The New England Patriots did not make a selection in the first round of this year’s NFL draft, instead opting to trade out of their 23rd overall spot to add the 37th and 71st selections previously owned by the Los Angeles Chargers. Getting more flexibility on Days Two and Three — the team now owns 13 total selections over the remaining rounds — was a driving factor behind the decision to move down the board, according to Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, which means that New England should be expected to be among the more active clubs today.
This holds especially true considering that there is still plenty of talent available as a look at the top 50 selections remaining on the Big Board shows:
First-round talents (10)
22 members of the first-round talent group were drafted on Day One.
D’Andre Swift, Georgia; Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin; J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
While getting first-round value on Day Two is generally a positive, it seems highly likely that the Patriots will not target the running back position until later in the draft. After all, the team’s backfield is deep as it is after the team invested a first-round pick in Sony Michel back in 2018 and a third-round selection in Damien Harris just last year.
Josh Jones, Houston
Despite six offensive tackles coming off the board on Thursday, one first-round talent is still available: Josh Jones out of Houston, who had pre-draft contact with the Patriots and could be a potential long-term replacement for aging starting right-side option Marcus Cannon.
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa; Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State; Zack Baun, Wisconsin
This year’s defensive edge class is deep at the top, but only two players at the position — Chase Young and K’Lavon Chaisson — actually heard their names called on Day One. This means that the next three men down the board are all still available heading into Friday, making them potential targets for the Patriots early in the second round. All three would help bolster a defensive front seven that lost some considerable talent in free agency.
Kristian Fulton, LSU
New England’s cornerback position is as deep as any in the NFL, so it would be surprising to see the team go after Fulton in the second round despite the value he may represent. This holds especially true considering that the Patriots picked Joejuan Williams in Round Two just last year.
Xavier McKinney, Alabama; S Grant Delpit, LSU
McKinney enters Friday as the highest rated player remaining on the big board and would be a nice addition to the Patriots’ talented but aging safety group — and a potential heir to either Devin McCourty or Patrick Chung due to his versatility. Delpit may not be that sound a player, but he would still be a good get in Round Two.
Second-round talents (23)
9 members of the second-round talent group were drafted on Day One.
Cam Akers, Florida State
While Akers is a good player, his outlook is the same as with the three first-round talents listed above: the Patriots’ depth at the position makes it unlikely the team goes after him unless he starts dropping significantly down the board.
Denzel Mims, Baylor; Tee Higgins, Clemson; Laviska Shenault Jr, Colorado; Michael Pittman Jr, USC; K.J. Hamler, Penn State
Six wide receivers heard their names called on Day One — four of which seen as first-round talents, two being of the second-round variety — but there is still plenty of depth and upside available. If New England plans to add to the position on Friday, the five second-round talents all should be viable candidates that would help boost a unit that struggled in 2019.
Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
The tight end position is comparatively weak this year, with Kmet the highest graded player as a second-round talent. New England, due to the aforementioned trade-down from the first round, should be in a position to go after him, but the question is how the team values him in relation to other players on the board both at tight end and different positions.
Ezra Cleveland, Boise State
Cleveland was seen as a potential first-round target heading into the draft due to his enormous potential. That said, he is still available on Day Two and could become a developmental pickup to groom behind current Patriots starting options Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon.
Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU
This year’s interior O-line class lacks high-end talent, with only one player — Cesar Ruiz — coming off the board in the first round. Cushenberry is the next player down the line and as such a potential target for New England. However, the recent announcement by David Andrews that he has been medically cleared to return to the field could change the outlook at the position.
Ross Blacklock, TCU; Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M; Neville Gallimore; Marlon Davidson, Auburn; Jordan Elliott, Missouri
The second round is the sweet spot for the defensive interior position. Blacklock, Madubuike, Gallimore and Elliott are all potential Day One starters that could be long-term investments by New England. Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler are both unrestricted free agents next year, after all, with offseason pickup Beau Allen as of yet unproven in the system.
