AFC East draft primer: Patriots

With the 2012 regular season nearing its conclusion, the AFC East blog decided to take an early glance at the draft and 2013 offseason. We conclude our first look around the division with the reigning AFC East champions.

New England Patriots (8-3)

Key free agents: WR Wes Welker, CB Aqib Talib, S Patrick Chung

Needs: S, CB, WR

Analysis: The Patriots will be drafting toward the end of the first round, because they are a quality team heading to the playoffs. New England doesn’t have a lot of holes to fill, but pass defense is the biggest issue. Expect the Patriots to stock up on good safeties and cornerbacks. Talib and Chung are both free agents and may not return. Receiver depth also will be an issue. Welker is playing on a one-year franchise tag and the Patriots are not expected to pay Welker market value for his immense production. The emergence of Julian Edelman this season would ease that blow. But depth will be needed on the outside.

Early targets: CB Johnthan Banks, Miss St.; S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas; WR Robert Woods, USC