Shortly after the news that the Denver Broncos had signed away Pro Bowl slot receiver Wes Welker, it seemed logical to look at which receivers the Patriots might want to focus on in the draft as a potential replacement.
It seems that Bill Belichick and Co. didn't want to wait that long.
Former St. Louis Rams' wideout Danny Amendola is an ideal candidate to replace Welker. Not only is he similarly built (5-11, 188) and talented, he's younger. He hasn't proven to be particularly durable, however, and the Patriots' depth chart at receiver is far from settled. Julian Edelman showed intriguing ability in the slot when given an opportunity, but he, too, is an unrestricted free agent. Some believe Brandon Lloyd could be a salary cap casualty.
Still, the signing of Amendola gives the Patriots at least more flexibility to focus on other needs on draft day.
While the trade for former first round cornerback Aqib Talib helped solidify this unit a year ago, the departure of Patrick Chung opens up a new hole at safety. Considering Talib's inability to stay out of trouble previously while a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it might be wise for the Patriots to be looking closely at defensive backs from all positions with their first round pick, No. 29 overall, and throughout the rest of the draft.
Fortunately, while the talent level at some of the more glamorous positions is certainly lacking in this year's draft class, the cornerback and safety crops are not only talented but deep.
Texas' Kenny Vaccaro is widely viewed as the top safety in the 2013 draft class. As such, most believe he is likely to be off the board by the time the Patriots are up. He had some off-field concerns while with the Longhorns, however, which could give some teams pause. He's a physical run-stuffer with legitimate cover ability, however. Vaccaro (6-0, 214) offer the Patriots the type of versatility that Belichick craves at safety.
Florida's Matt Elam and Florida Internation's Jonathan Cyprien haven't had the off-field concerns and have proven to be more consistent playmakers over their respective careers. Elam (5-10, 208) was recruited by Urban Meyer, a friend of Belichick's. Cyprien (6-0, 217) remains a hot name in the scouting community despite running in the mid 4.6s at his Pro Day after a stellar week of practice at the Senior Bowl.
Of the cornerbacks, Washington's Desmond Trufant, Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks and North Carolina State's David Amerson are each candidates if the Patriots are going to continue to look for longer, press corners.
Banks (6-2, 185) and Amerson (6-1, 205) are absolute ball-hawks with 16 and 18 career interceptions, respectively. Trufant (6-0, 190) is the fastest and quickest of the trio but isn't as physical against the run. He has a lot of buzz going for him right now, however, after a dominating performance in Mobile and an equally impressive showing at the combine.