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Patriots - News Archives for 2014-05

Tuesday's New England Patriots Links: 5/27 - The Most Intriguing Rookie Storylines at Patriots' OTAs

The health of rookie Dominique Easley will be among many topics discussed during this week's OTA's. (USA TODAY Images)

Dante Scarnecchia keeps up pipe-line to Patriots - Jeff Howe: Howe has an article on Dante Scarnecchia, who even in retirement apparently hasn’t stopped helping the Patriots.


Tom Brady: 'There's No Entitlement in the NFL' - Erik Frenz: Frenz looks at Brady's comments to Peter King and gives his thoughts on the veteran quarterback.


Patriots now in Phase 3 of offseason - Mike Reiss: Reiss gives the rundown on this phase of the Patriots offseason, which now has organized team activities up next.

History of Patriots and keeping 3 QBs - Mike Reiss: Reiss looks at the number of quarterbacks the team has kept over the years under Belichick's tenure.


Comparing Cowboys, Pats take on QBs - Todd Archer: Archer has an entry comparing the approach by the Cowboys and the Patriots when it comes to quarterbacks.


On Holidays, Heroes and a Patriot Named Brady - Peter King: For those who may have missed it, here's a terrific piece by Peter King where he spent some time with Tom Brady and got some terrific quotes.


Study: Patriots’ Franchise Among Top Five Best Investments Of Decade - Darren Hartwell: Hartwell looks at a study on Business Insider ranking NFL Franchises, which has the Patriots among the top.


The Most Intriguing Rookie Storylines at Patriots' OTAs - James Christensen: Christensen looks at some of the storylines surrounding the rookies heading into OTAs, and feels Dominique Easley's health will be among them.

Patriots OTAs: Latest Player Reports and Analysis - James Christensen: Christensen also has another article looking at players heading into this week's activities.


Marc’s Final Thoughts on the 2014 NFL Draft: Big Board, A+ Picks & Best UDFAs - Marc Sluis - Sluis gives his final thoughts on this year's draft, and gives his final rankings.


Watch Vince Wilfork dance while grilling on Memorial Day (Video) - Wilfork's wife posted a video of him dancing while doing some grilling yesterday.

Thursday's Patriots Links 5/22: Patriots try out two RBs and two TEs


Report: Patriots Paid LB James Morris $20,000 For Four Days - Erik Frenz: Frenz has a note on Morris, who grabbed a decent amount of money during his short tenure with the team.


Bill Belichick and the four-down player - Mike Reiss: Reiss has some notes on a recent piece from ESPN Insider, with Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders highlighting the importance of being a "four down" player.

Updating Jon Halapio's contract details - Mike Reiss & Field Yates: Reiss and Yates point out the details of Halapio's contract numbers.

Patriots try out two RBs and two TEs - Mike Reiss: Reiss has notes on some players the Patriots recently tried out as the team continues exploring their options.

When a player gets 20k for 4 days of work - Mike Reiss: Reiss has his report on the fact Morris made $20,000 during his four day stint in New England.

Updating Bryan Stork's contract details - Field Yates: Yates has full numbers on Stork's contract, which included a $477,000 signing bonus.


Assessing Every Patriots UDFA's Chances of Making the Roster - James Christensen: Christensen has a good read as he evaluates the undrafted free agents and rates the chance each has of making the team.


Patriots Lack Depth At Important Positions Heading Into OTAs  - Doug Kyed has an entry with his thoughts on the Patriots depth heading into OTA's, and also has a podcast as he discusses this with MassLive's Nick Underhill.


Bill Belichick Named One Of Sports Illustrated’s Most Disliked People in Sports - With the whole Donald Stern fiasco, SI decided to create a list of disliked people and Belichick made the list.


Report: Patriots work out Ronnie Brown, Ben Hartsock - Mike Wilkening: Wilkening has a couple of notes on the fact New England worked out a couple of tight ends, as well as running back Ronnie Brown.


