The 2014 NFL Draft will finally commence tomorrow evening. Heading into the draft, this has to be one of the most difficult-to-predict classes from both a league-wide and Patriots perspective. This draft's top 100 is so deep, that I'm sure we'll see a player or two projected to go in the late second or third rounds slip into the first and vice versa.
From a Patriots' perspective, they don't really have any glaring needs but do have a variety of areas where they could use upgrades. That, for one reason, is why a trade down makes a whole lot of sense. It is also the reason that none of us have any real idea what the Patriots will do this weekend.
Still, I thought today would be a good time to ask the community for their prediction on which direction the Patriots could go with their first pick tomorrow (or Friday via trade down). The likely candidates:
Defensive Tackle: The team's projected starters, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, will be ages 33 and 34 by season's end. The Patriots do have some young upside on their roster in Sealver Siliga and Armond Armstead, but could certainly use more.
Defensive End: Yes, the Patriots just signed Will Smith, but they could still use more depth and youth here, especially in the form of an explosive speed rusher. The team's view on Michael Buchanan could play a factor here.
Safety: Depending on how the Patriots feel about Duron Harmon, this could be considered the team's biggest need on the roster. The Patriots already have their cover safety in Devin McCourty, but could use a more traditional, in-the-box safety across from him. Aside from Harmon, the only other viable starting option the Patriots have here is Patrick Chung.
Interior Offensive Line: Another position where the Patriots could use an immediate upgrade. The Patriots have Logan Mankins at left guard, but could run into contract issues with him next offseason. At center, Ryan Wendell was re-signed but is slightly above average, at best. At right guard, Dan Connolly isn't getting any younger, and could also be upgraded.
Tight End: The Patriots may want a pass-catching tight end to help fill the void left by Aaron Hernandez. Having a receiving tight end who could assist as a blocker would also be key, as Rob Gronkowski may or may not be ready for the start of the season as he rehabs a torn ACL.
Wide Receiver: The Patriots have plenty of young upside and veteran depth at the position, but rumors have persisted that the team would consider drafting a receiver in the first round. That player would have to be an obvious upgrade over Aaron Dobson.
Linebacker: The Patriots have three starters firmly entrenched in Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, and Jamie Collins. However, they have little depth behind them. Finding an athletic coverage linebacker will likely be a priority for the team in day two, if they don't find one in the first round.
Running Back: With no running back on the roster under contract past this season, the Patriots need to plan for the future at this position.
What's my prediction? Well, I kind of wrote this article because I have no idea what direction the team will take. I mocked them Dee Ford in the SB Nation bloggers draft, but that was before the Will Smith signing. I'll predict that they trade back to the 35-40 range and take a safety with their first pick (Deone Bucannon). If Calvin Pryor somehow were to fall to 29, that would be awesome, but I wouldn't count on it.