2012 NFL Draft: New England Patriots Free Agency Has Exposed Draft Plan

By Sean Rollins

Following a tough loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, it was clear what the New England Patriots would be looking to do during the 2012 offseason. The three positions that needed help were wide receiver, the defensive line, and the defensive backfield. With the moves the Patriots have made through free agency, they’ve made clear what their intentions will be in the draft.

The Patriots had one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL in 2011. The only weak spot on their offense was wide receiver. Due to the lack of depth and experience, the Patriots used tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as primary receivers during the season. There were only three experienced receivers on the team with Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Chad Ochocinco though Ochocinco’s lack of production created even more problems.

The Patriots have fixed the problem of receiver depth by adding three new receivers through free agency. The team signed Brandon Lloyd, Donte Stallworth, and Anthony Gonzalez. While Gonzalez has suffered from injuries over the past few seasons and Stallworth’s last big year was with the Patriots in 2007, Lloyd was considered one of the top free agents this offseason at the position and had tremendous success in Denver under new Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The weakest side of the ball for the Patriots in 2011 was their defense. The Patriots had the second worst defense in the NFL last season giving up 428 yards per game. The biggest problem with that defense was their secondary. The Patriots secondary allowed 239 of those yards through the air. Most critics agreed going into this offseason that the defensive backfield should be the number one priority.

Another spot that is needed to be addressed for 2012 is on the defensive line or more specifically, a pass rusher. While the Patriots recorded a respectable 40 sacks in 2011, the veteran defensive line is only getting older and replacements need to be assembled.

The Patriots have made moves this free agency on defense but not as impactful as at receiver. The Patriots have signed defensive end/defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene and defensive end/outside linebacker Trevor Scott. They also added free safety Steve Gregory to the defensive backfield. While these moves should help, they still need more through the draft.

With the wide receiver position now complete, the Patriots 2012 draft will be completely focused on defense. The Patriots hold six picks with four coming in the first two rounds. In the first round they have the 27th and 31st overall picks while in the second round they have the 48th and 62nd overall picks. After that, the Patriots have one pick in each of the next two rounds with their fifth, sixth, and seventh round picks having been traded away.

Having four picks in the first two rounds, despite how low they are, should bode well for the Patriots in attempting to upgrade their defense in 2012. For a team that won the AFC Championship in 2011 and narrowly missed winning their fourth Super Bowl in eleven years, the New England Patriots look to be a favorite to win in 2012.

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