2010 NFL Draft: New England Patriots Team Needs

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IMarch 19, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on during warm ups against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

After getting their golden boy back for 2009 (Tom Brady), the New England Patriots were expected by many to automatically return to their 2007 high-scoring ways.

While that happened to an extent, the Patriots had trouble maintaining a well-balanced offense and struggled mightily with their pass offense against elite pass defenses.

Now, even with Brady getting more comfortable and a full two seasons removed from his knee injury, the Patriots are staring at the start of the 2010 NFL season without their main slot man, Wes Welker.

Add the fact that Randy Moss is unhappy about his contract coming to an end, as well as constant rumors involving an unhappy Adalius Thomas, and the Patriots don't quite look like a Super Bowl contender.

However, with a great mind and orchestrator like Bill Belichick still running the show, New England still has the right cast to turn things around and stay on top of the AFC East.

Read on for the key positions they'll likely aim to target and/or upgrade in the 2010 NFL Draft:


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Biggest Needs: WR, G, RB, TE

There has been a lot of speculation that the Patriots have grown somewhat concerned with Brady and his mental recovery from his 2007 knee injury.

Add the fact that he's 32 and looked fairly mediocre against tough defenses in 2009, and the rumors that the Patriots' brass might draft a project quarterback (Tim Tebow, anyone?) to groom behind him, well, suddenly seem a lot more realistic.

That very well may be something the Patriots try to do, but considering they have four picks in the first two rounds, it won't necessarily be a primary focus, even if they do spend a pick on a quarterback.

With Moss playing out the final year of his contract, and now being 33 years old, the Patriots need to start thinking about the future of their offense. Throw in the fact that Wes Welker may start the 2010 season on the PUP list, and this grows to be the Patriots' top offensive concern.

Sam Aiken and David Patten can't start opposite Moss if the Patriots want to keep blowing people out of the water (or get back to doing that, at least). On the other hand, converted quarterback Julian Edelman has shown the ability to step up and fill in as their top slot guy while Welker recovers.

If the Patriots force the issue early and don't feel they want to spend their first-rounder on an outside linebacker or defensive end (or Tebow), they could reach for an explosive receiver like Golden Tate, and if Dez Bryant falls to them in the first-round, they'll likely at least consider it.

Other options in the second or third round are Jordan Shipley (who would be perfect in the slot) or a big target like Brandon LaFell.

The Patriots aren't currently dying on their offensive line, but they are getting older, and protecting their quarterback is essential (see: 2007). In addition, upgrading at guard may be a move worth making, as their rush attack was average at best for much of the season, especially against tough rush defenses.

This potential upgrade coincides perfectly with their current group of running backs, led by the ever-inconsistent Laurence Maroney and a slew of aging backs.

The Patriots could be strong candidate to pull the trigger on Ryan Mathews (if still available), while Stanford's Toby Gerhart could look to be a perfect for their old grind-it-out attack that won them their three Super Bowls.

Tight end is another major position they need to address on offense, as Benjamin Watson is gone to Cleveland and Chris Baker is gone to Seattle. The Patriots don't use the tight end enough to pull one out of the first round, but they could finally get more of a playmaker like Dennis Pitta in the second or third round, while Florida's Aaron Hernandez could also be a solid choice.

Wisconsin's Garrett Graham is an underrated talent that is more well rounded than some of the more highly touted tight ends; he could be a steal in the third or fourth round.


Biggest Needs: OLB, DE, CB

The Patriots traded away Richard Seymour last year, and no one knows for sure what will happen with Adalius Thomas, making an outside pass rusher and a big, young defensive end major priorities.

With a bundle of early picks, there's a good chance the Patriots go for an elite pass rusher (just 31 sacks in 2009), and try to get back to that grizzly style of defense that helped them win championships.

The Patriots have been said to like Brandon Graham, while Sergio Kindle would also be another likely candidate. A very hot prospect (especially after a solid combine), Jason Pierre-Paul could also garner a look as a guy who might be able to switch to OLB at the next level.

As for defensive end, a guy like Penn State's Jared Odrick is big and athletic enough to give the Patriots a solid rusher on the outside of their 3-4. He has all the tools to be a great end at the next level, and he really just needs to help teams get past some mild character concerns.

Overall, the Patriots need a flat-out injection of youth and some quality players with solid potential to fill in behind their current starters. They need a guy who can step up as the nickel back, and they could even just use an extra corner to sit behind their current starters.

For New England in 2010, it all starts with getting back a solid pass rush and another force up front while making sure Brady has enough weapons to work with. With the New York Jets apparently surging to the top of the division, the Patriots can't afford to continue falling behind in the development of their roster.

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