(Tenth in a position-by-position look at the Patriots leading into the draft)
Personnel: Adalius Thomas, Pierre Woods, Shawn Crable, Tully Banta-Cain, Vince Redd, Angelo Craig.
Short-term need: Moderate to high. The Patriots traded Mike Vrabel, creating a void at one of the starting outside linebacker spots. It's possible the replacement is on the roster -- either in the form of one player or a combination of players -- but it remains an unknown.
Long-term need: Moderate to high. It is difficult to project without seeing the year 1-to-2 progressions from Shawn Crable (2008 third-round pick) and Vince Redd (2008 rookie free agent). Woods will be on a one-year deal once signing his restricted free agent tender and Banta-Cain is also on a one-year deal.
Quick hit: One of the challenges of evaluating rookies at this position is the projection required, because most of the prospects are defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme. Vrabel was extremely tough defending the run, and while he might have slowed as a pass rusher in 2008, it's still a considerable void to fill.
Prospects that could be on the radar in the draft or rookie free agency: Robert Ayers (Tennessee), Connor Barwin (Cincinnati), Cody Brown (UConn), Everette Brown (Florida State), Larry English (Northern Illinois), Clay Matthews (Southern Cal), Lawrence Sidbury (Richmond), Clint Sintim (Virginia)
* Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide used as reference