Patriots’ Biggest Draft Needs Include Tight End, Pass Rusher (Mailbag)

Troy Niklas

The NFL draft normally would be less than two weeks away, but since the event was pushed back in 2014, there’s nearly four long weeks to wait and see what the New England Patriots will do with the No. 29 overall pick.

The Patriots still have holes at nearly every position — including quarterback — but find out in this week’s mailbag where their biggest needs can be found.

Are you expecting the Pats to draft a RB with Vereen and Ridley as FA’S after the year? Any possibilities if so?
–@Mahondawg34

The Patriots either need to sign a free-agent running back or draft one. The team brought in Michael Bush for a visit earlier in the month, and he left without signing. Bush and Chris Johnson are the best available running backs in free agency.

If the Patriots don’t sign one of those two players, they’ll need to draft a running back, which probably is a better idea anyway with Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley entering contract years. Washington’s Bishop Sankey is the best fit, but it’s debatable whether running back is a second-round need for the Patriots. LSU’s Jeremy Hill, Arizona’s KaDeem Carey and West Virginia’s Charles Sims also are good early fits.

If the Patriots elect to pick a running back later in the draft, Arizona State’s Marion Grice, Central Florida’s Storm Johnson and Texas A&M’s Ben Malena have received interest from the team. The Patriots can’t get themselves into a situation like in 2013, when their top two running backs couldn’t catch passes out of the backfield. The Patriots need to replace LeGarrette Blount with a player with better receiving ability.

Any bargain bin FA’s the Patriots could still sign? Could you see any scenario where they actually move UP in the draft?
–@NewEnglandXLIX

I could see some available free agents catching on with the Patriots. New England could use depth at tight end, so Dustin Keller would make sense once he gets healthy. I think linebacker James Anderson is a good fit, since his coverage ability is his biggest strength. The Patriots still could sign defensive end Will Smith, if he’s willing to accept their terms. Wide receiver Miles Austin and running backs Ronnie Brown and Felix Jones could compete for roster spots in training camp as well.

To answer your second question, I think they could move up in the draft for a top-tier wide receiver. If the Patriots draft a wideout, the team has to know he’s better than what they currently have at the position.

What would your combine scores look like?
–@DarrylJohnston

My 40-yard dash would be embarrassing, but I think I could turn some heads with my three-cone. Think T.J. Moe, but way, way, way, way, way worse.

What do you think will be the biggest change to how the team attacks both offensively and defensively ?
–@AverageJoe1993

I’m not sure how different their offensive attack will be, but I expect to see a better Tom Brady in 2014. He’ll be more comfortable with his receivers, and his weapons all around should be better.

On defense, I think the front seven will be allowed to be more aggressive since they have Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner at cornerback. That could mean more blitzing and better run defense.

ok, why isn’t #BlockedBySpikes trending yet?
–@PatsGazette

It should be. But I’m a #BlockedBySpikes hipster. I was blocked by Brandon Spikes on Twitter way before he started lashing out at Patriots fans on Wednesday.

What should I do for dinner Friday night? Chinese or Chipotle? #life
–@jdafonte127

Go with Chinese food. Chipotle is a lunch meal.

If tuitt shazier and easley are all there at 29 who do u think BB is taking? (Who would u take)
–@JBeezy242

I think Bill Belichick and I are on the same page here — Ryan Shazier. The Ohio State linebacker has a chance to be special, with his speed, athleticism, coverage and play-making ability.

Shazier was aided by a fast track at his Ohio State pro day, but a 4.38-second 40-yard dash would be impressive by a linebacker running downhill.

Linebacker isn’t the Patriots biggest need, but it would allow Jamie Collins to take on more of a pass-rushing role, of which I’m a huge proponent.

What major areas of need do you still see on this team?
–@PatriotsHome

The Patriots’ biggest remaining needs are linebacker/defensive end, tight end and defensive tackle. They need a linebacker who can cover or a defensive end who can rush the passer, since Collins can fill the other need. He can’t rush the passer and cover at the same time — he’s good but not that good.

The Patriots could use more talent at tight end, but at the very least, they need insurance in case Rob Gronkowski gets injured again. Defensive tackle is still a need, since Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead all are health risks, and Chris Jones and Sealver Silgia are largely unproven.

The Patriots also could use another running back and interior offensive line help. They don’t technically need a wide receiver or safety, but if an upgrade is out there, one could be drafted in the first round.

What do you think about the rumors that WWE has signed Sting?
–@TheOlderToupin

Goth Sting is cool and all, but I’d prefer he comes out with bleached blond hair.

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