Bill Belichick is often associated with smokescreens when it comes to the NFL Draft, but all of the signs are pointing in one direction this year: the Patriots are interested in drafting Tom Brady an offensive weapon.
I disputed this notion last week as noise surfaced about the Patriots trading up to acquire a top 10 receiver like Mike Evans, and I offered an alternative that this could be the Patriots attempting to trade down to the receiver needy teams at the start of the second round.
Well, the noise is getting louder as receiver Marqise Lee offered the Patriots and their 29th overall pick as a floor for his draft stock.
"Honestly, to tell you the truth, I’m going to be happy wherever I go down. If it’s 10, it’s 10. If it’s 29, it’s 29. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as I get the opportunity to actually go out there and play."
Zoltan Buday of Inside Handoff has spoken with Lee's coaches at USC who believe that his impressive athleticism will not be enough in the NFL and that he has to improve his route running- but the fact stands that the top offensive prospects in the draft have all appeared on the Patriots radar.
Apart from Lee and Evans, the team has gone radio silent with Odell Beckham Jr. after their preliminary visit, and they've also brought in Kelvin Benjamin. Add in the visits with the top tight end prospects like Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Troy Niklas and the Patriots are poking their noses at all of the weapons.
I still don't believe the Patriots are serious about pursuing a receiver at the top end of the draft. But I'm less confident that the team is planning on trading downwards to acquire more picks in the middle rounds. If the team really is investing in an offensive weapon in the first round, it's because they believe they can be an impact player from day one- most of the players listed above fall into that category.