Their 29th ranked secondary is just one of several ways the New England Patriots can use their first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
New England holds the No. 29 pick in the first round and in two weeks could address a middling pass rush, as well as some glaring needs on offense.
With 37 total sacks, New England was tied for 15th in the league, which put more pressure on the a pass defense that let up 271.4 yards per game. Veterans Dwight Freeney and John Abraham were rumored as possible free agent signings, but New England could instead gamble on a young pass rusher on draft night and spend their cap room elsewhere.
Based on the 2012 Draft alone, the Patriots have a proven track record of making smart draft choices. Head coach Bill Belichick put together a top 10 rushing defense and a 12-4 overall record with the help of his two first round picks from last year’s draft in defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
The Patriots may also have a glaring need at tight end with Rob Gronkowski facing some serious questions about his health for next season, and with Aaron Hernandez unable to play a full season in his three years.
The four players below could help Belichick and New England reclaim the AFC crown.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
At No. 29, several of the top ranked defensive tackles will already be off the board. Belichick went defensive end in the first round last year with Jones, and it paid off. The rookie was second on the team in sacks with six, but Richardson could make more lanes for both Jones and Hightower to improve, and provide depth behind Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love.
He may be gone before New England picks, but if he falls, the Patriots should consider snatching him up.
Jamar Taylor CB, Boise State
Corners Dee Milliner and Desmond Trufant are expected to be off the board by the middle of the first round, along with safety Kenny Vaccaro. The secondary is in desperate need of new blood after surrendering an NFL-worst 74 plays of 20-plus yards last season. Enter Taylor. His size, 5'10", 192 lbs., is about average. But his 40-yard dash was a blistering 4.41, giving him a terrific tool to use against NFL receivers.
Keenan Allen, WR, California
The loss of Wes Welker was technically remedied with the signing of Danny Amendola, but the Patriots haven’t had a viable deep threat since Randy Moss. Allen’s 40 time of 4.71 left much to be desired, but he’s still one of the best all-around receivers in this class. New England probably won’t go wide receiver this early if Pittsburgh decides not to match their offer for Emmanuelle Sanders. Although there are rumors, according to Yahoo!Sports, that Belichick could be pulling an elaborate ruse on the Steelers.
Standing 6-foot-2 at 206 lbs., Allen has prototypical receiver size to break tackles down field to extend plays.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
An infection following Rob Gronkowski’s surgery on his broken left forearm has left his status for the start of 2013 unclear. Eifert has the size, 6-foot-6 250 lbs., to plug in and be Tom Brady’s next big target. At rush-reliant Notre Dame, Eifert hauled in 50 passes for 685 yards and four touchdowns.