d say that his workout as a tight end is probably as good of a tight-end workout as we saw all year,” Belichick said. “This guy can run, he can catch. If you didn’t know he didn’t play tight end, you would look at the workout and say, ‘That’s a pretty good looking tight end.'”

In an even more unusual discussion of positions, Flowers had a totally unexpected answer when asked about his high energy playing style.

“I actually grew up and fell in love with the game watching “(The) Waterboy” Flowers said, naming the Adam Sandler football-based comedy. “He just taught me to go crazy out there so I just take myself to a place and just attack as you say.”

Flowers explained that early in his playing career he actually modeled his on-field style after the waterboy-turned-star-defender from the movie.

“I think I tried to emulate that in high school and middle school and it worked out,” Flowers said of the Bobby Boucher character. “I actually did that in middle school one time. I hit somebody and did the little “Waterboy” shriek. I kind of have fun with it a lot.”

OK, then. While much of the pro football world dwells on under-inflated footballs, let’s take a look at how the Patriots inflated their roster for the 2015 season.

2014 RECORD: 12-4, 1st in AFC East, Super Bowl Champions

COACH: Bill Belichick

16th season with Patriots

196-73 overall; 21-8 postseason

21st season as NFL head coach

233-118 overall; 22-9 postseason

2015 CAMP SCHEDULE

Rookie minicamp: May 7-10

OTA dates: May 26, May 28-29, June 1, June 3-4, June 8-9, June 11-12

Mandatory Minicamp: June 16-18

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

(Rookies in capitals)

Offense:

WR: B. Lafell, D. Amendola, M. Slater, G. Orton, J. Krause

TE: M. Hoomanawanui, S. Chandler

LT: N. Solder, M. Cannon

LG: J. Devey, T. JACKSON, C. Barker

C: B. Stork, S. MASON

RG: R. Wendell, J. Kline

RT: S. Vollmer, C. Fleming, C. Hauptmann

TE: R. Gronkowski, T. Wright, A. DERBY

WR: J. Edelman, B. Tyms, J. Boyce, A. Dobson, B. Gibson, K. Dorsey

QB: T. Brady, J. Garoppolo, G. Gilbert

RB: J. Develin, J. Gray, B. Bolden, D. Lewis

RB: L. Blount, T. Cadet, J. White, T. Gaffney

Defense:

LDE: R. Ninkovich, M. Buchanan, J. Bequette, T. FLOWERS

DT: A. Branch, M. BROWN, J. Vellano, A. Johnson

DT: S. Siliga, J. Sheard, D. Easley, C. Jones

RDE: C. Jones, Z. Moore, G. GRISSOM, X. DICKSON

SLB: J. Collins, J. Freeny, D. Fleming, R. Johnson

LB: J. Mayo, J. Morris, E. Martin, M. WELLS

WLB: D. Hightower, C. Gordon, C. White

LCB: L. Ryan, M. Butler, R. Mcclain, D. Swanson

SS: P. Chung, N. Ebner, J. RICHARDS

FS: D. Mccourty, T. Wilson, D. Harmon

RCB: J. Green, B. Fletcher, D. ROBERTS

CB: K. Arrington, C. Chekwa

Special Teams:

P: R. Allen

PK: S. Gostkowski

LS: J. CARDONA

H: R. Allen

PR: J. Edelman, D. Amendola

KR: D. Amendola, B. Lafell, M. Slater

GRADING THE DRAFT — B

Per Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com

The defending Super Bowl champs were rumored to be looking for a trade out of the No. 32 overall pick but when steady defensive tackle Malcom Brown slid to them, it was an easy choice to stand “Pat” and plug in the massive hole left by Vince Wilfork moving on. Brown isn’t as flashy as last year’s top pick Dominique Easley, but they should complement each other well. Of the remaining picks, the Patriots did best in the fourth round, where future starters may have been out in tough-guy edge rusher Trey Flowers and nasty offensive linemen Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson.

SCOUTING ALL DRAFT PICKS

–Round 1/32 – Malcom Brown, DT, 6-2, 320, Texas

Projected by many to go in the middle of the first round, New England pounced on the big, athletic, versatile defensive lineman who bears many similarities to the guy he’ll be expected to replace, former Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork.

–Round 2/64 – Jordan Richards, S, 5-11, 210, Stanford

Richards was the surprise pick and most questioned selection of the Patriots’ draft weekend. He was universally considered a late-round pick and little more than a NFL backup as a prospect. But once again, Belichick proved he cares little what others think and took a guy who at best will compete for rotational reps at safety and special teams action.