Community Calendar: In this link you'll see a couple of upcoming football camps that include a "Mom Safety Clinic" hosted by the Patriots next Thursday, along with Rob Gronkowski's annual youth clinic.


Jed Weaver, Former Miami Dolphin Tight End and Mizner Grande Realty Agent, Scores Big with Oceanfront Mansion Sale - An interesting press release about the fact Weaver, who was part of the Patriots 2004 Championship and is now a real estate agent, apparently closed the deal after selling a $5.35 million oceanfront mansion.

Wednesday's New England Patriots Links 5/21- Jones gets a leg up on the season

Chandler Jones is looking to get stronger heading into 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots DE Chandler Jones gets a leg up on the season - Shalise Manza Young: Manza Young files her notebook this morning, which leads off with a bit on Chandler Jones and how the defensive end took some time off after last season before getting back into working out.

Chandler Jones' Advice To Rookies: Be Consistent, Don't Just Get By With Talent - Erik Frenz: Frenz has some good stuff from Jones, who admitted that during his rookie year he relied more on his talent, and feels film study is more important in becoming a better player.

Bronkowski, Edelman Blow Our Minds with T-shirt Game - Robert Burgess: Burgess has his take on the latest game going on between Gronkowski and Edelman, who are wearing pictures of eachother and posting them on social media.


Dominique Easley's funny side always entertains teammates, family, friends - Jeff Howe: Howe spotlights Easley's "fun" side in this entry.

Patriots Notebook: Cameron Fleming's way no space shot - Jeff Howe: Howe files his notebook for this morning, which leads off on his thoughts on fourth rounder Cameron Fleming, who will compete with Marcus Cannon to become the team's top back-up for Sebastian Vollmer.


Chandler Jones targets lower-body strength - Mike Reiss: Reiss has an article of his own on Jones, who has spent time focusing on strengthening his lower body heading into this season.

Patriots release rookie LB Morris - Mike Reiss: Reiss has a note on the fact the team released rookie linebacker James Morris after the team let him go with a "failed physical" designation.

Jersey numbers for newest Patriots - Mike Reiss: Reiss has updated jersey numbers for some of the new players in this entry.

Details on rookie Patriots contracts - Field Yates: Yates has contract details for some of the draft choices after each recently signed deals with the team.

Sizing up rookie RB James White - Mike Reiss: Reiss has a nice entry on White, who considers his pass protection to be one of his strengths.

Weekly Patriots mail is delivered - Mike Reiss: Reiss has this week's mailbag, which as always has some interesting thoughts.

Leftover pieces of Patriots mail - Mike Reiss: Reiss answers some additional questions, including why the Patriots didn't elect to try and draft QB Teddy Bridgewater.


Even with draft two weeks later, new CBA means Patriots Rookies Agreeing to Deals at Rapid Rate - Christopher Price: Price has an article on how much more quickly deals have gotten done with the rookies compared to last season thanks to the new CBA.


Patriots Journal: Will Smith could give Chandler Jones a breather - Mark Daniels: Daniels files his notebook this morning, which leads off on some comments from Chandler Jones on newly acquired Will Smith.


Ty Law On Gresh & Zo: ‘No Matter Where I Was At, I Was Always A Patriot To The Core’ - Law appeared on Gresh and Zo yesterday and talked about his time with other teams, although he says he was always a Patriot.

Julian Edelman Sporting a Shirtless Picture of Rob Gronkowski

As we know, this is a pretty tight-knit group when it comes to many of the players on the Patriots roster. However, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman took it to a whole new level when he was spotted wearing a t-shirt which had a shirtless photo of teammate Rob Gronkowski.

In the photo, which was Tweeted from the receiver's Twitter account, he told Gronkowski it was "#goslingtyme".

Here's a look at that photo:

The reference to actor Ryan Gosling comes after the actor recently stepped out in a shirt with a large photograph of Macaulay Culkin, and Culkin responded by creating a top with a photograph of Gosling wearing his image.

