BOSTON (CBS) – The New England Patriots are in for a busy weekend, as the 2011 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night.
The Patriots own the 17th and 28th pick in the first round of the draft, scheduled to begin at 8 pm Thursday night. Rounds two and three will be held on Friday night, with the Rounds four through six concluding on Saturday.
In all, the Patriots own nine picks in the 2011 draft, including two in each of the first three rounds.
This puts New England in a very good position to either move up or down to get the player(s) they want. It is very unlikely the Patriots will make both first round selections Thursday night, especially since they own the first pick in the second-round. Like years past, look for the Patriots to use their late first-rounder to acquire a pick (or picks) later in the draft or for future drafts.
The NFL is in a very unique situation this year. The lockout has kept teams from signing free agents, so the Patriots may shy away from their “best player available” philosophy and instead draft for need.
So what do the Patriots need this weekend?
They could use help on the pass rush, someone who can get to the quarterback or at least put pressure on them. The Patriots have not recorded a sack in their last four playoff games, all losses. Names like defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple), Cameron Heywood (Ohio State) and Cameron Jordan (Cal) have all been linked to the Patriots.
Wilkerson has been compared to Richard Seymour, who the Patriots traded to the Oakland Raiders for what turned out to be the 17th pick. Could the Patriots use that pick to draft the Seymour-like defender?
New England could also use a running back for the future. Mark Ingram of Oklahoma (the top ranked RB in the draft) worked out with the Patriots, and could be available at #17. If not, look for the Patriots to address running back in the later rounds. They could use another back with Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead and BenJarvis Green-Ellis the only names on the depth chart.
The Patriots also need more help on the offensive line. Stephen Neal retired after the 2010 season and Matt Light and Logan Mankins are both free agents, so the Patriots should use their abundance of picks to shore up Tom Brady’s protection. Highly touted guard Mike Pouncey out of Florida could be a possibility at 17, but the Patriots would likely have to trade up in order to acquire his services.
Other positions the Patriots could address in later rounds: Corner, Wide Receiver, Quarterback
It should be an entertaining weekend for Patriots fans. New England is in a good position to build for the future on both sides of the ball and it will be interesting to see how Bill Belichick and Co. use the picks they have been building up.
Tune in to 98.5 The Sports Hub all weekend for NFL Draft coverage. The DA Show kicks off the coverage Thursday night. Scott Zolak, Jermaine Wiggins and Mike Flynn will be broadcasting LIVE from the CBS Scene at Gillette Stadium from 7pm-12am on Friday. And Gresh & Zolak close out the NFL Draft coverage LIVE from the CBS Scene on Saturday from 11am-2:30pm.