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2015 NFL Draft: Rich Hill's Patriots Big Board

The NFL Draft is around the corner. What players should the Patriots have their eyes on?

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft starts on April 30th and ends on May 2nd, and will take place in Chicago. The draft is split up into three days, with the first round on the first day, the second and third rounds on the second day, and the remaining four rounds on the third and final day.

The New England Patriots will have the final pick of each round, with their full pick breakdown as follows:

1st round: 32nd Overall

2nd round: 64th Overall

3rd round: 96th and 97th Overall

4th round: 101st and 131st Overall

6th round: 177th Overall

7th round: 219th and 253rd Overall

The Patriots have the draft capital to move around as they see fit, especially if they want to take advantage of the depth available early on the second day of the draft. As over a thousand of you readers noted, the losses of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner make cornerback New England's biggest need, while the departure of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and the pending status of Dan Connolly make both the offensive and defensive interiors top needs.

Beyond those three positions, there aren't glaring needs for starters. The Patriots feature a ridiculously young roster with talented youth in place behind all veterans over the age of thirty. Tom Brady has Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Ninkovich has newly signed Jabaal Sheard, and Sebastian Vollmer has back-ups in both Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming.

This means that the franchise is in a great position to draft based upon the top talent available on the draft board and can focus on their obvious openings in the starting line-up.

When constructing a draft board, I don't include positions without obvious space on the roster (special teams, quarterback, offensive tackle, safety). I also don't include prospects with lower grades than the depth players on the roster (contract value is only marginally included).

The Patriots are known for whittling down their draft board to a smaller list of prospects, with sixty or seventy players as targets. Beyond the tape, they evaluate a player based upon six main questions:

1) What is the player's role on the Patriots?

2) Will that role change between Year 1 and Year 2?

3) How many downs can they play?

4) Which player on the roster will he beat out?

5) What is their special teams value?

6) Do they have positional versatility?

We will look at prospects through this series of questions over the next month leading up to the draft. Note that the rankings aren't necessarily when a prospect will be drafted, but instead how I value and project them at the next level. Additionally, certain positions (like linebacker) are devalued due their roster need. Thanks to CBS Sports and Draft Breakdown for acting as resources throughout this process.

pRK is positional rank, height is in inches

1 Leonard Williams DT1 Southern California Jr 77 302
2 Brandon Scherff IL1 Iowa rSr 77 319
3 Amari Cooper WR1 Alabama Jr 73 211
4 La'el Collins IL2 LSU Sr 76 305
5 Dante Fowler Jr. ED1 Florida Jr 75 261
6 Danny Shelton DT2 Washington Sr 74 339
7 Vic Beasley ED2 Clemson rSr 75 246
8 Kevin White WR2 West Virginia Sr 75 215
9 Kevin Johnson CB1 Wake Forest rSr 72 188
10 Cameron Erving IL3 Florida State rSr 77 313
11 Malcom Brown DT3 Texas Jr 74 319
12 Todd Gurley RB1 Georgia Jr 73 222
13 Randy Gregory ED3 Nebraska rJr 77 235
14 Trae Waynes CB2 Michigan State rJr 72 186
15 Alvin Dupree ED4 Kentucky rSr 76 269
16 T.J. Clemmings IL4 Pittsburgh rSr 77 309
17 Marcus Peters CB3 Washington rJr 72 197
18 DeVante Parker WR3 Louisville Sr 75 209
19 A.J. Cann IL5 South Carolina rSr 75 313
20 Byron Jones CB4 Connecticut rSr 73 199
21 Xavier Cooper DT4 Washington State rJr 75 293
22 Breshad Perriman WR4 UCF rJr 74 212
23 Owamagbe Odighizuwa ED5 UCLA rSr 75 267
24 Carl Davis DT5 Iowa rSr 77 320
25 Preston Smith ED6 Mississippi State Sr 77 271
26 Eric Kendricks LB1 UCLA rSr 72 232
27 B.J. Finney IL6 Kansas State rSr 76 318
28 Mark Glowinski IL7 West Virginia rSr 76 307
29 Laken Tomlinson IL8 Duke rSr 75 323
30 P.J. Williams CB5 Florida State Jr 72 194
31 Maxx Williams TE1 Minnesota rSo 76 249
32 Jay Ajayi RB2 Boise State rJr 72 221
33 Eddie Goldman DT6 Florida State Jr 76 336
34 Jake Fisher IL9 Oregon Sr 78 306
35 Nelson Agholor WR5 Southern California Jr 72 198
36 Jaelen Strong WR6 Arizona State rJr 74 217
37 Eric Rowe CB6 Utah Sr 73 205
38 Shaquille Mason IL10 Georgia Tech Sr 74 310
39 Hau'oli Kikaha ED7 Washington rSr 74 253
40 T.J. Yeldon RB3 Alabama Jr 73 226
41 Dorial Green-Beckham WR7 Oklahoma rJr 77 237
42 Arik Armstead DT7 Oregon Jr 79 292
43 Michael Bennett DT8 Ohio State Sr 74 293
44 Ali Marpet IL11 Hobart Sr 76 307
45 Cedric Ogbuehi IL12 Texas A&M rSr 77 306
46 Shaq Thompson LB2 Washington Jr 72 228
47 Justin Hardy WR8 East Carolina Sr 70 192
48 Stephone Anthony LB3 Clemson Sr 75 243
49 Clive Walford TE2 Miami (Fla.) rSr 76 251
50 Benardrick McKinney LB4 Mississippi State rJr 76 246
51 Melvin Gordon RB4 Wisconsin rJr 73 215
52 David Cobb RB5 Minnesota Sr 71 229
53 David Johnson RB6 Northern Iowa rSr 73 224
54 Ameer Abdullah RB7 Nebraska Sr 69 205
55 Donovan Smith IL13 Penn State rJr 78 338
56 Duke Johnson RB8 Miami (Fla.) Jr 69 207
57 Quinten Rollins CB7 Miami (Ohio) rSr 71 195
58 Tre' Jackson IL14 Florida State Sr 76 330
59 Danielle Hunter ED8 LSU Jr 77 252
60 Lorenzo Mauldin ED9 Louisville Sr 76 259
61 Rashad Greene WR9 Florida State Sr 71 182
62 Phillip Dorsett WR10 Miami (Fla.) Sr 70 185
63 Kenny Bell WR11 Nebraska rSr 73 197

For those wondering, ED stands for Edge Defender and is the common term for 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers due to the multiple front defenses played by most teams.

Based upon my board, it would be important to address the defensive line and cornerback positions early in the draft, while interior offensive linemen, running backs, and wide receivers should be available when the Patriots have their three picks at the end of the third and start of the fourth.

This is an ideal draft for the Patriots to bolster their roster. It will certainly be exciting to see everything play out.