New England Patriots' Player Power Rankings: First Quarter of the Season Edition
The New England Patriots are off to what some would call a disappointing 2-2 start. Despite that, there have been standout performers across most units on the roster through the team's first four games.
Here is a look at how all of those wearing the Patriots' red, white and blue stack up against each other thus far.
1. QB Tom Brady-
There was never a doubt who number one would be, All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady was back to his old self Sunday, throwing three touchdown passes and running in another. The success and failure of this team, as always, lies heavily on the shoulders of No. 12.
2. TE Rob Gronkowski-
The freakishly athletic tight end continues to be a gigantic part of the Patriot offense and has excelled both as a pass catcher and a blocker. He may not break his own records from a year ago, but Gronkowski looks primed for another outstanding season.
3. DT Vince Wilfork-
Vince Wilfork has been a large factor in the middle of the New England defense to no one's surprise. Through the first four games he has been seen batting down balls, destroying receivers and eating up the run game. In his second year in the 4-3, Wilfork may have one of his best seasons yet.
4. LG Logan Mankins-
Though Logan Mankins is currently battling a hip injury, there was no way to not rank him high up on this list. He is without a doubt the team's top offensive lineman and one of the best in the league. His physicality and toughness is greatly missed whenever he is out of the lineup.
5. TE Aaron Hernandez-
The other man in the pair of the Patriots' outstanding tight ends, Hernandez is one of the most versatile players in the National Football League. Before an ankle injury knocked him out for a few weeks, he looked primed for a terrific 2012 campaign. With him returning to practice, it looks like the Patriot offense may be that much more dangerous soon enough.
6. WR Wes Welker-
Despite early season controversies over playing time, Welker has sprung back into his familiar, productive form. It will be interesting to see what happens upon the return of Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman, but it looks like Welker will have the standout contract year he hoped for.
7. RB Stevan Ridley-
The second-year back has taken up the reins left by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and has not looked back. Ridley ranks ninth in the NFL in rushing at the quarter mark with 339 yards. Pairing him with rookie Brandon Bolden looks to be a potential long-term one-two punch.
8. WR Brandon Lloyd-
The free-agent acquisition Lloyd has become a quick favorite of Tom Brady, holding the team lead for receptions with Welker. Lloyd adds a big-play ability to the outside—showcased with his dicing catch touchdown Sunday—that the team sorely lacked a season ago.
9. DE Chandler Jones-
The Patriots finally drafted a pass rusher high and it has paid off. Chandler Jones has a team-high three sacks and has also contributed two forced fumbles. He has made an instant impact that the team greatly needed from him.
10. LB Jerod Mayo-
The defensive captain once again leads the team in tackles and brings a steadying presence to the Patriot defense. He may not be the biggest playmaker, but he is the kind of player you need to show others the way.
11. LB Brandon Spikes-
Spikes is a player the team greatly benefits from whenever he is on the field. He is a hard-hitting force that makes players think twice before running his way. He has a history of injury problems which he needs to stay away from in order for the team to rely upon him.
12. DT Kyle Love-
Kyle Love has done nothing but improve ever since joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and is now a man you can rely upon next to Vince Wilfork on the interior of the Patriot defensive line.
13. RT Sebastian Vollmer-
Despite some struggles early in the season, Sebastian Vollmer is the Patriots' second most solid, known commodity on the O-line behind Logan Mankins. He has the ability to dominate and is always better when healthy: Unfortunately for him that is not too often.
14. WR Julian Edelman-
Edelman has emerged as a key option in the Patriots' aerial attack after a quiet stretch of a few years to start off his career. A hand injury has briefly derailed him, but he will step back in and be a top-option at receiver when he is healthy again.
15. RG Dan Connolly-
The only lineman known more for his kick return skills (displayed above) than his blocking, Connolly last year showed he can be a solid player on the interior of the offensive line at any of the three spots.
