While outside linebacker is the biggest need, defensive end may not be far behind.
Ever since Richard Seymour was shipped out, the team has been missing someone to command a double team at the five-technique position.
Ironically, the No. 17 pick, which was acquired for Seymour, might be used on his replacement.
Luckily, there are plenty of prospects who have the potential to be quality defensive ends in the 3-4.
Here are the first-round possibilities and what they bring to the table:
California’s Cameron Jordan seems to be the top guy on New England’s radar.
The son of former Vikings tight end Stephen Jordan is a hard-working, blue-collar player who has vaulted up draft boards with a strong offseason.
At 6-foot-4, 287 pounds, he will have to gain some weight to hold up against the run better, but he is incredibly versatile and has underrated athleticism.
At the combine, he ran a 4.74 forty, had 25 reps on the bench press and recorded a 31-inch vertical jump.
While he isn’t a dynamic pass rusher, he was nearly unblockable at the Senior Bowl and seems smart and athletic enough to improve in that area.
Much like Jordan, J.J. Watt is a tough, no-nonsense guy who seems like the ideal Patriot.
After not getting enough playing time as a tight end at Central Michigan, Watt walked on at Wisconsin and became an All-American defensive end.
Incredibly productive, he surprised scouts with an incredibly dominant combine performance.
At 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, Watt ran a 4.81 forty, had 34 reps on the bench press, vertical-jumped 37 inches, and had a three-cone time of 6.88 seconds.
He has limited experience at the position, but his combination of athleticism and toughness would make him a solid first-round option.
When you look at Cameron Heyward, it’s hard not to be reminded of a young Richard Seymour.
The 6-foot-5, 294-pound Ohio State product will never be mentioned as a great pass rusher, but he is tough as nails and flashed top-15 ability during his career.
He was timed at 4.95 seconds in the forty at his pro day, however his best asset is his strength and size. He has the ideal frame to play on the right side and would be effective in setting the edge while providing some ability to collapse the pocket.
While he didn’t play at a big school like the other three first-round prospects, Muhammad Wilkerson may have been the most productive.
The former Temple Owl was a man amongst boys, racking up 131 tackles, 16.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss the past two years.
With his 6-foot-4, 315-pound frame and 4.96 speed, Wilkerson is the prototype five-technique end. He is raw but has great upside.
My pick: If the Pats had to select only one of these players in the first round, I would go with Cameron Jordan. He has the versatility, experience playing in the 3-4, and enough athleticism to excel in the system. He could slide down to the three-technique in sub packages, can play from a two-point stance at times, and will give 100 percent on every play. If Bill Belichick could get his hands on him, Jordan could be a real weapon.