With a new CBA needing to be worked out prior to next season and a new rookie wage scale almost assuredly being incorporated into the new agreement wouldn't it make sense for Belichick to target players earlier than he has in the past?
Belichick used to love targeting late first round draft picks because he could get a top-flight talent but not mortgage the franchise on their contract. Now it would seem that earlier 1st round picks, while slightly more expensive will have more value as they won't break the bank. With all the picks that the Pats have stockpiled and the relative depth at almost every position (quantity not quality), why not target a great talent in a position of need. This would give you as close to a sure thing as the draft can produce while not totally straying from the Pats tradition of coveting value over stretching for need. I really don't think the answer to the few issues that the Pats have is to add more mid-talent bodies to compete for a roster spot.
In general I would love to see the mad-genius jump up (maybe even into the GASP.... top 10!?!?!?) in the draft rather than down as always and trade the plethora of picks for quality talent adding a dominant off the edge presence (OLB / DE) to bookend Cunningham and/or the Warrens, and add some youth to the O-line. I still haven't seen anything positive about Mike Wright's recovery and the revolving door of D-Linemen around Wilfork just weren't getting it done. This along with TBCs extremely quiet season shouts for off-season pass rushing attention. No doubt our O-Line was great last year, 340 passes no INT and the breakout of BJGE was no fluke, but the age of the Line and Mankins contract issues makes this a hole in the damn that needs plugging.
I cringe every time one of the "National Draft Gurus" talks about a RB or WR with one of our top 3 spots. First of all WRs take time to develop, the standard is that they don't "break out" till their 3rd year (fingers crossed Brandon Tate). This fact and our depth of young mostly untested/unproven talent (Edelmen, Slater, Price) at the position should allow us to look elsewhere. Not to mention Gronk and Hernandez. I understand the need to extend the field vertically but other than the infamous Jets game we did not have a problem moving the chains on anybody. As a diehard I have to chalk this one up to "Any Given Sunday" and just look at the regular season where we played playoff teams 7 times plus everyone in the Conference Championships ending up with a 6-1 record against them. Secondly, RBs are notoriously hard to project, look at the top 5 in production from last year, just one first round pick (Chris Johnson) led by an undrafted sophomore (Arian Foster) and this should steer you away from Ingram and Leshoure .
I will say though that after seeing how McCourty turned out I will not second-guess (at least not much) if the Hoodie goes in an unexpected direction.