The New England Patriots have several prominent needs on both sides of the ball, and on the surface the offensive tackle position is not one of them. The team re-signed Trent Brown in free agency, after all, and was therefore able to keep last year’s group intact both at the starter and the depth levels.
However, a look at the group shows that there is a definitive need to find some long-term answers at multiple spots:
- Isaiah Wynn: 26 | Signed through 2022
- Trent Brown: 29 | Signed through 2023
- Justin Herron: 26 | Signed through 2023
- Yodny Cajuste: 26 | Signed through 2022
- Yasir Durant: 23 | Signed through 2022
As can be seen, three of the Patriots’ tackles are entering contract seasons — among them starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn. While Wynn has served as the team’s blindside protector ever since 2019, and the team did pick up the fifth-year option in his rookie contract, he is no guarantee to be retained beyond 2022; his injury history and an up-and-down campaign last year make for an uncertain future.
The Patriots might therefore decide to add another longer-term tackle prospect sooner rather than later. The upcoming draft presents a golden opportunity to find some talent.
(Just for clarity’s sake: players are listed alphabetically within their respective groups)
N/A: The top three offensive tackles of this year’s draft — N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu, Alabama’s Evan Neal and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross — will all be off the board ahead of the Patriots’ potential trade-up range. But even if one of them dropped out of the top-15, an expensive move up does not appear to be likely.
Targets at No. 21
Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa: Combing a 6-foot-7, 325-pound frame with some fluid movement skills and a physical edge, Penning was a force to be reckoned with throughout his college career. A strong showing at the Senior Bowl — which saw him take home Lineman of the Week honors — further solidified his stock as a future first-round pick. | Full draft profile
Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan: The Austrian-born Raimann started his college career at tight end but transitioned to offensive tackle ahead of his 2020 junior season. Despite a lack of experience — he started only 18 games at the position — he could hear his name called as early as Day 1. Raimann, after all, is already a pretty good player but he still has plenty of room to grow. | Full draft profile
Day 2 targets
Daniel Faalele, Minnesota: Faalele is a mountain of a man. Measuring 6-foot-8, 384 pounds at the Scouting Combine, he combines rare size with NFL-level play strength and some surprising quickness. Comparisons with Trent Brown are accurate not just because of his size.
Abraham Lucas, Washington State: Standing at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, Lucas looks like an NFL starting tackle. Add some surprising agility and lots of potential, and you get a player who could come off the board as early as the third round.
Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State: Despite starting just 19 games at Ohio State — 12 on the left side and seven on the right — Petit-Frere is an intriguing player, who has the size and natural feel for playing the position. He needs some time to develop, but his ceiling is high. | Full draft profile
Tyler Smith, Tulsa: Smith has all the tools to become a starting-caliber lineman at the next level, but he is raw and as such unlikely to see much action as a rookie. The biggest concern is his on-again, off-again technique. If he can figure things out from that perspective, however, he has a very high ceiling.
Rasheed Walker, Penn State: A three-year starter at Penn State, Walker offers a sturdy anchor, good hands, and a big frame. He needs to become more consistent, however, to reach his full potential.
Day 3 targets/Free agency targets
Spencer Burford, UTSA: Burford offers an enticing blend of size, positional versatility — he can play both tackle and guard — and experience. He needs to keep working on his technique to hold his own versus NFL competition, but he has the athletic foundation to build on
Obinna Eze, TCU: His technique needs some fine-tuning, but Eze has all the tools to develop into a starting-caliber tackle. The 6-foot-6, 321 pounder can play on either the left or the right side of the line. | Full draft profile
Max Mitchell, Louisiana: Mitchell started games at right tackle, left tackle and left guard in college — versatility the Patriots very much appreciate. He is a developmental prospect and lacks truly elite athletic skills, but his solid technique and size might make him worth a Day 3 investment.
Ryan Van Demark, Connecticut: Van Demark has swing tackle potential at the next level after opening his career on the right side and later moving to the left. He also still has potential to fill out his 6-foot-6 frame and to add the strength necessary to stand his ground against NFL competition.
Tyler Vrabel, Boston College: A projected late-round selection or rookie free agent, the 6-foot-6, 315-pounder started a combined 34 games for the Eagles. Moving between the left and right tackle positions, the son of Patriots Hall of Fame finalist Mike Vrabel was named an honorable All-ACC mention in each of the last three seasons.
The Patriots have always lived by the “better a year early than a year late” motto when it came to addressing the offensive tackle position. They selected Nate Solder when Matt Light was still around, and later added Isaiah Wynn to sit behind Trent Brown for a year.
With Wynn’s future uncertain, they might go the same route again. Which player they will pick is anybody’s guess, but one of those above ending up in New England would not be a surprise. The Patriots, after all, need some long-term perspective at the position — something they currently do not have even with Trent Brown re-signed.