At the beginning of the season, the NFL Draft Daily thought that, more than anything else, the Patriots offense needed an upgrade and badly. The wide receiver position is young and raw, while their two top slot wide receivers were their best receiving options on the season. Danny Amendola is effective when healthy, but that has been hard to come by as he only played one full season in his NFL career. The Patriots offense was driven by a strong run game last year, especially toward the end of the season when LeGarrette Blount took over the future role. Now that Blount has left via free agency, the reigns are now handed over to Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. Ridley had lost his feature role as top dog due to fumbling issues that have plagued him the last two seasons. The Patriots may look early to find themselves a physical, punishing back, that could take some of the burden off of Tom Brady’s shoulders; and carry this team through the cold portion of the season.
The acquisitions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner should be a welcomed addition to the physical nature of the secondary. The move puts Revis back into his old division against the team that had first drafted him into the league, the New York Jets. Browner provides a long lanky, physical presence on the edge; but will not be available to the Patriots for a few weeks due to his suspension from the league. Linebacker may be a position of need with New England losing their starting middle linebacker, Brandon Spikes, to Buffalo; and another big man of stature is sorely needed next to Vince Wilfork, or to replace him.
There is an athletic freak of nature available at defensive tackle when the Pats hand their card in to the commissioner, Roger Goodell, in May. That man is none other than Big Ten Conference stand out, Ra’Shede Hageman of Minnesota. When Hageman decides that his presence needs to be known on the line of scrimmage, no other player is as dominant on the field then he is. the 6’6 big fella’ was recruited as a highly regarded tight end coming into Minnesota, but made the successful switch to defensive tackle. His ability and dominant nature along the line of scrimmage are not in question; it is his consistency. When the NFL draft Daily throws on tape of the games he played, like the Northwestern or Nebraska game, he quite frankly is the best football player on the field. Then when watching his tape from the Michigan or Iowa game, you would not even know Hageman was there. He must play at a high level every single snap and Bill Belichick is the kind of coach who would hold him accountable, and could bring the monster out of this kid.
Looking at the Patriots second and third round picks, the obvious plays for those positions are linebacker, tight end, and running back. If linebackers like Christian Jones or Chris Borland are available in the second or third round, look for the Pats to sweep one of them off the board. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots really become aggressive toward finding a bruising back. There is a possibility that someone like Carlos Hyde may not be there for their second round pick. Other big backs like Jeremy Hill, or Boston College’s Heisman Finalist Andre Williams, both could be there for the taking in the 3rd round. All rounds will be interesting to see where the Patriots go since they are known to be somewhat unpredictable come draft day. Last year they traded out of the first round and gave the Minnesota Vikings their first round pick, will they do it again? The possibilities are endless for the New England Patriots as they look to continue their dynasty in 2014.
This article is one in a series, published daily, providing analysis, insight and predictions leading up to the NFL draft and beyond.
Commentary by Justin Huffman