Better, worse or the same? How the Patriots' roster looks after the draft

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Better, worse or the same? Where do the New England Patriots fall on that subjective scale after the 2023 NFL draft -- in which they added 12 new players to the team, with the top three picks being on defense -- compared to the roster at the end of the 2022 season?

One thing that seems clear: Bill Belichick’s personnel investments reflect the desire to construct a physical, tough-minded football team. With the challenge of defending quarterbacks Josh Allen (Bills) and Aaron Rodgers (Jets), and a big-play Dolphins attack, Belichick clearly has placed a high value on a defensive approach that disrupts them.

It’s always a three-phase (offense, defense, special teams) mindset with Belichick’s team-building approach, which sets the stage for a position-by-position breakdown:


Returners: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe

Losses: Brian Hoyer

Additions: Trace McSorley, Malik Cunningham

Better, worse or the same? Same.

One could make the case that the addition of offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, and a revamped offensive system, qualifies it as better, but this is a personnel-based snapshot.

Running backs

Returners: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong Jr., Kevin Harris, J.J. Taylor

Losses: Damien Harris

Additions: James Robinson

Better, worse or the same? Worse.

The veteran Robinson could provide more value in the passing game, but his health is a question based on the contract he signed (with injury waivers) after being limited to 11 games with the Jaguars and Jets last season. Harris’ hard-charging inside running will be missed.

Wide receivers

Returners: DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, Kendrick Bourne, Tre Nixon, Lynn Bowden Jr.

Losses: Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor

Additions: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kayshon Boutte (draft), Demario Douglas (draft)

Better, worse or the same? Same.

Meyers led all Patriots receivers in catches each of the past three seasons, but the team wasn't aggressive in retaining him compared to its pursuit of Smith-Schuster, who has higher-end physical traits but hasn’t been as durable.

Tight ends

Returners: Hunter Henry, Matt Sokol, Scotty Washington

Losses: Jonnu Smith

Additions: Mike Gesicki, Johnny Lumpkin

Better, worse or the same? Better.

Gesicki isn’t a glass-eater who will be on the line of scrimmage and mix it up consistently as a blocker, but he had 73 receptions two seasons ago with the Dolphins. Now he’s coming to an offense that fits him better, as O’Brien has a history of moving tight ends around into various spots to tap into Gesicki’s receiver-type profile. O’Brien had recruited Gesicki to Penn State during his tenure as head coach (2012-2013) and Belichick has noted the challenge of facing him in the NFL, saying: “Tough guy to game-plan for. Hard to cover. He is kind of a unique player.”

Offensive line

Returners: Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, Conor McDermott, Yodny Cajuste, James Ferentz, Bill Murray, Chasen Hines, Kody Russey, Andrew Stueber

Losses: Isaiah Wynn, Marcus Cannon

Additions: Riley Reiff, Calvin Anderson, Jake Andrews (draft), Sidy Sow (draft), Atonio Mafi (draft)

Better, worse or the same? Better.

Simply by adding so many reinforcements, the Patriots are more equipped to build a tough, physical line that can overcome inevitable injuries. However, the ceiling of the talent at tackle doesn’t seem as high as desired. The Patriots seem to be eyeing Reiff, 34, for a starting role. “Been in the league for a long time, very experienced guy, played multiple positions,” Belichick said. “Smart, tough guy. Glad we have him.”

Defensive line

Returners: Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise Jr., Daniel Ekuale, Carl Davis Jr., Sam Roberts, Jeremiah Pharms Jr.

Losses: None

Additions: Keion White (DL/LB; draft)

Better, worse or the same? Better.

Barmore (2021 second round) looked unblockable at times late last season, a reminder of his tantalizing potential in a season when he didn’t take the projected sophomore jump, in part due to a knee injury. Adding White in Round 2 makes this an improved unit.


Returners: Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, Anfernee Jennings, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson Sr., DaMarcus Mitchell, Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Ronnie Perkins

Losses: Jamie Collins Sr.

Additions: Marte Mapu (draft; LB/S flex), Chris Board, Olakunle Fatukasi

Better, worse or the same? Better.

Keion White’s violent playing style as a versatile DL/LB type, and Mapu’s downhill aggression, reflect the identity with which the Patriots want to build their defensive and special teams units.


Returners: Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade, Quandre Mosely

Losses: Joejuan Williams

Additions: Christian Gonzalez (draft), Ameer Speed (draft), Isaiah Bolden (draft), Rodney Randle Jr.

Better, worse or the same? Better.

Picking the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Gonzalez in the first round added length to a mostly smaller group, without sacrificing speed. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was at Oregon last season when Gonzalez played there and said: “He doesn’t say much but is a leader by his play. He was all about his business. When we needed plays to be made, he was the guy making those plays, and he made them routinely.”


Returners: Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Joshuah Bledsoe, Brad Hawkins

Losses: Devin McCourty

Additions: None (though versatile Mapu can play safety)

Better, worse or the same? Worse.

McCourty helped keep things together and covered the deep part of the field. There doesn’t seem to be anyone within the group with a similar skill set unless the team considers using a corner like Jonathan Jones at safety.

Special teams

Returners: Nick Folk (kicker), Joe Cardona (snapper), Matthew Slater (coverage), Cody Davis (coverage), Brenden Schooler (coverage), Raleigh Webb (coverage), Tucker Addington (snapper)

Losses: Jake Bailey (punter), Michael Palardy (punter)

Additions: Chad Ryland (draft; kicker), Bryce Baringer (draft; punter), Chris Board (coverage), Corliss Waitman (punter)

Better, worse or the same? Better.

There is a projection that draft picks Ryland and Baringer will develop into solid pros, but it’s hard to imagine the punting (ranked last in 2022) and kickoffs could be worse than they were in 2022. And the coverage breakdowns have also been addressed, with Belichick calling Board the best special teams player the team faced in 2022, when he was with the Lions. Director of player personnel Matt Groh on draft picks Ryland and Baringer: “To be able to add two of the very top players at their positions certainly was an opportunity that we didn't want to pass up on.”