16. LT Nate Solder-
Despite preseason and early season woes, Nate Solder has shown he is a capable left tackle in the NFL. More often than not, he will get the job done. He will still benefit from being coached up more and perhaps adding some bulk to his frame in the future.
17. RB Brandon Bolden-
The Patriots' rookie running on Sunday displayed just why they were not willing to put him on waivers to get him to practice squad. Bolden and Stevan Ridley became the first Patriot duo to rush for 100 yards each in a game since 1980.
18. LB Dont'a Hightower-
Hightower is a versatile linebacker that Bill Belichick will no doubt have plenty of fun using in different ways. He is a imposing figure in the linebacking corps that New England will greatly benefit from having long term.
19. S Patrick Chung-
In his contract year, Chung has not looked as good in coverage as anyone would like to see from him, including himself. He is still an inside-the-box safety who is best in run support or coming up to deliver a big hit on receivers underneath.
20. CB Devin McCourty- The former first-round corner has shown he is not as good as we saw in 2010, or as bad as we saw in 2011. As long as he can be competitive as he has been thus far, the team will greatly benefit.
21. C Ryan Wendell-
With the release of Dan Koppen, the team made a clear statement that they are comfortable with Ryan Wendell being a starter for them. So far he has not done anything to make people believe it was the wrong move.
22. CB Kyle Arrington-
The NFL's co-leader in interceptions a year ago has had an up-and-down start to the 2012 season, but has not done anything to cost him his starting role.
23. S Tavon Wilson-
In limited time on the field, Wilson has shown a knack for finding the ball. With four takeaways in as many games, he could be the kind of playmaker the team needs at the safety position.
24. P Zoltan Mesko-
Punter Zoltan Mesko may not have the best average at 38.6 yards per punt, but part of that is because 10 of his 16 punts he has not had to boom because he was pinning them inside the 20-yard line.
25. RB Danny Woodhead-
Danny Woodhead is a third-down back that the Patriots still like to use in certain situations, but they seem to have finally realized the diminishing returns they are getting from the veteran runner.
26. S Steve Gregory-
Steve Gregory is a player not many people took note of when the Patriots signed him in free agency, but he is a sure upgrade over the safeties they put on the field a season ago.
27. DE Rob Ninkovich-
Ninkovich may not be best-suited as a full-time defensive end at his frame, but he is a solid player that Bill Belichick clearly likes to keep on the field as much as possible. He showed Sunday with his strip-sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick that he is not completely incapable of beating tackles off the line.
28. K Stephen Gostkowski-
Though he would usually rank higher on this list, Gostkowski's recent kicks have gotten himself and the team into some trouble. First he missed the game-winner against the Cardinals in Week 2, then last week he managed to miss two first-half kicks. He needs to figure out what is wrong, and fast.
29. WR Deion Branch-
The receiver returned to the team in advance of their Week 3 game in Baltimore after being dropped in final cuts. After being back only a few days, Branch was in the lineup and hauled in two passes. No matter who is ahead of him on the depth chart, Branch will always have chemistry with Tom Brady that can be useful in crunch time.
30. WR Matt Slater-
The special teams ace of the Patriots is also one of the more versatile players on the roster. In a pinch he can be used in the secondary or at receiver, but the Patriots would rather he stick to just special teams.
31. DE Jermaine Cunningham-
Cunningham has one sack on the year being utilized as an interior rusher. It would not be a surprise at some point to see him take snaps from Rob Ninkovich at defensive end.
32. LS Danny Aiken-
As a long snapper, if people are not discussing you, chances are that you are doing your job well. To this point that is the story on Aiken.
33. CB Sterling Moore-
The hero of last year's Super Bowl run, Moore has done alright for himself so far this season. He has stolen away Ras-I Dowling's role as the team's nickelback, but has yet to make any real plays.
34. DE Brandon Deaderick-
Deaderick has been banged up plenty so far this season and should take on a decent-sized role in the defense upon his return to full health.
