The NFL draft is finally upon us! Though the Patriots don’t currently have a first or second round pick, history tells us that won’t stop them from finding players who can not only make the team, but contribute.
My big board features a list of 50 players that I feel are the best fits for the Patriots. While I don’t believe the Patriots put as much consideration into needs as we might think, the fact remains that there are only so many roster spots up for grabs, so here in my one and only mock draft I do factor in what I see as needs.
Generally, this is how I see those needs:
- Linebacker – The team didn’t fill the hole Jamie Collins left through free agency. While Dont’a Hightower can play three downs, Kyle Van Noy was used as a third down coverage specialist and occasional blitzer, while rookie Elandon Roberts carved out an early down run stopping role. Shea McClellin has versatility but was average-at-best in his first season. Jonathan Freeny got an extension last season, but was outplayed by Roberts in his absence. Finding someone in the mold of Hightower/Collins is important, especially given Hightower’s injury history.
- Edge – I do like the current three-man rotation of Ninkovich, Flowers and Ealy, but only Flowers is under contract past 2017 so developing another edge player is important this season. Geneo Grissom could get a look in this role as well.
- Slot Corner – The top trio of Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe are better suited outside, while Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones will compete in the slot. The Pats always draft defensive backs regardless of level of need and adding another slot guy/special teamer should be in the cards.
- 3rd TE – The top duo of Gronk and Allen are very solid, but we’re all aware of Gronk’s injury history. Adding another big tight end to the pipeline is important.
- Safety – Jordan Richards seemed to regress last season, and while the top trio of safeties are very good, finding a backup strong safety who could potentially step into a box/slot role if Chung should get hurt would be good insurance.
Yes, signs are pointing to a defense-heavy draft which gets me incredibly excited and leads me to believe it will be far more offense-focused than we think (Belichick always seems to zag when we think he’ll zig).
This week is really the highlight of the offseason and it comes at about the halfway point. The 2017 Patriots will be in even clearer focus by this time next week. It should be thrilling and surprising to watch it all unfold.
Here’s my one and only mock draft of the season!