After 11 years with the New England Patriots, big Vince Wilfork took his 325 pounds of run-stopping power to the Houston Texans this offseason, leaving a big hole in the middle of the Patriots’ defense.

So this might be a good time to take an interior defensive tackle in the NFL draft.

But wait. Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner – the two lockdown corners who spearheaded New England’s Super Bowl champion defense – also left the Patriots during the offseason, leaving a huge gap in the secondary.

So this might be a good time for the Patriots to dip into a deep cornerback pool and set up their secondary for years, right?

But wait. Offensive guard Dan Connolly, who was a team captain, is a free agent, leaving a pretty big gap in an offensive line that is paid to protect a Hall-of-Fame-bound, not-particularly-mobile quarterback who turns 38 on Aug. 3.

So this might be a good time for the Patriots to use their first pick on an offensive lineman, right?

But wait, every year we talk about how Tom Brady – the aforementioned quarterback – needs a deep threat.

So maybe this would be a good time for the Patriots to take a wide receiver in the first round for the first time since 1996.

But wait, running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley both left as free agents, leaving a gap in depth at that position.

So maybe …

You get the picture.

The Patriots, coming off their fourth Super Bowl championship in the Bill Belichick-Brady era, have a lot of needs going into the NFL draft, a three-day affair that begins Thursday night with the first round.

Which one will they address first?

Or, given Belichick’s history, will they trade the 32nd pick of the draft – the last one in the first round – to move up or, more probably, move down?

After all, Belichick has made 53 draft-day trades in his first 15 drafts with the Patriots.

So what will the Patriots do?

Your guess is as good as mine. And the Patriots certainly aren’t going to show their hand.

As Nick Caserio, the Patriots’ director of player personnel, said at his predraft press conference, this is just one step in the process.

“Even if you go back to last year,” he said, “kind of how we built the team, there are some players we added in the draft, some players we added after the draft, some players we added throughout the course of the season.”

Based on previous drafts, we know there’s a good chance that the Patriots will take someone that few fans have ever heard of. How many of you knew of tight end Benjamin Watkins or offensive guard Logan Mankins – the last two players selected by the Patriots at No. 32 (2004, 2005)?

And when your first pick is about 31/2 hours after the draft has begun, well, maybe it’s just as good to sleep on it a little more. That’s why it wouldn’t shock anyone if the Patriots traded down from 32 for more picks. That is, if the Patriots don’t try to trade up first.

The thing is, the Patriots have some choices this year, depending on what route they want to go.

The consensus among many of the mock draft experts is that New England is going to draft a lineman. Which side of the ball will depend on what players are available.

The Patriots drafted three offensive linemen last year and two stuck: center Bryan Stork and tackle Cameron Fleming, both selected in the fourth round. Stork became a starter and Fleming was a valuable addition when the Patriots went to an extra blocker.

That the Patriots are still interested in getting younger on the offensive line was reinforced when they sent Dante Scarnecchia, their retired line coach who was regarded as one of the best in the business, to several Pro Days on college campuses. Given his presence and respect, you can expect the Patriots to pick an offensive lineman fairly early.

Among those they might have a shot at: Florida State guard/center Cameron Erving, Duke guard Laken Tomlinson, South Carolina guard A.J. Cann and Florida State guard Tre Jackson. Erving is projected to be a first-round pick so the Patriots might have to move up if he’s the guy they really want.

The others could be available at No. 32 or, if the Patriots chose to move back and pick up additional second-round picks, later.

Defensive tackle might not be as great a need if last year’s No.1 pick, Dominique Easley, is finally fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in his senior year at Florida. He isn’t Wilfork, but the Patriots have some depth at that position with Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones.

Still, Belichick loves defensive players and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots take Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman if he’s still available.

But defensively, there is obviously a much bigger need at cornerback.

Connecticut’s Byron Jones is a name a lot of people have thrown about when talking about the Patriots. He impressed everyone at the combine and has great size (6-foot-1, 199 pounds) and cover skills. Utah’s Eric Rowe, a 6-1, 205-pounder who can also play safety, may also be a great choice at this spot. He has the size to replace a guy like Browner and the versatility to play several positions.

And then there’s Marcus Peters of Washington. Good size, great cover skills. But he comes with some baggage – he was suspended for one game and later dismissed from the team last fall following a confrontation with an assistant coach. Most folks think he will still be selected before the Patriots pick at No. 32. But if he slips, will they take a chance on him?

We’ll throw one more name at you, which would send ripples through Patriots Nation.

Under Belichick, the Patriots have never drafted a wide receiver first. The last time the Patriots invested the first pick in a wide receiver was in 1996 when they took Terry Glenn with the No.7 pick.

This year, they might finally take that step if USC’s Nelson Agholor is sitting there at 32. He caught 104 passes for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. And he is an exceptional kick returner. At USC, he averaged 14.8 yards per punt return with four touchdowns. The Patriots love guys who can excel at special teams and he fits that bill perfectly.

Right now the Patriots have nine picks in the draft, including two compensatory picks (third and seventh rounds). They don’t have a fifth-round pick, but have two in the third, fourth and seventh rounds.

Will they find someone who can help immediately?

Well, as Caserio said, “Even when you draft a player, you really don’t know.”

It should be an interesting three days.