The 2023 NFL season is here and the New England Patriots are ready to compete. The AFC East is set to be as tight as it ever has been, meaning the margin for error is small if we’re going to avoid missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
The Patriots finished the 2022 campaign with an 8-9 record, but that had a lot to do with injuries and underperformers. Fast forward to 2023 and the roster is healthier with deeper reinforcements than before. There’s no excuse for this team not to be competing for a playoff spot come December.
New England has more than enough talent to get the job done, but that all hinges on everyone playing their part. So, which players will be looked at to guide the ship?
Here are the 15 best Patriots players ranked heading into the 2023 NFL schedule.
15 Best Patriots Players Ranked for 2023
15. Matthew Slater
Special teams players don’t always get the respect that they deserve, so let’s do that for Matthew Slater.
The former 2008 fifth-rounder is entering his 16th NFL season and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. If anything, he continues defying Father Time’s wishes, racking up 10 Pro Bowl appearances while being named All-Pro five times (two first-team, three second-team) since 2011 alone.
Slater is a key cog in the Patriots’ special teams, playing at least 80% of snaps in each of the last three seasons. He’s been productive during that span to the tune of 31 total tackles (13 solo) while also returning seven kicks for 106 yards (15.1 yards per attempt).
Considering how he’s been that solid despite turning 38 before the Patriots even face the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend, Slater’s success is even more impressive.
As long as he continues being his usual self, I won’t be shocked if he adds another Pro Bowl or All-Pro appearance to his résumé this season.
14. Jalen Mills
Jalen Mills has become a New England fan favorite despite only spending two seasons with the organization.
After a disappointing 2021 campaign, Mills looked more like himself last season by finishing with 26 solo tackles, five broken-up passes, and two interceptions even though he was limited to 10 games.
Furthermore, he held opposing quarterbacks to a 60.9% completion rate and 83.4 passer rating (compared to 111.4 in 2021) while giving up two touchdown passes after surrendering seven last year.
Fast forward to the upcoming season when Mills will be moving from cornerback to safety following Devin McCourty’s retirement this offseason. Fortunately, the 29-year-old veteran played safety as recently as the 2020 campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles, allowing a 57.6% completion percentage and 82.0 passer rating across 15 games.
There’s a lot of pressure riding on Mills’ shoulders this year. However, if he can prove that he can fill McCourty’s void, he could find himself higher on next year’s rankings.