It’s only 31 days away, so it’s time to start opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar! This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.
Our Draft Advent Calendar is basically an (over)simplified way to appraise each team’s offseason moves to this point, and what roster needs still remain that could be addressed via the draft. We’ve all had those years when nobody, fucking nobody get us what we put on our list. We’ve all also experienced that shitty moment when we realize that the gift we want to get is no longer available in stores. As such, we’re not going to predict which college players will go to which team. Rather, we’re appraising each NFL team to this point, and what position(s) they might want to address when the last advent door is opened and the wise men start going off like a bunch of gun lobbyists.
DOOR #2 – The Patriots
2012 Finish: 12-4; lost AFC Championship
TOTAL PICKS: 4
Well, well, well. The franchise with the reputation for stockpiling draft picks finally shows how that strategy can occasionally catch up with you. After an era of looking like the smiling Monopoly Robber Baron with the monacle, the Pats have come up dry in this draft, with just four picks. (Although who says New England can’t parlay that into a Hall Of Fame player and three more years of draft security? It wouldn’t be the first time…)
The signing of WR Wes Welker with Denver has overshadowed any other moves the Patriots have made up to this point. I’ve already weighed in on how that move should be far from disastrous for New England. In that same post, I also pointed out that the Pats need to address their defense more than their offense. They’ve done that so far via free agency, with the bargain deal for veteran safety Adrian Wilson from Arizona (3 years, $5 million, with a $1 million signing bonus) and by resigning CB Aquib Talib to a one-year contract. You can forgive New England for not committing to Talib. Yes, he’s had off-field issues in the past, but he is crucial to the Pats being able to run the man-to-man coverage on the outside that makes a good pass rush possible. (Perhaps we could take the one-year length of the deal as an indication of both Talib’s tenuous reputation and the Patriots’ poor track record recently at drafting defensive backs.)
In a strange way for a franchise that continues to dominate the regular season standings, New England could use a lot of help in almost every facet of their team. Despite their en vogue tight end sets, the Pats are still quietly desperate to find a playmaker at wide receiver. Despite what I just said above, the Patriots could still benefit from strengthening their defensive front seven.
But their most under-recognized need is the offensive line. They managed to retain RT Sebastian Vollmer by inking him to a new 4-year, $27 million deal, but the 5-year pro has looked shaky at times, and has been one of their best blockers despite those struggles. Media pundits like Peter King have aptly argued that the Pats have been burned by missing on defensive draft picks, and as such they need to look to defense in the draft. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but an offense that is as dependent on pocket passing as New England needs to make sure their line plays better than it did last season when it looked downright awful at times. (I mentioned at one point in What I Saw last season that opposing defensive fronts looked like they’d picked the Pats’ play in Tecmo Bowl.)
Bottom line: They can’t adequately address those needs with just four draft picks. But this is also the closest thing to a dynasty that the NFL has seen since the Cowboys of the early 1990s. And they boast one of the most respected eyes for scouting in head coach Bill Belichick. So there’s that.