Over the past decade, the Patriots have had the most dynamic and exciting offense in football.
They have featured a plethora of big name players, both in their prime and end of their career, including Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Fred Taylor, Matt Cassel, Donte Stallworth, Troy Brown, David Patten, and Antowain Smith.
Coming off a 2010 campaign in which they scored a league-leading 518 points, they have added even more firepower to their offense, bringing back Deion Branch and trading for Chad Ochocinco. Tom Brady has the ability to turn almost any player into a fantasy stud, as he has done with Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead.
Now, with a loaded backfield and two of the top tight ends in the game, we look at this year's offensive rookie class, and possible impact they will have.
It will be difficult to find the touches to go around, but a few of the rookies could find themselves immediately in the middle of the action.
Former Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett
“Big Tex” fell into the Patriots' lap in the 2011 draft, as six other QB's were taken before him.
Belichick probably couldn't have been happier. Mallett threw for 62 touchdowns and just 19 interceptions in his two years at Arkansas, but character concerns caused him to tumble all the way to pick 74 in the draft.
However, the Patriots have shown in recent years that character concerns mean very little to them, and instead they saw a physically gifted QB that helped transform an Arkansas team that went 5-7 in 2008 to a National Championship-caliber team in 2010.
Mallett started his pro career on the right foot, throwing for 164 yards and a TD against the Jaguars in the first preseason game of the season. Mallett won't see the field this season unless Brady goes down with an injury, but he certainly could become the Patriots' “QB of the future” under the tutelage of TB12 and backup Brian Hoyer.
Former Fayetteville State RB Richard Medlin
Medlin signed with the Pats as an undrafted free-agent out of Fayetteville State, a school known more for its golf program than football.
As the starting tailback for FSU in 2010, Medlin ran for 772 yards on 144 carries and scored five touchdowns. He was impressive in clean-up duty in the Pats' first preseason game, running for 54 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
But Medlin is merely a camp body, as he is slow and buried beneath six other RB's on the depth chart. He will be a camp causality before the regular season gets under way.
Former LSU RB Stevan Ridley
Ridley, one of LSU's 2010 captains, left school after his junior season in which he ran for 1147 yards and 15 touchdowns.
He found himself taken by the Patriots #73 overall, just a pick before Mallett. Ridley fell further than he had hoped due to a knee injury, but he impressed right off the bat in the Pats first preseason game. The big back rumbled for 64 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 47 receiving yards and a third TD.
Ridley is a younger clone of Sammy Morris, whom he will ultimately end up replacing. Because the Patriots don't “waste” a roster spot on a true fullback, Ridley will assume the role of the “bruiser” in 2011, as his lack of speed hinders him from becoming a primary running back.
He will certainly see his fair share of time on the field, but with Woodhead and Green-Ellis in front of him, he won't eclipse 600 yards for the season.
Former Cal RB Shane Vereen
Like Ridley, Vereen skipped his senior season and was drafted number 56 overall by the Patriots this year.
He spent his sophomore season at Cal as backup to Detroit RB Jahvid Best, but ran for over 2000 yards and 25 touchdowns as the team's primary back in 2009-2010. Vereen is medium in size, but quicker and more pure of a runner then the rest of the backs on the Patriots' roster.
He was locked up with a four-year contract, but the Boston Herald has reported that Vereen will probably spend the season on IR, as he has missed the majority of the preseason due to a hamstring injury.
Look for him to rebound in 2012.
Former Cal WR/KR/PR Jeremy Ross
Ross, an undrafted free-agent signing out of Cal, was mainly a kick and punt returner during his college playing years.
He is thickly built and quick, but is more than likely a camp body. However, even though Brandon Tate has done well as a returner for the Pats, he hasn't caught on as a WR, and may not be in the teams future plans.
Ross could be a dark horse to make the roster as a special teamer if he performs well in the team's remaining preseason games.
Former Marshall TE Lee Smith
After the Pats took Smith in the fifth round out of Marshall this year, they proceeded to cut blocking tight end Alge Crumpler.
Smith comes known for his blocking ability and above average intelligence, and would be the team's third TE after Hernandez and Gronkowski. But he failed to record a reception after three targets against the Jaguars, and even though he would be a blocking specialist, the Patriots like their TE's to be multi-functional in order to avoid defensive planning based on personnel.
Smith will compete with Will Yeatman for the final roster spot at TE, and will either end up cut or on the practice squad if he fails to win the battle. Even if he nabs a roster spot, he won't amass more then ten catches in 2011.
Former Maryland TE Will Yeatman
Yeatman transferred to Maryland for his final football season after spending the better part of college at Notre Dame.
The athletic TE played lacrosse for Maryland, and only pursued football after dropping out of the LX Pro Tour. Yeatman has mostly been used as a blocker, catching just 21 passes in three years of collegiate football.
But he is more athletic than Lee Smith, whom he will compete with for the third TE spot, and even if he ends up cut he will surely get another look elsewhere or end up on the practice squad. Don't expect any production from him in 2011 either way.