–Round 3/97 – Geneo Grissom, DE, 6-4, 252, Oklahoma

Grissom was a versatile playmaker who moved all the round the defense in his career for the Sooners and could have a similarly diverse role in New England. At the very least, Grissom adds depth to the linebacker group as well as the edge of the defensive front that will be expected to serve as the strength of the Patriots’ defense this fall.

–Round 4/101 – Trey Flowers, DE, 6-2, 266, Arkansas

Flowers started for three-plus seasons for the Razorbacks, displaying the ability to stuff the run as well as get after the quarterback with some efficiency. He will push the returning talent at the bottom of the depth chart among Patriots defensive ends.

–Round 4/111 – Tre’ Jackson, G, 6-4, 330, Florida State

Jackson will join former Seminole teammate Bryan Stork on the interior New England line. As was the case a year ago with Stork, Jackson should compete for a starting job as a rookie as the Patriots look to get younger and more stout at the guard position.

–Round 4/131 – Shaq Mason, G, 6-1, 300, Georgia Tech

New England added a second interior lineman with Mason, coming out of the run-heavy option attack at Tech. Shorter than ideal, he’s a power run blocker who could compete at guard (where he started in college) or simply be an interior line backup at the next level.

–Round 5/166 – Joe Cardona, LS, 6-3, 236, Navy

Cardona was arguably the best long snapping prospect in the draft, but his military commitments could keep him from full-time football until 2017. New England certainly has a need at the position and Belichick’s ties to Navy might be an asset as Cardona looks to balance football and his military obligations.

–Round 6/178 – Matthew Wells, LB, 6-2, 215, Mississippi State

Wells is an undersized, speedy linebacker who will likely have to transition to a hybrid safety role, while his best chance to make the team and contribute will likely come on special teams.

–Round 6/202 – A.J. Derby, TE, 6-4, 255, Arkansas

A converted quarterback with just one year of tight-end experience, Derby is a developmental project with intriguing size and athletic ability who’ll be fighting for a job as a backup or special teams option.

–Round 7/247 – Darryl Roberts, CB, 6-0, 182, Marshall

Roberts is a long corner with above average height and impressive speed. He’s raw and certainly isn’t NFL ready, but given the Patriots’ needs at the position, Roberts will have his chances to prove his worth this summer.

–Round 7/253 – Xzavier Dickson, LB, 6-3, 260, Alabama

Dickson is an edge tweener out of Nick Saban’s familiar scheme with the versatility to play the run and the pass, but lacking the talent to be elite in either area. With three picks of a similar build, Dickson will be battling for a role in a crowded depth chart on the edge of the defense.

NOTABLE VETERANS ACQUIRED:

–RB Travaris Cadet: Not tendered as RFA by Saints; $1.75M/2 yrs, $65,000 SB.

–TE Scott Chandler: FA Bills; $5.3M/2 yrs, $2M SB.

–CB Chimdi Chekwa: Not tendered as RFA by Raiders; 1 yr, terms unknown.

–WR Kevin Dorsey: FA Packers; terms unknown.

–CB Bradley Fletcher: UFA Eagles; $1.5M/1 yr, $100,000 SB/$1.25M guaranteed.

–LB Jonathan Freeny: Not tendered as RFA by Dolphins; terms unknown.

–WR Brandon Gibson: FA Dolphins: $825,000/1 yr, $80,000 SB.

–CB Robert McClain: UFA Falcons; $1.25M/1 yr, $150,000 guaranteed.

–LB Jabaal Sheard: UFA Browns; $11M/2 yrs, $4M SB/$5.5M guaranteed.

NOTABLE PLAYERS LOST:

–LB Akeem Ayers: UFA Rams; $6M/2 yrs, $2.75M guaranteed.

–CB Brandon Browner: UFA Saints; $15M/3 yrs, $3.9M SB/$7.75M guaranteed.

–LB Jonathan Casillas: UFA Giants; $8M/3 yrs, $975,000 guaranteed.

–CB Darrelle Revis: UFA Jets; $70.121M/5 yrs, $39M guaranteed.

–RB Stevan Ridley: UFA Jets; $1.25M/1 yr, $80,000 SB.

–RB Shane Vereen: UFA Giants; $12.3M/3 yrs, $3.5M SB/$4.75M guaranteed.

–NT Vince Wilfork: UFA Texans; $9M/2 yrs, $3M SB/$5M guaranteed.

PRESEASON PEEK — Mark that calendar

All times Eastern

Aug. 13: GREEN BAY (Thu.), 7:30

Aug. 22: at New Orleans (Sat.), TBD

Aug. 28: at Carolina (Fri.), 7:30

Sept. 3: N.Y. GIANTS (Thu.), 7:30


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