2010 Season In Review: Top Player Additions: New England Patriots

Haris DanaoContributor IJanuary 15, 2011

2010 Season In Review: Top Player Additions: New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 02:  Leigh Bodden #23 breaks up a pass intended for Julian Edelman #11 during the New England Patriots training camp on August 2, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    2009 for the Patriots was a really a difficult year, with player tensions, inconsistent playing, questions, and capping off with a blow out loss in the playoffs.  Many players were added, but not a lot had a lot of impact.  The only real impact players were Free Agent Leigh Bodden (23) and Julian Edelman (11). Bodden was the best cover man on the team and had 5 interceptions on the season while Julian Edelman was a pleasant surprise out of the 7th round. 

    This year, the Patriots have added multiple players through free agency, trade, and the draft. 

    Only players who joined the team this year are eligible (trades, draft, free agency)

    They are judged by their stats, production, team influence, and their possible future with the team

Honorable Mention: Shanye Graham

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    Graham came in the middle of the year after Gostkowski went on the IR.  Graham did what he was asked, making every field goal, yet missing two extra points. 

    Graham missed out cause he didn't do a lot, and missing extra points really drops you on this ranking

    Another reason he's not in the ranks is cause he was just a substitute, and his chances of being back next year are doubtful.

# 10 Dane Fletcher

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    Dane Fletcher was an undrafted rookie who made his share of plays.  His stats may not be great (23 tackles, Two sacks, 13 games) but he made his impacts in the critical moments.  His best high light of the year was forcing an incomplete pass in overtime vs. the Baltimore Ravens. 

    Fletcher is another one of the players that Belichick loves; no named, undrafted rookies, who just play with motivation.  Fletcher has the chance to become a better player under Belichick, who's coached many Patriot linebacker legends such Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrable, and Willie McGinest.

    Fletcher is a rookie, and will have plenty of time to prove what he's capable off

# 9 Alge Crumpler

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 19: Alge Crumpler #82 of the New England Patriots in action against  the New York Jets during their  game on September 19, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Image
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Not a lot of people would really expect Crumpler to be on this list.  But then again not many would understand the unrecorded stats that he delivers

    Because run-blocking, veteranship, and leadership are not recorded, not many would say Crumpler had an impact.  But because of him, the two rookie tight ends have rapidly matured and his presence brings a lot of security to the younger players

    Alge Crumpler run-blocking skills were defined when he was part of an the run-blocking troop for Chris Johnson (you know, the guy who ran for over 2000 yards in 2009).  Crumpler's abilities were able to help get BenJarvus Green-Ellis in into the open field and into the endzone.

    He maybe on the team for a year or two more, and he might retire with the Patriots

#8 Zoltan Mesko

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    FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 12: Zoltan Mesko # 14 and Stephen Gostkowski # 3 of the New England Patriots celebrate their 27 - 24 win over the New Orleans Saints at the end of a preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 12, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Pho
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    I know. A punter on the list? you must be crazy.

    Well no, Mesko is a great player.  He can change field position extremely well, just watch the Baltimore Raven's game where he had a 60+ yard punt.

    Mesko's fit's into the Belichick obsession of great special teams plays. While he is not always consistent, he can punt high, long, and deep, and does a good job of avoiding touchbacks.

    Mesko's punts had a gross average of 42.2 yards, and a net yard average of 38.6 (that's pretty good)

    As he continues to grow, he'll be able to master his talent, and become a Patriot for years to come.

#7 Jermaine Cunningham

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    CHICAGO - DECEMBER 12: Jermaine Cunningham #96 of the New England Patriots rushes past J'Marcus Webb #73 of the Chicago Bears towards Jay Cutler #6 at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Patriots defeated the Bears 36-7. (Photo by
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Jermaine Cunningham by no means made had any spectacular numbers (27 tackles, 1 sack,  Two forced fumbles)

    What he does have that many rookies, even veteran players, don't have is that he forced Peyton Manning into making a bad throw

    Jermaine Cunningham was one of the teams better pass rusher, the only problem was that he wasn't able to close the deal.

    He had the speed and strength to get by very good offensive lineman, but just needed to close better. 

    Besides that, he had a very good rookie season, and he will continue to get better learning from Tully Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich

# 6 Brandon Spikes

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  (L-R) Devin McCourty #32, Brandon Spikes #55 and Vince Wilfork #75 of the New England Patriots celebrate after McCourty intercepted a pass in the third quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 i
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Brandon Spikes made his impact early, and often.

    He was a good tackler, and a had an impact on that linebacking corp.

    His 61 tackles, 3 pass defensed, and 1 interception were spectacular in just 12 games, especially when playing with Jerod Mayo who got 175 tackles.

    He was suspended for the final four regular season games for violating the NFL drug policy.

    His absence was felt when the team had difficulty staying physical against opponents.

    His skills were built on power, so he was able to stop the run very well, yet speed was something he wasn't not the best at.

