11. JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Patriots had one of the more underwhelming passing attacks last year, finishing with just 3,815 receiving yards — good for 12th-worst in the NFL.
That’s why Belichick did his best to upgrade the wide receiver room in the offseason, which included signing JuJu Smith-Schuster to a three-year, $33 million deal.
Smith-Schuster, a former Pro-Bowler, joins the Patriots following one of his better campaigns that saw him turn 78 catches into 933 yards and three touchdowns across 16 games. As our new No. 1 WR, it’s not unfathomable to imagine him having a 1,000-yard campaign with Mac Jones.
It’s also easy to forget that Smith-Schuster is relatively young despite this season being his seventh. He’s turned 27 in November and while he likely won’t see any major improvements, I still expect him to be a dangerous pass-catcher that opposing defenses must respect.
After all, he did tally two 100-yard performances while finishing with 70-plus yards seven times in 2022.
Although there are reports that his knee “could explode” at any time, I’m not worried as long as Smith-Schuster continues suiting up. His talent outweighs any potential fears which may not even end up coming to fruition.
10. Ja’Whaun Bentley
Ja’Whaun Bentley consistently shows heart every time he steps foot on the gridiron.
The ex-Purdue product’s non-stop motor helped him have a career year last season. He suited up and started in all 17 of the Patriots’ contests, finishing with a personal-best 125 total tackles while also tallying two defended passes, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
The veteran linebacker also put QBs on notice throughout the campaign, recording 51 blitzes, 11 pressures, six hurries, six QB hits, and three sacks. His usefulness in both the run and passing games was crucial to New England only surrendering 105.5 rushing yards (No. 5) and 216.5 passing yards (No.16) per game.
Bentley will be counted upon to be a consistent starter throughout the 2023 slate. He’s already proven that he can do it all and if the Patriots are to make the playoffs, he must do it again.