New England Patriots State of the Union: Checking in on the Pats' Draft Needs
With three days, eight hours, 26 minutes, and 30 seconds until the 2010 NFL Draft many Patriot fans are still unsure about what Patriots management will do this year. The consensus seems to be defense in the first round, followed by some offensive player makers, and drafting for depth in the later rounds.
We will never truly know what they are after until the draft is complete and we can see the big picture, but we can start by looking at what positions need to be addressed.
The rating system for each position will be based on four stars, with four meaning that they have a solid starter at the position or that they are unlikely to draft at that position. Three stars will mean need for depth, two stars means that position needs a starter, and finally one star means that that position is the biggest need for the team.
The Patriots are set at this position with Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer. The team will probably bring in a free agent before the season starts as a third stringer, but this position could also be addressed in the draft in the sixth or seventh round where the Patriots have a combined seven picks.
Possible candidates include Jevan Snead from Ole Miss and Mike Kafka from Northwestern. A surprise selection could be Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour in the fourth round, who probably will not be available but if he is Patriots should give him a long look.
Position Rating: Four Stars; Brady once gain will make his case as one of the game's greats.
Between the four Patriot running backs they have one complete starter. Laurence Maroney is the young gun of the group while the other three are all over 30 years of age.
Maroney has been a disappointment lately and the running game has suffered since the departure of Corey Dillion.
The running game was a staple of the championship teams as Charlie Weis utilized them in the running attack and with quick screens. The team still has the ability to do that but the offense is now a passing based attack with Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
If all can stay healthy then once again look for the running game to be used, but this position is still in need of a number one running back. I don’t think this position will be given a look in this year's draft but candidates to bring some youth on board could be Anthony Dixon from Mississippi State, James Starks from Buffalo, or Andre Dixon of Connecticut.
Position Rating: Two Stars; team is good for this season, but the position needs a sure fire featured back.
Just as with the running back position the wide receivers are unsure at the start of the season.
Moss is getting up their in age and has the suspicion that he will not be back next season. Welker is recovering from knee surgery and his timetable for a return is unsure. David Patten was brought back to bring some experience and depth. The emergence of Julian Edelman will help ease the loss of Welker as he turned in a solid rookie season.
There are a few interesting prospects that the Patriots will look at. Damian Williams from USC or Dexter McCluster from Ole Miss could fill a few holes at RB/WR/Ret, Eric Decker from Minnesota is a big target that could learn from Moss, and Freddie Barnes from Bowling Green and Danario Alexander from Missouri could be sixth or seventh round selections that could each fill a need for the team.
Position Rating: Two and a Half Stars; the team doesn’t necessarily need a starter at this position, but they do need some youth depth to learn from Moss and Welker.
The tight end position is one of the most glaring holes on this team. The departure of Benjamin Watson and Chris Baker has left the Pats extremely thin at this position.
Veteran Alge Crumpler was brought in the help stop the bleeding, but he is 32 years old with his best seasons presumably behind him.
This is a position that is expected the get a lot of attention in the draft. Rob Gronkowski from Arizona and Jimmy Graham from Miami are two targets the Patriots will look at with one of their three second round picks. Colin Peek of Alabama would be a nice pickup in the seventh round and would give Brady another redzone target.
Position Rating: One Star; biggest need of the team. Patriots should select at least two tight ends, one early one late.
The offensive tackle position is currently held down by two of the best in the league, Nick Kaczur and Matt Light. No need to draft at this position after the successful campaign of Sebastian Vollmer gives them a youngster who will become a fixture on the line when his time comes.
Position Rating: Four Stars; two of the best at what they do.
At offensive guard, Stephen Neal is on the wrong side of 30 at 33 years old, but you still can’t count out a guy who beat Brock Lesnar for the NCAA Wrestling Championship. Neal has started 73 games with the Patriots. Two time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins hold down the other side and is regarded as one of the best at the position.
Position Rating: Four Stars; solid stars on the offensive line.
Center is again another solid position held by Dan Koppen. The durable center has started 103 games for the Patriots and is under contract through the 2011 season.
