The New England Patriots may take an approach to the draft in April much as they did the draft in 2005 when they drafted Mankins and Kaczur with two of their first three picks. The offensive line has a few holes or potential holes that need to be filled. Keeping Tom Brady protected should be the Patriots main priority right now.
Stephen Neal retired, Nick Kaczur doesn’t want to take a paycut and could be released. Matt Light is an unrestricted free agent and may not return. Logan Mankins is bound only by a franchise tag that may or may not exist under a new collective bargaining agreement. The Patriots have some front line needs that they need to address either through the upcoming draft or through free agency after a new CBA is in place.
Whether or not Light returns, he will be 33 in June and a replacement will be needed at some point. Sebastian Vollmer is capable of moving over from right tackle to the left side, but the Pats still need to draft a top tier tackle. Players already on the roster include Thomas Austin (a practice squad member last season), Dan Connolly (a 14-game starter last season), Kaczur, former Pro Bowler Dan Koppen, All-Pro Mankins, Rich Ohrnberger (a seldom-used 2009 fourth-round draft choice), Vollmer and Ryan Wendell. Volmer is good and Connolly performed fairly well last year. With Mankins and Koppen still on the line, the Patriots are still pretty good. But, a replacement for Light at some point has to be a consideration and they need to draft some guys for depth as well, especially at the guard spot.
Some draft prospects would include Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo and Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi. Guards would include Florida’s Mike Pouncey, Georgia’s Clint Boling and Baylor’s Dan Watkins. The Patriots have 2 picks in each of the first three rounds of the draft, so they definitely have some room to work.
The Patriots fandom is very vocal about the team needing to draft a pass rusher, but they might want to take a look at the O line and the holes that need to be filled going forward. The 2011 draft might resemble the 2005 draft a lot more than people think.