Former role players have made a habit of turning into starters and core players for the Patriots. Whether it was Chris Hogan, James White, or Malcolm Butler, that happens. The player this year probably played a depth role last season and is ready to take the next step.
Jonathan Jones, CB, Second Year, Auburn
Jones played primarily on special teams last season while mixing in a couple snaps on defense here and there. He is the first candidate to break out because he has the potential to break out. When he played on defense, he was solid. Jones has a small frame, coming in at 5’9″ and 183lbs. Comparing him to Malcolm Butler in that regard is fair- Butler is 5’11” and 190lbs. Jones definitely earned the trust of Belichick by spending so much time on special teams. He has the opportunity to become a solid slot corner for the upcoming season.
Cyrus Jones, CB, Second Year, Alabama
Cyrus Jones was a complete disaster on the return game last season. Fumbling and just being awful all over the field. But he wasn’t that bad in coverage. While at Alabama he was solid in coverage and was an excellent tackler. Being a strong tackler is what makes or breaks you in the Patriots secondary. Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler are both great tacklers and were the main reasons why the Patriots won the Super Bowl. After spending a second rounder on him just a year ago, it is an interesting situation. Calling a second round pick a breakout candidate isn’t normal, but this is not a normal situation. If he doesn’t turn it around, Bill cutting him wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world.
Jordan Richards, S, Third Year, Stanford
Richards was a shock of a pick three years ago in the second round. When he was drafted, pretty much everyone ripped the selection, calling it a stretch. Which wasn’t out of order. Bill has made a habit of making “stretch” selections, but he has earned the right to pick anyone he wants where he wants. Richards has barely seen the field on defense. He comes out mainly when the game is out of reach or all hell has broken loose with the safeties. Really, Richards could find himself off the team if he doesn’t do something that qualifies himself as useful. But, if he turns the corner, he could be key to getting rest for the some of the starting safeties. Chung and McCourty play nearly 90% or more of defensive snaps every game. Getting them some rest would be great as the season progresses.
Vincent Valentine, DT, Second Year, Nebraska
The big man in the middle could become a core player along the defensive line. Overtaking Malcolm Brown as a starter is not crazy to think. Brown has not been awesome since being taken in the first round. Valentine has a similar build to Brown, which both are not that far off from Alan Branch. Valentine will be the popular pick to break out, as he should be. The fan base in New England has missed having a Big Vince. Vincent Valentine could be the next Big Vince.