New England Patriots: Which Young Pats Will Be the Team's Next Big Stars?
The New England Patriots are one of the few team's in NFL history to rebuild, but maintain being competitive. Last season, with an extremely young defense, New England managed to go 14-2—which was just gravy for Pats' fans.
The Patriots have the youngest team in the league, and are looking to return to their "dynasty-days" form.
Out of all of New England's young and up-and-coming players, which ones will be "studs," leaders and player-makers of the future for New England?
(Keep in mind that Devin McCourty and Jerod Mayo have already established themselves as some of the league's best).
NOTE: This article was first seen at PatriotsPlus.net.
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Tight End Aaron Hernandez
2010 was Aaron Hernandez' rookie season, and it was a year to remember.
Hernandez played in 14 games while recording 45 catches and scoring six touchdowns, while being the youngest player in the NFL.
The most intriguing attributes about Hernandez is his athletic and muscular frame. Hernandez is built like running back, as tall as a tight end and as fast a wide receiver—he's that much of a mismatch headache.
Outside Linebacker Jermaine Cunningham
Jermaine Cunningham played 15 games in 2010 for the New England Patriots. Playing as a rookie, Cunningham recorded 28 tackles and one lone sack.
Cunningham is projected to be a pass rushing outside linebacker, but will need to improve on his technique—he does have all the right intangibles to be special.
Inside Linebacker Brandon Spikes
The former Florida Gator had a great rookie season for the Patriots in 2010.
Spikes recorded 38 tackles in 12 games for New England. In those 12 games, Spikes also had one interception and three pass deflections.
Expect Spikes and Jerod Mayo to be one of the league's best inside linebacker tandem.
Offensive Tackle Sebastian Vollmer
New England's second year tackle Sebastian Vollmer played in all 16 games for the Patriots last season.
Vollmer has showed he can play both left tackle and right tackle and can stop players like Indianapolis Colts' defensive end Dwight Freeney.
In Vollmer's career, he's only allowed 2.5 sacks in a total of 30 games.
Tight End Rob Gronkowski
New England's other young tight end Rob Gronkowski played in all 16 games as a rookie in 2010.
In those 16 games, Gronkowski caught 42 passes for 546 yards and a franchise record 10 touchdowns (most touchdowns as a rookie tight end).
Along with Hernandez, Gronkowski will cause many problems for opposing team's defenses.
Running Back Danny Woodhead
Danny Woodhead can be one of the league's top running backs if used correctly—and that's what New England has done.
In 2010, Woodhead averaged an impressive 5.6 yards-per-carry and scored five touchdowns on the ground. However, Woodhead can be an elite receiver out of the backfield as well. Woodhead reeled in 34 passes for 379 yards and one touchdown.
Expect Woodhead to have a breakout season in 2011.
Wide Receiver Taylor Price
Taylor Price is certainly a stretch, but I feel that he has all the right intangibles to excel in New England's offense.
2010 was Price's rookie season, and he only played in one game. However, in that week 17 game for Price, he was pretty stellar. Price caught three passes 41 yards, and looked extremely fast and quick in space.
Expect Price's role to increase tremendously in 2011.
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