2013 NFL Draft primer: New England Patriots
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The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft kicks off on April 25, and every team will look to build for both present and future. This is the 27th in a two-a-day, 30-part series that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.
PICK NO. 29: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
2012 record: 12-4
Key offseason acquisitions:
Danny Amendola, wide receiver
Adrian Wilson, safety
Leon Washington, running back/kick returner
Donald Jones, wide receiver
Tommy Kelly, defensive tackle
Michael Jenkins, wide receiver
Key offseason departures:
Wes Welker, wide receiver
Brandon Lloyd, wide receiver
Patrick Chung, safety
Danny Woodhead, running back
Biggest holes in roster: Wide receiver, cornerback, defensive end
Raise your hand if you thought the words "Tom Brady needs more weapons" would ever be seen in that order, much less in 2013.
Yes, New England replaced their sure-handed slot receiver out of Texas Tech (Wes Welker) with a younger sure-handed slot receiver out of Texas Tech (Danny Amendola). Amendola shows a lot of promise, but he's missed more games in the past two years (20) than he's played (12). The Patriots also cut Brandon Lloyd, and the two guys the Patriots signed to replace him -- Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones -- have averaged a combined 2.64 catches and 32.2 yards per game in 465 total games. Add in Rob Gronkowski's lingering forearm issues, and the Patriots would be wise to add another pass-catching threat before training camp.
Ideally, the Patriots would want a tall, strong wideout to be the yin to Amendola's yang. Tennessee's Justin Turner would be that guy. At 6-4, Turner is one of the taller receivers in this year's draft. He's surprisingly fast (4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine) and actually put up better numbers with the Vols in 2012 than teammate Cordarrelle Patterson, who's expected to go higher in the draft. Hunter has a few red flags -- he tore his ACL as a sophomore, he's been haunted by a case of the dropsies in the past and is sometimes prone to mental lapses. But he's got the physical tools to succeed in the NFL, and New England might not be able to resist that.
The secondary could also be addressed here. Even after the midseason acquisition of Aqib Talib, the Pats allowed the fourth-most passing yards (4,342). Granted, most of those yards came about because teams trailed and had no choice but to air it out, If the Patriots choose to bolster their defensive backfield, Houston's D.J. Hayden may be a sneaky option here.
The 5-11 Hayden has most of the key ingredients that teams want in a solid cornerback: speed, hands, coverage skills and tackling ability. He would probably go a lot higher if not for a life-threatening hit he took last year that tore his inferior vena cava (a major vein that transports de-oxygenated blood from the lower half of the body up to the heart). He's been medically cleared, and while torn veins are a serious issue, most teams are probably aware of the freak nature of the injury. An enterprising team such as the Patriots may think he's worth the calculated risk here.
Then there's always the inevitable trade down. The Patriots have traded back/into future draft picks 31 times since 2000, opting to stockpile selections instead of surrendering them to move up. New England only has five picks in this year's draft, the lowest total for any Belichick-era Pats team. Don't be surprised if Bill Belichick and company accepts a deal from a QB-hungry team willing to give up multiple mid-round or 2014 picks for a guy such as Ryan Nassib, E.J. Manuel or Matt Barkley.