It’s a new era in Foxboro, and the New England Patriots are ready to reload their roster through the 2020 NFL Draft. Currently with 12 draft selections, New England is expected to be extremely active throughout.
While it is impossible to predict what Bill Belichick will do come April 23rd, we try to channel our own inner Belichick to predict the Patriots 2020 draft class:
TRADE: PATRIOTS TRADE NO. 23 AND 172 (253 points) TO CHICAGO FOR NO. 43 AND 50 (253 points)
The Patriots currently do not have a second-round selections, after the in-season trade for Mohamed Sanu last October, and it doesn't appear likely Belichick will let 63 picks slide in between picks. New England picks up two second-rounders for their first and fifth rounder.
2nd Round, 43rd Overall: Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin
Baun could have been in consideration for New England at No. 23, so getting him at 43 and picking up an extra second rounder feels like a huge win. The Patriots saw Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Jamie Collins all depart this offseason, so selecting a linebacker with their first pick should come as no surprise. Baun has drawn comparisons to Van Noy, despite being 15-20 pounds lighter, as they both can play on or off the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-2, 238-pounder even compared himself to Van Noy during the combine.
The former Wisconsin Badger is at his best when rushing the passer, using his explosive first step. Baun’s go-to pass rush move is a nasty cross chop, but he also brings an inside spin, speed rush, high swim and rip moves to the table as well.
The athletic Baun plays with an extremely high motor and persistent effort. Match that with his high football IQ and mental processing power and Baun feels like a player Belichick has molded in his lab. The Patriots need more players on the edge, and Baun would certainly help there while boosting the defense’s speed.
2nd Round, 53rd Overall: K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
As the trade back allows New England to select a well-needed edge defender, it also allows them to add a dynamic receiver in the second round. Anyone who paid attention last season realized the Patriots had issues at the wide receiver position, and so far this offseason they have only added Damiere Byrd, while missing out on the likes of Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, etc.
Hamler is an electric playmaker that would add a well needed burst and speed to the Patriots offense. He compliments his superb athleticism with solid route running technique and impressive run after the catch skills, which will make him a difficult cover for NFL defensive backs.
Standing at only 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Hamler plays tough and scrappy but is not very physical. He’ll most likely be a slot receiver due to his frame, but will still command a high number of targets due to his abilities. He also will bring punt and kick return ability to the table.
Third Round, 87th Overall: Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
Tight end was the Patriots’ worst position of the 2019 season, as they failed to replace any of Rob Gronkowski’s past production. After sitting still in free agency, New England appears to be ready to finally upgrade the position in the draft. With Cole Kmet and Adam Trautman off the board, New England goes with the former Boilermaker in the third round.
Hopkins stands 6-foot-4, 241 pounds and saw his production increase every season at Purdue. He is an advanced route-runner for his position, that has the full route tree at his disposal, and has excellent ball skills. His hands and drop rate are concerning as he had to frequently double-catch and re-grip the football. When he does have the ball, his run after catch ability is solid for his size.
He lacks power and is not a great in-line blocker, despite his strong effort and fight on every rep, but that won’t stop Belichick from taking an impact player.
Third Round, 98th Overall: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Tom Brady is gone and it appears Jarrett Stidham has the inside track to the Patriots starting quarterback job. But competition is always healthy.
After the Patriots released Cody Kessler on Wednesday, leaving them with only Stidham and Brian Hoyer on the roster, it appears likely New England could take a quarterback in the draft. Fromm screams Patriots quarterback, starting 42 games for Georgia, while leading the Bulldogs to the National Championship his freshman year, showing off impressive football intelligence and command of the offense:
Potential #Patriots QB target: Jake Fromm. One of the fastest processors in this class, Fromm's arm talent won't "wow" you, but he let's his receivers do the work.— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) March 30, 2020
Here, all verticals. Fromm knows he's got 1v1 outside thanks to slot vertical occupying the safety. Perfect throw. pic.twitter.com/0mLjcTT7N6
Fromm excels when throwing within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, where he can get the ball out quick to running backs or crossers. He maximizes his targets effectively while hardly putting the ball in jeopardy, willing to eat sacks and not panicking under pressure. Fromm’s arm strength is his biggest question mark, as he struggles reaching the far sideline or hitting targets 15+ yards downfield. His accuracy also is an issue as he struggles to work deeper over the field and tries to throw with more heat.
Most of Fromm’s advantage comes pre-snap, where he understands which targets will have leverage. At Georgia, Fromm was responsible for calling protections and audibles at the line of scrimmage. Much like Stidham, the Patriots would hope Fromm could return to the caliber he played at in his early college days.
TRADE: PATRIOTS TRADE NO. 100 AND 195 (39 points) TO DETROIT FOR NO. 109 AND 149 (40 points)
With another gap in between selections No. 125 and 172, Belichick moves back just nine spots to turn a sixth round choice into an early fifth.
Fourth Round, 109th Overall: Tyler Biadasz, IOL, Wisconsin
The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Joe Thuney and center David Andrew appears ready to return from blood clots, but that shouldn’t stop them from selecting Biadasz.
