At the end of last season, the Patriots had many holes in their roster that needed to be addressed: find quality tight end depth behind Gronkowski, fix the secondary, get deeper at defensive line and linebacker, and find someone to push or replace Wendell.
For the most part, the Patriots have addressed almost all of the weak points in their roster. The secondary, which was horrific 2 years ago, is now one of the strongest groups in the league. The Patriots went from having almost no quality after Dennard, Ryan and Arrington (if he stays in the slot), to having the luxury of rotating people around until they find a solid safety to start opposite McCourty (my bet is on Logan Ryan).
If the Patriots bring Kevin Williams to New England, the defensive line will be a force that could go toe to toe statistically with the Seahawks. Outside of last year, the Patriots usually have a fairly good run defense anchored by Wilfork; but last year showed lack of depth at the position when Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down fairly early and unproven rotational players were forced to start. With Wilfork and Kelly back, drafting Dominique Easley, and signing Will Smith, the Patriots could have a top 5 defensive line, and joined with their strong secondary, maybe a top 5 overall defense.
Linebacker was a position of strength at the beginning of last year, but soon it became a liability. While I was never that high on Dane Fletcher, I was high on the run stuffing ability of Brandon Spikes. Losing both Fletcher and Spikes left Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Jerod Mayo as quality starting linebackers on the team. Signing James Anderson was a blessing. He is leaps and bounds better than Dane Fletcher, and is a more versatile player than Spikes. With the Patriots strong run defense, the opposing offenses will more than likely need to pass in order to convert 3rd downs. Anderson is skilled in pass coverage, and has a knack for finding the ball. He led the Bears in tackles last year, making him a valuable addition to the Patriots defense. While Anderson probably won’t be a starter at the beginning of the season, he may have the opportunity to start if Jamie Collins has growing pains year 2, or come in for sub-packages and will likely produce.
In this year’s draft, the best value pick I thought the Patriots made was drafting Bryan Stork. Drafting Stork can finally put Wendell where he belongs, the bench. Wendell is not starting caliber, at any position, let alone center. Stork is a hard-nosed, blue collar brawler and I love it. His FSU head coach, Jimbo Fisher, said that he is a tough guy who will be a quality starter in the NFL, and I agree. Right now, Wendell is the starting center, but by training camp’s end, I bet we’ll see Stork in his place.
The only remaining hole in the team roster has been there since last year. No one has been able to fill Aaron Hernandez’s shoes as a quality tight end after Gronk. It does not appear that the Patriots have much interest in the injured Jermichael Finley or Dustin Keller. So, since the they may not want either player due to injury concerns, why not pick up Tom Crabtree? Crabtree was buried behind Greenbay’s deep receiving core before signing with Tampa Bay last year. The Bucs drafted Austin Seferian-Jenkins and cut Crabtree. When given the opportunity, especially in Green Bay, Crabtree produced. He can block, he’s reliable and he’s smart enough to understand the Packer’s offense. I say; if the Patriots don’t want more injured tight ends in New England, give Crabtree a call.