[the Pats] already have two veterans in 31-year-old Branch and 29-year-old Knighton at the position. So I don't think this is as much about experience as it is the team hoping to land a younger, high-upside prospect to keep feeding the pipeline for future years alongside impressive 2015 first-round draft choice Malcom Brown.
This is a good year for teams that are seeking defensive tackles in the draft, with ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. saying, "This is probably the best defensive line group I've ever seen in my nearly 40 years of doing this."
When I look at the Patriots' defensive tackles, I split them into two categories -- the big-bodied types who are more early-down players (with some sub-package potential) and those who are more penetrating linemen who aren't as much of a factor against the run.
I think the Patriots are well stocked in the big-bodied category with Brown, Branch, Knighton, Markus Kuhn, Frank Kearse and Joe Vellano. It's the penetrating defensive tackle spot that has been depleted, but I think the Patriots probably feel some of their defensive ends factor into that mix in sub packages anyway (e.g. Jabaal Sheard rushing from an interior position in 2015).
The Patriots had success out of Texas with Brown last year, and I wonder if his former teammate Hassan Ridgeway
might be of interest to them this year in the draft.