Mac Jones

Patriots fare poorly in ESPN's new ranking of every NFL team's core

The Patriots have a severe lack of high-end talent.

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The New England Patriots have a bunch of good players and some pretty solid depth throughout their roster as the 2023 NFL season approaches, but one thing holding this team back in regards to being a legit contender in the AFC is a severe lack of elite talent.

For the last two decades, the Patriots have often had several top five and/or top 10 players at different positions. The obvious one was, of course, Tom Brady at quarterback. Throughout Brady's 20-year career in Foxboro from 2000 through 2019, the Patriots' core of their five-best players matched up better than pretty much every other team's five-best players.

That's no longer the case. The Patriots don't have a top five player at any offensive or defensive position. They might not even have a top 10 player, either.

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ESPN recently ranked the core (defined as the top five players on the roster) of all 32 teams.

The Patriots came in at No. 27. ESPN identified the Patriots' core as Mac Jones, Matthew Judon, Kyle Dugger, Josh Uche and Michael Onwenu. Rhamondre Stevenson probably should be included over Onwenu. Either way, this group doesn't really stack up to a lot of other cores around the league.

Making matters worse for the Patriots is the competition in the AFC. Twelve of the top 20 teams in ESPN's ranking come from the AFC. Each team in the AFC East is ranked inside the top 10, except the Patriots.

No. 27: New England Patriots

No. 8: New York Jets

No. 5: Buffalo Bills

No. 4: Miami Dolphins

So, not only is the Patriots' core less than stellar, many of their top division and conference competitors are in a much better spot.

We can debate whether the Patriots' core is actually the sixth-worst in the league, but we should all be able to agree that this roster lacks the required amount of high-end talent to be a serious threat in the playoffs. And, quite frankly, there might not be enough talent on this roster to even make the playoffs in 2023. In fact, the Patriots are underdogs to make the playoffs at most sportsbooks.

How do the Patriots move up on ESPN's ranking of the best NFL cores in 2024? They need several of their young players to take a step (or two) in their development this season. Guys like Stevenson, Uche, Dugger, Christian Barmore and first-round pick Christian Gonzalez are part of that group.

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