NEW ENG­LAND PA­TRI­OTS

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - Mock draft - Rivers

Cor­ner­back

It was clear Mal­colm But­ler wasn’t go­ing to be re-signed af­ter he was benched for the Su­per Bowl. With Stephon Gilmore able to han­dle the big­ger re­ceivers, look for New Eng­land to tar­get some­one to han­dle the smaller fast re­ceivers.

Line­backer

The ab­sence of Dont’a Hightower left a void. Elan­don Roberts hasn’t de­vel­oped as hoped, and Kyle Van Noy is a role player. New Eng­land could use a line­backer who can match up in cov­er­age to help their 30th-ranked pass de­fense.

De­fen­sive end

De­spite fin­ish­ing seventh in the league in sacks, the Pa­tri­ots haven’t had a true edge rusher since Chan­dler Jones. Adrian Clay­born was signed from At­lanta and his pres­ence will help, but they need at least one more ath­letic edge rusher to help out Derek Rivers.

Of­fen­sive tackle

Start­ing left tackle Nate Solder signed with the Giants, and that forces the Pa­tri­ots to de­cide whether An­to­nio Gar­cia is ready to take over af­ter be­ing cleared to re­turn from blood clots. Adding an­other tackle for depth would be ideal.

Quar­ter­back

Tom Brady turns 41 in Au­gust. With Jimmy Garop­polo and Ja­coby Bris­sett be­ing traded dur­ing the sea­son, the Pa­tri­ots need to find a young quar­ter­back to groom and even­tu­ally re­place Brady.

Tight end

With Rob Gronkowski se­ri­ously flirt­ing with re­tire­ment, the Pa­tri­ots have to be con­sid­er­ing find­ing a re­place­ment. Vet­eran ad­di­tions in­clud­ing Dwayne Allen have not panned out, which could lead the Pa­tri­ots to tar­get one in the mid­dle rounds.

In­te­rior of­fen­sive line

New Eng­land has three young play­ers start­ing in­side in Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaq Ma­son who have played well at times but have been in­con­sis­tent.

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