The Patriots were generally unharmed by the lockout, especially compared to the rest of the league. Without a ton of rookies expected to start and without much to do in free agency, New England avoided a big impact.
However, the lockout did have an effect on some of the Patriots' younger players. Here are the five players most impacted by the lockout (ranked from 5-1, with 1 being the most impacted):
5. ILB Brandon Spikes — When you consider how Spikes ended the season — a four-game suspension and a one-tackle performance in the playoffs — he could have used the extra time to get back into the form he showed early in his rookie season. Spikes should regain his starting spot, but the OTAs would have helped give him a boost on the field and with his confidence.
4. WR Taylor Price — There's a reason that Price remained on the 53-man roster all season, yet was inactive every game but the season finale — the team likes what it sees in him. Price showed some flashes in his only playing time of the season and Patriots receivers usually get a bump in Year Two. With the lockout, Price hasn't gotten the benefit of extra practice reps so that he can provide an impact next season.
3. CB Ras-I Dowling — Dowling has the best chance among the rookies to see playing time and possesses the physicality to challenge the other Patriots cornerbacks for playing time in the nickel. Without a chance to learn Bill Belichick's schemes, Dowling will be behind come training camp. He might have to wait longer than expected to get on the field.
2. WR Brandon Tate — When the Patriots traded Randy Moss, the expectation (and hope) was that Tate would emerge as the team's deep threat. That did not happen, in what was essentially Tate's first season in the pros. Assuming the Patriots stick with what they have at receiver in free agency, Tate could have used a normal offseason to make that Year Two Patriots receiver leap and utilize the speed we see on kickoffs to the offense as a legitimate deep threat.
1. OLT Nate Solder — The Patriots took a number of developmental prospects in April's draft, beginning with their first pick in Solder, a prospect with raw skills who has potential to be the blind-side tackle of the future. If Matt Light is not in New England, the Patriots would have a decision to make at left tackle. In a normal offseason, Solder could have had time to train under ace O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia and prepare to start. Now, it's a long shot to think Solder will be ready to play in his rookie season. The converted tight end is the type of player who needs work before he can step on the field, and he would have benefited greatly from a full offseason with Scarnecchia.