2012 NFL Draft: An In Depth Look at the Patriots Needs

Tight End
Returning Players: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
Free Agents: None

Tight end is the most stable position on the roster outside of QB and likely will be for the next 5-10 years. With Gronkowski and Hernandez the Patriots have two Pro-Bowl caliber tight ends who have quickly become Tom Brady’s go to guys.

A player to watch at this position is Dorin Dickerson who the Patriots have on their practice squad. He is an undersized but extremely athletic tight end. He was one of the stand outs at the 2010 combine with how fast he ran and how he worked out. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Patriots brought in a blocking tight end to lighten the blocking load on Gronkowski and Hernandez.

Priority Level: 0

Offensive Tackle
Returning Players: Matt Light, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon
Free Agents: None

Tackle is another position that would appear set heading into next season. Matt Light signed a 2 year contract last offseason and had a tremendous bounce-back season. Vollmer coming off an All-Pro season was hampered by injuries all year, however, when healthy he is one of the top RT in the league.

Nate Solder has all the tools to be an All Pro left tackle. He went through some growing pains at times, but overall he had a really good rookie year. He was thrown right into the mix and proved that he can hold his own. A full offseason in the strength program and a year of coaching by Dante Scarnecchia will do wonders for Solder.

Marcus Cannon, despite missing the first half of the season due to under going cancer treatments also proved he can play at the NFL level. Coach Belichick putting Cannon on the field despite not participating in mini camp, training camp or the first half of the season, speaks volumes to how Belichick feels about his potential. This position is set for next season, unless a serious injury is uncovered in the offseason.

Priority Level: 2

Offensive Guard
Returning Players: Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Ryan Wendell, Donald Thomas
Free Agents: None

As long as Brian Waters decides to return, the starters would appear set for next season. Waters was probably the best OG on the roster last season and it would be a big loss if he decided to retire. Ryan Wendell was re-signed during the season so he too will be back. The team does need to find a reliable spot starter for when injuries crop up.

Bill Belichick loves to draft offensive linemen late in the draft and I expect some depth to be added to this position then. If Brian Waters retires then this position becomes a big need.

Priority level: 3

Returning Players: Nick McDonald
Free Agents: Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly

A big decision will be required at this position in the off-season. Do the Patriots let long-time center Dan Koppen walk via free agency? Do they give Dan Connolly a shot to be the starter or do they address the position in the draft?

Koppen, who missed the entire year, wasn’t missed too much. Connolly did a serviceable job but he is what he is. He is undersized and can be overpowered in both run and pass blocking situations. If I had to guess, I would say Connolly is re-signed, mainly because his ability to play center and guard. He would be the swing guard and center in case an injury occurs. While I expect the team to bring in a center, I don’t think they draft one in the first two rounds

Priority Level: 3.5

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32 Responses to “2012 NFL Draft: An In Depth Look at the Patriots Needs”

  1. cp says:

    Does anyone know what’s up with Jermaine Cunningham? I know he was hurt, but no one ever mentions him. Will he be back next year and will he have an impact on the defense? He seemed to be done well at the end of his rookie season. cp

  2. justin says:

    great article, keep writing buddy (very thorough, Efficient and informative

    sign brandon lloyd re-sign welker

    re-sign mark anderson, and a. carter

    draft olb 1st round

    draft dl 1st round

    draft cb 2nd round

    must grab a starting free safety in free agency

    draft best players available with remaining picks

    grab free agents that fit scheme for the reamining holes

  3. Michael in Uxbridge says:

    The reason that the PATS lost the Super Bowl is clear. After much thought about why the PATS lost the Super Bowl again against the Giants – I suddenly got it – it was team speed. Tom Coughlin said we draft players in the same mold on D that fit our team – speed rushers what was he meant.

    The PATS do not have the team speed to beat a team like that.

    My prescription for the PATS this year in both free agency and draft – SPEED people. Especially in the skill positions on BOTH offense and defense,. And let’s not forget – in the return game!!!! They do not have a kick returner. Draft a speedy WR who can return kicks. And draft a CB and safety who can run with fast WR’s. I am tired of looking at PATS Defensive backs running to catch up to opposing WR’s. Especially McCourty!!!!!

    The result – SB win. Guaranteed.

  4. paul says:

    Well, you forgot to write about Cunningham. Will going back to a 3-4 defense help him.

  5. Butchie Jand says:

    Dan Connolly is bigger (height and weight) than Dan Koppen, and the last couple of years they have BOTH shown that they can be overpowered. I love Koppen and when we drafted him I told all of my friends that Woddy had better not miss any snaps because Koppen would not give him his job back…and that’s exactly what happened! Great article…keep it up.

