Football Memo

Don’t be surprised if Pats draft a …


The New England Patriots have remained one of the elite teams in the NFL for nearly 15 seasons.

Since 2001, the Pats have won three Super Bowls, five AFC Championships and have appeared in eight AFC title games. Now that’s a run not many can match.

There are plenty of reasons for this: Namely having an all-time great quarterback and coach. But there is more to their success. The Patriots do things the right way, and from top to bottom, they believe in their program, and stay true to their beliefs.

Every fall I find myself asking fellow Dolphins fans: How are the Patriots winning? They usually just shake their heads and repeat the question in my direction.

I know it comes back to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, but some seasons it really seems like a David Blaine or Criss Angel act. It’s like smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand.

The 2013 Patriots are a perfect example of this team’s resiliency and ability to adapt to different circumstances.

-Going into last season, the Patriots lost four of their top five pass catchers, yet they were one game from the Super Bowl.

-They lost arguably their two best defensive players – in Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo – for the majority of the season and managed to go 12-4.

-All-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski only played in seven games and managed just 39 catches and four touchdowns, yet the Pats won their 10th division title in 11 seasons.

Come draft day, New England always seems like one of the most difficult teams to lock down. You really never know what they’re going to do. We all know – or think we know – their strengths and weaknesses. However, rarely do the Pats make the pick that goes with the prevailing opinion.

This season, I think the Patriots really need to:
1. Add a young defensive tackle to the rotation
2. Find another pass rush option at defensive end
3. Upgrade the center/guard positions
4. Add a receiving tight end to the mix
5. Bring in an all-around linebacker for depth and sub packages

I’m certainly not alone in my thinking the Patriots should upgrade at least a few of these spots. To try and guess what the Patriots will do come May 8-10, you need to try to think like Belichick. What position will Belichick and the Patriots address early in the draft that doesn’t seem like an immediate need?

My guess is … running back.

With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen entering their final seasons of their contracts, the Pats will likely not spend the dollars to keep both. I’m guessing Vereen’s versatility will keep him on the roster for years to come. That makes Ridley the back likely playing his final season in Foxborough.

I think the Pats will come away with a big, bruising running back in either the first or second day of the draft.

By far, the two best big backs in this draft are Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde and LSU’s Jeremy Hill. One problem: They both have had trouble with off-the-field incidents. Hyde was suspended for the first three games last season due to a bar altercation, and Hill has two previous arrests.

Despite both being terrific all-around running backs, the Patriots are much less likely to take any chances with questionable characters following last summer’s debacle surrounding Aaron Hernandez.

I think Hyde becomes the better option due to his incident being far less serious than Hill’s past problems.

If the Pats decide that neither is worth the trouble, look for them to target another runner later in the draft.

Either way, history tells us, it will likely work out for the Patriots.

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