With the Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy trades, the Patriots top pick is 72nd overall (8th pick of the 3rd round). The Patriots might not necessarily end up getting blue chip talent at 72 vs. 32 or 64, but the Patriots have been able to draft well. The Patriots like to use the 3rd round to take gambles on athletic testers who didn’t necessarily produce as much as expected in college. The names listed have no specific order on how I view these prospects.
There really isn’t a QB in this draft worth taking. The Patriots will likely roll with Jimmy Garoppolo as the backup and Jacoby Brissett will have another year in the system. Considering how decent he played last year, I’d rather have Brissett over some of the guys in the draft anyway.
RB: Dont’a Foreman, Samaje Perine, Kareem Hunt
The Patriots are in the market for a long term solution at the RB position. The Patriots top RBs are mostly change of pace and/or 3rd down backs who are better as a receiver than runner. Rex Burkhead is currently slotted in as the Patriots top RB in the committee and that’s probably going to stay that way. Foreman makes the most sense even with his fumbling problems, which a broken hand may have assisted into. Perine and Hunt are two players who won’t have a lot of breakaway runs in the NFL, but are incredibly efficient runners. Perine is built and plays like Frank Gore, Hunt is builtZand plays a lot like Shane Vereen. With Dion Lewis and James White as potential UFA after the season, acquiring a 3rd down back in the draft may be in the cards as well.
Slot WR: Taywan Taylor, Ryan Switzer, Trent Taylor
The Patriots are in the market for a quality slot receiver. This draft has plenty of guys who can potentially fill that role. Switzer and Trent Taylor are both pure slot guys due to size and catch radius issues, but also give you a punt returning option. Taywan Taylor led WRs with a 6.57 3-cone time, while Trent Taylor and Switzer tied for the best shuttle time. The Patriots would be getting a ton of value if any of the three wind up in New England. Trent Taylor has the highest yards per route run of the three from the slot.
Outside WR: Ardarious Stewart, Zay Jones, Carlos Henderson
I have both guys going late in the 2nd round, so I’ll include them on the board anyway. I had Stewart going to the Steelers and Jones going to the Packers in the 2nd round for anyone that’s curious. Both have inside/outside versatility that make them appealing options for the Patriots should they acquire a higher pick than 72. Henderson is another intriguing option, but his poor combine could end up scaring teams away. Henderson broke 48 tackles and scored 21 TD his junior year for Louisiana Tech, although his teammate Trent Taylor led the team in catches and yards.
TE: George Kittle, Bucky Hodges, Jake Butt, Michael Roberts
The Patriots could look for a developmental TE in the draft, which makes Jake Butt a more appealing prospect to the Patriots than other teams. Butt has a well-rounded skill set that would have likely made him a first round pick had he survived one more game. Of the four players mentioned, Kittle is probably the most likely to be able to contribute in Year 1. Hodges is more of a Jimmy Graham receiver only type TE who can create mismatches in the passing game. Roberts is a developmental TE who should be able to develop into a solid #2 TE who can be a red zone threat and a solid blocker in the future.
OT: Adam Bisnowaty, Antonio Garcia, Taylor Moton, Julien Davenport
With 3 of the 4 OTs scheduled for free agency after the season, the team should be proactive towards addressing that need. With Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon entrenched in the starting lineup, the Patriots can afford to develop a young player to either be a backup or Nate Solder’s replacement at left tackle. Cameron Fleming and La’Adrian Waddle have very little guaranteed money on the cap so they’re both expendable in favor of a developmental tackle. Bisnowaty is the most pro-ready of the group, although Moton has the most upside. With left tackle being one of the most important positions in the league, better to take one of these guys over a pass rusher.
IOL: Dion Dawkins, Ethan Pocic, Isaac Asiata, Dorian Johnson, Kyle Fuller
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots added another interior lineman in the draft and have him compete with David Andrews for a spot in the lineup. Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney have been mentioned as possibilities for moving to center if the player is a guard, with Thuney making the most sense. The reason for adding a player there is to put the best 5 lineman on the field. Pocic is probably the top IOL that could be there at 72 although Dawkins could fall if enough teams see him as a guard than a tackle. Pocic is the only player in this group who was a center in college, the rest being either tackles or guards. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots OT pick ends up at guard in Year 1 as well.
DL: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Eddie Vanderdoes, Charles Walker, Vincent Taylor, Dalvin Tomlinson, Chris Wormley
The Patriots have spent a lot of capital at the position of late, adding Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, and Lawrence Guy over the last 3 seasons. With a 4-deep rotation, whoever they drafted probability doesn’t see the field barring injuries. Kpassagnon is listed because he’s a project and the Patriots love taking project players at this point of the draft. Tomlinson is probably the best fit for his ability to 2-gap in Nick Saban’s defense. Vanderdoes, Walker, and Taylor also have good size at the position, but are better suited for 1-gap schemes than 2-gap. Wormley is another interesting possibility, as he can play 3-4 or 4-3 schemes as a DE as well as rush the passer as a DT.
EDGE: Demarcus Walker, Daeshon Hall, Trey Hendrickson, Derek Rivers, Tarell Basham, Vince Biegel, Carroll Phillips, Deatrich Wise Jr.
The Patriots could be double dipping at this position considering the amount of quality prospects that could be on the board for them in the 3rd round. Of this group, Hendrickson, Rivers, Biegel, and Phillips could end up as a stand-up rusher or outside LB (4-3 SLB or 3-4 OLB). Hendrickson led the group in pass rush productivity from Pro Football Focus, albeit against weaker competition. Walker is probably the least likely to stick on the edge, he seems more likely to play inside as a 3-tech as a sub package only player, similar to Trey Flowers in Year 1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots drafted two players from this list, one in the 3rd and another in the 4th/5th.
LB: Harvey Langi, Alex Anzalone, Kendall Beckwith
All three linebackers have strong athletic prowess or production, but will likely still be on the board at the end of Day 2 because of major red flags. Langi’s game is still inconsistent and played out of position as a Senior while Anzalone and Beckwith have injuries. Anzalone has as much upside as any other LB in the draft, but injuries over the years have kept him off the field and will likely drop him from a fringe Day 1 to end of Day 2. Beckwith is a more limited fit as a Brandon Spikes thumper in the middle against the run, but limited in man coverage. He also tore his ACL that could cause him to drop into the 4th round.
CB: Chidobe Awuzie, Corn Elder, Desmond King
While on paper, the Patriots don’t “need” a CB, that position is like drafting pitchers in baseball. You can never have enough quality CBs. Malcolm Butler will be an unrestricted FA next year although the Patriots have Cyrus and Jonathan Jones on the roster. The three CBs I mentioned best fit in the slot where their quickness is emphasized and lack of recovery speed is minimized. Awuzie is the most versatile CB of the group as he is good at setting up Star Blitzes. Whoever they draft at CB will also likely be on Special Teams cover units as well.
S: Josh Jones, Delano Hill, Xavier Woods
Josh Jones is your prototypical box safety and has the most upside in the group. Delano Hill played well despite being overshadowed by Jabrill Peppers, although Hill was better against the pass than Peppers. Woods was a strong tester at the combine, although he faced weaker competition than Jones and Hill. The Patriots have already been linked to Jones and Hill on their respective Pro Days. Jones has a decent chance of being available with the 72nd pick although his strong combine outing might cause him to get drafted in the 2nd round.
Five Players Most Likely Players to be drafted: LB Harvey Langi, EDGE Trey Hendrickson, EDGE Demarcus Walker, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Delano Hill