1. RB -- Stevan Ridley vs. Shane Vereen. The two young backs were taken within 17 picks of each other in the second and third rounds of the 2011 draft. Ridley, who was taken later, busted onto the scene with an impressive 5.1 yards-per-carry average on 87 carries before two fumbles down the stretch landed him on the bench. Vereen had consistent hamstring problems from the get go and wound up with 15 carries (3.8 average). Vereen is now healthy and is supposed to be the more explosive of the two. He’ll have to prove that in camp to surge past Ridley, who was impressive before fumbles cost him his job.

2. WR -- Deion Branch vs. Donte' Stallworth.The Patriots usually take six receivers, and four spots are set: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and special teams ace Matthew Slater. That leaves two (possibly three) spots open. Julian Edelman should edge out rookie Jeremy Ebert for one of the spots, so that will likely leave Branch, 33, and Stallworth, 31, battling for the final spot. Branch is a favorite of Tom Brady and is Old Reliable on the outside. He catches everything and is still good in a short area. But Branch’s explosiveness is gone. Stallworth showed good hops in minicamp and even dabbled in kick returns. Branch can’t do any special teams, so if Stallworth can show consistent hands in camp, he may have an edge. Both are working on one-year deals.

3. S -- James Ihedigbo vs. Josh Barrett vs. Nate Ebner vs. Sergio Brown. The Patriots have always kept four safeties, although that might change since Bill Belichick seems to be moving towards having more CB/S tweeners to help in sub packages. Three spots are locked: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson. The remaining spot will be a battle. Ihedigbo is a grizzled veteran but is limited physically. Barrett started last season before poor play and an injury shelved him. He has shed some bulk, so he may move better this season. Ebner will have to be a special-teams hero to earn spot. That’s where Brown excels, but he’ll have to get better at safety to earn a spot. All things being equal, the team probably wants Barrett to win the job. He has the most talent and upside.