Note: Pre-draft scouting reports on potential Patriots are on their way and will be posted regularly as the draft comes even closer.
A stockpile of picks, a bunch of needs, and a much needed injection of youth should make this draft interesting for all Patriots fans.
The most interesting aspect of this whole draft for the Patriots will be the direction they take. Do they aim more for day one contributors that can provide value at a second or third spot on a depth chart? Do they aim more for developmental pieces that may take longer to develop but better the team after the Brady era ends? This decision will greatly dictate how the Patriots draft and who they draft.
Obviously, the more valuable picks are the players that can provide some immediate value and can also continue to get better overtime. Let’s take a look at which positions the Patriots should find themselves emphasizing this year and how high up on the totem pole each one should be.
1. TIGHT END
Look for the Patriots to address tight end extremely early. TJ Hockenson should be their main priority going into the draft, as he can provide short-term and long-term benefits. Player comparisons for TJ span all the way from Dennis Pitta to a baby Gronk.
Adding Hockenson would provide immediate benefit to a team that loves their two tight end sets. He also has an extremely high ceiling that could answer the Patriots potential problems at tight end once Gronk retires.
Hockenson being available at #32 might be a stretch. Which if it so happens that his name gets called before the Patriots selection, plenty of options will still be available at tight end. This tight end loaded class features many potential options, however none as appealing or exciting as TJ.
Gronk will not play forever, therefore the time has come to find his eventual replacement.
2. FRONT SEVEN
Do not let the great play by this group in the playoffs overshadow the regular season and regular seasons prior. This front seven still needs a major revamp.
Linebacker happens to be less of a need than expected, due to the emergence of Van Noy and the glimpse everyone received of Ja’whaun Bentley. Yet, Hightower gets no younger and carries a tremendous cap hit next season. Adrian Clayborn did not live up to his unreasonable expectations and also costs a pretty penny next year. Flowers needs to be resigned to a ground-breaking deal. Shelton and Brown also appear set to at least hit the market, whether they return remains unknown.
Harsh reality here, the Patriots front seven has been inconsistent and has struggled in countless areas. Much turnover looks likely for the group and defensive coaches are leaving this team left and right.
The best strategy would be to draft quality front seven players that fit the ideology of the new incoming coaches. Therefore, the Patriots should bring some much needed youth to a core that needs a new direction.
Keep an eye on Jeffery Simmons, who has his red flags and also just tore his ACL but if he slides enough, the Patriots could potentially snag him on day two. Simmons being a top ten talent in most people’s minds, would certainly be worth the risk if available on day two.
3. OFFENSIVE TACKLE
Expect the Patriots to at least think about grabbing another offensive tackle to eventually pair with Isaiah Wynn.
The future remains unclear on whether the Patriots will resign Trent Brown but regardless the Patriots will have to choose between either Brown and Wynn or Cannon and Wynn.
Brown will not be cheap to resign and the Patriots will have to take a look at Wynn’s recovery from the Achilles injury that sidelined him this season. Wynn should be ready to go for week one but might see some drawbacks in his game. If Wynn for some reason really does not appear like he should be starting week one, well then, a Greek tragedy arises. A travesty occurs. Shakespeare would call this play Isaiah of Foxboro (Timon of Athens reference).
If Wynn’s health does not seem up to par, that would mean the Patriots would likely have to sign Trent Brown to a huge contract and retain Marcus Cannon’s cap hit as well. Meaning the first round pick would be struggling, the Patriots would pay a king’s ransom, and they would also likely forfeit a potential third round comp pick that they would likely acquire if they let Trent Brown go.
Bottom line is that the Patriots will look at Wynn’s health and likely look to dump either Brown or Cannon. This would inevitably require them to find a tackle that could backup for the meantime and later step into a full role.
The guy to watch out for here is Max Scharping. His draft stock entirely depends on his combine and Pro day. He could end up falling anywhere between rounds one through four depending on his combine and Pro day. Assuming he falls a bit, he would be a perfect developmental player for New England. Max is someone who could end up starting for them for a long time under Scarnecchia’s influence and guidance.