With Super Bowl LII now behind us, the focus for the New England Patriots now shift to the offseason and upcoming NFL Draft. The team also has needs that will need to be addressed in order to repeat as AFC champions.
The Patriots face an important several months. With 15 impending unrestricted free agents, headlined by left tackle Nate Solder, cornerback Malcolm Butler, and wide receiver Danny Amendola–among others–the Pats will have to get creative through the Draft and free agency.
Star tight end Rob Gronkowski’s future with the team is also up in the air. Gronk might retire to pursue a career in acting.
The team has needs on both side of the ball. On offense, the Pats will look to find a left tackle and add to their running back core. Defensively, linebacker, safety, and cornerback will the the focus.
Defense will be a priority this offseason. This past season, the Pats were the worst defensive team in the league through the first six weeks. Though the team ended up finding its groove and stepped up the rest of the season, they will look to address and solidify their roster.
Speaking of the Draft, the Pats own five picks this season: their own first round pick, two second round picks–their own, and the San Francisco pick acquired in the the Jimmy Garoppolo trade–and their own third and sixth round picks.
One area that also needs to be addressed is quarterback. Hard to imagine that this is a very overlooked need, but with Tom Brady heading into next season at age 40, who knows how long he will be able to keep playing. With no heir apparent to the position, the Pats may look to add a young quarterback to groom and learn from one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Here is my mock draft for the Patriots, based off of the team need, and with the team keeping all of their picks.
The first round I see the Pats going defense.
I feel that they will take defensive tackle Trenton Thompson out of Georgia. The Pats’ run defense has been suspect at best, and adding a pass rusher/run stopper is just what the doctor ordered. If by some chance linebacker Rashaan Evans from Alabama is still on the board, the Pats could select him as well
With two picks in the second, the Pat will address two major areas of need: offensive tackle and cornerback.
With the SF pick, I believe the Pats will go cornerback, given that Butler is a free agent; with him being benched for most of the Super Bowl, Butler is as good as gone. My pick is Nick Nelson, cornerback out of Wisconsin. Nelson could come in and be a top corner option with Butler’s almost certain exit and cornerback Stephan Gilmore not preforming up to expectations, and to his monster contract.
Brandon Parker, a offensive tackle from North Carolina, is my other pick for the team in the second round. With Nate Solder a free agent with an extensive injury history, the Pats might feel it’s better to draft for his replacement.
The third round is where it gets interesting. The Pats could go a few ways; either defensive end, offensive line, running back or quarterback. If they decide to go running back, Royce Freeman of Oregon would be an option. If they decide to go defense, Duke Ejiofor from Wake Forest makes sense, if he is still on the board. Martinas Rankin, an offensive lineman from Mississippi State would work as well.
My prediction, though, is they take a quarterback; my pick here is Chase Litton from Marshall. The Pats are no stranger to taking the surprise picks and turning them into superstar players. Litton would learn and be groomed over the next season or two from Brady, getting a firsthand evaluation of the Patriot Way.
The later rounds are always a question on who teams will draft or who will be left to take. My guess for the sixth is the team selects another cornerback. Darius Phillips, cornerback out of Western Michigan is my pick here if he is still available.
My bold prediction for the Draft is that the Pats use multiple picks from this year and next to move back into the first round to select an impact player. Whether it’s on defense or offense is unknown but that would not surprise me in the slightest.
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