Checking the locks: Patriots' DEs

As part of this slow time on the NFL calendar, when we'll be taking a break to recharge for the 2014 season, we introduce the pre-produced "checking the locks" series in which we analyze the players on the New England Patriots' roster who are "locks" to stick. Today, it's defensive ends.

Sure-fire locks: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Zach Moore

Near locks: Will Smith, Michael Buchanan

Trying to get in the door: Jake Bequette

ANALYSIS: Some might view it as a surprise that Moore, the sixth-round pick from Concordia-St. Paul (198th overall), is viewed as a "sure-fire" lock when it's possible he doesn't play much in 2014. But the feeling here is Moore was selected with a two-year plan in mind (he comes from a lower level of competition) and he is a sure-fire lock based on his top physical traits and testing results (e.g. 10-yard split). He's an intriguing prospect to monitor over the next two years, as first-year defensive line coach Brendan Daly will be one of the main staffers working with him on development. Buchanan, the 2013 seventh-round pick, showed some upside as a pass-rusher and has a significant role on special teams, while the presence of 11-year veteran Will Smith potentially puts 2012 third-round pick Jake Bequette on the outside looking in if everyone is healthy.