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NFL Draft 2012: 5 Positions the New England Patriots Need to Address

Justin KeithCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2012

NFL Draft 2012: 5 Positions the New England Patriots Need to Address

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    Win or lose on Sunday, the New England Patriots' season will end.

    This means they must start looking forward to the offseason and how to better their team.

    Although the Patriots have made the Super Bowl, there is a lot to improve, especially their 31st-ranked defense.

    The NFL Draft is a great way to stockpile talent, as we've seen in recent years in New England.

    Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were both products of the 2010 Draft and the Patriots could use more talent like that in the 2012 Draft.

    They have 2 first-round picks in the draft and assuming they keep both, they could certainly address some areas of need.

    (All potential targets are for the first round)

Cornerback

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    The biggest weakness of the Patriots defense this season has been the position of cornerback.

    That is no secret.

    With that being said, the Patriots will look to upgrade in the 2012 Draft much like they tried to do in 2011 with Ras-I Dowling. Unfortunately, Dowling missed the entire season with injury and wasn't able to help the depleted secondary.

    Bill Belichick is known for trading down if there isn't a player he likes in the slot he's in and with two first-round picks this draft, he is sure to do much of the same.

    However, if the Patriots stand their ground and take both picks they could certainly use one of them on a corner.

    Potential First Round Targets: Janoris Jenkins, Alfonzo Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick

OLB/Defensive End

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    With the surprise production from Andre Carter and Mark Anderson this season, the Patriots pass rush hasn't been criticized as much as it was a year ago.

    With Carter aging and coming off a torn ACL and with Anderson not being a lock to put up the same numbers next season, the Patriots need to look at getting speed and youth up front.

    As we have seen with the Giants, pass rush can change the face of a game and totally neutralize an opposing quarterback.

    Look for Belichick to take a skilled player who can be molded into a "Patriot" player.

    Potential Targets: Quintin Coples, Melvin Ingram

Wide Receiver

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    Although Wes Welker led the NFL in catches and yards at wideout this season, the Patriots still have a need at the position.

    The need was masked by the production of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, but Tom Brady needs a vertical threat that can get behind the defense.

    Deion Branch is another year older and another step slower and Chad Ochocinco has given zero production to the offense.

    The Patriots have missed on some recent draft picks at wideout (Chad Jackson, Brandon Tate, Taylor Price) but Belichick shouldn't be deterred by recent failure at that position.

    Potential Targets: Alshon Jeffery, Kendall Wright

Offensive Line

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    Bill Belichick loves depth along the offensive line.

    With Matt Light a year closer to retirement, the Patriots could use some depth along the line, especially the interior.

    Logan Mankins is a lock at left guard but Brian Waters and Dan Koppen are getting older at right tackle and center respectively. The Patriots will look for a successor for one, or both.

    Nate Solder was the stud first-round pick for the Patriots at tackle last season and the Patriots have a proven track record when it comes to first-round linemen. (Logan Mankins, Solder)

    Potential Targets: Kevin Zeitler, Kelechi Osemele

Safety

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    Safeties were the second part of the New England secondary that woefully disappointed this season after a rash of injuries and underperforming players.

    The only player that seems safe at the position is Patrick Chung.

    That being said, the Patriots will almost certainly be looking to upgrade in the draft and find a tough, skilled safety who can be relied on by the defense to not give up the big plays.

    Potential Targets: Mark Barron, Harrison Smith

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