Alfonzo Dennard's return in 2013 helps make things easier for the Pats in the draft.
The New England Patriots have already been extremely busy this offseason and now have full attention on the 2013 NFL Draft. Many questions regarding the weak areas of this team have been answered with new additions at certain positions and re-signing some important players.
Despite how involved the Pats have been in free agency, some gaps still need to be filled and taken care of through the draft. Some notable areas where NE still may need to make improvements include the receiving core, pass rush and secondary.
The moves and events that the team has been involved with over the past few months may suggest what the Patriots will do with their picks.
Here are some of the recent offseason events that will impact the Pats' draft decisions.
Alfonzo Dennard will not miss time
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald confirmed last week that cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will not miss any games in this coming season. Dennard was found guilty of assaulting a police officer back in February.
Patriots fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief as late last week Dennard received a sentence of two years of probation and 30 days in jail starting on March 1, 2014.
This means that the former Nebraska Cornhusker will likely return to be a key factor again in the Patriots' secondary this coming season. Dennard became a regular contributor for the Pats last season as a rookie.
Now the team can move forward knowing that one of their best cornerbacks will return to a pass defense looking to drastically improve.
Before knowing his status it seemed like the Pats would almost be forced to draft a corner mainly because of Dennard's uncertainty. Now NE might not have to use their first-round pick on a cornerback and could grab one later in the draft if they pleased.
This still does not mean that the team should not address the position in the draft, but it is not as urgent knowing Dennard should be back. If one of the top corners like Desmond Trufant fell to NE at No. 29 in the draft, they should strongly consider pulling the trigger.
Pittsburgh Steelers bring back Emmanuel Sanders
The Patriots' wide receiver search continues as the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to hold on to Emmanuel Sanders for another year.
According to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, earlier this week the Steelers matched the Patriots' one-year offer sheet worth $2.5 million. Sanders signed last Wednesday.
It seems now that the Patriots must turn to the draft to address the wide receiver position. Despite Bill Belichick's previous failed attempts at drafting a wideout early, such as Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson, the Patriots need to take one in Rounds 1 or 2.
Some receivers in this year's draft class could make a big impact for NE, including, but not limited to, Justin Hunter, Robert Woods, Terrance Williams, Da'Rick Rogers and DeAndre Hopkins.
The team has made some huge changes at receiver with the departures of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Wideouts Danny Amendola, Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins were all signed by the Pats this offseason. Julian Edelman was re-signed as well.
With the exception of Amendola, none of those players seem to be game changers or big-time playmakers. This is why the Patriots must grab a deep-threat receiver for Tom Brady in the draft.
Pats re-sign top CBs and add Adrian Wilson
Heading into free agency the Patriots had some huge questions regarding the receiving core and the secondary. Today the lack of receivers still stands as a concern, but the need for help in the secondary is no longer a top priority.
The team made a smart move by re-signing Aqib Talib, the team's top cornerback in 2012. Talib signed a one-year deal with the Pats last month.
The Patriots also re-signed cornerback Kyle Arrington to a four-year deal. Arrington had a league-high seven interceptions in 2011 but had none last season.
Adding Adrian Wilson will also pay off for the Pats as the team badly needed some veteran leadership in the secondary. Wilson is signed for the next three seasons and will certainly help this young secondary continue to grow.
These signings will help to solidify the Pats defense, and with the return of Dennard, the team is no longer pressed to address the need for help in the secondary in Round 1 of the draft.
Since Talib is only signed for one season, however, the Patriots should still keep an eye out for talented cornerbacks. With Wilson and Devin McCourty at the safety spots there is no real sudden need to draft a safety.
Dennard was taken in Round 7 last season, and perhaps the Patriots could add a defensive back with one of their seventh-round picks this season.
It is definitely a strong possibility that NE trades their first-round pick and moves down to obtain another pick in Round 2 or 3. They could also move up like they did in last year's draft when they selected both Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower in Round 1.
Since the team is thin at receiver and has no real deep-threat wideout on the roster, it makes sense for the Pats to take one with either their first or second pick.
The Patriots could also improve their pass rush through the draft. Expect NE to take a receiver or defensive lineman in Round 1 or 2. They will also likely add a defensive back at some point in the draft and maybe even an offensive lineman.
The team is making the right moves this offseason and this should continue into the draft. Smart free-agent moves and a successful showing at the 2013 NFL Draft will get the Patriots closer to another championship and ensuring a solid future.