Usually the top 2 DL prospects are taken by the 11th pick (average of the last 5 drafts). While the 3rd DL prospect is usually gone by the 21st selection.
So when planning for the Draft ahead, one should expect that the top two DTs, at the minimum, will be out of reach of the Patriots, who this year have limited draft picks.
Next consider the Patriots roster for 2014, and that they have what I essentially consider 5 rookies at the DL position this year.
Two of those rookies, never suited up for a game and have been carried on the roster thru IR (Armstead and Grissom)… while the other three have essentially become the starters since Wilfork and Kelly went down.
In addition, both Wilfork and Kelly are contracted for 2014, so they will return next season as well, unless the Pats choose to part ways with them.
Its unlikely that the Patriots would part ways with Wilfork, so he will likely remain, and while he may take some form of pay cut, his salary will still be a stiff hit on the CAP. Kelly will also likely be asked to take some form of cut, or he may be released, eventually, once things round out after TC and PS. Sopoaga is most likely going to be cut, as he is already relegated to back-up status behind the rookie players.
Lastly let's consider the 4-3 DE positions adequately filled by Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. I can see the Patriots shifting Chris Jones over from DT/DL to DL/DE duties, and keeping him on the roster, I can also see them continuing to develop Buchanan. So I would consider this position low on their needs list for 2014, and not really part of the equation of DL evaluation.
0-Technique (3-4 NT) – Vince Wilfork
The 0-technique plays head-up over the center, and is responsible for defending both A-gaps (between the guards and the center). His job is to control the center, often draw a double team from a guard, and still be able to prevent the run from going right up the gut. That’s why traditional 3-4 NTs are monsters. Wilfork is listed at 325lbs, and it’s his sheer size and strength that allows him to anchor inside and control multiple, smaller, blockers at the point of attack.
Backing up Wilfork, would be Sealver Siliga. Perhaps even Cory Grissom, though it's hard to judge if he is fully capable of filling this role as he has not played yet.
1-Technique (4-3 NT) – Sealver Siliga
The 1-technique does much the same as the 0-technique, except he is shaded over the inside shoulder of one of the guards, and is not expected to control two gaps. He is, however, expected to command a double team from the center and guard, which frees up other linemen to be one on one with their blockers, allowing linebackers to run free to the ball and make stops close to the line of scrimmage. A good 1-technique DT can dramatically improve an entire run defense, because he makes several players’ jobs much easier.
Backing up Siliga would be Cory Grissom and Chris Jones at this position.
3-Technique (4-3 Pass Rush Tackle) – Tommy Kelly
Probably the most well known of the defensive techniques, the 3-technique lines up shaded to the guard’s outside shoulder, ready to shoot the B-gap on his side of the formation. This player’s job is to penetrate the line of scrimmage through his B-gap and disrupt plays in the backfield, whether pass or run. Unlike the first two tackle positions, the 3-technique relies far more on speed and agility than brute strength. Tommy Kelly was arguably the NFL’s prototype for the position. At 6’6 and 300lbs he is quick, nimble and has the kind of burst off the ball that can make it tough for a blocker to recover position.
Backing him up at this position would be Armond Armstead. This would be an area that could use additional depth and youth if the Patriots were planning on deploying more in the 4-3 D.
5-Technique (3-4 DE) – Ty Warren
Much like the 0-technique, the traditional 5-technique is a two-gap player, lining up directly over the offensive tackle, he is responsible for the B and C gaps on his side of the formation. He has to be able to stack tall offensive tackles and shed blocks to make the stop in either of his gaps. Nose tackles rely largely on their mass to control blockers and gaps, but defensive ends from the 5-technique have to be able to handle offensive tackles. This is why part of the scouting profile for these players isn’t just size, but ‘length’ (height and arm length combined).
The prototype NFL 5-technique player remains former Patriot Ty Warren. Warren was quite possibly the NFL’s best run stuffer from the 3-4 DE spot and he had the prototypical length (6’5) and size (300+lbs) that teams look for.
While Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead may be able to fill this role, the Patriots do not have the solid young players to give them depth. Tommy Kelly (6'6 300) and Armond Armstead (6'5 300) are the only two players with the size and skills able to fill the 3-4 DE position ideally and consistently.
As I have argued consistently, I feel the 0/1DT position (the DT/NT position), is not one that should be addressed in this draft unless they choose to move away (release) from Wilfork. I think he has a season or two left in the tank of solid production (so long as he is subbed more), hopefully they extend his contract, the leadership and loyalty he has shown should be taken into account, as well as his future production.
Also, one has to consider if the Patriots would think that the DTs which will be available to them in this draft, would be considerably (significantly) better than the 2nd year DTs they already have for 2014.
3T/5T/DE however is an area that could use improvement, and an area with less depth.
The one player that may fall within reach in this draft that is worth a 1st round selection would be Stephon Tuitt at 6'6 315 pounds he is the ideal size, with the ranginess and athleticism to be an ideal 3T/5T. A less likely prospect would be Hageman who I believe will be long gone before the 20th selection, let alone when the Patriots select.
So unless the improbable happens, and either Tuitt or Hageman fall to the Patriots, I do not see DT/DL a viable option for the 2014 draft, at least, not in the early rounds.