What position(s) should be the highest priority for the Patriots in the 2011 NFL Draft?
Jason: I think the biggest draft need for New England will be on the offensive line. Center Dan Koppen is 31, tackle Matt Light is 32 and Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins could be on his way out of town as a high-priced free agent. The other potential starters (Neal, Kaczur, Connolly) are getting a bit long in the tooth as well. Sebastian Vollmer has proven to be a very capable young starter at RT, but the roster lacks other young players with a great deal of potential on the offensive line. If they don’t draft at least one offensive lineman in the first round, I will be very surprised.
Rick: The position that needs to be addressed is a linebacker that can rush the passer with Oakland’s number 17 pick. The Pats can take that impact offensive player later in the draft like a Mark Ingram or a Demarco Murray. But, this defense needs to continue to grow. There are a ton of impact pass rushers in this draft whether it be Aldon Smith of Missouri or a Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue that can fit in that slot. New England needs an impact receiver, but they can get that via trade or free agency. As far as the offensive line, there aren’t many great first round offensive linemen that can play right away, so that’s an issue I see Belichick addressing more on Day 2 or Day 3. Look for New England to go defense and plenty of it in this draft.
Stephen: It’s no coincidence that the areas that need to be addressed in the draft are also the Patriots’ biggest offseason needs. A play-making outside linebacker and defensive end are the two areas that the team needs to address early in the draft. Besides that, the team could still take a look at upgrading the offensive line as age and free agency will affect the team’s depth. Although I still think the team needs a heavy upgrade on all levels on defense, if a stud receiver or running back is available at a good value, perhaps with the team’s second pick of the first round, it wouldn’t hurt to add another dynamic playmaker to this offense.
Derek: I think shoring up the defense is a big priority for the Patriots. With the #17 pick from Oakland, I’m hoping to see the Pats go after a pass-rusher either at outside linebacker or defensive end. Ironically, in order to get that pick, the Patriots parted with one of their best defensive lineman and pass rushers ever in Richard Seymour. Financially, it might have made sense to swap out Seymour for a rookie. However, in retrospect, the deal that looked like a potential steal in 2009, probably hasn’t benefited New England all that much. Seymour would have been a huge help the past two seasons. Now the Patriots will likely end up using that pick to essentially replace him and fill that void that was left in his absence.