With just five picks currently in hand, the Patriots don’t enter this year’s draft with a lot of ammunition. It’s a good thing, then, that the defending AFC East champions don’t have a whole lot of holes that need filling. As in most other years over the last decade, those holes are more than balanced out by the presence of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick but we’ve come up with a take on the spots where the Patriots could use some help all the same.
Wide Receiver: It’s been a busy offseason at wide receiver in New England. Danny Amendola has arrived while Wes Welker shuffled off to join Peyton Manning in Denver and Brandon Lloyd was cut after one middling season with the team. They have re-signed Julian Edelman and added Donald Jones and Jenkins as well, but the Patriots still have space for a receiver who can threaten teams on the outside.
Not only would such a receiver make a nice target for Brady, they’d also ideally open up space for tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to operate. That assumes that pair is healthy and the need for another target only increases if either or both the tight ends are limited in the coming season. Robert Woods of USC, Justin Hunter of Tennessee and Keenan Allen of California could all be possibilities in the first two rounds and all fit the profile of what the Patriots would seem to be looking for at the position.
Defensive Line: They picked Chandler Jones in the first round last year and it was a promising debut for the Syracuse product. The team could use more punch in the pass rush, however. There are free agents like John Abraham and Dwight Freeney still on the market that could help or the Patriots may look to the early rounds of the draft as a way to add it to the roster. If they were to opt for the draft, Estonian native Margus Hunt of SMU is an intriguing prospect at defensive end.
Vince Wilfork remains an effective plug in the middle of the line, but he won’t play forever so the Patriots could also look for a defensive tackle to help now and take over for Wilfork later. The right guy would be able to provide interior push against quarterbacks, which might be difficult to find from their draft spot. If a player like Sylvester Williams of North Carolina were to fall down the board, he should be a possibility at the end of the first round.
Cornerback: Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington are sticking around while Alfonzo Dennard won’t miss any time after receiving a sentence that will keep him out of jail until next March, so this isn’t the acute need it would be if any of those three were going to be unavailable. There’s room for improvement, though, and the Patriots will likely be adding at least one corner to the mix during the draft. If they want to do it early, they could stay in New England and pluck Blidi Wreh-Wilson from Connecticut. We also wouldn’t be too shocked if the Patriots were the team that rolls the dice on the erstwhile Honey Badger and places a bet that Tyrann Mathieu’s talent beats out his red flags.
Safety: Another need that’s not particularly acute thanks to the signing of Adrian Wilson, but it’s a spot where the Patriots might look to stop the revolving door that’s been in place in recent seasons. They tried to do that with Patrick Chung, but he couldn’t stay healthy and now plays in Philadelphia. Wilson should be fine in 2013, but he’s turning 34 in October and the team could find D.J. Swearinger of South Carolina a tempting prospect for the long term in the second round.