ESPN shows the similarity below:

No response yet from Gronkowski.

Tuesday's New England Patriots Links 5/20 - Patriots will hold joint practice with Redskins in August


Here are this morning's top stories:

Patriots will hold joint practice with Redskins in August - Shalise Manza Young: Manza Young files her notebook this morning, which leads off on the fact the Patriots will hold joint practices with the Redskins in August prior to their preseason meeting.


Patriots Notebook: High regard for this Law - Jeff Howe: Howe files his notebook this morning, which leads off with some notes Law's induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame.


White joins Patriots; Fleming must wait - Mike Reiss: Reiss has an entry on running back James White, who has now joined the team on a full-time basis after being delayed because his class at Wisconsin had yet to hold graduation ceremonies.

Easley, Garoppolo lone unsigned picks - Mike Reiss: Reiss notes that the Patriots 1st and 2nd round picks remain the only two players from the draft who are unsigned at this point.

Ty Law to be inducted into Patriots Hall - Mike Reiss: Reiss has an entry on Law, who is the latest Patriot headed into the team's Hall of Fame.

Rookies Butler and McCuller join Patriots - Mike Reiss: Reiss writes that the team continued filling out their roster Monday, adding rookie free agents Malcolm Butler (CB) and Taylor McCuller (LB).

Deserving honor for the 'Cover Man' - Mike Reiss: Reiss has an article on Law, and writes that Law's franchise-record-tying 36 interceptions remind us of his status as one of the all-time great playmakers in team history.

Three open roster spots, so what's next? - Mike Reiss: Reiss gives his thoughts on the final two available open roster spots the team had available.


Fans vote Ty Law as the 2014 Patriots Hall of Fame Inductee - The team posted their release on Law, with some great notes on what was quite a career.


CB Law the people's choice - Mark Farinella: Farinella writes that Law fulfilled and exceeded the expectations for him on the football field, so it should come as no surprise that Patriots' fans rewarded him with induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.


Florida’s third-day draftees sign deals - Zach Abolverdi: Abolverdi has an article on former Gators signing deals with their new teams, including Patriots offensive lineman Jon Halapio.


Redskins announce joint practices with Patriots in Richmond - Keith McMillan: McMillan has a note on the Patriots visit to Virginia to practice with the Redskins, with the Mayor excited about the prospect of the Patriots visiting.

Ty Law To Join Tedy Bruschi and Past Teammates into the Patriots Hall of Fame

Law joins last year's inductee Tedy Bruschi into the Patriots Hall of Fame. (USA TODAY Images)

Keeping with the tradition of past players, former Patriots cornerback Ty Law is headed to the Patriots Hall of fame, marking the fourth straight year in which an inductee has earned the honor in their first year of eligibility.

Law joins other prestigious names who accomplished that same honor, including Drew Bledsoe (2011), Troy Brown (2012), and last year's inductee Tedy Bruschi.

"Ty Law was one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the premier corners in the NFL during his Patriots career," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "The fans have helped validate that with this year’s hall of fame selection. We have had an incredible run of success and the building blocks started with players like Ty. He was an important part of three Super Bowl championship teams. It will be an honor to bring Ty back to celebrate his career as he takes his rightful place in our team’s hall of fame. I am sure he will deliver another memorable moment during his hall of fame ceremony, too."

His ceremony will be held on August 1st at 4:30pm, which is just before the team holds their annual in-stadium practice for season ticket holders.  It's also free and open to the public.

Monday's New England Patriots Links: Pats Add Speedy UMaine Receiver

The Patriots brought in another receiver, giving them 11 heading into training camp and should challenge Kenbrell Thompkins for a roster spot. (USA TODAY Images)

A relatively quiet morning on this Monday, but here are today's top stories:


It's time to retire 'The Patriot Way' - Dan Shaughnessy: Shaughnessy stirs the pot with this column, questioning the workout of Nu'Keese Richardson because of his past legal history.