  6. Ryan says:

    I know many Patriots fans will disagree with me. I think one of the biggest additions that Patriots could make is an OC. It seems to me if they want to be more effective in both the passing game and the running game with the running backs, a OC could really help both sub par WRs and young RBs. I know many wont like if Bill takes a OC early, but a lot of problems stemmed from Koppens injury. I think it becomes very important to get either a WR, CB, LB or DE from FA so that we can use our first picks more effectively.

  7. Bob says:

    Not only is Green Ellis a great slam-bam up-the-middle running back, he has proven himself over the years again and again in the red zone. True, he had a tough Super Bowl, but so did Brady and the receivers who came down with a bad case of stage-fright dropsy.We need Benny bad….Danny Woodhead the 928 all purpose yardage 6 touchdown running back-short pass receiver of 2010-11 for the most part disappeared in 2011-12. Why? Was he sick? Did he lose his mind? Did he lose interest? None of the above. Danny was grossly misused and underused by Bill Obrien. BO tried to make him an up-the-gut runner, i.e. a Green Ellis clone, when in fact Danny is a sneaky quick perimeter runng. All year long Danny ran invisible short pass routes to nowhere as Brady in his BO instructed long pass addiction never looked at Danny when in fact he was wide open again and again. It was tragic to watch and a devastating waste of talent…..In the Super Bowl Danny was finally included in the offense, and he showed what happens when he is. But he was not passed to again 95% of the time out of the backfield. If he had been, we would not have lost due to bad passes, dropped passes, and a long-flong interception.

    • qwerty says:

      Woodheads performance puzzled me also. I think they changed the way he was used from year before.

  8. Ratzalot says:

    “The Patriots can draft all the CBs they want but, until they fix the safety position it won’t matter.”
    While I agree, how do you propose to remedy the situation? As I’ve already commented on in a previous topic, drafting Mark Barron won’t help. Barron would be a backup/rotational Strong Safety to Patrick Chung. Neither Chung nor Barron would be able to play Free Safety effectively. Since there are no top-tier Free Safety prospects in the 2012 Draft, the Patriots have two choices: Sign free agent Michael Griffin OR move McCourty/Dowling to Free Safety. The bottom line: Drafting Barron would be drafting a backup/rotational Strong Safety. The Patriots need to address Cornerback in the 2012 Draft and fix the dilemma at Free Safety through free agency or current player position swaps. The Patriots should only be drafting a developmental Safety in the later rounds.

    • Billy C. says:

      I’ve seen Barron play and he usually lines up in the box and offers much run support as a safety, however, I’ve also read some of the prognosticators say he can also play as a free safety. If that’s the case, then the secondary would be much improved with Barron and Chung lining up as safeties.

      • Ratzalot says:

        I think that’s a hell of a risk. I realize New England doesn’t truly play Free and Strong Safeties, but there needs to be a very good cover safety roaming out there alongside Pat Chung. There is too much risk assuming Barron can be the cover guy when in reality a Chung/Barron combo would be closer to having two Chungs on the field. If Barron falls due to his injury, picking him up in the second round would be great. Unless Janoris Jenkins is available at pick 27, I’d rather see the Patriots move out of the first round entirely and stock up on 2nd rounders.

    • qwerty says:

      Safety is a hard position to draft this year. Let’s not try to fix it by reaching.

      CB’s are in more plentiful supply so I have bias for CB.

      Patriots need one more quality defensive back whether S or CB. It comes down to what’s available.

    • AM says:

      I agree on Barron–he just isn’t a good fit. Griffin seems like a good answer in the short term. But I would like to see them grab Aaron Henry in the 4th round; he’s hardly an instant starter, but he could contribute early and start soon.

  9. Dan says:

    I would hope that coming so close, AGAIN, will push them to make some moves in free agency. Losing out on Goldson, and seeing the season he had while being so terrible at the position, must have been tough to swallow.
    I’m hoping they get more agressive and bring in some solid players.
    Like you said so well, the issues are very obvious and this years free agents and draft seem to fit our needs as well as could be expected.
    I can’t help but think they will improve…

  10. Dan says:

    Sorry, right guard

  11. Dan says:

    Question: I recall during the pre-draft & draft last year that Cannon was projected to move inside to guard, is this the case? I believe they used him at OT this year out of need, but I would think he would move right in to Water’s spot at LG if Waters retired.
    I suppose Vollmer’s health will play a role also, and if Waters does return, which I hope he does, Cannon can remain a solid back up for another year, greatly adding to our depth on the OL.

  12. Ken W says:

    Some FA that would be nice to see in a pats uniform.

    First list in order of want.

    WR 1. Wallace 2. Lloyd 3. Colston
    FS 1. Landry 2. Griffin 3. Goldson
    DE 1. Campbell 2. Williams 3. Avril
    CB 1. Grimes 2. Finnegan 3. Rogers

    Now the list of most likely to actually become a Patriot.

