The NFL Draft starts on April 30th and ends on May 2nd, and will take place in Chicago. The draft is split up into three days, with the first round on the first day, the second and third rounds on the second day, and the remaining four rounds on the third and final day.
The New England Patriots will have the final pick of each round, with their full pick breakdown as follows:
1st round: 32nd Overall
2nd round: 64th Overall
3rd round: 96th and 97th Overall
4th round: 101st and 131st Overall
6th round: 177th Overall
7th round: 219th and 253rd Overall
The Patriots have the draft capital to move around as they see fit, especially if they want to take advantage of the depth available early on the second day of the draft. As over a thousand of you readers noted, the losses of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner make cornerback New England's biggest need, while the departure of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and the pending status of Dan Connolly make both the offensive and defensive interiors top needs.
Beyond those three positions, there aren't glaring needs for starters. The Patriots feature a ridiculously young roster with talented youth in place behind all veterans over the age of thirty. Tom Brady has Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Ninkovich has newly signed Jabaal Sheard, and Sebastian Vollmer has back-ups in both Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming.
This means that the franchise is in a great position to draft based upon the top talent available on the draft board and can focus on their obvious openings in the starting line-up.
When constructing a draft board, I don't include positions without obvious space on the roster (special teams, quarterback, offensive tackle, safety). I also don't include prospects with lower grades than the depth players on the roster (contract value is only marginally included).
The Patriots are known for whittling down their draft board to a smaller list of prospects, with sixty or seventy players as targets. Beyond the tape, they evaluate a player based upon six main questions:
1) What is the player's role on the Patriots?
2) Will that role change between Year 1 and Year 2?
3) How many downs can they play?
4) Which player on the roster will he beat out?
5) What is their special teams value?
6) Do they have positional versatility?
We will look at prospects through this series of questions over the next month leading up to the draft. Note that the rankings aren't necessarily when a prospect will be drafted, but instead how I value and project them at the next level. Additionally, certain positions (like linebacker) are devalued due their roster need. Thanks to CBS Sports and Draft Breakdown for acting as resources throughout this process.
pRK is positional rank, height is in inches
|1||Leonard Williams||DT1||Southern California||Jr||77||302|
|5||Dante Fowler Jr.||ED1||Florida||Jr||75||261|
|8||Kevin White||WR2||West Virginia||Sr||75||215|
|9||Kevin Johnson||CB1||Wake Forest||rSr||72||188|
|10||Cameron Erving||IL3||Florida State||rSr||77||313|
|14||Trae Waynes||CB2||Michigan State||rJr||72||186|
|19||A.J. Cann||IL5||South Carolina||rSr||75||313|
|21||Xavier Cooper||DT4||Washington State||rJr||75||293|
|25||Preston Smith||ED6||Mississippi State||Sr||77||271|
|27||B.J. Finney||IL6||Kansas State||rSr||76||318|
|28||Mark Glowinski||IL7||West Virginia||rSr||76||307|
|30||P.J. Williams||CB5||Florida State||Jr||72||194|
|32||Jay Ajayi||RB2||Boise State||rJr||72||221|
|33||Eddie Goldman||DT6||Florida State||Jr||76||336|
|35||Nelson Agholor||WR5||Southern California||Jr||72||198|
|36||Jaelen Strong||WR6||Arizona State||rJr||74||217|
|38||Shaquille Mason||IL10||Georgia Tech||Sr||74||310|
|43||Michael Bennett||DT8||Ohio State||Sr||74||293|
|45||Cedric Ogbuehi||IL12||Texas A&M||rSr||77||306|
|47||Justin Hardy||WR8||East Carolina||Sr||70||192|
|49||Clive Walford||TE2||Miami (Fla.)||rSr||76||251|
|50||Benardrick McKinney||LB4||Mississippi State||rJr||76||246|
|53||David Johnson||RB6||Northern Iowa||rSr||73||224|
|55||Donovan Smith||IL13||Penn State||rJr||78||338|
|56||Duke Johnson||RB8||Miami (Fla.)||Jr||69||207|
|57||Quinten Rollins||CB7||Miami (Ohio)||rSr||71||195|
|58||Tre' Jackson||IL14||Florida State||Sr||76||330|
|61||Rashad Greene||WR9||Florida State||Sr||71||182|
|62||Phillip Dorsett||WR10||Miami (Fla.)||Sr||70||185|
For those wondering, ED stands for Edge Defender and is the common term for 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers due to the multiple front defenses played by most teams.
Based upon my board, it would be important to address the defensive line and cornerback positions early in the draft, while interior offensive linemen, running backs, and wide receivers should be available when the Patriots have their three picks at the end of the third and start of the fourth.
This is an ideal draft for the Patriots to bolster their roster. It will certainly be exciting to see everything play out.