Draft season is one of my favorite times of the year because championship teams are built over the spring and summer months. I’ve already looked at the New England Patriots’ biggest roster needs, and now I’m going to show how the Patriots should address them.
As a recap, I said the Patriots’ biggest needs are at wide receiver and tight end, closely followed by offensive tackle. Then there’s a need at quarterback, interior offensive line, and on the defensive line.
The way that the draft board looks to me, based on depth of each position and the positions of need for New England, I would actually expect them to take a defensive lineman in the first round. I think there are at least six defensive tackles with a strong first round grade and think that a top 20-caliber player will fall to the Patriots.
(The List: Alamaba’s Quinnen Williams, Houston’s Ed Oliver, Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery, Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons, and Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence)
I also think the Patriots should take a tight end in the second round and take the best wide receiver on the board at the end of the second round. The Iowa duo of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are likely to go off the board before the Patriots’ first pick, so they might have to take the best remaining of the four immediate impact tight ends in the second round.
(The List: Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr., and Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger)
Outside of Mississippi’s D.K. Metcalf, who could go in the top 15, there are a dozen wide receivers that could anywhere from 20th to 70th overall, based on however the teams value their individual skill sets.
(The List: Mississippi’s A.J. Brown, Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler, Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry, Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, N.C. State’s Kelvin Harmon, South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel, Massachusett’s Andy Isabella, Missouri’s Emmanuel Hall, Georgia’s Riley Ridley, and Ohio State’s Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin)
Then the Patriots can focus on adding a offensive lineman, project pass rusher, and a quarterback in the third round, and an additional offensive lineman in the fourth round. And, in all honesty, the first four rounds are the only ones that the Patriots focus on. Bill Belichick doesn’t like using fifth round picks because other teams overvalue them and he’s able to flip them for veteran starters, while the sixth and seventh rounds are coin flips and used to claim priority free agents.
If I were the Patriots, I’d try to claim a project offensive tackle in the third round and take the interior lineman in the fourth round, simply because there are fewer quality tackles and good interior linemen are often available in the fourth round (see: Shaq Mason).
(The List: Alabama State’s Tytus Howard, Northern Illinois’ Max Scharping, Southern California’s Chuma Edoga, Washington’s Kaleb McGary, West Virginia’s Yodny Cajuste, Oklahoma’s Bobby Evans)
As for the quarterbacks, there aren’t many in a fairly shallow draft. West Virginia’s Will Grier is my top choice, while N.C. State’s Ryan Finley wouldn’t be a bad alternative. Boise State’s Brett Rypien and Washington State’s Gardner Minshew would probably be better options in the fourth round, but these are the only four quarterbacks I would match with the Patriots, assuming that Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock, and Duke’s Daniel Jones are all off the board in the first round or two.
It’s the interior offensive line that’s a little more interesting, especially with Joe Thuney and Ted Karras up for free agency after this season, and with line depth always a necessary investment. There are only three interior offensive linemen that are really expected to go in the first couple rounds in N.C. State’s Garrett Bradbury, Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom, and Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy. There’s another dozen interior linemen that could go to the Patriots in the third or fourth rounds that would be a great addition to the team.
(The List: Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins and Deion Calhoun, Wisconsin’s Michael Deiter, Penn State’s Connor McGovern and Ryan Bates, Arkansas’s Hjalte Froholdt, Charlotte’s Nate Davis, Memphis’ Trevon Tate, Georgia’s Lamont Gaillard, Oklahoma’s Dru Samia and Ben Powers, Ohio State’s Michael Jordan, and N.C. State’s Terronne Prescod)
Some of these players are likely to come off the board in the second and third rounds, but the point is that a lot of these players are in roughly the same tier of ability, and that the Patriots can get a guard in the fourth round that would be of similar quality as in the second round.
The Patriots’ remaining picks should be used on high-upside prospects on offense- at wide receiver and tight end, and maybe even another offensive tackle- and on high-upside players at linebacker and safety, where there isn’t an immediate need, but it can’t hurt to add possible talent.
This exercise is about finding quality players at the positions of need in the 2019 NFL Draft, too. If I were planning more long-term, I would trade down from the first round to acquire a day two selection and a 2020 First Round Pick (and maybe package in a third or fourth round pick to ensure that day two selection is as strong as possible). I would ignore the quarterback position in the first four rounds of this draft and build capital for the much deeper 2020 NFL Draft class.
But if the Patriots wanted to fill in all their roster gaps through this draft, they could. There’s plenty of talent at the Patriots’ positions of need, all available at places in the draft that make sense from a team-building standpoint.