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Patriots Draft Report: Team Needs

Danny Woodhead celebrates a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills earlier this season (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Yes, the Patriots have one of the best records in the NFL. Yes, it’s November. Yes, you’re probably more concerned with Thanksgiving, Christmas and a January playoff push.

However, it’s never too early for NFL Draft talk.

The Patriots are poised for a great 2011 draft class with six picks in the first three rounds. Let’s run down the picks the Patriots have for April.

  • 1st Round
  • 1st Round(from Oakland)
  • 2nd Round
  • 2nd Round (from Carolina)
  • 3rd Round
  • 3rd Round (from Minnesota)
  • 4th Round (from Denver)
  • 5th Round
  • 6th Round (from New Orleans)

No team is perfect, as the Patriots certainly have their needs that they have to address this off-season. Questions will arise of their secondary, linebacker corp and running game. Here’s our list of needs of the Patriots draft needs:

1. Running Back

I know BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead are both nice stories and both have played well this season. But, moving forward the Patriots are going to need a feature back, especially as Tom Brady gets older.

Bill Belichick and co. haven’t had a reliable workhorse back since Corey Dillon from 2004-2006. In the past, the Patriots have had a difficult time in finding a running back through the draft. Many hoped that 2006 first round pick Laurence Maroney would be ”that guy.” Maroney, however, proved otherwise and was traded to Denver earlier this season.

In the 2011 draft a suitable option could be Alabama junior Mark Ingram. There’s no secret that Belichick and Alabama head coach Nick Saban share a unique friendship. Year after year, we see the Patriots nab Saban’s guys, whether it was at LSU or now Alabama.

Ingram is the prototypical bruising back that would relieve pressure of the right arm of Brady. With the Oakland Raiders’ first round pick, the Patriots could very well be in prime position to draft Ingram, as Oakland should have a top 18 selection.

2. Defensive End

When the Patriots traded Richard Seymour to Oakland, many knew it wasn’t going to be easy to replace the 6’6″ 310 pound force. Last season, the Patriots filled that gaping hole with the likes of Jarvis Green and Mike Wright.

Heading into the 2010 season, the Patriots signed Gerard Warren hoping that he could fit the void of Green, who left in free agency for Denver. Unfortunately for the Patriots, opposing defensive end Ty Warren got placed on Injured Reserve before the regular season.

Since then, the Patriots have had to piece together a defensive front that has featured everything from Vince Wilfork on the outside, to rookie Brandon Deaderick starting.

The good news for the Patriots is that this draft class is deep at the defensive end position. If the Patriots could land either Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Allen Bailey (Miami), or Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), they would get a top tier defensive playmaker.

3. Cornerback

In 2008, it was Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite. In 2009, it was Darius Butler. And in 2010, it was Devin McCourtey.

To say the Patriots have had only minor success in drafting cornerback’s is painfully true. Out of the above mentioned names, only one — McCourtey, has thus proven to be a potential three-down starting corner back in the NFL. Butler, who had a strong rookie campaign in 2009, hit a sophomore slump early in Week 2 against the New York Jets. Since then, he hasn’t seen the field and saw his starting job get rewarded to Kyle Arrington.

It appears again that corner back will be a position that Belichick addresses this off-season. Now, mind you that Leigh Bodden will be back next season, but outside of McCourtey, the Patriots really don’t have another viable option.

Someone like a Curtis Brown (Texas) could prove to be great value in the second round for the Patriots.

Other Needs; OLB, OT, WR

The Patriots have a lot of young players at both the OLB and WR position, so it wouldn’t be unlikely if New England chose not to address these needs. At WR, the Patriots don’t have that receiver who can go down the field and stretch the defense on a regular basis.

Will Brandon Tate or Taylor Price amount to that? Time will tell.

At outside linebacker, rookie Jermaine Cunningham has been stellar and looks to have a good future ahead of him, but the Patriots would be well-off to add another young speed rusher opposite Cunningham.

Meanwhile, at the tackle position, the right side is held by Sebastian Vollmer, but the Patriots might want to add a young LT, as Matt Light will be 33 years old by next season. It would give the rookie time to learn behind Light before taking his job in a year or two.

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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