October 21, 2012; Foxboro, MA USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) during the first quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Top Draft Needs For The New England Patriots

With the “big” part of free agency behind us, our attention now turns to the NFL draft. There are still plenty of holes in New England’s roster, and the draft is the best place for Bill Belichick and company to address them. Here are the top needs for the Pats in this year’s draft, after taking into account what they have done with free agency.

1. Defensive Tackle

If Vince Wilfork is indeed released, then adding talent to the middle of their defense instantly becomes the top priority for New England. By signing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, their secondary is set. But the Pats were 30th in the NFL against the run without Wilfork last year, which is something they can’t afford to have in 2014.

2. Tight End

Rob Gronkowski should be ready to go for the start of the season, but he needs a partner. Michael Hoomanawanui is a terrific backup, but he can’t produce in the passing game. Adding a dynamic playmaker to pair with Gronk would elevate Tom Brady’s offense back to an elite level.

3. Defensive End

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are solid starters, but as you probably know by now, they played way too much in 2013. The Pats need someone to come in and not only give these guys a breather, but be productive at the same time. New England’s lack of consistent pass rush really hurt them in the AFC Championship game against Denver, especially after Aqib Talib went down. If they can add someone to help get pressure from the edge this year, that defense of theirs may end up in the top five in the NFL.

4. Offensive Line

For some reason the offensive line has flown under the radar thus far this offseason. I thought that upgrading the interior of the line was one of the most important things on Bill Belichick’s docket heading into free agency. Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell struggled throughout the 2013 season, and it cost the Pats offense at critical times. Connolly is making a lot of money next year, which could lead towards him being cut, in favor of a younger, more talented guard.

5. Linebacker

The starting unit is set, but New England has no depth behind them. Losing Dane Fletcher really hurts, because of his ability to cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game. If one of the starting three guys (Mayo, Hightower, Collins) goes down with an injury, the Pats would be in serious trouble.

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  • http://sbpra.com/paulvsuffriti Paul V. Suffriti

    I agree with your assessment….good depth will be key. The Pats definitely have to upgrade the interior O-line…big priority.

    • Amar S.

      Agreed. What people don’t realize, in the 03 season when we beat the Panthers in Superbowl 38, Brady was sacked 0 times throughout the post season! We all know his WRs that season, still put up 32 points (shoulda been 38 if it weren’t for the missed field goals). That’s why I’m hoping we pass on Amaro early and go pick up a young talented C in the second round, get Troy Niklas in the 3rd and Colt Lyerla in the 6th.

      • Mattia Rizzo

        Not a bad plan at all. I think they can find a good center in later rounds and getting Niklas will let them look for a “move” TE on late rounds but we are on the same page. I hope Patriots will be able to trade out of the first round to get more pick in 2nd to 4th round range, where there will be a lot of value.

        • Amar S.

          I agree with this as well. Hopefully Wilfork stays (hopefully returning with the same explosiveness before injury) that way we can trade down for more picks rather spending our first pick on DT.

        • Cyrus Geller

          Everything hinges on Wilfork. If he stays, tight end vaults to the top of the list.

          • Mattia Rizzo

            As for now not knowing how he is physically, and looking at the cap space he “eats” I don’t really know if the Pats should let him go or no, that situtation is complicated. Looking at the future they should let him walk and look for a replacement in the draft IMO.

        • Mattia Rizzo

          You guys can find a good report on Jake Murphy, TE from Iowa on this site. I think he could be interesting for the Patriots in late rounds to address the joker TE position.

    • Cyrus Geller

      Yup, need to help out that O-line. Hurt them throughout the year.

  • Mattia Rizzo

    I’m still hoping that with a couple of cuts the Pats will be able to sign Pat Sims and Shaun Phillips. Having those two players they would be able to draft the best player available in those 5 (6) position and they can definitely help through the season. Getting Blount back would be great too.

    • Cyrus Geller

      There has been talk of Moreno coming to New England. I would rather have Blount, because his skill-set is so different from the other backs, but Moreno would be a solid consolation prize.

      • Amar S.

        Moreno? Ew, I’d rather we go draft a RB (a 3rd down RB to back up Vereen).

      • Mattia Rizzo

        Moreno is really good in the passing game though, and a good blocker too. He has the kind of skill set that an up-tempo offense loves. Still would hurt to not have a “downhill” kind of runner like Blount, if Bolden doesn’t step up his game.