Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential solutions in May's draft.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
No. 1 Team Need: Tight End
Bill Belichick revolutionized the way NFL teams design offense in the Hernandez-Gronkowski "era" by playing two dual-threat tight ends at the same time and forcing defenses into sub-package alignments they didn't want to play. The Pats could run or pass at a highly efficient clip out of the "12 personnel" formation. They didn't pose that threat in '13. With Hernandez's career over and Gronk rehabbing MCL and ACL tears, look for New England to invest at least one premium draft pick in a tight end. Re-signing Michael Hoomanawanui in free agency won't cut it.
First day option: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech - Meet your new move/Joker tight end. With that said, I think Amaro has the potential to play inline as well, despite spending about 90 percent of his snaps in the slot in 2013. Amaro uses his agility to win against man coverage and is a very fluid mover. He can continue to get stronger at the catch point. He can stay on the field, especially in 12 personnel, since he is at least a willing and adequate blocker.
Second day possibility: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa - Fiedorowicz could be Gronk insurance, as he projects best inline. With that said, he was underused at Iowa and could be had in the third-round. He is limited in his yards after the catch and seemed to consistently run routes in the curl to out areas of the field. Fiedorowicz did impress me with his athleticism at the Combine and his best days could be ahead of him.
Third day flier: Gator Hoskins, Marshall - Hoskins has been a bit of a forgotten man over the last few months, but he offers some Charles Clay type skills and versatility. He would fit the Joker/H-back need and is more of a role player, which is not as big of a negative as it sounds. Hoskins flashes hands catching and comfort with the ball in his hands.
No. 2 Team Need: Defensive Tackle
After ranking 30th in run defense, the Pats' defensive tackle depth chart is littered with question marks. 32-year-old NT Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles' on September 29 and has an unwieldy $11.5 million cap number. 33-year-old Tommy Kelly tore his ACL in Week 5. The Pats got pushed around up front for most of last year. If New England takes a needs-based approach into May's draft, I would consider interior defensive line the favorite to be their first-round target. Belichick's defense has morphed over the years from a two-gap 3-4 into a 4-3, although he's always valued versatility in the trenches. His ideal defensive tackle can function in either front.
First day option: Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota - It is doubtful that Hageman makes it to No. 29. Then again, if he is available, I doubt the Patriots pass on him. Hageman fits best as a 1 or 0-technique, which is where he played the majority of his snaps this year, and offers some ridiculous flashes of speed to power from the interior. Things can go wrong when he gets jolted or loses on first contact, and at times he freelances and attempts to swat passes down at the line of scrimmage, but he is quite successful with the later.
Second day possibility: Dominique Easley, Florida - Everyone knows my infatuation with Dom Easley, and I truly believe if he was healthy he would be unanimously ranked among the top 10 prospects in this class. If Belichick chooses to trade down in round one, Easley could be a target on the second day. His explosion off the ball with powerful hands forced interior offensive linemen off balance more often than any 0- or 1-technique I can remember. Easley can also play the 3-technique if necessary and has experience on the edge.
Third day flier: Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State - Carrethers is a massive man at 6’1/337 pounds. He would fit closest to the center and does his best work when cleaning up plays others started. A fifth-round selection, or potentially even later, sounds about right.
No. 3 Team Need: Center/Guard
The Patriots made no known effort to re-sign incumbent center Ryan Wendell after a down 2013 campaign, and left guard Logan Mankins is now 32. Right guard Dan Connolly is better suited as a reserve. New England has been "multiple" in the run game in recent years, but leaned toward a power-oriented approach in 2013. They could use a mauler between the tackles.
First day option: C Marcus Martin, USC - I think teams will be deciding between Martin and one other true center (not counting Nevada's Joel Bitonio) as the top ranked prospect at the position. Martin has some bad tape, specifically when he can't get going off the snap, but on other occasions he looks awesome, displaying movement skills and enough first punch power to jolt and lift defenders out of the way.
Second day possibility: C Weston Richburg, Colorado State - Richburg is the other possible top center in this class. I know Evan suggested a “mauler” to be listed here, but that is tough to find at center. Richburg is more of an occupier that utilizes good body positioning and hand use to control. He gets to the second level pretty well and can reach block.
Third day flier: G Donald Hopkins, Texas - Third day Gs and Cs are going to be hard to come by, but Hopkins could be a surprise name in the fifth- or sixth-round since he did not draw a Combine invite. He needs to work on sustaining blocks, but he has an aggressive first move towards the opposition, even in pass protection, and has athleticism in space.
Video: Norris on New England's top need
Patriots 2014 Draft Picks (8)
First Round (No. 29)
Second Round (No. 62)
Third Round (No. 93)
Fourth Round (No. 130)
Fourth Round (No. 140 - Compensatory)
Sixth Round (No. 198, from Philadelphia)
Sixth Round (No. 206)
Seventh Round (No. 244)
Patriots Current First-Team Offense
QB: Tom Brady
RB: Shane Vereen
WR: Julian Edelman
WR: Danny Amendola
WR: Aaron Dobson
TE: Rob Gronkowski
LT: Nate Solder
LG: Logan Mankins
C: Dan Connolly
RG: Marcus Cannon
RT: Sebastian Vollmer
Patriots Current First-Team Defense
RE: Chandler Jones
LE: Rob Ninkovich
NT: Vince Wilfork
DT: Tommy Kelly
MLB: Jerod Mayo
WLB: Jamie Collins
SLB: Dont'a Hightower
LCB: Darrelle Revis
RCB: Brandon Browner
FS: Devin McCourty
SS: Duron Harmon