    Spikes will be a Patriot for a long time, but only if he avoids making mistakes like these.

# 5 Deion Branch

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Deion Branch #84 of the New England Patriots smiles late in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    While Branch was already a Patriot early on, he joined the team this year.

    Branch made an impact from the start with 9 catches for 98 yards and a critical touchdown in his debut return in the Baltimore-Ravens game  (a lot of players showed up for that game on this list)

    His route-running abilities and his chemistry with Tom Brady revitalized the former Super Bowl MVP.  With Randy Moss gone, many were wondering who will play opposite of Wes Welker that could present a challenge.

    Not only has Branch been a challenge, he's also be a tormentor of defensive players.  His 74 yard touchdown against the Lions, his touchdown on 4th down against the Jets, his touchdown against the Bears before halftime.  This guy just shows up and just makes defenses kick themselves.  While most of that is from Brady's amazing passes, only Branch has ever shown all the skills that seem to maximize what Brady likes to do

    His stats with the Patriots are 48 receptions for 706 yards and 5 touchdown in 11 games

    At 31, he's aging for a reciever.  But he still has his intelligence and quick moves and should stay with the team for at least 2-3 more years.

# 4 Aaron Hernandez

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Aaron Hernandez #85 of the New England Patriots scores a 1-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    This guy is a freak! He is a tight end, but plays like a wide receiver.  His slender built, quick feet, route running skills, and great jumping ability, you don't know what to expect when he has the ball in his hands.

    He's the only tight end I know who's ever did an end-around and picked up great yardage.  He was leading the team early on in yardage, so we know he makes every catch matter.  In the 2nd half of the year, he went from first downs, to touchdowns, picking up 4 touchdowns in the last 8 games, where he only had 2 in the 1st 8.

    His rapid maturation can be in part to Alge Crumpler, who helped Hernandez become a better leader blocker and run routes a little tighter

    Aaron Hernandez was a steal in the draft, and has a good 5-6 years with the team at the very least

# 3 Danny Woodhead

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 26:  Danny Woodhead #39 of the New England Patriots runs against the Buffalo Bills  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Whatever you do, don't call Danny Woodhead little.  He might be short, but not little

    Undrafted and cut from the Jets in 2010, he's played all season with a chip on his shoulders

    When he was given a chance to play on Monday Night against the Dolphins, he shined.  From there on, he's just gashed opposing defenses over and over.  His combination of quick feet, strong running, and his height (most players can't even see him behind the offensive line), he is a constant threat, running, receiving, and special teams.

    Woodhead has quickly established himself as a fan favorite, and is a great player without all the large contracts, and high profile personality

    He's just a blue-collar guy who does whatever he's asked, just how Belichick likes it

    97 rushes, 34 catches and 926 total yards from scrimmage, he's a multi-threat

    His story has one the hearts of many, and already has a two-year contract extension

    If his production continues, we'll see Woodhead for many years to come

# 2 Rob Gronkowski

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    PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 14:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 14, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    In the last 10 years, the Patriots have not have much success with tight ends

    This year has been completely different.

    Not only has Gronkowski has brought life back to the tight end position, he's has had a marvelous year (42 catches, 546 yards and 10 touchdown)

    His captured many Patriots rookie records, including most receiving touchdowns in a rookie season.

    One of Gronkowski's advantages that earlier tight ends might not have had was being  drafted by your favorite team.  If you watched the draft, you know that Gronkowski is a Patriots fan.  The extra motivation of playing for your favorite team has propelled him to being a Pro Bowl nominee in his first season.

    He's brought back life to the Patriots offense, not only as a great intermediate receiver, but is a good run-blocker.

    With many more years to develop, Gronkowski has the chance of being one of the best tight ends in Patriots history

    The only reason he isn't number 1 is because of one player who just was a little better

# 1 Devin McCourty

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    DETROIT - NOVEMBER 25:  Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots intercepts the ball during the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 25, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. New England defeated Detroit 45-24.  (Photo
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    When he was drafted, you can bet many were confused.  We need a pass rusher, and we get a defensive back.  At first I thought it was waste, we already had Bodden and Darius Butler, who were both pretty good.

    Then the Bodden gets injured, Butler benched and 16 games later, McCourty has 80 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 1 sack and elected to the Pro Bowl

    Once again the genius of Bill Belichick exceeds our comprehension.

    Not only did McCourty revived that secondary, he revived that defense.  His impact basically made every other player better

    One of the characteristics that made McCourty number one is is his personality: Calm, mature, humble, and a hard worker, fitting right into the Patriots way

    His shutdown corner skills brings back everything the Patriots have been missing since the loss of Asante Samuel.  He is also extremely disciplined and nothing is too physical for him.

    It should only be befitting that the best addition on the team was a 1st round pick that many would pick for the Patriots. 

    From no name, to Pro Bowl Name, his future with the team looks as bright as one player's can be