New England Patriots

Monday marked the first day of the Patriots’ voluntary off-season program, with players making their way back to Foxboro. The team posted a photo gallery of who reported back to team facilities on day one.

 

Here’s the full list of players spotted, based on the photos released at Patriots.com:

Offense
QB Mac Jones
QB Jarrett Stidham
RB Damien Harris
RB J.J. Taylor
RB Rhamondre Stevenson
RB Devine Ozigbo
WR Kendrick Bourne
WR Jakobi Meyers
WR DeVante Parker
WR Ty Montgomery
WR Tre Nixon
TE Devin Asiasi
TE Jonnu Smith
TE Dalton Keene
OT Yodny Cajuste
OG Drew Desjarlais
C David Andrews

Defense
DE Henry Anderson
DE Deatrich Wise
LB Josh Uche
LB Ronnie Perkins
CB Malcolm Butler
CB Jalen Mills
S Jabrill Peppers

This is not necessarily a complete list.

The Patriots’ official minicamp and training camp dates are yet to be officially announced. There’s still the 2022 NFL Draft to prepare for ahead of those.

Patriots draft preview: Safeties

  • Box safety has been one of the Patriots’ main positions of focus the last few years, with the additions of players like Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, and now Jabrill Peppers. The team has plenty of talent and depth at the position, but that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to add in the past.

    Meanwhile, 35-year-old Devin McCourty is the lone deep safety on the roster, and is on a one-year contract for his age 35 season. Bringing in not only depth but a potential successor could be a focus.

    Safety is not one of the deeper positions in this year’s draft class. There’s certainly players the Patriots would like at the position, but they’ll have to be much more targeted in their approach if they hope to add one. Where will they add a safety, if at all? Here’s a look at the different players that stand out in the different ranges of the draft.

  • Reaches

    Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (14) intercepts a pass intended for Purdue tight end Payne Durham (87) in the end zone during the fourth quarter of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

    Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (14) intercepts a pass intended for Purdue tight end Payne Durham (87) in the end zone during the fourth quarter of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

    Well, reach. Singular. There’s only two safeties projected to go in the first round right now, and just one in the top half of the draft. That’s Kyle Hamilton out of Notre Dame. Hamilton is a high-IQ multi-positional safety who projects best to a primary box role. He fits the profile of the players the Patriots have added at the position in recent years. However, unless they’re willing to move up 10-plus spots, he likely won’t be added to that list.

  • Round 1

    Nov 20, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive back Daxton Hill (30) rushes during the first halfagainst the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 20, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive back Daxton Hill (30) rushes during the first halfagainst the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Once again, there’s just one player in this range but he’s a terrific fit. Daxton Hill from Michigan is a name Patriots fans following the draft are likely familiar with by now. Hill is an elite athlete (he ran a 4.38 40 at the combine with a 6.97 3-cone) who has experience playing a number of positions including deep and box safety, as well as slot and outside cornerback. That versatility projects to carry over to the NFL. If the Patriots are going to go with the ‘positionless’ secondary, he’s a total fit. He could give them reps at cornerback in the short term while the depth is thin, while still being a potential replacement for McCourty down the road.

  • Round 2

    Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jaquan Brisker (1) reacts to a defensive play against the Illinois Fighting Illini during overtime at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jaquan Brisker (1) reacts to a defensive play against the Illinois Fighting Illini during overtime at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    There are a couple of safeties that could sneak their way into the back end of the first round, but are more likely to be early second round picks. Even though the Patriots don’t pick until 54, they showed in last year’s trade for Christian Barmore that they’re not opposed to moving up the board in the second round to add talented players starting to fall. These players could also be targets if the Patriots end up moving back from the 21st pick.

    Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker played both deep and box safety in college, and while he can do both in the NFL he projects best as a free safety. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Brisker isn’t afraid to play physically and should have teams excited about his potential to cover tight ends.

    Lewis Cine – who played his first three years of high school football locally in Everett – is another standout from the record-setting Georgia defense. Cine is a ferocious run-defending safety who has shown upside in coverage working against tight ends and running backs. He may be a bit redundant to players like Dugger and Peppers, but still would make sense as a long-term investment.

    NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein described Baylor’s Jalen Pitre as “a coach’s dream with exceptional competitive drive and desired intangibles for teams where locker room culture matters.” Pitre played the ‘star’ role in Baylor’s defense, with his responsibilities resembling an off the ball linebacker as much as a box safety. Stylistically, he’s as new-age as you can find at the position. Like Cine, he’d be more of a long-term pick but still a fit.

  • Round 3

    Oct 9, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) intercepts the ball over teammate Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) and intended Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Kendric Pryor (3) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) intercepts the ball over teammate Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) and intended Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Kendric Pryor (3) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    The first true deep safety on this list is Kerby Joseph from Illinois. Joseph burst on the scene in 2021, with five interceptions in 12 games. He’s got two of the three keys to playing deep safety in New England – explosive athleticism that allows him to cover large areas of the field, and solid tackling skills. Last season was his first as a full time starter, so his instincts are still coming along, but a year working with Devin McCourty and the Patriots’ coaching staff could go a long way.

