As it pertains to the Patriots, the 2017 NFL Draft officially begins tonight. Round 1 provided an extremely entertaining Thursday night, but the Patriots were one of three teams that had nothing to do with the action.
Even as we enter the second and third rounds tonight, the Patriots potentially could still be waiting a while before making their first pick. As it currently stands, New England is slated to pick 72nd and 96th, both of those coming in the third round. There are a number of talented players who will be available at each spot, but the talent that has fallen to the second round should force the Patriots to consider a trade up.
New England has gone all in on winning at least one more Super Bowl while Tom Brady is running the show, and there are a number of immediate impact players that the Patriots have done their homework on if they do trade up. New England could be willing to move a future pick to maintain their current capital and still get into the second, so look for them to still make at least two picks tonight even if they do make a move up.
If they make their way into the second, look for them to target a linebacker like Zach Cunningham or Raekwon McMillan, or an EDGE defender such as Derek Rivers or Jordan Willis, OR a combination of LB/EDGE such as Tyus Bowser. In the third, if they stay at their picks, still look for an EDGE like Tarell Bashum of Ohio or a combo guy like Vince Biegle.
Outside of the front 7, the Patriots have a historic affinity for certain positions on the drafts second day. Defensive back could be a definite target (obligatory reach for a lesser-known safety!), and while it doesn’t appear on the surface as a need, New England loves throwing darts at wide receivers on day 2 (Deion Branch, Chad Jackson, Aaron Dobson, Taylor Price, etc).
A dark horse positional target for New England is offensive tackle. Marcus Cannon was just locked up to a long-term extension, but Nate Solder is in the final year of his deal and it’s possible that the Patriots look to draft his replacement. Even if Solder is back, the Patriots value their third “swing” tackle greatly, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see them target someone for competition with Cameron Fleming for the spot. Of the realistic available tackles, Will Holden out of Vanderbilt is an ideal fit. Look for them to target him if he’s there at 96 regardless of what they do with the earlier pick (barring already going OL).
Ultimately, the Patriots are the Patriots and are gonna do whatever they damn well please. The Patriots don’t have a real tendency one way or the other when it comes to drafting for need vs. BPA, and given how long they’re waiting to make their first pick it’s even harder to try and guess at, but my Pats Pulpit colleague Brian Phillips (@b7Phillips) and I are about to do just that.
For the sake of completeness and to satisfy the gut feeling that the Patriots are going to find their way into the second round, I’m including a trade up prediction scenario.
2nd Round Trade Up Scenario: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt in the second/Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt at 3.96. They double up on Vandy prospects to grab an athletic linebacker who can make plays off the ball while Hightower disrupts near the line of scrimmage, and Holden provides an OT with a similar athletic profile to Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.
Brian’s Prediction: Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell at 3.72/Deatrich Wise Jr., EDGE, Arkansas at 3.96. With truly elite size and power, Nate Solder's potential replacement can be given a full year to learn under Dante Scarnecchia, and adjust to NFL pass rushers. As for Wise, after a career of underperformance given his frame and long arms, the Patriots simply won't be able to help themselves as this Chandler Jones look-alike falls to them this late in the 3rd round.
Ryan’s No Trade Prediction: Daeshon Hall, EDGE, Texas A&M at 3.72/Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson at 3.96. Hall is a raw, talented EDGE that the Patriots would love to get their hands on and mold into a playmaker. At 96, tight end is a dark horse target there and Leggett provides the foundation in the blocking and receiving game that would interest New England.
Who do you want to see them grab, and what do you ultimately think they’ll do? Head over to the comment section and let us know!