Biadasz started 41 straight games at the University of Wisconsin, proving to be one of the best interior offensive lineman in the country. After playing through a hip injury that required surgery, Biadasz returned to Wisconsin for his senior season. While his play seemed to step back during his final season, perhaps due to injury, he still took home the prestigious Rimington Award given to the nation’s top center.
Biadasz is a powerful run blocker and a wall in pass protection. He’s extremely powerful at the point of attack and uses his full frame to his advantage. If he can recapture his mobility and technique that made him one of the most dominant lineman in 2018, Biadasz could become a high-end starting interior lineman in the NFL.
Fourth Round, 125th Overall: Leki Fotu, IDL, Utah
Fotu is one of the draft’s biggest prospects (6-foot-5, 337 pounds) and appears as a typical Patriots nose tackle. He fills out his thick frame extremely well, and is a force against the run that cannot be moved by a single blocker. Fotu has devastating hands that allow him to control the point of attack and deliver devastating blows quickly off the snap.
Despite his length and strength, Fotu’s stiffness and uprightness causes some issues in serving as a space eater in the middle. He carries and impressive motor and doesn’t appear to run out of gas late in games, but falls to the fourth round due to his inconsistencies and inability to be an effective pass rusher.
TRADE: PATRIOTS TRADE NO. 149 AND 204 (16 points) TO DALLAS FOR NO. 164 AND 179 (15 points)
Belichick takes the Detroit pick he just acquires and packages it to acquire two more fifth-rounders from Dallas.
Fifth Round, 164th Overall: Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA
While the Patriots selected Hopkins earlier, their tight end depth chart needs a complete overhaul. Asiasi averaged a career 15.2 yards per catch in his career at UCLA and left a lasting impression during his 2019 season.
Standing at 6-foot-3, 257 pounds, Asiasi showed impressive mobility for his size and showcases his natural athletic ability with the ball in his hands. He has room to grow as a contested pass catcher, but is a natural threat as a receiver especially after the catch.
Asiasi can also function as a quality run blocker, effective in space and leading into gaps. He needs to be polished in all areas, but has the upside to become a starting NFL tight end.
Fifth Round, 179th Overall: Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Georgia
The Patriots cut ties with long term kicker Stephen Gostkowski and have yet to resign Nick Folk, so it appears kicker could be in the cards in this year’s draft. Blankenship and Tyler Bass are regarded as the best two kickers in this draft, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see New England select one of them. Much like Belichick did last year (punter Jake Bailey), he trades up to select a specialist.
TRADE: PATRIOTS TRADE NO. 212 AND 213 (6 points) TO THE NEW YORK GIANTS FOR NO. 183 (6 points)
Calling old pal Joe Judge, New England sends their back-to-back sixth-round selections to move up.
Sixth Round, 183rd Overall: James Proche, WR, SMU
Proche met with the Patriots at the Scouting Combine and the Patriots Scouts left “gushing over” the redshirt senior, so they trade up to get him. Proche enters the draft with elite hands and ball skills that allows him to make plays at all levels of the field. His ability to track, adjust, and snag passes thrown his direction is one of the best in the class.
James Proche: The most targeted WR in college football - and for good reasonpic.twitter.com/lZiuoNqoVi— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 3, 2020
He’s not the fastest receiver in the world, but he has quick footwork which could lead to a role-specific usage in the slot. His route running will need work at the next level and he struggles to beat press releases if defensive backs land their hands on him. Proche isn’t the biggest guy either at 5-foot-11, 196 pounds, but he is a tough and nasty blocker and ball carrier.
TRADE: PATRIOTS TRADE NO. 230 AND 235 (2 points) TO THE LOS ANGELES CHARGERS FOR NO. 220 (2 points)
We warned you we were channeling our inner Bill Belichick, as New England makes their fourth trade during the draft. This time, the team packages two late seventh-rounders to move up 10 spots on Day Three.
Seventh Round, 220th Overall: Alex Taylor, OT, South Carolina State
Taylor provides a lot of upside at the offensive tackle position, as he made the full transition from basketball to football in 2018. However, the 6-foot-9, 308-pound tackle has tremendous size and length while showcasing strong mobility as well. If he can add strength and improve his technique, Taylor could develop into a quality starter or reserve in after a redshirt season in Foxboro.
Seventh Round, 241st Overall: T.J. Brunson, LB, South Carolina
While the Patriots need to add speed to their defense, Brunson would provide depth as a “thumper” from the inside linebacker position, which Belichick always has on his defense. A three-year starter with excellent production, Brunson plays with a non-stop motor and brings the most tenacity and competitiveness than anyone else on the field. He’s a natural leader and smart, disciplined player who is rarely out of position.
While he’s just average athletically, Brunson would be looked upon at an early-down role where he could plug a gap or hold his own against the run, while also offering situational pass rushing value.
Who do you think the Patriots should draft? Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter @iambrianhines!