Position Rating: Four Stars; one of the best for one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
The replacement for Hall of Famer Adam Vinateri has proved that he is just as valuable as the previous Patriots kicker. Stephen Gostkowski had a career year in ’07 and was named to the Pro Bowl in ’08. He has connected on 85 percent of his field goals and averages 65 yards on his kickoffs.
Position Rating: Four Stars; no need to draft a kicker, Gostkowski has this position nailed down for years to come.
With the loss of Richard Seymour in a trade before last season and with Jarvis Green heading to Denver, the Patriots are seriously lacking depth at this position. If they are able to sign Derrick Burgess to a deal before the draft they can afford to come back to this position later in the draft.
This position must be addressed in the early rounds. Myron Pryor was drafted as a defensive tackle but might see time at the defensive end position. Carlos Dunlap of Florida, Tyson Alualu from California, Alex Carrington of Arkansas State, and Corey Wooton from Northwestern are all potential targets in the second round. George Selvie from South Florida is also a late round potential pickup.
Position Rating: One Star; Ty Warren can bring the heat from one side, but who is going to be coming from the other?
Vince Wilfork is a beast in the middle and one of the game's top defensive tackles. Many people worried how he would play when he was franchised. Luckily the team was able to sign him to a long term deal and keep him in the fold for years to come. Young players like Ron Brace and Myron Pryor give this position depth and youth.
Position Rating: Four Stars; Wilfork, depth, and youth make this one of the strongest positions on the team.
Adalius Thomas is almost certain to be moved or cut before the season begins and the Patriots brought back leading sack man Tully Banta-Cain. This means the Patriots will be thin at an essential defensive position.
Lucky for them this draft is full of OLB prospects and the team should be in prime position to grab one at 22nd overall. Sergio Kindle from Texas, Sean Witherspoon from Missouri, and Jerry Hughes from TCU are all prospects that should be available. A.J. Edds from Iowa is a late round prospect that could help the team. Bringing back Derrick Burgess would help to solidify this position.
Position Rating: One Star; lacking a star talent, if they can bring back Burgess, draft a prospect, and keep Thomas this goes from one star to four stars very quickly.
Inside Linebacker: Gary Guyton did a serviceable job of replacing Tedy Bruschi and Jerod Mayo showed why his is one of the young stars in this league.
However, the lack of depth and ability at this position hurt the Patriots last year when Mayo was injured. The team will probably address this position later in the draft. Travis Goethel from Arizona State and Josh Hull from Penn State fit the Tedy Bruschi mold and can provide this position with more depth in case another injury occurs during the season.
Position rating: Two and a Half Stars; Mayo is a star, however the team should look for a bona fide starter that can team with Mayo.
Cornerback: This position got stronger when the team resigned Leigh Bodden. There is great depth position but not a lot of experience. They have some nice young players in Jonathan Wilhite and Darius Butler.
The position doesn’t need to be addressed in the draft but there are some intriguing prospects; Akwasi Owusu-Ansah from IUP, Brandon Ghee from Wake Forest, and Chris Cook from Virginia.
Position Rating: Two and a Half Stars; the position is full of youth and skill, but they need another starting caliber cornerback to team with Bodden. Free Agency might be a better place to look than the draft for this position.
Brandon Meriweather is emerging as a solid safety in the league, and he earned a Pro Bowl bid last season. The position is backed up by last year's second round pick, Patrick Chung.
Position Rating: Four Stars; position has both skill, experience, and youth.
Free Safety: Brandon McGowan emerged as a starter for this team last year totaling 79 tackles and three forced fumbles, started weeks two through fourteen. James Sanders filled back in McGowan for the remainder of the season and had 48 tackles. Both players could be starters, which makes this position a stronger one.
Position Rating: Three Stars; both players are potential starters, but a little depth wouldn't hurt.
The team currently has just one punter on the roster, Aussie rules football player David King. They might bring back veteran Chris Hanson or look to draft a punter in the seventh round. Zoltan Mesko from Michigan State is the best in the draft.
Position Rating: Three Stars; King fills a need but hasn’t played an NFL game.