Deion Branch, Donte' Stallworth vie for Patriots spot


Training camp is finally almost here. They allow tackling there and everything. Around the League will count down the top 30 position battles to watch throughout the preseason.

Position Battle No. 20. New England Patriots WR: Deion Branch vs. Donte' Stallworth

Top 30 training camp position battles

No. 30: Seahawks running backs
No. 29: Packers No. 3 receiver
No. 28: Broncos backup running back
No. 27: Bengals cornerbacks
No. 26: Raiders backup quarterback
No. 25: Cardinals receiver
No. 24: Jets right tackle
No. 23: Jets linebacker
No. 22: Redskins running back
No. 21: Giants No. 3 receiver
No. 20: Patriots receiver
No. 19: Colts tight end
No. 18: Rams receivers
No. 17: Jaguars quarterbacks
No. 16: Bears wide receivers
No. 15: NFL safety battles
No. 14: Jaguars No. 2 receiver
No. 13: Bears left tackle
No. 12: Randy Moss vs. Father time
No. 11: Lions receivers
No. 10: Cardinals running back
No. 9: Ravens pass rusher
No. 8: Dolphins quarterback
No. 7: Buccaneers running back
No. 6: Steelers defensive end
No. 5: Dolphins wide receiver
No. 4: Cardinals quarterback
No. 3: The Oakland Raiders
No. 2: Titans quarterback
No. 1: Seahawks quarterback

• Both players eye one last run after long careers. Both players know the Patriot Way. We suspect there is only room for one of them.

• Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney should be roster locks. Special teamers Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman are likely to make the team. That leaves Branch and Stallworth fighting it out for the role of "well-known veteran" looking for a ring.

• Branch topped 700 yards last year in New England on craftiness alone. He struggles to separate and seemed to gain most of his yards when Brady extended the play and the two longtime friends improvised. He's only 32, but he plays older.

• Stallworth has greater speed and special teams ability. The Patriots prize versatility, which would seem to give Stallworth an edge.

Projected winner: Branch. The New England Patriots occasionally keep old trusty favorites around an extra year on scholarship. (Think Kevin Faulk last year.) Brady loves Branch. This should be Branch's farewell tour.