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Consider the New England Patriots’ recent draftees: Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Steven Ridley, Marcus Cannon. This organization is as good as it gets when it comes to scouting talent, as all of the aforementioned players are either starters or key contributors on their current roster.
This year the team has another bunch of holes to fill, including in the secondary, defensive line, tight end, and wide receiver.
The most glaring need on the offensive end is at tight end. Aaron Hernandez is no longer a member of the team, and Rob Gronkowski has suited up for 18 games over the past two years and is currently rehabbing from surgery to repair his ACL and MCL, the eighth surgery of the 24-year-old’s career. Many draft prognosticators expect New England to address the tight end position as soon as the first round, with Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro a possibility. Amaro rewrote the FBS record books while in Lubbock and has drawn parallels to Gronk because of their size and abilities.
Julian Edelman is a free agent while last year’s draft picks Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins remain projects. The Pats have to add depth to their receiving corps, and the ’14 class is deep enough that the team can do so in the middle rounds. A player like Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, or Jordan Matthews could give the team a much-needed outside presence.
It’s no guarantee the team will be able to retain impending free agent Aqib Talib, and the secondary struggled in the AFC Championship game when Talib went to the sidelines. Players like Bradley Roby of Ohio State or Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State could last until the middle rounds, and could be drafted even if the team signs Talib or another veteran corner.
The Pats’ lack of depth along the defensive line were evident this season when Vince Wilfork went down and team scrambled to make trades and sign veterans off the street. Wilfork will be back healthy in 2014, but he’ll also be 32. The team could afford to go after a top prospect, though the class isn’t very deep so they’d have to make a move early. Stephon Tuitt is a versatile lineman who reminds scouts of a former Patriots great, Richard Seymour.
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