New England Patriots 2014 Draft Preview


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( - It's time for New England to get a little bit younger at multiple positions but there is still plenty of shelf life left in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.

All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski's health has to be a concern moving forward, and even if Gronk can stay on the field, New England would like to replicate the two-tight end offense it had when both Gronkowski and the now-jailed Aaron Hernandez were at their peaks.

North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is the best TE in this draft, an athletic marvel in the mold of a Vernon Davis. Some question his physicality and strength, however, so don't be surprised if he falls a bit on draft day. Whether Ebron is still around at No. 29, though, is a longshot so perhaps Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, a slot option in the mold of Hernandez, could be the more likely scenario.

Athletic Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman also shapes up as a nice fit as would Notre Dame nose Louis Nix or a young offensive lineman like Nevada's Joel Bitonio or Virginia's Morgan Moses.

2013 Record: 12-4

Top Needs: WR, TE, DT, OL

First Three Picks: No. 29, No. 62, No. 93

Number of Selections: 8 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 6, 6, 7)

CALLING THE SHOTS: Belichick has more power than any other NFL coach and deservedly so. He calls the final shots while director of player personnel Nick Caserio handles most of the leg work, along with director of college scouting Jon Robinson.

RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2013 - none; 2012 - Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse), Don't'a Hightower (LB, Alabama); 2011 - Nate Solder (OT, Colorado); 2010 - Devin McCourty (CB, Rutgers); 2009 - none; 2008 - Jerod Mayo (LB, Tennessee); 2007 - Brandon Meriweather (S, Miami-Florida); 2006 - Laurence Maroney (RB, Minnesota); 2005 - Logan Mankins (G, Fresno State); 2004 - Vince Wilfork (DT, Miami-Florida), Benjamin Watson (TE, Georgia); 2003 - Ty Warren (DT, Texas A&M).

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