The New England Patriots’ safety group played some strong football in 2019, and served as a backbone for the NFL’s premier secondary. However, the unit is also getting up there in age with both Devin McCourty — who furthermore will become an unrestricted free agent in mid-March — and Patrick Chung both turning 33 before next season, and Duron Harmon also already being 29 years old. Needless to say that changes might be on the horizon.
The Patriots will inevitably have to start thinking about the future of their safety position at one point, and according to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay the time to do so is this offseason: after having New England pick Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs in his first mock draft in mid-December, he projects the team to go after LSU safety Grant Delpit in his his second (all while Wirfs is going eighth overall to the Arizona Cardinals).
Here’s what McShay had to say about Delpit:
Grant Delpit, S, LSU
New England is a little more accustomed to picking at No. 31 or 32, but the bright side of not playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in four years is the opportunity to add a quality prospect with an earlier selection. Some might lean toward Tom Brady’s heir — maybe Love. Some might think about shoring up the offensive line in case Joe Thuney leaves Foxborough. But I’m going with the rangy Delpit, especially with Devin McCourty not a lock to be back. Delpit didn’t have the best season at LSU, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots would get the most out of him. The Pats need to keep that defense strong.
McShay offers some valid points about the quarterback and offensive line situations, but also is right about how Delpit would fit into the secondary and its long-term outlook — even if McCourty does return to Foxborough. Delpit, who will turn just 22 in September, is therefore certainly an intriguing candidate considering the developmental upside he brings to the table despite still being a work-in-progress in some areas of his game.
So, what exactly would he offer the Patriots’ top-ranked secondary? According to The Draft Network’s Joe Marino, the answer might be just about anything: “Delpit brings a lot to the table and he projects favorably to becoming a high-impact safety in the NFL. He’s versatile, physical, urgent, smart, athletic and his skill set is perfect for matching up against the pace and space present in today’s NFL offenses.”
“Tackling has been a notable wart in Delpit’s film but he improved considerably in 2019, playing with more control and wrapping up with more consistency,” he continued in his analysis of the junior defender. “Delpit’s presence will make an NFL scheme more multiple and there just isn’t anything he can’t do on the field. He has the upside to become one of the best players at his position by Year Three with the upside to start right away.”
While the need at safety depends mostly on McCourty and whether or not he returns, Delpit certainly would be a good developmental asset to bring aboard with the 23rd overall selection. Of course, we are still relatively early in the pre-draft process and his stock could still rise and fall quite a bit over the next almost three months.