The New England Patriots need to find a way to approach the NFL Draft to reload for another championship season. The Patriots will mostly use the free agency period to resign their current free agents, like Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, and Stephen Gostkowski, so barring any departures it's unlikely a splashy new name will surface in New England.
Instead, the draft will be used to address the current weaknesses on the roster. According to the readers out there, the three largest needs for the Patriots are:
1. Interior Offensive Line
2. Defensive Tackle
3. Edge Defender
Of course, if everyone expects Bill Belichick to zig, he's going to zag all the way to the bank.
As Super Bowl Champion, the Patriots were designated with the final pick of each round. Through the trade for Logan Mankins, they've also acquired the 2nd pick of the 4th round from the Buccaneers. The contract that Aqib Talib signed with the Broncos is likely to produce a 3rd round compensatory pick for New England when they're announced a couple weeks after the new football season begins.
All things considered, the Patriots have a lot of quality draft capital, with a possible five picks in the first 100 selections. This gives New England a lot of freedom to move up the draft board for players deemed worthy. As the 2012 NFL Draft showed, when the Patriots traded up for both Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, if the player is right, then New England will make the move to acquire them.
That's why I'm expecting the Patriots to move up in the draft, with either the New England 3rd round pick or the Buccaneers 4th round pick, to try and capture the players they want.
Packaging one of those picks would move New England up from 32nd to the mid-20s; offering two would move them into the high teens.
If a receiver like Kevin White or an offensive lineman like Brandon Scherff (not likely) or La'el Collins (possible) falls to the late teens, they might be worth moving to acquire. In the mid-20s, an interior lineman like Cameron Erving might be worth grabbing.
If the Patriots stay at 32, look for running back Todd Gurley to be a viable target, due to the 5th year option baked into the contract of first round picks. Gurley is the best running back to come out in years, torn ACL recovery and all- and we know that doesn't scare Belichick away when he thinks he's getting a top 10 talent when healthy. Gurley is reportedly six weeks ahead of recovery schedule, per renowned Dr. James Andrews, a mere three months after surgery. At this rate, the running back could be ready to return mid-summer.
Looking to the second round, the Patriots could combine their 3rd and the Buccaneers 4th to move into the top 40, or just use one to move into the top 50. This trade must happen if the Patriots are to claim one of the top interior linemen in the draft, in A.J. Cann or Laken Tomlinson. Other potential targets include defensive tackles Carl Davis or Arik Armstead.
This draft is extremely deep, where the players ranked 20 to 50 are all roughly the same caliber. The Patriots have the opportunity to take multiple players in this range and I fully expect them to do so.
How would you approach this draft?