    WR 1. Lloyd 2. Wayne 3. Colston
    FS 1. Goldson 2. Griffin 3. Sanders
    DE 1. Avril 2. Campbell (going to get some really high offers) 3. Williams
    CB Coin toss, I would say a trade for Asante Samuel is more likely

    If the Pats could walk away with Lloyd, Goldson, and Campbell that would be amazing. I think Lloyd is most likely going to happen, so just getting one of the other two would be great. Add that to the draft and I think the Pats would fill some major holes and be right up there again to win it all.

    • TD says:

      If BB has $20mill to the cap, he is probably only going to want to spend half that on FA’s. That would mean Lloyd and maybe one of the safties, he did make a play for Goldson last year.

      He may be leery of big ticket FA’s after the Adalius Thomas fiasco.

      Any other FA’s would have to take a cheaper deal. The rest of the cap will be taken up by Welker and rookies. He always keeps a good buffer in case he needs to bring some guys in during the year.

      • Ken W says:

        yah thats a good point, and I do like the fact that Goldson was a target last year so hopefully that leads to the pats at least have a little familiarity with him.

      • qwerty says:

        patriots need to manage salary cap long term so willy nilly long term signings should not be done. They have to plan on keeping their current young talent in future years.

        I’d boot on any very high priced signings. No need for it. Football is a team sport. I’d rather have 5 good CBs at 2 million each than an elite CB at 10 million.

        • Dan says:

          Amen, and it’s a sports with long & shor-term injuries. BB has shown it’s best to spread the wealth and be ready. This is why we just rebuilt and went to the Super Bowl before it was even complete

    • jim r says:

      Ken, those options look great. I would love to see them pry Wallace away from Pittsburg.

  13. TD says:

    Offense: more reliable running game and 2 WR’s so Welker can get back to the slot. Lack of running game and viable #2 and #3 WR spelled doom in super bowl. With Gronk out the offense needed to be perfect.

    Defense: If running 4-3, need to resign Carter & Anderson. If a 3-4 need interior rushers. Need depth at ILB and OLB. Need DB’s that can press cover.

  14. Billy C says:

    No question the safety position is the greatest need at this point (embarrasment is saying it lightly), however, the guard position should include Marcus Cannon as I see that as his more permanent position. If Waters retires I’d think BB would insert Cannon into that role (just guessing at this point).

    • Big Dan From Maine says:

      Do you guys realize we are probably one of the ONLY teams in the NFL who has drafted and could potentially start 4 colledge left tackles. As I am sure you know left tackle is usually the most athletic position and contains the best college lineman. This is definately one position that we draft well at.

      Cannon would be a beast at Right Guard

  15. jim r says:

    Three FA to target Griffin (FS), Wallace(WR) and Mathis(DE/OLB)

  16. Keith says:

    Wow! I really culdn’t have written it better myself! I don’t disagree with a single thing you wrote. I’d like to add to it though!

    1)In no way shape or form can Ras-I Dowling be depended upon. He has to show us all he can be healthy for at least 1 quarter of the season before his name should even show up in a piece like this.

    2)Why not Mario Williams, Cliff Avril & Laron Landry, Mike Griffith, Tyvon Branch? If none of these players are Franchised, the Patriots have NO EXCUSE what so ever for not chasing some serious FA’s this offseason! The Patriots have over 30 million in cap space before Welkers 8,9million. Do the math, that’s allot of cap space! Add some players who can help win some football games! Enough putting all this pressure on TB12! Make this team complete & get some defenders who can cover on the back end & make some serious plays in the front 7!

    3) Safety was literally an embarrassment! BB HAS TO add a real safety to this team! Again, there’s plenty of cap space @ the Patriots finger tips! NO EXCUSES!

    4) This is by no means the Patriots #1 need but it’s definitely 1C! The WR position NEEDS to be upgraded. Period. Wes Welker has to be brought back into the fold & again there’s plenty of cap $ available for the Patriots to make a move here as well as all the other improvments that have been listed. No excuses, get it done.

    The Patriots are literally on the doorstep of rebuilding a perennial title contender. AGAIN. With all the right moves it can be accomplished I have little doubt! Allot like the 2006-07 off-season, I def see BB going out and spending some $$

    • prioris says:

      >Wow! I really culdn’t have written it better myself! I don’t disagree with a single thing you wrote. I’d like to add to it though!

      Except for a nitpick, that’s pretty much how I felt.

      BB should sign Mike on as advisor.

      Maybe Patriots can find another receiving TE instead of WR so Patriots can utilize 3 TE option a lot more but they will likely be reaches.

      The Patriots picks in first round will come down to which DT/DE/WR/CB/S is best available player. Not even BB knows who that may be at this point but Mike has chosen the highest likely candidate in draft.

      I’m leery of Patriots reaching for Barron or any player. Keep to best available player. On plus side, Saban may be able to give BB a few gems of information on Barron that will make it easier to pick or reject him so in position to make correct choice.

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