A lot of Tom Brady in Jimmy Garoppolo’s game - Ben Volin: Volin has a good read on Garoppolo, who mechanically resembles Tom Brady.


Pats' No. 1 pick Dominique Easley thrives on fire and passion - Jeff Howe: Howe has a terrific feature on Easley, who returned to his former high school just after being drafted to share time with the students and encouraged them to stay in school.

NFL notes: Garoppolo a model backup for Patriots - Karen Guregian: Guregian also has a good article on Garoppolo, whose work ethic is one reason why his throwing coach believes Garoppolo will succeed with the Patriots.


Sources: Pats sign ex-Maine WR Johnson - Field Yates: Yates has a note on the signing on Johnson, who potentially brings an element of speed to New England's offense.

Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats - Mike Reiss; Reiss' notes from yesterday were a great read, so here's a link in the event you didn't see it.


Sunday NFL Notes: Patriots still seeking depth charge at linebacker - Christopher Price: The same can be said from Price's notes piece, which was also full of some interesting topics.


Source: Pats ink speedy UMaine receiver Derrick Johnson - Karen Guregian: Guregian has her take on the signing of Johnson, who points out the Patriots now have 11 receivers competing for a position.


Patriots Ryan, Beauharnais graduate from Rutgers - Andy Hart: Hart has an article on the fact both Logan Ryan and steve Beauharnais graduated from Rutgers over the weekend.


UMaine's Johnson agrees to deal with Patriots - Here's a local look from Maine following the signing of University of Maine receiver Derrick Johnson yesterday.


Early Projections for New England Patriots' Final 53-Man Roster - James Christensen: Christensen has his latest roster projection, with some interesting thoughts in this article.

Patriots Make a Surprising Pick in QB Jimmy Garoppolo In Round Two

The rumors surrounding Ryan Mallett have been swirling since the 2014 NFL Draft began, and the reality is regardless of whether or not the Patriots trade him to Houston, they were in a position where they needed to at least try their hand at selecting a quarterback this weekend.

The Patriots selected Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo Friday night.
(USA TODAY Images)
The only thing is, no one expected that it would happen as early as it did Friday night.

With the 62nd overall pick, former Patriots defensive end Willie McGinest was greeted to a sea of boos in New York wearing a Patriots T-shirt under his suit coat when he took the stage on behalf of his former team to announce the selection of Eastern Illinois quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.

Watching the reaction of quite a few fans here in New England, the boos echoed far outside New York at the news that Bill Belichick had spent a second round pick on a position that doesn't directly help them this season.

It's a pick that's obviously puzzling, but not because they won't need someone to replace Mallett after this year. It's because Garoppolo's presence solves more of the Patriots' future problems and fewer of their present issues. With the Tom Brady and Belichick window closing, it made more sense to try and add another additional player to a team that was already within striking distance of a Super Bowl last year.

After all, Garoppolo may go on to someday win a lot of games in a few years, but Friday night was a reminder that the end of Brady's amazing career as a Patriot is inching closer. As a result, everyone who has lived and died with his every throw, cheered every win or agonized over a loss, they've been a part of all of those big moments and most seem like they would have preferred New England brought in someone who could have helped him create a few more.

On the other hand, despite the fact the team has such other pressing needs, there are never any guarantees. Given the Patriots' recent history in round two, it's obviously not an exact science when it comes to selecting players who can become long-term contributors.

Aside from last year's picks of Aaron Dobson and Jamie Collins in round two, the Patriots haven't had the best luck in recent years when it comes to picking there.  Going back to 2006, there have been quite a few swings and misses, to the point where it's almost a little puzzling.

Needless to say for anyone looking for a little consolation while wondering why the Patriots spent such a high pick there, looking at this next list should be a reason to believe that if Garoppolo can establish himself as a future starter, it may be a much more positive move than some initially thought.

