2011 NFL Draft: Patriots' Top Five Need To Help Tom Brady Following Moss Trade
In the wake of the borderline blockbuster deal which sent Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings, the New England Patriots now have two picks in each of the 2011 NFL draft's first four rounds.
The Patriots have made a habit in recent years of trading down in the draft and moving disgruntled players, always in the name of accumulating more draft picks.
This year, however, with so many picks at that their disposal, the Patriots will be able to reload even without using all of their picks. This Patriots team is built for success, but with a few successful draft choices, they could extend their dynasty further into the next decade.
Tom Brady again looks like one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, but he cannot do it alone. With a young and developing defense and an offense that just lost its most game-changing weapon, the Patriots are a very good team with a few holes to fill.
Luckily, they have eight picks in the first four rounds of the draft, including the crown jewel that is Oakland's first-round selection. Let's take a look at the five needs the Patriots absolutely need to fill in order to compete with the New York Jets in the AFC East.
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Yes, the Patriots have spent the last few drafts constructing what is now one of the league's youngest secondaries. However, they are still being exposed on a regular basis, especially by the league's top quarterbacks.
As recent history makes quite clear, Super Bowls are now won and lost through the air. In the last decade Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning have accounted for five Super Bowl rings.
Three more were won between the Steelers and the Giants, two of the best teams in the league at containing the passing game.
In the current climate of the league, the best teams are either the best at throwing the ball or the best at stopping the pass.
The Patriots have one of the best passing attacks in the league, but their secondary needs work and it would be great to see one of those second or third round draft picks used to add depth and talent.
Possibilities: Aaron Williams (Texas), Chris Culliver (South Carolina), Cortez Allen (Citadel)
4. Offensive Guard
With the Patriots seemingly unable to come to terms with Logan Mankins it looks like he will be following Randy Moss out of town. This leaves the Patriots thin along the offensive line. As one of the league's premier passing teams, the Patriots' top priority on offense is protecting Tom Brady.
The Patriots' offensive line has consistently been one of the league's top units, especially when it comes to pass blocking for Brady. This season Brady has been sacked five times which is less than 25 other quarterbacks.
These numbers make it appear that maybe the Patriots do not need Mankins and could easily use this pick to address other needs.
However, they are very thin at offensive line, a position where players are injured frequently. They will have their own first rounder and the panthers second rounder, both of which could be used to address this need.
Possibilites: Mike Pouncey (Florida), Orlando Franklin (Miami), Stephen Schilling (Michigan)
3. A Dominant Pass Rusher
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The Patriots have spent the last few draft classes remodeling their secondary and linebacker corps while leaving the defensive line largely untouched. Vince Wilfork is the heart of the Patriots defensive front but he specializes in clogging up the middle, not getting to the quarterback.
The Patriots are currently tied for 18th in both run defense and sacks this season. This middle of the road ranking in both categories reflects how consistently mediocre the defensive line has been.
Yes, the loss of Ty Warren has hurt the unit, but since the Richard Seymour trade, the line has been begging for improvements.
This is the first possible area that the Patriots could use the first-round pick they got from Oakland. If a dominant pass rusher emerges over the course of this college football season, then the top of the first round would be the perfect place to address this need.
Possibilities: Allen Bailey (Miami), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Jared Crick (Nebraska)
2. Wide Receiver
With Randy Moss gone to Minnesota, wide receiver becomes the position to watch for the remainder of the season. With the Patriots' main big-play threat out of the lineup, look for teams to load up coverage on Wes Welker and make the more inexperienced receivers beat them.
This draft need could either move to the top of the list or down to the bottom of their priorities depending on how a few things play out.
First and foremost, how will Welker respond to the increased attention that comes with being a team's No. 1 wideout? If Welker is still able to find the holes in the secondary with his quickness and agility, then look for the priority level to drop.
As important as Welker's performance is, the spotlight is going to shine even brighter on both Brandon Tate and Aaron Hernandez.
Tate now becomes the Patriots main big-play threat and while he has shown his prowess on special teams, lining up and beating a man one on one is a whole different ballgame. Look for Tate to benefit from the single coverage Moss never saw at least for the first few weeks following the trade.
Hernandez is also important, as the rookie tight end currently leads the Patriots in receiving yards. So far this season, Hernandez has proven to be highly skilled and deceivingly quick for his size.
If his success continues even after opponents have had a few more weeks to game-plan around him, then the receiver position is no longer a high draft priority.
As of right now, however, it looks like the Patriots could do very well by selecting a high profile and freakishly talented wideout with one of their first round picks to help replace the one they just lost.
Possibilities: A.J. Green (Georgia), Jerrel Jernigan (Troy), Ronald Johnson (USC)
1. Running Back
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When the Patriots traded away Laurence Maroney this year, it was an event of much greater importance than most people realized. Dealing Maroney was finally a sign from the Patriots that they were moving on and needed a new running back.
While Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis has exceeded all expectations this season, the Patriots would be benefit immensely from adding another star to their backfield.
The Patriots often struggle late in games and have difficulty holding leads. Much of this problem is derived from their lack of a running game.
Without a running game it becomes much more difficult to run out the clock. Also a productive running game is much more effective than the passing game at wearing down the defense.
Along with a lack of offensive balance, the running game has actually caused a host of offensive issues for the Patriots in recent years.
This lack of balance exposes Brady to more blitzes, makes covering their receivers much more manageable, and leads to trouble in the red zone.
While the addition of two talented tight ends and a strong start from Green-Ellis has alleviated some of these issues thus far, there is no guarantee his success will continue.
Regardless of the year Green-Ellis has, the Patriots could use a marquee running back who would open up the field for Brady and possibly give them the league's most potent offense.
This is where the Patriots should use the pick they acquired from the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have won one game and look to be in complete disarray as a franchise.
A look at their schedule reveals that their easiest remaining games come against Jacksonville, San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle. All four of these teams have looked far superior to the Raiders this season so look out for a potential one-, two-, or three-win season.
With the Lions and Rams both improving, there is a chance that Oakland will finish last in the league.
The Oakland pick, barring an unexpected turnaround, will almost definitely be a top five draft selection. This means the Patriots will have a shot at just about any back they want, including the one they should take, Mark Ingram.
Possibilities: Mark Ingram (Alabama), Daniel Thomas (Kansas State), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)