By Chris Warner
Today we preview possible New England draft picks for the guys up front protecting quarterback Tom Brady.
In 2012, the Patriots got surprise performances from veterans Matt Light and Brian Waters. The latter’s effort deserves special praise considering he arrived late in the preseason and ended up as a 16-game starter.
All seemed set for an uneventful transition year to give 2011 rookies Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon more experience, but both Light and Waters are considering retirement, guard Logan Mankins is recovering from knee surgery, and center Dan Koppen is entering his tenth season, crossing the Rubicon for NFL linemen. The health of tackle Sebastian Vollmer has become a lingering concern.
That all points to an unexpected urgency in finding at least one new linemen in the 2012 draft. The Patriots have two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), two in the second (48, 62), one in the third (93) and one in the fourth (126). They traded away their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.