2006: WR Chad Jackson
2008: DB Terrence Wheatley
2009: S Patrick Chung, DT Ron Brace, CB Darius Butler, OT Sebastian Vollmer
2010: TE Rob Gronkowski, LB Jermaine Cunningham, LB Brandon Spikes
2011: CB Ras-I Dowling, RB Shane Vereen
2012: S Tavon Wilson
2013: LB Jamie Collins, WR Aaron Dobson

Looking at this group, out of 14 selections, only six have gone on to become real contributors for the Patriots, and you could make the argument that Spikes' recent departure drops this list down to five.

So the obvious analogy is the fact that for every Rob Gronkowski and Sebastian Vollmer is a Jermaine Cunningham and Ras-I Dowling. There will always be guys who just don't work out and no one ever really knows how it will play out until they get to work and hit the field.  

There's no arguing the fact that after this year the Patriots will need someone to play behind Brady and potentially replace him in the years to come. In the end, if Garoppolo can do what Mallett couldn't and prove he'll someday be able to adequately fill Brady's shoes, then it could end up being a move that no one will question.

If he can't, he'll just be added to this list.

Patriots Appear to Have Acquired Top Talent at a Great Value in Dominique Easley

Here in New England, the first round of the NFL Draft tends to be relatively uneventful and the notion of grabbing a top 10 player ends up being something that's not a possibility for a team that hasn't finished below .500 for nearly fourteen years.

Many believe Easley may have been a steal for the Patriots.
(USA TODAY Images)

As a result, the big name players are usually long gone by the time the Patriots are usually making their first selection.  That's the price they pay for being one of the NFL's elite teams, as well as a perennial winner.  When you're a team that has won 10 or more games every year since 2002, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, you don't get the luxury of drafting a top 10 talent.

That may have changed Thursday night.

Despite picking at 29th overall, the Patriots managed to land Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley with their first selection of the 2014 NFL Draft, who is a player that most experts this morning feel was a steal for New England.

Easley slipped so far down the board primarily because he suffered two ACL tears in both knees during his collegiate career, with one in 2011, and then another last September on a wet field in a non-contact practice drill.  The latter cost him the rest of his senior year.

With questions surrounding his future, it caused him to slip down the board Thursday night and right into the Patriots hands.  Many felt that had it not been for his injuries, Easley would have potentially been a top 10 pick considering what a dominant player he was when he was healthy for the Gators.   Bill Belichick told the media last night following the selection that when it came time to pick they didn't want to let him get away, and he's not worried about Easley's knees.

“We felt good about Dominique, and there were a couple teams behind us that, we just didn’t want to take a chance on him,” said Belichick.  “We feel like he’ll be all right.”

On paper Easley isn't the type of player who puts up a lot of numbers, accumulating 72 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks during his collegiate career.  However, his power and his presence inside often commanded the attention of multiple blockers, allowing guys around him to make plays. That's something Belichick also pointed out, and feels Easley has a good knack for.

"He’s a very disruptive player," said Belichick. "In college, I would say his stats might have been a little bit deceiving because a lot of times he was the disruptive person on the play, but he wasn’t the guy who ended up making the tackle. Or it wouldn’t be on the stats sheet, but the reason the play wasn’t successful was his penetration and ability to be disruptive. I think he has a good knack for that. He’s an explosive player. "

That's the type of player Vince Wilfork had been prior to his Achilles injury and one that New England has needed to add alongside him.  One good thing about Easley is he does a good job of creating inside pressure, which could certainly allow Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich more opportunities to get to the quarterback.  Even if they don't get to him, if Easley is able to help them be disruptive, he could alter the throw well enough to allow cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner chances to create a turnover.

These are things we've seen the Patriots begin to do over the past couple of seasons, and Easley appears to be the next piece in a defense that has made some massive strides this offseason.

His addition certainly gives them some options, and the fact that he's also played in multiple spots up front offers them some versatility in a defensive scheme that tends to change week-to-week.  Needless to say it sounds like he should fit in quite well, and Belichick is happy that Easley was on the board long enough for them to take him.

