MVP replacements: New England Patriots

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

The obvious MVP for the Patriots is quarterback Tom Brady, while cornerback Aqib Talib would fall into the different category of “overlooked” MVP.

Brady is signed through the 2017 season, so the Patriots are locked in with him for at least another four seasons. Yet as we remember from the 2008 season, when Brady sustained a season-ending knee injury on the 15th offensive play of the season, the picture can change in an instant.

Backup Ryan Mallett enters the final year of his contract in 2014, and coach Bill Belichick seems to be high on him.

“Ryan has improved significantly in the three years that he's been here. I thought he made another strong jump this year and if at some point he ends up having to play, whenever that is, I think he is certainly on the road to being ready to play,” Belichick said on sports radio WEEI.

Given Mallett’s contract status, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Patriots target a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft.

As for Talib, who is scheduled for free agency March 11, his ability to match up with the opponent’s top receiver and be competitive provided great value to the team. We saw how the defense was affected when Talib was knocked out of the last two AFC Championship games.

The Patriots have Alfonzo Dennard (third year), Kyle Arrington (sixth year) and Logan Ryan (second year) next in line on the depth chart.