New England Patriots

Jul 28, 2021; Foxborough, MA, United States; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches warm ups during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

In just a few weeks, the Patriots will have to trim their roster from 90 players to 53 (with stops at 85 and 80) for the start of the regular season. That task will be as difficult as ever this year, with the depth currently on the team. There are more than 53 NFL-caliber players in camp.

There’s an old Bill Belichick quote, “it’s not about collecting talent, it’s about building a team,” which becomes especially relevant this time of year. While it may be easy to think that just the best 53 players will make the team, that rarely ends up being the case.

Think of an NFL roster like the March Madness basketball tournament. It’s supposed to be most competitive field of 64 teams, but it’s rarely the top 64 teams in the country that make it. Is the best team in the Big Sky or the Horizon League better than the sixth or seventh best team in a power five conference? Probably not, but automatic bids skew the numbers, limiting the number of ‘at-large’ teams, or teams that make it without winning their conference.

How many ‘at-large’ bids are there on an NFL roster? Fewer than you’d think. The majority of spots can only be won by players of a certain position. Even at a bare minimum every team is keeping at least two quarterbacks, three running backs, three wide receivers, etc, regardless of the talent level at those positions.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at