"He’s a versatile guy that’s played different positions along the defensive line," said Belichick.   "So we’ll just see how it all comes together here, but I’m glad he was able to last that long. I’m looking forward to having him."

Florida's Dominique Easley Should be a Good Addition to Patriots Defense

The Patriots had a need at defensive tackle, and they addressed it during round one of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, selecting Florida's Dominique Easley with the 29th overall pick.

The Patriots added a pass rusher in Dominique Easley Thursday night.
(USA TODAY Images)
One thing you can say about Easley is he's been a fighter, having battled through ACL tears in both knees.  According to reports from his Pro Day back on April 17th, Easley reportedly looked great just six months removed from surgery from a tear he suffered last September, costing him the final nine games of his senior season.

It didn't keep New England from taking him, and now they've added a guy who will join Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich as a potential pass-rushing threat for a defense that has made some aggressive moves so far this offseason.

Easley, who is listed at 6'2", 288-pounds, has one word that is used consistently throughout several draft profiles, which is "explosive". Infusing a player of his caliber into this defense certainly gives New England some ferocity inside, and one would have to think he'll be able to help guys like Jones and Ninkovich be more effective getting to the quarterback if he can create the type of inside pressure he did in college for Florida.

According to a report in the Orlando Sentinal on Tuesday Easley, who turned 22 last week, has estimated he's at about 80% in terms of his recovery and expects to be ready to participate when training camp opens in late July.

Back then he said that all of the adversity is behind him, and now he's only focused on getting back onto the field for his new team.

"I'm only worried about what I'm going to do when I get to the team I'm going to be at," Easley told the newspaper. "I don't really pay any attention to that. Everybody knows how I play. Everybody has seen my love for the game. Everybody has seen my passion for it."

Now he at least knows where he'll be playing.

Looking at the Patriots Needs Heading into Tonight's Draft

As we get set for tonight's first round selections, here are some final thoughts and a rating of importance for each position in terms of where the Patriots may need to prioritize over these next few days.


Current group: Kyle Arrington, Brandon Browner, Alfonzo Dennard, Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan

Need Level: Low

Analysis: After the addition of Browner and Revis, this is a group that is suddenly relatively deep with a good mix of youth and experience.  It's not a high need for New England, although if someone happens to fall to them that might be a strong fit it wouldn't be a bad thing either.


Current Group: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Justin Green

Need Level: High

Analysis: After McCourty things are a little shaky, although Harmon showed flashes of potential last season and could potentially be a factor if he can take things to the next level this season.  Still, it's not a deep group, and if the right player happens to fall into their lap, it would certainly make things a little easier.


Current Group: Michael Buchanan, Marcus Forston, Tommy Kelly, Joe Vellano, Vince Wilfork, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga

Need Level: High

Analysis: Coming off of an Achilles injury there are obviously plenty of questions about Wilfork, and Kelly is also battling his way back from a knee injury.    We saw encouraging things last season while they were out from Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga, while Joe Vellano was inconsistent.  The vast majority of mock drafts seem to have the Patriots targeting a defensive lineman in round one, and New England is at the point now where infusing youth while adding some talent inside is something that is necessary enough where we could see them address this area tonight.

DEFENSIVE END: Current Group: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette, Armond Armstead

Need Level: Medium

Analysis: Jones and Ninkovich obviously anchor this group and are two players who have continued to be productive.  The improved additions to the secondary should hopefully buy them an additional second or two to start getting to the quarterback this season, and if the line can play better inside and create pressure that would obviously be a big help as well.  Belichick talks about drafting based on value, and if the right player is available having more guys who can get to the quarterback is never a bad thing.


