As we get set for tonight’s first round selections, here are some final thoughts and a rating of importance for each position in terms of where the Patriots may need to prioritize over these next few days.

CORNERBACK

Current group: Kyle Arrington, Brandon Browner, Alfonzo Dennard, Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan

Need Level: Low

Analysis:¬†After the addition of Browner and Revis, this is a group that is suddenly relatively deep with a good mix of youth and experience. ¬†It’s not a high need for New England, although if someone happens to fall to them that might be a strong fit it wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

SAFETY:

Current Group: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Justin Green

Need Level: High

Analysis:¬†After McCourty things are a little shaky, although Harmon showed flashes of potential last season and could potentially be a factor if he can take things to the next level this season. ¬†Still, it’s not a deep group, and if the¬†right player happens to fall into their lap, it would certainly make things a little easier.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

Current Group: Michael Buchanan, Marcus Forston, Tommy Kelly, Joe Vellano, Vince Wilfork, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga

Need Level: High

Analysis: Coming off of an Achilles injury there are obviously plenty of questions about Wilfork, and Kelly is also battling his way back from a knee injury.    We saw encouraging things last season while they were out from Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga, while Joe Vellano was inconsistent.  The vast majority of mock drafts seem to have the Patriots targeting a defensive lineman in round one, and New England is at the point now where infusing youth while adding some talent inside is something that is necessary enough where we could see them address this area tonight.

DEFENSIVE END:

Current Group: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette, Armond Armstead

Need Level: Medium

Analysis: Jones and Ninkovich obviously anchor this group and are two players who have continued to be productive.  The improved additions to the secondary should hopefully buy them an additional second or two to start getting to the quarterback this season, and if the line can play better inside and create pressure that would obviously be a big help as well.  Belichick talks about drafting based on value, and if the right player is available having more guys who can get to the quarterback is never a bad thing.

LINEBACKER:

Current Group:¬†Jamie Collins, Ja’Gared Davis, Dont’a Hightower, Josh Hull, Jerod Mayo, Will Smith, Chris White, Steve Beauharnais

Need Level: High

Analysis:¬†Drafting Collins last year appears to have given them a player who possesses both the athleticism and physical play that makes him a relatively complete player, and it’s hard not to feel like his addition was a great one for this football team. ¬†Hightower also made some progress in his second year, and the return of Jerod Mayo rounds out a pretty good group. ¬†However, the reason for the “high” rating is it never hurts to have some additional depth, and they don’t have much right now.¬†Needless to say adding talent to this group is something that is arguably needed given who they have currently if anyone gets injured.


Tight end will likely be a priority for the Patriots this weekend.
(USA TODAY Images)

OFFENSIVE LINE:

Current Group: Chris Baker, Marcus Cannon, Braxston Cave, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, R.J. Mattes,  Ryan Wendell, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Jordan Devey, Sebastian Vollmer

Need Level: High

Analysis:¬†Last season this group didn’t fare so well overall, with opponents having above average success in getting to Tom Brady throughout the season. ¬†With Vollmer coming off of back problems and then the gruesome leg injury he suffered, there are questions about his health, while they still need help at center as well as someone opposite Mankins at the other guard position. ¬†Most mock drafts believe that if the Patriots don’t go for defensive line help, drafting an offensive lineman is something they may also address early. ¬†With their success hinging on Brady, it obviously makes sense to be sure he’s got plenty of protection around him.

TIGHT ENDS:

Current Group: Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, D.J. Williams

Need Level: Insanely  High

Analysis:¬†Aaron Hernandez’s arrest at the end of last June put the Patriots in a tough position since it was too late in the year to replace him with anyone of consequence. ¬†Losing Rob Gronkowski was obviously huge, and considering he’s coming off of a major knee injury there are certainly no guarantees about how his knee will fare, especially if it affects him to the point where he plays tentatively. ¬†Jace Amaro’s name has appeared in some of the more recent mocks for New England despite the fact that many of them have him rated as a second round talent. ¬†If he likes what he’s seen from Amaro enough, it wouldn’t be a shock if Belichick¬†decides not to take any chances and drafts him that high, although we could instead see them trade back a few spots as well. ¬†Needless to say it should make things interesting but coming away with a tight end will likely be a big priority.

RUNNING BACK:

Current Group: Brandon Bolden, James Develin, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Jonas Gray

Need Level: Medium

Analysis: On paper, this is once again a relatively deep group and heading into a contract year, as well as coming off of a very difficult one, one would believe that Ridley will be a different player this season and could even resemble the player who rushed for over 1200 yards two seasons ago.  Meanwhile Vereen took some big steps last year, while Bolden was also a good situational player.  However, the long-term future of a couple of these guys is still a question so bringing in some competition along with potentially a bigger-sized back would make sense.

WIDE RECEIVER:

Current Group: Danny Amendola, Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Mark Harrison, Reggie Dunn, Brandon LaFell, Greg Orton, Matthew Slater

Need Level: Low

Analysis:¬†Most fans weren’t happy with what they saw last season from this group and everyone always talks about how amazing it would be if the Patriots had a Dez Bryant or a Calvin Johnson type of player. ¬†That situation hasn’t prevented itself but they’ve put together a pretty talented group that should actually be better this season. ¬†Dobson had some pretty good moments last season and became a productive player on third down during the span where they were dealing with injuries, while Boyce also started to come on late in the year. ¬†The biggest question mark is going to be what happens with Thompkins, who started off fast and then trailed off. ¬†It would be surprising to see Amendola spend as much time on the injury report given what we saw last season and one would believe he’ll get his body right. ¬†It will also be interesting to see how LaFell factors into the mix, as well as whether or not Harrison can play a factor. ¬†It wouldn’t be a surprise to see someone drafted late, but it shouldn’t be a priority.

QUARTERBACK:

Current Group: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett

Need Level: Medium

Analysis:¬†The reason for the “medium” rating is primarily because if New England elects to draft someone, which will likely be a certainty, they should try and address it in the later rounds much like they did with Cassell. ¬†Their last two players who were taken in the third round (Mallett and Kevin O’Connell) make you wonder if those picks couldn’t have been used on more productive talent at other positions. ¬†Mallett hasn’t evolved enough to give them any return on their investment, and will likely walk after this season when he hits free agency. ¬†Barring disaster we’re probably a season or two from seeing a serious search for life after Brady, but despite some of the high-profile visits from some of the bigger named quarterback prospects, it doesn’t make sense to mortgage the present by drafting a one¬†high.