NEEDS RATING KEY
5.0 - High priority. This is a position that is a glaring weakness and there is the likelihood that this team cannot compete next year without making a major addition here.
4.0 - Medium Priority. This is an area that is an obvious weakness, but the team isn't quite desperate to make a major move here possibly because they have some young potential. But this is an area that if the team cannot fix via free agency, will definitely use one of their picks in the first three or four rounds to supplement.
3.0 - Upgrade Potential. This is a position that isn't a weakness per se, but there is significant room for an upgrade. If the right player comes along they will certainly snag him, but if they don't fix this position with a major free agent addition or early round pick, then it's not the end of the world.
2.0 - Depth Need. An area where there is a need to add depth. Perhaps there is an aging veteran and they might want to start to look at grooming his heir apparent or replacement. Not likely to be a high priority and a position that more than likely will be address in the middle and late rounds rather than with a top pick.
1.0 - Future Need. This is an area that is not a priority, and doesn't initially appear as a need. But there is some room to develop some depth for perhaps two or more years down the line. This is usually an area that a team will look at in the late rounds if at all.
0.0 - Non-need. This is a position that is a strength of their team, they have a solid starter, capable depth, and/or a young player at the position that they like and want to develop. Very little possibility this area is addressed and would be the equivalent of a wasted draft pick.
Top 7 Needs
1. DE - 4.0
2. LB - 4.0
3. WR - 3.0
4. OG - 3.0
5. RB - 2.5
6. OT - 2.0
7. CB - 1.5
Position by Position Breakdown
Quarterback - Brady is returning back to his MVP form. Hoyer has made some progress as his backup. They'll bring in a few more arms, but they are happy with their two quarterbacks. NEED: 0.5
Running Back - Green-Ellis and Woodhead emerged as solid pieces for their offense. Taylor, Morris, and Faulk are all free agents, but they will be 35, 34, and 35 respectively this season. The Patriots will try and replace all 3 with a draft pick to add depth and bring a bit more explosive speed than Green-Ellis has. NEED: 2.5
WIde Receiver - Branch was a nice revelation in the second half of the season, but 2011 will be his contract year. Tate had his moments, but not enough where he is considered a reliable replacement on the outside as a go-to threat. They will try and add that player in this year's draft with one of the early picks. Welker is fine in the slot, and Edelman and Price provide nice young depth. NEED: 3.0
Tight End - Crumpler is a solid run blocker, and Gronkowski and Hernandez were very good receivers. They might look to add a blocker in the late rounds as an heir apparent for Crumpler, but it's not a high priority. NEED: 1.0
Offensive Tackle - LIght is a free agent, and he wants to return, but it'll be interesting to see if the Patriots go in a new direction. Vollmer is considered the heir apparent on the left side. They could opt to go young at right tackle and pass on re-signing the soon to be 33-year old free agent. But if they can keep Light on the cheap, they'll likely do so and focus on adding another bookend tackle in the draft to man the right side when Vollmer makes the move. They do have Kaczur, which gives them the option to move on from Light. NEED: 2.0
Offensive Guard - Losing Mankins will be a big blow, but right now the two sides are butting heads. But if they do lose him they have decent insurance policies in Kaczur and Connolly. But neither is what they consider a strong long-term option. So they would draft a guy to fill in there if they do indeed lose Mankins. Ojinnaka's return probably largely depends on them keep either Light and/or Mankins. NEED: 3.0
Center - Koppen is entering a contract year, and it would behoove them to wrap up the 31-year old long-term. But they may play hard ball and look to draft his future replacement and an insurance policy this April. NEED: 1.5
Defensive Tackle - Wilfork is solid in the middle, and the team likes the depth that Pryor and Brace can provide here. Although it wouldn't stop them from adding more in the late rounds if a good player is available. NEED: 1.0
Defensive End - This has been a problem spot since they traded Richard Seymour, and the rampant injuries that hit Ty Warren and Wright this year didn't help matters. Gerard Warren was adequate, but probably won't be back. Instead, they'll likely try and use one of their early picks to shore up this spot. NEED: 4.0
Linebacker - They definitely want to improve their pass rush on the outside. Ninkovich and Banta-Cain are their best guys, but each are much better off the bench than starting. Cunningham, Spikes, and Mayo look like a solid trio for the future, but they want to add a fourth guy that can be an impact pass rusher. Guyton provides nice depth inside, but they could use one of their middle or late round picks to add more. NEED: 4.0
Cornerback - McCourty was a solid rookie. Arrington was an improvement when he was inserted into the lineup after Butler's struggles. Bodden's return should for the most part solidify this spot. But both Butler and Wilhite haven't quite lived up to expectations since joining the team, and the team is probably smart to add another young guy to develop as depth and a future starter. NEED: 1.5
Safety - Chung and Meriweather are a solid pair of starters for the future. Sanders is a good backup because of his ability to play both positions. McGowan is a nice fourth option, and he and Jarrad Page are free agents. One should be back, but not both. If not, then they might look at adding a fourth guy into the mix in the late rounds, but it's not a need. NEED: 1.0
Kicker - Graham was a nice injury fill-in for Gostkowski, but they expect Gostkowski to be 100% from his thigh injury and be ready to play next year. They might bring in a second leg as insurance, but it's not likely to be a high priority. NEED: 1.0
Punter - Mesko had a solid rookie season and they expect him to only grow from here. NEED: 0.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.