The draft is now just three weeks away and the Patriots top needs haven't changed all that much throughout the offseason. While the departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have made cornerback a more pressing issue, the team likely will look to bolster the depth along both the offensive and defensive lines.
The Patriots lost Vince Wilfork and his ability to stuff the run inside. They were able to retain Alan Branch and Sealver Siliga was re-signed, but certainly they would like to add a young, physical presence to the defensive front in the draft.
On the offensive side, veteran Dan Connolly remains in free agent limbo and is obviously no sure thing to return. Ryan Wendell is a bit undersized for guard and the team could look to replace him as well. The Patriots also have some depth concerns at tackle with Nate Solder entering the final year of his deal. This should all add up to the team looking to add talent along the offensive line late this month.
A strong case could be made for either side, but our Samsonite Make Your Case question of the week asks: Which area is a greater need, offensive or defensive line?
PFW's Andy Hart says …
You can always find a guard. Bill Belichick has said that in the past and proven it many times over the years. As so many fans like to say, In Bill We Trust. So when I think of the Patriots trench needs right now, the early part of the draft is more likely to focus on a defensive tackle.
Vince Wilfork has been a key, reliable member of the front for more than a decade. You don't have him to lean on anymore. A team that once had three big-bodied defensive linemen as first-round picks and foundations of the front now has the likes of a practice squad call-up, a waiver-wire pickup and an aging veteran journeyman atop the defensive tackle depth chart.
That's not nearly good enough to pair with (fingers crossed) second-year first-round pick Dominque Easley. This draft is stocked with impressive defensive line talent and for the second year in a row the Patriots need to tap into that pipeline early on.
The back end of the defense has taken a step back this spring. If the front is allowed to do the same it could be a long season for the entire New England defense. A guard can be found/molded into "good enough." A defensive tackle worth his weight is harder to find and must come earlier in the draft. It is what it is.
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
We only need to look back to last September to see the impact an unsettled offensive line can have on a football team. With Dan Connolly moving from center to guard and Ryan Wendell and Bryan Stork not yet part of the mix, Tom Brady was under siege through the season's first month.
Now there's a chance that Connolly could be taken out of the picture and if the Patriots don't replace him properly there could be trouble down the road. Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey and Josh Kline all saw significant action at guard last season and none did the job well enough to stay there. The idea of one of those three returning to the lineup is a scary proposition.
There are several quality linemen available in this draft, led by the Florida State contingent of Tre Jackson, Cameron Erving and Josue Martin. Putting one of those three next to their former teammate Bryan Stork would go a long way toward alleviating those fears.
Even if Connolly returns the Patriots need some young depth up front to add to the mix they drafted last year. The offensive line is the bigger priority.