After making two selections in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots now have 67 players on their roster. The team has three more picks on the final day of the draft- 131st (round 4), 183rd (round 5), and 239th (round 7)- and could add an additional 20 players as undrafted free agents.
The Patriots are also in a great position to take the best players available because the team no longer has any glaring needs.
New England entered the draft needing to draft an edge defender and an offensive tackle and they added both in EDGE Derek Rivers and OT Antonio Garcia in the third round. All other “needs” are about improving the depth on the roster.
Head coach Bill Belichick has constructed a roster that is ready to compete both now in 2017 and again in 2018. The positions with key free agents in 2018 (WR Julian Edelman, OT Nate Solder, CB Malcolm Butler, EDGE Rob Ninkovich) all have young players under contract to groom in the system (WR Brandin Cooks, OT Antonio Garcia, CB Eric Rowe and CB Cyrus Jones, EDGE Derek Rivers).
We can look back to my predraft list of team needs to see that the Patriots have just four more positions of need.
The Patriots could use a three-down linebacker to pair with Dont’a Hightower. This player would compete with Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, and Jonathan Freeny for playing time.
Of course, the linebackers that match that description were all gone before the end of the second round, so the Patriots would be better off investing another late round pick on a high-upside prospect and hope they can stash them on the practice squad. A player like BYU LB Harvey Langi, Oklahoma LB Jordan Evans, or UCLA LB Jayon Brown could be an interesting fit.
The Patriots could also improve their third-string tight end, back-up interior lineman, and back-up strong safety. TE Matt Lengel, TE Michael Williams, OG Ted Karras, and SS Jordan Richards should be considered fringe players, where the Patriots would be fine to enter the season with them in their current capacity, but Belichick would also jump at the opportunity to improve the quality at the position.
Tight ends like Iowa TE George Kittle, Michigan TE Jake Butt, Arkansas TE Jeremy Sprinkle, or Toledo TE Michael Roberts would be interesting developmental prospects, as would safeties like Colorado S Tedric Thompson or Nebraska S Nathan Gerry. The Patriots would probably rather just invite a dozen offensive linemen to camp than draft one in the later rounds.
Those are the four “needs” that the Patriots have, for lack of a better word. The Patriots are simply looking for prospects that could be better than the current player holding down the 53rd position on the active roster.