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Patriots rank very poorly in ESPN's list of best roster cores

Patriots put in the ground work for season on a lighter day of OTAs
Patriots put in the ground work for season on a lighter day of OTAs 01:27

BOSTON -- The New England Patriots have a bunch of good players. But do they have many great players?

The answer to that question, at least according to ESPN's Seth Walder, is a resounding no.

Walder, of ESPN Analytics, set out to rank NFL teams based on the five best players on each team's roster. While that selection process was admittedly subjective, the end result was nevertheless unfriendly to New England.

The Patriots ranked 27th in the NFL on that list, better than just the Commanders, Texans, Colts, Falcons and Cardinals.


The five best players chosen to represent the top end of the Patriots' roster were QB Mac Jones, pass rusher Matthew Judon, safety Kyle Dugger, linebacker Josh Uche, and guard Mike Onwenu.

"It seems plenty plausible that Jones' 2021 rookie season, in which he ranked 16th in QBR, is more indicative of the player he'll become than what he did last season (28th) with Matt Patricia as his play-caller," Walder wrote. "Judon and Uche combined for 27 sacks in 2022, but this core lacks superstars."

On that point, there can be little argument.

Judon certainly ranks as a star, having made four straight Pro Bowls and getting a couple of Defensive Player of the Year votes last year. But he's still a rung down from the likes of T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons and Nick Bosa as the superstar pass rushers in the NFL.

The rest of that group, outside of the quarterback, surely doesn't include household names around the country. Onwenu making the list as a fourth-year lineman instead of, say, Rhamondre Stevenson or JuJu Smith-Schuster is perhaps a point worth quibbling over, but the overall point of the exercise is quite clear.

Around the division, the Dolphins ranked fourth in the NFL, the Bills ranked fifth, and the Jets ranked eighth. That shows the type of uphill climb that awaits New England this year, and that's without Miami potentially adding Dalvin Cook. Among the top 10 teams overall, seven were in the AFC, with the Chiefs at No. 1.

It's not dissimilar to last summer, when ESPN polled coaches, executives and scouts and asked them to name the top 10 players at every position. The Patriots landed exactly one player -- tight end Hunter Henry, who barely made the list at No. 10 -- on all of those lists. Jonnu Smith also got a vote, and that was it. The Patriots then went 8-9 and missed the playoffs, a picture -- really -- of mediocrity.

In the past, when Tom Brady was under center and the team was winning double-digit games before making the conference title game every season, New England made superstars. But some years have passed, some name recognition has faded, and the Patriots have a long way to go if they want to climb back in to national prominence.

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