Ranking Patriots roster by positional need

In the ever-evolving picture of the New England Patriots' roster, here is one viewpoint of the top areas from a need perspective at this time:

1. Guard. Starting left guard Dan Connolly remains a free agent and starting right guard Ryan Wendell, who didn't elevate to that spot until Week 5 of the 2014 season, enters the final year of his contract. Josh Kline and Jordan Devey are next on the depth chart, with Chris Barker and Caylin Hauptmann in the developmental pipeline. While Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming have taken snaps at guard, they are best utilized at tackle.

2. Cornerback. The Patriots have filled out the depth chart with a few signings, but six of the nine players have contracts that expire after 2015, so there's a longer-range need to consider as well.

3. Defensive tackle. With Vince Wilfork now in Houston, the Patriots have Alan Branch (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) and Sealver Siliga (6-2, 325) as their top big-bodied defensive tackles, with Siliga still using a walking boot after undergoing offseason surgery. Joe Vellano (6-2, 300) is next on the depth chart.

4. Off-the-line linebacker. The top of the depth chart is solid with Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, with the backups projecting more to a special teams role. Adding depth and potential upside that could contribute on defense in a pinch makes sense.

5. Wide receiver. Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola return in the 1-2-3 spots, while Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, Brandon Gibson, Josh Boyce, Jonathan Krause and Kevin Dorsey round things out. The Patriots had considered adding Stevie Johnson to this group, but he signed with San Diego.