Trying to get into the mind of Bill Belichick is a fruitless effort and he has forgotten more football than any of us will ever even know. That being said, lets give it a shot anyway. Actually, lets examine what’s the best way for New England to use their newly acquired draft equity.
As explained in detail in The State of the Patriots Address, New England clearly remains a contender after coming off their Super Bowl loss and returning Belichick, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. However, this is a team with a surprising number of needs at difficult positions to fill such as left tackle, edge pass-rusher, and man-to-man cover cornerback as well finding a young tight end to groom and an athletic linebacker.
After trading Brandin Cooks to the Rams and last year’s trade of Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco, the Patriots now have two first round picks and two second round picks. The Patriots have their pick, which is obviously very late, in the top three rounds, but they currently don’t have a draft choice in the fourth or fifth round. They own the 23rd, 31st, 43rd, 63rd and 95th selection in the first two days of the draft.
Again, there are many directions New England could go with these selections and they could really use an infusion of young talent to this roster. Remember, the Patriots traded their first round pick last year for Cooks and were stripped of their first rounder the year before because of “Deflategate”. The Patriots didn’t select until 83rd overall last year and 60th overall the year before.
In the past seven draft classes, the Patriots have made a combined 24 draft picks on the first two days of the draft. The jury is still out on Derek Rivers, Antonio Garcia and Dietrich Wise from last year and there are some notables that have been traded such as Jacoby Brissett, Garoppolo, Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones as well as Logan Ryan who left via free agency. But when you look at those 24 premium picks over seven draft classes, how many are really helping the Patriots win games right now? It is a pretty short list of Joe Thuney, Malcolm Brown, Duron Harmon and Dont’a Hightower. That’s it. Four players. Now there are some extenuating circumstances with several successful players that are no longer in New England, but nonetheless, with all their picks from day one and two of the draft, the Patriots have just four current major contributors.
That brings us to this team’s need to massively reload their young talent base. Many have speculated that Belichick will use his pile of draft picks to trade up to the early portions of the first round for Brady’s successor or even attempt to acquire Odell Beckham to replace Cooks. As mentioned in an article breaking down the Cooks trade, New England is in pretty good shape now at wide receiver. As for trading up for a quarterback, sure Brady is up in age, but he is coming off an MVP season! Brady is as good as he has ever been.
New England absolutely should draft a quarterback this year, but not at the expense of hemorrhaging most of their draft capital to do so in order for that rookie to sit behind Brady for who knows how long. The rest of New England’s roster cannot afford such a move. Instead, as they have with some regularity during Brady’s time in New England, expect Belichick to add a second day quarterback like Mason Rudolph or Kyle Lauletta, both of whom are smart and accurate and could become great fits in what New England does on offense. “Smart and accurate” is of the utmost importance her.
One wild card that could really peak Belichick’s interest though is Lamar Jackson. Jackson and Brady are not similar stylistically, but Belichick realizes that special talents are a rarity. Jackson is a special talent and with Brady in tow, New England could take some time to craft an offense around Jackson over the next few years. If Jackson is available at number 23, the Patriots might pounce or they could even trade up a few spots if Jackson slides into the late teens in round one.
Predicting Patriots’ roster moves is bad business from an NFL analyst’s perspective. But overall, the right moves to balance winning now while fortifying this roster with youth at several key positions is not to go all in on a quarterback.