35. G Donald Thomas-
Thomas has had some success and some struggles in his time filling in this season. Sunday, in the absence of Logan Mankins, Thomas and the line allowed the Patriot backs to run roughshod on the Bills defense.
36. TE Daniel Fells-
After being injured most of the offseason and the beginning of the season, Fells now should figure into the mix both as a blocker and a pass-catcher.
37. DE Trevor Scott-
Scott was a player some had high hopes for as a pass-rusher in New England, but his tenure has started off very quietly. He may get a few occasional reps, but is never a regular contributor in any game.
38. QB Ryan Mallett-
Mallett did enough to show the coaching staff that holding onto fourth-year signal-caller Brian Hoyer was not necessary. No one knows what he is truly capable of, and fans do not hope to have to find out anytime soon.
39. CB Marquice Cole-
Cole is a player the Patriots signed that no one had probably even heard of in New England, but he has carved out a niche for himself. He is a core special teams player and has also seen snaps as a reserve corner over second-year player Ras-I Dowling.
40. TE Michael Hoomanawanui-
The reserve tight end has struggled at times with his blocking duties and will be a likely cut when Visanthe Shiancoe is eligible to return from injured reserve.
41. DT Ron Brace-
Brace surprised some just by making this season's final roster. He may play sparingly on defense still, but is clearly not who the Patriots thought they were getting when they drafted him in 2009 in the second round out of Boston College.
42. LB Tracy White-
White is a core special teams player who was forced into the lineup Sunday with the injury to Dont'a Hightower. Clearly the team prefers him to stick to special teams, a likely reason for this week's re-signing of Bobby Carpenter.
43. OL Nick McDonald-
McDonald is another in the long line of versatile, young offensive linemen that the team will look to bring along in Dante Scarnecchia's developmental program.
44. S Nate Ebner-
Ebner surprised many with his fast development into a respectable reserve safety over the course of this summer's training camp. Unfortunately for him, his biggest play so far this season was his blown block that allowed a blocked punt by the Cardinals.
45. OL Marcus Cannon-
Cannon is one of the only options the team has as a backup tackle, but he has shown that he is not one to be trusted. In his time filling in for Sebastian Vollmer earlier in the season, Cannon was beaten regularly.
46. CB Ras-I Dowling
Dowling is a player the team had high hopes for after making him the first pick in the second round a year ago, but he has quickly fallen out of favor. After missing most of last season to injury, he now rarely sees the field.
47. LB Niko Koutouvides-
Koutouvides is a reserve linebacker the team feels good about on special teams and felt the need to bring him back to replace Mike Rivera after the first two weeks.
48. RB Shane Vereen-
As much as Dowling has been a disappointment for the defense, Vereen has been for the offense. Nearly the same story, Vereen has battled injuries and now finds himself in a tough spot getting on the field over the team's other three running backs.
49. LB Bobby Carpenter-
Carpenter, like Koutouvides, is a veteran linebacker the Patriots brought back after initially cutting. He could find himself in a starting role immediately if Dont'a Hightower is unable to play this Sunday against the Broncos.
50. DE Justin Francis-
Francis is a versatile defensive lineman out of Rutgers with whom Bill Belichick immediately fell in love. As much as he fell in love with him and gave him run with the starters in camp though, Francis started the season as a healthy scratch.
51. CB Alfonzo Dennard-
Dennard generated a lot of buzz when the Patriots selected him in the seventh round because many had him pegged as a mid-round selection. He has yet to stay healthy enough to show what he can do in real game action and, at this point, even if he were healthy he'd have an uphill battle on the depth chart.
52. DE Jake Bequette-
Many, myself included, thought Bequette could make an immediate impact as a pass-rusher for New England. We were wrong. At this point he holds no role on defense and it would be a surprise if he records even a single sack in his rookie campaign.
53. OL Matt Tennant-
Tennant is a player the Patriots have signed twice since final cuts and it would not be a surprise if he is also released soon for a second time. When Logan Mankins is healthy, the team will have little use for Tennant as an extra interior lineman.