Ever since their unprecedented introduction in Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots have always prided themselves on being a complete team.
Head coach Bill Belichick and the front office constantly reaffirm that notion, signing free agents based on value rather than splash, and stockpiling draft picks, all to create a strong middle-class.
While the Patriots can probably rely on Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork to wreak havoc once again at their respective positions, the stars can only propel New England over the top if they have a sturdy foundation to rely upon. During the team's Super Bowl years, hard, unspectacular work from the likes of Troy Brown and Tedy Bruschi made Brady's heroics possible.
The Patriots have turned over their roster the last few seasons, drafting an astounding 35 players since 2010, 24 of which are currently on the roster. Even excluding this year's draft, that makes for 17 out of 28—and that is ignoring such undrafted free agents as Justin Francis, Ryan Wendell and Dane Fletcher.
With a solid core in place, it's time for New England to stop relying so much on its stars, as that top-heavy formula has not produced results in the playoffs. Here then are five players who Patriots fans should expect to help fill that void in 2013.
*Unless otherwise cited, all stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com