This will be pretty fascinating. For the second straight year (at least as of April 14), the New England Patriots will not have a first-round draft choice. In fact, the defending Super Bowl champions don’t have a choice in the second round as well. Of course, the circumstances surrounding 2016 and 2017 are completely different. The franchise was docked their selection a year ago as punishment of the “DeflateGate” fiasco. This offseason, head coach Bill Belichick has been dealing picks like this was going to be the final draft in NFL history. Trades have brought tight end Dwayne Allen (Indianapolis Colts), defensive end Kony Ealy (Carolina Panthers) and wide receiver Brandin Cooks (New Orleans Saints) to Foxborough.

And as of this moment, we won’t be hearing from the Pat until pick No. 72, which is in the third round. So what is Belichick looking for later this month?

What the team needs

When you win 14 regular-season games and allow the fewest points in the NFL, you don’t appear to be a team with a lot of issues. When your team is led by one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history and the team totals 30-plus points in each of its postseason victories, there doesn’t appear to be a lot to be concerned about. Of course, no team is perfect and that includes the New England Patriots. The franchise is the most successful in the league dating back to Belichick’s arrival. Following a rough debut with the club (5-11 in 2000), there have been seven Super Bowl appearances and five championships.

The team has walked away with the Lombardi Trophy two of the past three years. But if they’re going to get back to the Big Game for a 10th time, there’s a little work to do on the defensive side of the ball.

Top choices

As we get closer to the draft, there’s a little unfinished business that could affect what the New England Patriots do in Philadelphia later this month.

Does the team plan on making a deal with Pro Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler? He’s a restricted free agent but the club did sign Stephon Gilmore to a big contract this offseason. Would the Pats be interested in moving backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the right price? Both of these players could have an impact on how many picks Belichick truly has at his disposal.

The team could use another cornerback as Logan Ryan signed with the Tennessee Titans. Ealy will help the pass rush but every team is always on the lookout for someone who can bring the heat. It’s hard to tell who the Patriots are looking at and who will be available in round three. But odds are is that the onus is on the defensive side of the ball.

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