New England Patriots' NFL Draft Needs in 2009

Pete McKeownAnalyst IJanuary 7, 2009

When it comes to drafts, the Patriots have historically been know for having an efficient and educated war room. Decision-makers Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick understand the importance of draft day and never waste a pick.

They love to go out and get players with a high game IQ and versatility; guys who can come right in and fit into their system or fill a specific need.

As of right now, they have nine picks, though that will change based on their compensation picks they will receive for losing players like Asante Samuel or Donté Stallworth.

Pioli and Belichick love to stockpile picks, even if it's on the second day, and following a year where they saw how important team depth can be, they are sure to take each pick seriously.

I don't see them going after too many guys on the offensive side of the ball. They certainly are set at quarterback and their committee of running backs proved to be a very successful experiment, and if Laurence Maroney can come back healthy and gain back the confidence the team once had in him, they could have up to four weapons in the back field and have no need to draft at RB. 

The only positions on offense I could see them drafting are offensive line, tight end and possibly a receiver if they decide to challenge the struggling Jabar Gaffney. With the exception of Logan Mankins, the Patriots usually wait until the later rounds to pick up offensive linemen, in some cases even signing undrafted free agents that have raw potential (Stephen Neal).

The tight-end position in 2008 left something to be desired, but only because the expectations had been set so high for the past seasons. Ben Watson, for all his speed and raw talent, has yet to assert himself into the offensive scheme. Also, the fact that my only memory of David Thomas from this season is his idiotic penalty to cost the Pats the huge game against the Indianapolis Colts is not good for his stock.

I wouldn't be surprised if they used a third or fourth rounder to bring more depth to the position. 

Defensively, the Patriots have a lot of holes to fill. With their first pick of the draft, I see them going out and getting a safety. They need a guy who can help protect them from being exposed by deep passes, and someone like Taylor Mays out of USC would be a very nice talent to pick up (though they'd probably have to trade up for him).

I think they do need a linebacker also, as they are aging quickly and showed a lack of depth before the end of the season when they had to pull Junior Seau out of retirement. Don't expect Belichick to fill this need in the first round unless it's a very highly regarded LB, as Jerod Mayo was last year, but another young athlete for the inside would go a long way to strengthening the core. 

The Patriots will definitely pick a cornerback or even multiple in this draft, but I also see them potentially using some picks to trade for a veteran or going out into free agency and finding someone who fits their personnel. They were exposed last season as a team with a secondary that could be picked apart, and expect the Patriots' decision-makers to fill that void accordingly. 

Another name I heard floating around was veteran Jason Taylor, a great fit for a line that could use more speed to get to the passer. He'd fit nicely in the Pats' scheme, though I don't know that they could afford someone with his contract.

Promising sophomore Shawn Crable, who missed most of last year with an injury, was being compared to Willie McGinest, a high complement in Foxborough. If a defensive lineman is chosen, odds are it will happen on the second day, because New England's D-line is as solid as they come.

Whatever the Patriots decide to do, be sure to know it will be calculated. They head into this offseason with a higher-than-normal salary cap, an aging defense, and holes in some dangerous positions, so expect them to go into this upcoming draft with purpose and a sense of urgency to address the flaws that kept them from playing past Week 17 in 2008.