The Patriots had many problems they needed to address going into the offseason. They attempted to fix most of these in free agency. Going into the draft, the Patriots will try to address the last holes in the team, as there is not much more to get from the fre agent market. Here are the main issues that New England needs to address in the draft:
This one scares me. The Patriots never draft well at the receiver position (see Taylor Price, Chad Jackson, P.K. Sam). This year, the Pats are forced to draft a receiver if they want their offense to be successful. None of their wide receivers have caught a pass for the team in the 2012 season, and most of their receivers (including tight ends, running backs) are injury prone. This includes Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, all of which have never played all 16 games in a season. What the Patriots need is a big, tall, and physical outside receiver, who is also very durable (essentially another Randy Moss).
Some options that the Patriots have are Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, and Robert Woods. All three of these players are big receivers, although all are projected to go in the late first round to second round, so the Patriots may or may not want to spend a pick on them. Hopkins is a big play guy who although is not a huge vertical threat, can still be very productive after the catch. Robert Woods is a receiver who didn’t have a great senior season, but he still has the potential to succeed in the NFL. He has the speed to be a great receiver, but his frame and injuries limit his abilities. Keenana Allen is a big, Anquan Boldin-like receiver who would be a perfect fit for the Pats if he didn’t have so many injury issues. The Patriots rarely draft receivers, and when they do, they don’t draft very well, so don’t look for this to be a great receiver draft for the team.
Although the Patriots got Aqib Talib back and Alfonzo Dennard won’t miss football, this only means the secondary will be the same as it was last year. Also keep in mind Talib’s injury issues, which may make the secondary much worse at times. I think this is a more urgent need than the need at wide receiver, purely because Tom Brady always finds a way to make the offense great. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Brady skill-level player on the defense.
This year’s cornerback class has much depth, with Dee Milliner and Xavier Rhodes leading the pack. These two are likely to get drafted before the Patriots’ pick at 29. Still, there are other great options, such as Desmond Trufant, Jamar Taylor, DJ Hayden, and Jonathan Banks. These are all excellent cornerbacks who can take the Patriots secondary to the next level. Who the Patriots will acquire only depends on which of these cornerbacks reaches pick 29 of the first round. Another interesting option is Tyrann Mathieu, who has not played for a year due to drug problems. Although he lacks the playing time in the past year, he has amazing cornerback instincts that are almost unbeatable in this draft class. If he falls to the 6th or 7th round, look for the Patriots to acquire him.
These are the options that the Patriots have in the first round. Keep in mind though, the Pats always trade around draft picks, and they might not keep their first round pick. If so, they are sacrificing their first round pick to get more players, but possibly of less quality. The Patriots might also decide to draft a defensive end, a defensive tackle, or a pass-defending linebacker. These are not the highest priority for the Patriots, so New England will probably leave lower picks to handle these positions. But who knows, the draft is unpredictable, and no “expert” can ever predict who a team will draft and who will be successful in the NFL perfectly.
See our mock draft here.