Current Group: Jamie Collins, Ja'Gared Davis, Dont'a Hightower, Josh Hull, Jerod Mayo, Will Smith, Chris White, Steve Beauharnais

Need Level: High

Analysis: Drafting Collins last year appears to have given them a player who possesses both the athleticism and physical play that makes him a relatively complete player, and it's hard not to feel like his addition was a great one for this football team.  Hightower also made some progress in his second year, and the return of Jerod Mayo rounds out a pretty good group.  However, the reason for the "high" rating is it never hurts to have some additional depth, and they don't have much right now. Needless to say adding talent to this group is something that is arguably needed given who they have currently if anyone gets injured.

Tight end will likely be a priority for the Patriots this weekend.
(USA TODAY Images)

Current Group: Chris Baker, Marcus Cannon, Braxston Cave, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, R.J. Mattes,  Ryan Wendell, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Jordan Devey, Sebastian Vollmer

Need Level: High

Analysis: Last season this group didn't fare so well overall, with opponents having above average success in getting to Tom Brady throughout the season.  With Vollmer coming off of back problems and then the gruesome leg injury he suffered, there are questions about his health, while they still need help at center as well as someone opposite Mankins at the other guard position.  Most mock drafts believe that if the Patriots don't go for defensive line help, drafting an offensive lineman is something they may also address early.  With their success hinging on Brady, it obviously makes sense to be sure he's got plenty of protection around him.


Current Group: Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, D.J. Williams

Need Level: Insanely  High

Analysis: Aaron Hernandez's arrest at the end of last June put the Patriots in a tough position since it was too late in the year to replace him with anyone of consequence.  Losing Rob Gronkowski was obviously huge, and considering he's coming off of a major knee injury there are certainly no guarantees about how his knee will fare, especially if it affects him to the point where he plays tentatively.  Jace Amaro's name has appeared in some of the more recent mocks for New England despite the fact that many of them have him rated as a second round talent.  If he likes what he's seen from Amaro enough, it wouldn't be a shock if Belichick decides not to take any chances and drafts him that high, although we could instead see them trade back a few spots as well.  Needless to say it should make things interesting but coming away with a tight end will likely be a big priority.


Current Group: Brandon Bolden, James Develin, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Jonas Gray

Need Level: Medium

Analysis: On paper, this is once again a relatively deep group and heading into a contract year, as well as coming off of a very difficult one, one would believe that Ridley will be a different player this season and could even resemble the player who rushed for over 1200 yards two seasons ago.  Meanwhile Vereen took some big steps last year, while Bolden was also a good situational player.  However, the long-term future of a couple of these guys is still a question so bringing in some competition along with potentially a bigger-sized back would make sense.


Current Group: Danny Amendola, Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Mark Harrison, Reggie Dunn, Brandon LaFell, Greg Orton, Matthew Slater

Need Level: Low

Analysis: Most fans weren't happy with what they saw last season from this group and everyone always talks about how amazing it would be if the Patriots had a Dez Bryant or a Calvin Johnson type of player.  That situation hasn't prevented itself but they've put together a pretty talented group that should actually be better this season.  Dobson had some pretty good moments last season and became a productive player on third down during the span where they were dealing with injuries, while Boyce also started to come on late in the year.  The biggest question mark is going to be what happens with Thompkins, who started off fast and then trailed off.  It would be surprising to see Amendola spend as much time on the injury report given what we saw last season and one would believe he'll get his body right.  It will also be interesting to see how LaFell factors into the mix, as well as whether or not Harrison can play a factor.  It wouldn't be a surprise to see someone drafted late, but it shouldn't be a priority.


Current Group: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett

Need Level: Medium

Analysis: The reason for the "medium" rating is primarily because if New England elects to draft someone, which will likely be a certainty, they should try and address it in the later rounds much like they did with Cassell.  Their last two players who were taken in the third round (Mallett and Kevin O'Connell) make you wonder if those picks couldn't have been used on more productive talent at other positions.  Mallett hasn't evolved enough to give them any return on their investment, and will likely walk after this season when he hits free agency.  Barring disaster we're probably a season or two from seeing a serious search for life after Brady, but despite some of the high-profile visits from some of the bigger named quarterback prospects, it doesn't make sense to mortgage the present by drafting a one high.


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