Patriots & the Dream Team

ESPN.com unveils its "Dream Team" project in which it asks readers to decide which players will be the NFL's biggest stars from 2014-16. Ballots are provided for offensive and defensive players.

I like the viewpoint of Mike Sando, who covers the NFC West, when it comes to the Dream Team:

"To the weary, our Dream Team project smells like an attempt to mask the NFL lockout's foul odor with cologne we wouldn't consider wearing during less malodorous times," Sando writes. "Go ahead and inhale. I've opened a window and sniffed out greater meaning from the ballots showing players deemed most likely to succeed well down the road, beginning in 2014. The ballots aren't perfect. I'm sure we could justify subbing in a few players into the eight spots set aside for each position. But in looking at the bigger picture, these ballots offer insight into which teams arguably have the most appealing young core players."

When looking at the "Dream Team" through that lens, the Patriots take up seven spots on ballots -- coach Bill Belichick, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, linebacker Jerod Mayo, cornerback Devin McCourty, center Dan Koppen, kick returner Brandon Tate and safety Brandon Meriweather.

As noted by Sando, Green Bay and Buffalo each placed nine players on ballots, which was the highest total in the league. Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Arizona were represented eight times, followed by San Francisco, the New York Giants and New England with seven apiece.

So when it comes to perception, the Patriots' youth and coaching stacks up favorably.

At the same time, here are thoughts on five Patriots who deserved to be on the ballot and who would be knocked off to make room:

Patrick Chung -- Safety would have received the nod here over teammate Brandon Meriweather.

Julian Edelman -- Has the makings of a top-flight NFL punt returner, and wouldn't hurt to add a fourth option on ballot.

Rob Gronkowski -- Tight end will be entering his prime while Dallas' Jason Witten nears the end of his career.

Zoltan Mesko -- With only three punters on the ballot, 2010 fifth-round pick with the powerful left leg deserves a spot at the table.

Sebastian Vollmer -- Second-team All-Pro selection in 2010 in just his second season, he could knock of a handful of offensive tackles on ballot, starting with Branden Albert and all 2011 first-round picks.