Curran: Don’t be surprised if the Patriots target speedy linebackers in the draft


The Patriots have an abundance of needs heading into the NFL Draft, and speed is at the top of the list.

In an interview Tuesday on “Gresh & Keefe,” NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran said he thinks getting faster on defense should be the Patriots’ top priority.

“In order to win the AFC East, the Patriots have to get faster,” he said. “We saw it exhibited against the Buffalo Bills in the second two meetings — clearly exhibited. Now, additionally, Tyreek Hill has joined the Dolphins, a team the Patriots lost to twice. Speed is an absolute must for this team, and it was before last year even began.”

The Patriots failed to stop the Bills in their final two meetings, only forcing Buffalo to punt once. While New England desperately needs another cornerback to replace J.C. Jackson, it’s also lost several veterans at linebacker, including Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy (Dont’a Hightower is still a free agent). Curran thinks the Patriots have a great opportunity to get more athletic at that spot, even if it may not be a stereotypical “premium position.”

“There is middle of the field speed they have to get after,” he said. “Would they do that at linebacker, even though that’s not a premier position relative to offensive tackle or corner or wide receiver as it’s becoming? They have to get faster, though. And they have to get faster on defense. My best guess is, they have to get faster on defense, and don’t be surprised if they take advantage of this deep linebacker class to do that.”

The Patriots have been linked to several linebackers, including Georgia’s Nakobe Dean and Utah’s Devin Lloyd. This week, an unnamed AFC executive compared Dean to Jerod Mayo.

If that’s the case, the Patriots could do a lot worse with their first round pick. They’re slated to draft at No. 21 overall.

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