This isn’t the best collection of talent around Tom Brady, but it’s close. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

The 2017 NFL season marked Pro Football Focus’s 12th collecting data on every single play of every single NFL game. Next Sunday will also mark the fifth time in that span that the New England Patriots will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. With grades on all those rosters heading into the big game, let’s see how this year’s Patriots team stacks up talent-wise with the other four.

1. 2007

Overall Off. Pass Rec. Rush Pass block Run block Def. Run def. Pass rush Pass cover Special teams
2007 1 1 2 2 2 20 1 2 4 7 11 11

This team was in a class of its own. Everyone knows about the offense. It had Randy Moss in his prime. Tom Brady in his prime. Wes Welker in his prime. The offensive line featured Logan Mankins and Matt Light blocking for Laurence Maroney in the best season of his career (he broke 16 tackles in three playoff games).

What fewer people remember is that this was arguably the best defense the Pats have had as well. Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren had the third- and 13th-best run-stop percentages, respectively, among interior defenders (back when run defense mattered in the NFL). Adalius Thomas made a ridiculous 11 pressures in that Super Bowl. On the back end, Asante Samuel allowed catches at the 13th-lowest rate of any corner that year and Rodney Harrison was a top-20 graded safety.

2. 2017

Overall Off. Pass Rec. Rush Pass block Run block Def. Run def. Pass rush Pass cover Special teams
2017 5 1 1 9 7 8 1 26 23 32 11 22

This is nearly an identical roster to 2016 except for one huge difference – a healthy Rob Gronkowski. They subbed Brandin Cooks in for Julian Edelman offensively and Stephon Gilmore in for Logan Ryan defensively. Cooks has added a downfield dimension to the offense that wasn’t present last year with 608 deep receiving yards during the regular season – the second-most in the NFL. Gilmore has been a significant upgrade on the back end as well, receiving the highest grade of any corner in the league from Week 12 on.

The front-seven has taken a couple hits from a season ago with the injury to Dont’a Hightower and losses of Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard, but James Harrison and Trey Flowers’s breakout have mitigated that in the postseason.

This offense is a different animal with Gronk healthy. His 2.32 yards per route, including the postseason, is far and away the best among tight ends this year.

3. 2011

Overall Off. Pass Rec. Rush Pass block Run block Def. Run def. Pass rush Pass cover Special teams
2011 2 2 4 1 16 12 4 13 7 18 25 6

This was arguably the top offensive line Brady has had in any of his Super Bowls. Their starters and their rank among all players at their position (left and right tackles are grouped together, as are left and right guards) can be seen below.

Postion Player Grade Rank
LT Matt Light 83.3 17th
LG Logan Mankins 81.9 22nd
C Dan Connolly 72.5 26th
RG Brian Waters 87.3 6th
RT Sebastian Vollmer 80.8 27th

This was the now-infamous two-tight-end season that featured both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez heavily. Gronk’s 95.7 overall grade that season is still the PFF single-season record for the position while Hernandez’s 89.0 was fourth-best at the position.

Defensively, this was Rob Ninkovich in his prime. He played 1,126 snaps, including the postseason, his first season of five straight playing over 1,000 snaps.

4. 2016

Overall Off. Pass Rec. Rush Pass block Run block Def. Run def. Pass rush Pass cover Special teams
2016 1 2 1 2 31 11 5 1 3 25 3 10

Besides the players mentioned previously, the other key advantage the 2016 team had over this year’s version was right tackle Marcus Cannon. He was PFF’s second-team All-Pro right tackle and his 91.1 overall grade in the Super Bowl was the highest of any Patriot. It’s still amazing to think that this team won it all after trading away their best pass-rusher, Chandler Jones, before the season, and their best linebacker, Jamie Collins, midseason. With those two and Gronk healthy this roster would be the only one that could have challenged 2007.

5. 2014

Overall Off. Pass Rec. Rush Pass block Run block Def. Run def. Pass rush Pass cover Special teams
2014 9 17 5 8 8 32 19 7 6 29 3 14

This roster had a ton of holes that got swept under the rug by the handful of elite players. Brady (86.9 overall season grade) and Gronk (93.1) carried the offense while Collins (88.8), Hightower (91.7), Devin McCourty (87.9) and Darrelle Revis (88.8) were nearly the entire defense. This was easily the worst offensive line with which Brady ever got to the Super Bowl. They finished dead last that season in pass-blocking grade and 19th in run-blocking.

It was also the worst defensive line with which the Pats made the Super Bowl. Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich were on their last legs while Jones was inconsistent and injured that year. They ranked 29th in pass-rushing as a team that season yet still got it done when it mattered most.

Mike Renner is a writer for Pro Football Focus and a contributor to The Washington Post’s NFL coverage.

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