Entering the 2017 NFL draft, the New England Patriots were believed to have a couple of points on their agenda: Addressing the offensive tackle position, finding a developmental backup quarterback, and adding to the defensive front. And while the first of the three points was addressed with the round one selection of Georgia's Isaiah Wynn, neither a quarterback nor a front-seven player were picked by the team so far.
Of course, there are four rounds left for New England to add to the position, and especially at quarterback most of the team's expected targets are still on the board. This leaves the defensive front-seven – particularly the linebacker position – as the main spot for the team to address. And fairly or not, the last two days of inactivity regarding the unit will likely play a big part in how the team's overall draft class is perceived.
After all, New England's front-seven was a major weakness on the team last year: The group lacked athleticism and playmaking ability especially at off-the-ball linebacker. When defensive signal caller Dont'a Hightower – a chess-piece and one of the best defenders in the game – was lost to season-ending injured reserve, the team's lack of quality depth behind him became evident; never more so than in the Super Bowl.
Naturally, the front-seven and linebacker in particular were seen as points of emphasis during the pre-draft coverage. However, with the Patriots missing out on top-tier options like Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch and Alabama's Rashaan Evans, the team's opinion on the position's depth became evident: None of the tier-two defenders was seen as worthy of investment on day two.
This now leaves the Patriots in the same position they were in before the draft: with more questions than answers at linebacker, especially behind the current top duo of Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. Sure, the depth chart is already improved when compared to what the team fielded in the Super Bowl simply because Hightower and to a lesser extent Harvey Langi return from their respective stints on injured reserve.
However, the group still does not strike fear into the hearts of offense coordinators around the NFL. And the Patriots' first three rounds of the draft did nothing to change this. While Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and company could very well have a plan in mind, the perception of New England's 2018 draft class as things currently stand will largely depend on how the front-seven performs next season – despite high-upside players like Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel being added in round one.