New England Patriots' 53-man projection has two undrafted players

The New England Patriots must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Here’s a final 53-man roster projection (one spot left open for the inevitable acquisition of a player from another team or waiver wire):

QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Some outside speculation has swirled about the Patriots possibly not keeping Brissett, a 2016 third-round pick, but given the value of the position, it seems like a risky move for the club to let him go. Not to mention that Garoppolo is in the last year of his contract and Brissett -- who has off-the-charts intangibles -- would be an in-house candidate to bump up to the No. 2 spot in 2018 if Garoppolo is elsewhere. Brissett accounted well for himself in Thursday's preseason finale, going 28-of-39 for 340 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception.

RUNNING BACK (5): Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden

This is arguably the deepest position on the Patriots’ roster, with Bolden on the bubble but making the cut here because of his value as a core special-teamer. D.J. Foster is worthy of strong consideration for a spot on the 53-man roster and it would be a coup if the team could bring him back on the practice squad. He still might make the roster.

FULLBACK (1): James Develin

Develin brings a physical edge to the offense and has spent more time long-snapping in practice since first dabbling with it at Brown University, as he is an emergency option (the old Rob Ninkovich role) behind Joe Cardona.

WIDE RECEIVER (4): Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell

With Julian Edelman suffering a season-ending torn right ACL, more will be expected of each of them. It would be ideal if 2017 undrafted free agent Austin Carr and 2016 seventh-round pick Devin Lucien make it to the practice squad. One thing to keep an eye on is Mitchell's health (knee), as his availability has been a bit of a moving target.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy

O’Shaughnessy gets the nod over 2017 undrafted free agent Jacob Hollister for the final spot (assuming there isn’t an acquisition from another team) because of his extensive background on special teams. If Hollister clears waivers, the Patriots would likely welcome him back to the practice squad. There is no guarantee the Patriots keep a third tight end.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle

With 2017 third-round pick Tony Garcia having been sidelined for undisclosed reasons since the early part of training camp, he could be a strong candidate for the injured reserve list. The toughest call could be with 2017 sixth-round draft choice Conor McDermott and whether he’s worthy of a spot on the 53, as he is a solid developmental prospect with top intangibles. Guard/tackle Cole Croston, an undrafted rookie from Iowa, is also worthy of consideration for a roster spot.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler

The Patriots’ ability to control the line of scrimmage starts with this group, with Butler -- a 2017 undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt -- one of the surprise stories of camp. He was held out of the preseason finale, an indication he has solidified a spot on the roster.

DEFENSIVE END (3): Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise Jr., Harvey Langi

The retirement of Ninkovich, a season-ending torn ACL for top draft pick Derek Rivers (third round, No. 83 overall) and the Kony Ealy trade not producing the hopeful results leave the Patriots a bit lean at this spot. That’s why linebackers/edge players such as Dont’a Hightower could factor into this mix. I’m also leaving open a spot for a potential addition from another team. Langi, a 2017 undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young, might have earned a spot by showing he also can contribute on special teams.

LINEBACKER (5): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers

When the Patriots acquired Flowers in a trade with the Bengals on Tuesday, the first thought was that it could mean the team isn’t counting on having Shea McClellin -- who has been out with an undisclosed injury for most of the preseason -- at the outset of the season. McClellin is a big special-teams contributor (Flowers now becomes a core special-teamer) and now could be a candidate for IR. Roberts, a hard-hitting 2016 sixth-round pick from Houston, could still be fighting for a spot after an up-and-down preseason.

CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, Eric Rowe, Justin Coleman

Coleman’s special-teams value and ball skills shown in the preseason make him worthy of a spot on the 53, and Cyrus Jones' right knee injury in the preseason finale creates uncertainty over his availability (and led to him being left off the projection). Coleman didn't play in the preseason finale, while Jones did, which could be another indication that Coleman has earned a spot on the team.

SAFETY (4): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards

Richards, a 2015 second-round pick, was on the bubble but the fact he was held out of the preseason finale might be an indication he makes the roster.

SPECIALISTS (6): Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater (coverage player), Nate Ebner (coverage player), Brandon King (coverage player)

King is part of a core special-teams coverage unit, and his spot is contingent on being healthy (he missed time in camp) and showing his past form.