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

Priority Level: 4

Returning Players: Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore
Free Agents: Anwaun Molden, Nate Jones

Back in Decemeber when I did a similar piece, the Patriots secondary was in complete shambles. Since then, a few things have happened that may alter how they go about the off-season.

First, was the emergence of Sterling Moore. Moore really came on at the end of the season, playing critical minutes and saved the Patriots season. Moore was one of the only CB on the team who could play man to man coverage. Moore is someone to watch entering next season.

Second, was the moving of Devin McCourty back and forth between CB and S. McCourty lost his confidence this year and really struggled when the ball was in the air. He would often be in the right positions but couldn’t get his head around in time and couldn’t make a play on the ball. In my opinion, his moving to safety in nickel situations spoke more to the dire situation at safety this year, than his long term future there.

Ras-I Dowling is really the x-factor in all of this. Dowling missed all training camp, yet started game one against the Dolphins and looked very very good. He then got hurt in the 2nd game of the year and missed the rest of the season. It’s critical that Dowling return healthy and stay healthy for this secondary to get better.

Kyle Arrington is a solid corner who tied for the league lead in interceptions, as a #3 CB I really like the fit, but not as the #1 guy.

The Patriots are in luck since this year it’s such a deep draft and free agent class at the CB position. There are a number of CBs who could step in and be a huge improvement over what we have. It’s important that they find players who can play man to man as well as zone coverage and find some players with ball skills. I expect the Patriots to draft a CB within the first 2 rounds of the draft or sign a top target in UFA.

Priority Level: 4

Returning Players: Patrick Chung, Sergio Brown
Free Agents: James Ihedigbo

I’m not going to sugar coat it, the safety position this year sucked. Outside of Patrick Chung, who missed half the year to injury, none of them could cover. It was a revolving door, continually trying to mask and hide the gaping hole in the back of the defense.

Sergio Brown, who Bill Belichick was banking on to develop, was literally one of the worst safeties I have seen play professional football. His pass interference penalties were directly responsible for two Patriot loses.

James Ihedigbo, who I really like as a special teams player, can’t cover a single soul. The position really was a joke last year. It lacked leadership, physicality, cohesion and confidence. The #1 need of this team right now is to shore up the position. With the league so pass-oriented, you can not afford to have such a liability at such an important position.

Bill Belichick will have to get creative as there is not much available in the draft outside of Alabama safety Mark Barron, so this might be a position where the Patriots spend some money. The Patriots can draft all the CBs they want but, until they fix the safety position it won’t matter.

Priority Level: 5

Returning Players: Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken
Free Agents: None
The Patriots are set here and it would appear for the long term. Mesko is developing into one of the best punters in the league, Gostkowski is an upper echelon PK and Danny Aiken didn’t have a bad snap all season. This is an area where the Patriots don’t have to worry about for a long time.

Priority Level: 0

It’s painfully obvious where the true needs of this team are. They need to add players who can cover on the back end of their defense. They also need to add athleticism to their front 7 on defense and add players who can make plays at the LOS.

On offense it will be fun to watch what they will do at the WR spot. The draft and UFA is loaded with high quality WRs many of whom would be perfect in this system. The Patriots were very susceptible to teams that could take away Welker and Gronkowski and get pressure on Tom Brady. Adding speed to the perimeter of the offense will make it nearly impossible to stop.

If I had to classify the Patriots needs this off-season I would say they need to add speed to the outside of their offense, and add defenders who are more athletic and can cover in man to man situations.

This team is in great position going forward as they are still essentially at the end of a rebuild. No team in history has been able to rebuild and still be as successful as the Patriots. With four picks in the first two rounds of the draft again and plenty of money to spend in Free Agency, there is no excuse why these needs can’t be filled. It would be nice to have a defense that can carry the offense next year and that is what I am looking for this off-season.

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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.

  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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