Joshua Uche, Michigan; Terrell Lewis, Alabama; Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
The second-round talent pool at the defensive edge also has some intriguing, high-upside options available. If the Patriots miss out on one of the first-round group mentioned above, or decide that they are fungible commodities, they could decide to wait a bit to select one of Uche, Lewis or Okwara.
Trevon Diggs, Alabama; Jaylon Johnson, Utah
Once again, the Patriots are not expected to invest in a cornerback given their current depth at the position alongside reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore.
Antoine Winfield Jr, Minnesota; Ashtyn Davis, California; Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois; Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne
With no safety selected yet, the position is a deep one heading into Day Two. McKinney and Delpit are the top options, but the second-round pool also has some interesting players available — starting with fringe first-rounder Antoine Winfield Jr. As is the case with the defensive edge, the Patriots could opt to wait a bit to address the position’s depth rather than its high-end talent.
Third-round talents (17+)
1 member of the third-round talent group was drafted on Day One.
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma; Jacob Eason, Washington
Four quarterbacks heard their names called on Thursday, and the Patriots did not bring one of them aboard despite being in position to do so (Jordan Love, for example, went to Green Bay with the 26th overall pick). If New England does want to add depth alongside Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer, using a Day Two pick on Hurts or Eason would be a solid decision. Georgia’s Jake Fromm, meanwhile, also is a third-round player although he is not among the top-50 still available.
Zack Moss, Utah
Depending on how the board falls, the Patriots may opt to add to their defensive backfield late on Friday. It still would be a surprise given their overall depth, though, despite some talented players projected to be available.
Chase Claypool, Notre Dame; Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
The wide receiver depth from a round-three-perspective might not be as impressive as the talent pool in the second, but it still features two interesting players. Claypool in particular would be an intriguing developmental option that offers an impressive mix of size and athleticism.
Adam Trautman, Dayton
One of only two tight ends to make the top-50 list, Trautman has shown his potential during the Senior Bowl and quickly climbed up draft boards ever since. His developmental status plus the fact that he played small-school college ball make him a project, but one that could fit in well in New England due to size and receiving experience.
Lucas Niang, TCU; Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn; Matthew Peart, Connecticut
Together with wide receiver, the offensive tackle position might be the deepest in this year’s draft — and the fact that Niang, Tega Wanogho and Peart are all third-round talents but seen as OT9, OT10 and OT11 on the big board speaks for itself. All three need to be molded before being allowed to start, but time is a resource they might have in New England.
Robert Hunt, Louisiana-Lafayette; Matt Hennessy, Temple
The status of the Patriots’ interior offensive line is primarily dependent on Joe Thuney’s franchise tag outlook now that David Andrews has been cleared to return. Hennessy has more experience at center than guard, which would make Hunt a more realistic option to fill Thuney’s spot in case he gets traded or leaves New England without a new deal next spring.
Raekwon Davis, Alabama
Davis checks plenty of boxes from the Patriots’ perspective: he has tremendous size and length, and should be able to successfully two-gap at the next level. Plus, he has played at Alabama against SEC-competition. If he becomes available in Round Three, New England is a team to watch.
Curtis Weaver, Boise State; Bradlee Anae, Utah
The strength of the defensive edge heading into Friday lies early in the second round, but Weaver and Anae are both players capable of producing in a rotational role from early on in their careers. Their upside may be limited compared to players such as Gross-Matos or Baun, but they should both fit in with New England’s defensive scheme.
Malik Harrison, Ohio State
Harrison is a throwback linebacker and as such the best off-the-ball option available for New England on Day Two: he may not be the most impressive athlete, but he is smart and capable of successfully attacking downhill. Given that the Patriots lost considerable talent at linebacker, he would be a good pickup late on Friday.
Bryce Hall, Virgina; Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State
Hall and Dantzler are both intriguing options at cornerback, and the Patriots could invest if they start dropping down the board. Once again, however, it seems that the team would prefer bolstering its depth elsewhere.
Best of the rest: QB Jake Fromm, Georgia; WR Van Jefferson, Flordia; LB Logan Wilson, Wisconsin; DE Jabari Zuniga, Florida; DE Darrell Taylor, Tennessee; LB Akeem Davis Gaither, Appalachian State