After a dominating offseason thus far, and increasing the gap between themselves and the rest of the league, head coach and general manager Bill Belichick still has some holes on the roster to fill.
Running Back: Based on the contract newcomer Rex Burkhead received, it looks like the starting running back job is his to lose.
The depth behind him is a little iffy. Sure, James White and Dion Lewis are dynamic backs in the passing game, although Lewis is also dynamic in the running game (albeit injury prone), there is no other true bell cow running back on this team.
Now obviously, the focus of the Patriots offense is not the running game, but anyone who believes they need no presence on the ground should promptly look at the 2015 AFC championship game when Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were able to pin their ears back and not worry about the Patriots embarrassing excuse of a running game.
The running game is important to this team. It makes life a whole lot easier for defenses if they know the offense they are going up against can’t run against nickel and dime packages. So drafting a running back, in a draft class littered with good running back talents, or perhaps taking a chance on a player like Jamaal Charles, would be a smart addition.
Interior Offensive Line: The Patriots could stand to add some depth and competition on the interior offensive line. Right guard, Shaq Mason, has a secure job, since he took a huge step forward and looks like a premiere starting guard in the making.
Left guard, Joe Thuney, also looks to be the guard of the future, although his play down the stretch faded considerably. Perhaps some competition there would help improve him, especially in the passing game.
The one position on the offensive line I’d like to see a change is the center, where David Andrews is a serviceable starting center, but an upgrade could certainly help. His pass protection is solid, but in the running game, he is often overmatched by quicker, more agile interior defensive linemen.
Edge Rush: Trey Flowers and Kony Ealy seem to be slated to be the starting defensive ends, and that is pretty darn good. They are both all around solid players, as they defend the run and can rush the passer.
On clear cut passing situations, they do not have an edge rusher who can really impact, and finish, the game.
This draft is filled with good edge prospects, so expect the Patriots to dip in that well.
Coverage Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower. Kyle Van Noy. Elandon Roberts. Shea McClellin. None of them can effectively cover tight ends or running backs on a consistent basis. That’s why when the Patriots started deploying Devin McCourty closer to the line of scrimmage, the defense really took a step forward. Both McCourty and Chung were put closer to the line of scrimmage, while Harmon was tasked with the deep half of the field.
I do like that alignment, but you are giving up size in the box, which is why a coverage linebacker, would really help this defense.
The free agent class for linebackers has dried up, with the only viable option being Zach Brown, who would fit perfectly here, but the reports are saying that he is asking for a good chunk of money.
There are certainly some more athletic type linebackers in this draft that the Patriots could use, so it would be wise to spend a mid-round pick on one of those linebackers.