The New England Patriots are coming off of another successful season, making it to Super Bowl 52 where they met with the Philadelphia Eagles in a hard fought 41-33 loss. With the off-season focusing towards draft day, the New England Patriots are faced with a few holes, but contain a handful of draft picks that includes the Los Angeles Rams first round pick. This came from ultimately trading WR Brandin Cooks and a fourth round selection for the 23rd overall pick.
The Patriots are in a position they aren’t quite used to, with four draft selections in the first two rounds, and the debate is what they should do with these selections. I have come up with five positions of need with a handful of prospects that could fill these spots.
I believe that the New England Patriots should be looking at offensive tackle in this year’s draft. Specifically, there is a need at the left tackle position with the loss of Nate Solder, as he has joined Eli Manning and the New York Giants this off-season. Over the course of the last three seasons, Tom Brady has been sacked 105 times (including the postseason) and has taken way too many hits. Protecting the 41-year old is a must if this team wants to get back to the Super Bowl.
If the New England Patriots want to attack this need early, they could get some of the best tackles on the board with options such as Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Georgia’s Isiah Wynn, both of whom are both projected as late first rounders. This could give Brady some great protection and keep him upright for the foreseeable future. If they choose to select an offensive tackle in the mid or late rounds with a prospect such as Ohio State’s Jamarco Jones or Greg Senat out of Wagner, this could also fill the hole at the offensive tackle position.
The next position to be discussed on this Patriots roster is inside linebacker. This time two years ago, the Patriots were in a position where this was not even a thought, as they had players like Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins anchoring the linebacker core. Now that Jamie Collins is playing with the Cleveland Browns, while Dont’a Hightower is coming off yet another season-ending injury, New England should look at this position as a key need in this year’s draft.
Should the Patriots go linebacker heavy in the early rounds like mocks suggest, and Rashaan Evans out of Alabama seems to be what analysts are concurring as to who falls to the hands of Bill Belichick. If Evans is to leave the board earlier than the New England’s first selection at #23, players like Josey Jewel out of Iowa and Leighton Vander Esch from Boise State are also in the Patriots draft range early on. However, if they do decide to lay off until the later rounds, Malik Jefferson from Texas and another Alabama prospect in Shaun Dion Hamilton make up some interesting late round options for New England.
Moving on in this topic, it seems as if the past couple of seasons the New England Patriots have always been in the discussion for drafting a quarterback, and rightfully so. With Tom Brady approaching 41-years old, they need to have a future plan built out. The franchise drafted Jimmy Garoppolo four years ago in hopes that he would be the future, but Brady has not shown many signs of regression or decline, so New England was forced to trade him away. The front office will now look again to build a future plan for life after Brady, and with a quarterback friendly class like this one, it should not be too difficult to find one.
The most recent of rumors suggest that the New England Patriots are interested in former Heisman winner Lamar Jackson out of Louisville, who has the potential to be the most explosive QB in this class. With his amazing dual threat ability, Jackson threw for 3,660 yards with 27 TDs and just 10 INTs in his final year at Louisville, while rushing for an additional 1,601 yards and 18 TDs as well.
This seems to be the only player that New England would draft in the first round or potentially move up for. Although, if they chose to wait until the later rounds to make this move, players like Luke Falk out of Washington State, Mike White from Western Kentucky, or Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta provide a solid board for the Patriots if they decide to head this route. Any of these quarterbacks could be molded into a franchise player under Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels, so there is low risk, high reward stakes across the table for New England.
Although Jason McCourty has temporarily plugged this need, the cornerback position is something that should be addressed in this draft. With the loss of Malcolm Butler and how shaky this Patriots defense was last season, which allowed the second-most passing yards per game, they will need to find a sustainable future at this position. In saying so, there is a reason why plenty of mocks have New England drafting a cornerback with one of their two first round draft choices.
Iowa’s top CB Joshua Jackson seems to be a popular choice for New England if he is to drop to the 23rd overall pick, which would give New England a great player to develop under McCourty and Stephon Gilmore. Though if he is not to fall, Mike Hughes from UCF and Isaiah Oliver out of Colorado are both excellent choices in the back half of the first round, or even early in the second round.
If they are to wait later to address this need, Kelvin Toliver II out of LSU and Tavarus McFadden out of FSU provide great mid-late round potential that could benifit from a defensive minded coach as great as Belichick. The cornerback position should be one of the things they address in the early parts of this year’s draft, but if they don’t, it shouldn’t hurt them too much, as their secondary did improve as the season closed out.
The final position and what some may believe is the most important position for the Patriots to address is the outside linebacker position. Since the retirement of Rob Ninkovich, as well as the injuries to Shea McClellan, the Patriots have been unable to find a player that can fill the hole that was left by the losses of those two players. Late in the season, New England acquired former Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison who has since retired, but there still wasn’t all that much of a pass rush coming from this Patriots squad. This was a defense that only managed to receive a mediocre 42 total sacks as a team last season. With this draft, the Patriots absolutely need to address this hole if they want to bring their defense to the same caliber it was in previous years.
If they are to address this position in the first round, Harold Landry out of Boston College seems to be a fan favorite for New England to draft, but he is mocked to possibly go earlier than the Patriots pick at #23. There are also hybrid players such as Sam Hubbard out of Ohio State or Lorenzo Carter out of Georgia who could establish the pass rush that New England desperately needs.
If they are to wait until later to address this issue, players like Chad Thomas out of Miami (FL) or Marquis Haynes from Ole Miss could provide some type of impact to this pass rush, though I wouldn’t count on them to be a instant force on day one. This is a position that must be addressed early, especially since this is not a particularly friendly class for edge rushers outside of the first two rounds.
This draft will be crucial to the success of the Patriots for seasons to come, and with plenty of holes to fill, who will Belichick and company be calling on draft day?
Sports Illustrated Photos