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April 22, 2010

Plenty of needs for Pats to fill in draft

As the 2010 NFL draft commences tonight, every team in the game has needs to quench.

Where are the New England Patriots' top priorities as they prepare to uncork a dozen selections over the next three days, starting with No. 22 overall tonight?

Let's look at the top 10. After the amazing accomplishments, three Super Bowl titles in four years plus a 16-0 regular season in 2007 that came up just one David Tyree miracle short of perfection, could you ever imagine a Bill Belichick Patriots team with 10 glaring needs?

Of course not. They've been that good, the franchise by which all others are judged since 2010. But even with Tom Brady back in the saddle, they remain vulnerable, the overall talent level a mere shadow of what it was from 2003-2007.

After unspectacular drafts from 2006-2008 — yielding just three full-time starters, a kicker and little else — 2009 showed promise with Sebastian Vollmer showing the potential to be a starting offensive tackle, Darius Butler seeing serious time as a rookie corner and Pat Chung impacting on special teams.

Still, there is little depth and the roster is showing its age in various spots.

Where does New England go? Only Belichick knows, and it depends on what players are around. But moreso than in years past, need is a definite factor and will be through the weekend.

So here we go:

1. Inside linebacker — More than anything, this defense needs a backbone. Like a catcher who can block balls and throw out runners, a quality run-stuffing monster, one who runs from sideline to sideline to make plays makes defense just a bit easier for every other player on the defense. Jerod Mayo may or may not be that guy. He showed signs of being there as a rookie and regressed last year. Belichick needs two inside guys anyway. Vince Wilfork, signed to a mega-deal this winter, is only as good as the guys cleaning up behind him.

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