I want to say that I'm proud of you. Not just you Pulpiteers, but everyone who came and visited. We tallied over 1000 votes when determining the Patriots biggest draft needs and not one person voted for the cornerback position. No trolling. Just...nothing. Zero votes. I'm honestly shocked by that.
Also kind of surprised because it's entirely fair to view Darrelle Revis as a one year rental, and Alfonzo Dennard and Brandon Browner as suspension risks, which leaves the team with just Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington at corner. If someone just happened to think of the position as a perfect storm for disaster in 2015, I wouldn't blame them for voting cornerback.
But nothing. Instead, we have an extremely reasonable vote with some clear bunches of needs.
Tier One (Priority Needs)
1. Interior Offensive Line (28%): Apparently Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly don't inspire much confidence. And they shouldn't. That said, I believe Wendell will be better in 2014 than he was in 2013. It's not much, but I believe his actual level of play is somewhere in between his terrific 2012 and his deplorable 2013.
Wendell's contract is structured in a "prove-it" style where he has to earn his roster spot to receive the money. Dan Connolly is 32 and his cap hit is far too great- and he's a free agent after 2014. It's clear that the Patriots have infuse both talent and youth into their interior line; where this talent is selected in the draft is still completely up in the air.
2. Defensive End (25%): Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones both need some time off. The third defensive end on the roster is the equivalent of the nickel corner and is essentially a starter. The Patriots also need some depth in case of injury. A top talent in the draft, someone who can be a day one starter, would be the perfect addition to the Patriots defensive line. There are no veterans on the market and someone who can be an impact player out of the gate is an extremely high priority.
3. Tight End (22%): Rob Gronkowski is a question mark. Michael Hoomamanui is an ellipses. D.J. Williams is an interrobang. The Patriots need to add an impact tight end in one form or another. They could grab a "move" tight end. They could draft a player with a similar skill set to Gronk. They need to do something because the offense is disastrously neutered when there isn't a viable option on the field.
Tier Two (Depth Needs)
4. Defensive Tackle (10%): The restructures of Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork have reduced this need to many people's minds, and rightfully so. This position is now more for depth and the future, as opposed to the now. a player should be drafted, but it might make more sense to get a more raw player.
5-t. Linebacker (4%)
5-t. Wide Receiver (4%): We have a tie and it makes perfect sense. The Patriots are down to Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, and Jamie Collins at linebacker, after having tremendous depth last season. Another player to assume the Dane Fletcher reserve role would be nice (or maybe Steve Beauharnais can develop).
Wide receiver seems to be a full house with Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Brandon LaFell as locks; Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins are possibly fighting over one roster spot. Taking a flier on someone who can easily bump them off might be less crazy than you would expect.
7. Offensive Tackle (4%): Finished just a couple votes behind LB and WR. The Patriots have Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, and Marcus Cannon. If Cannon is a target to move to right guard, the team definitely needs some depth.
Tier Three (Non-Needs)
8. Safety (2%): The team could improve at strong safety, but it looks like the team will move forward with Duron Harmon and Pat Chung as the potential complements to Devin McCourty.
9. Quarterback (1%): Ryan Mallett is holding this down for at least another season. We'll see if he comes back once his contract expires. Not a need, but don't be shocked if the Patriots pick a player to groom.
10. Running Back (0.4%): I'm kind of surprised this is so far down. Stevan Ridley needs to hold on to the ball. Shane Vereen needs to stay healthy. Brandon Bolden needs to see the ball more. If you told me that all three of these players would be on different rosters in 2015, I wouldn't be surprised. The team needs another player for the committee, but it's clear that the need is less than other positions.
11. Cornerback (0.0%): I'm proud of you.
Now just because these are the team's biggest needs does not mean that this is the positional order for the draft. Certain positions, like interior line, are valued much less than others, like pass rushers, which cause a shift in the draft economy.
Still, the Patriots should be able to fill their priority needs over the first two days of the draft (first three rounds) while still selecting the best players available.