    Ideally, Joseph could come in and play a second deep safety role next to McCourty – similar to the one formerly held by Duron Harmon – while contributing on special teams. Then, he could step into the starting job when McCourty retires or leaves in free agency. At Illinois, he played for former Patriots assistant coach Bret Bielema, so the team should have good insight into where he’s at.

    Nick Cross from Maryland profiles athletically as a deep safety – he ran a 4.34 40 at the Combine – but his physical presence feels more at home in the box. The Terrapins used him in a number of different roles, from playing deep to defending the run. Adding Cross would boost the speed in the Patriots’ secondary while adding another multi-positional piece. They had a scout at his pro day.

  • Early Day 3

    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 27: Verone McKinley III #23 of the Oregon Ducks stops Trevon Bradford #8 of the Oregon State Beavers on a two point conversion at Autzen Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

    EUGENE, OR – NOVEMBER 27: Verone McKinley III #23 of the Oregon Ducks stops Trevon Bradford #8 of the Oregon State Beavers on a two point conversion at Autzen Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

    Verone McKinley III from Oregon has had draft buzz for two years now. Heading into the 2020 season, some viewed him as one of the best safeties in the class. However, the Ducks played just seven games during the COVID-shortened season and he didn’t get to build on his breakout year from 2019. He ended up returning to school, and had 77 tackles with six interceptions and six pass breakups in 14 games last season.

    McKinley doesn’t pop when it comes to the measurables, but stands out on the field. His ability to diagnose a look pre-snap and adjust on the fly during the play help get him into the right place at the right time, and once there he makes plays on the ball at a high level. In the NFL, he has potential starting free safety upside, although some teams may write him off because of his size (5-foot-11, 194 pounds) and Combine workout that didn’t including the 40 or agility drills.

    Baylor’s J.T. Woods has shot up the boards since showing out at the Senior Bowl. Woods has the top-end speed (4.36 40) needed to play on the back end, and does a good job finishing plays when getting to the football – either by getting his hands on the ball or at least making the tackle. Woods can also be a factor against the run at 6-foot-2, 193 pounds and had 4.5 tackles for a loss in 14 games in 2021. If he can learn to be more purposeful with his movements, he projects as at least a rotational NFL defender.

  • Late Day 3

    Auburn Tigers safety Smoke Monday (21) celebrates after being cleared of a targeting call against Houston during the Birmingham Bowl at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday December 28, 2021. (Mickey Welsh/Advertiser/USA Today Network)

    Auburn Tigers safety Smoke Monday (21) celebrates after being cleared of a targeting call against Houston during the Birmingham Bowl at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday December 28, 2021. (Mickey Welsh/Advertiser/USA Today Network)

    Later in the draft, the Patriots may turn their attention to box safeties with special teams value. That was the case last year when they took Joshuah Bledsoe in the sixth round.

    Auburn’s Smoke Monday profiles similarly to Bledsoe as a big SEC safety who at one point was viewed as a potential top-100 pick but saw his stock drop leading up to the draft. Monday likes to hit, and his aggressively physical style is the calling card of his game. Most of his production on the ball – eight pass breakups and three interceptions in the last two years – comes from reading the quarterback rather than pure coverage. If he puts on some weight at the next level, he could become a scheme-specific linebacker.

    Yusuf Corker from Kentucky is also a big-time hitter, but isn’t as reliable of a tackler as Monday. Still, he’s able to diagnose plays at a high level, and comes into the NFL with three years of experience as a starter for the Wildcats. He positions himself well in coverage, and had eight pass breakups last season.

  • UDFAs

    PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 12: Isaiah Pola-Mao #21 of the USC Trojans intercepts a pass during the first half of a game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on December 12, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    PASADENA, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 12: Isaiah Pola-Mao #21 of the USC Trojans intercepts a pass during the first half of a game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on December 12, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    Isaiah Pola-Mao of USC is a wrecking ball of a box safety at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds. Pola-Mao has the Football IQ and athleticism to be a three-down player, and at one point in his career was seen as a potential Day 2 pick. However, he’s since dealt with multiple shoulder injuries that cost him time over the last four seasons. He also wasn’t as productive in coverage in 2021, leading to his stock dropping. His overall workup contains a number of ‘ifs,’ but he does have the upside as a contributor in the NFL on defense and special teams.

    A four-star recruit coming out of high school in 2017, Alabama’s Daniel Wright struggled to stay on the field early in his career. He took over a more significant role in 2020, and was a rotational defensive back for Nick Saban in 26 games over the last two years. The Alabama connection and his special teams experience make him a likely target.

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