By: Rohan Bommaraju — Sports Editor
Draft day is coming fast! The NFL draft is taking place April 28th to April 30th in Las Vegas, Nevada, with many of the top collegiate players in the nation declaring for it. The Patriots have 9 draft picks with 3 in the top 100.
As the offseason began, many Patriots fans urged the Patriots to make a big splash at wide receiver. Patriots head coach and general manager Bill Belichick acquired WR Devonte Parker from the Miami Dolphins along with a 5th round for a 3rd round pick.
Sharon High School senior Ethan Cooperman says that the Patriots will not draft a wide receiver or cornerback until round 3. “I know that the defensive lineman and linebacker prospects are both good and deep in this class. I see the Patriots going there first as they did not address either of those positions much this offseason.”
“Belichick has a history of taking lineman and D-tackles early. In regards to the wide receiver core, Devonte Parker is your big-play guy, and I think they might be looking for a more consistent pass-catcher or more of a steal player if one falls, ” he added.
The Patriots have a larger problem on the other side of the ball, in their defensive back room. 98.5 Digital Producer and Writer Alex Barth says that cornerback remains one of if not the biggest need for the Patriots this offseason and draft. “[New England is] lacking both the top-end talent and depth they’ve had at the position in recent years. If the right cornerback falls, that position could still be filled with a first-round pick. Wide receiver is probably further down the board with a look at more developmental players, especially slot receivers.”
The Patriots have lost depth on their back end with their secondary being short on players. Cooperman says that Peppers shouldnt be used as a cover safety. “I see him more of like a [Kyle] Dugger, a thumper, a more sub linebacker type role. The Patriots would use either smaller linebackers or one bigger linebacker and a sub to cover the running backs and the Josh Allens’ out of the backfield.”
Cooperman says that Belichick would take the best player available at any given pick.“Although, like with what happened with Barmore last year, I think Belichick would take the best player available if they are hanging around so I see them trading picks for a better position.”
The Patriots don’t have much of an influx of picks this draft. Barth says that this feels like a good year for the Patriots to trade back in the draft. “[The] Dugger trade is an excellent comparison. The upper-tier of this class is 17-18 players deep, which isn’t ideal for the Patriots sitting at 21. At the same time, the second tier is much wider going from around 20 to around 80. Pending multiple teams reaching, it would make more sense for the Patriots to move back if they can add another top-100 pick.”
Cooperman says that the Patriots should go after a defensive playmaker in the draft. “[The Patriots’ defense] has a lot of stable defensive talent who could get the job done in Belichick’s scheme. They need more of the game-breakers. They should go after Nakobe Dean if he is available or a top d-lineman who can rush the passer to pair with Barmore and Judon.”
“Their downfall at the end of last season was their inability to create pressure and sacks on opposing quarterbacks. They just were unable to create that same pressure,” he added.
After trading offensive guard Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay earlier in the offseason, the Patriots were without a key piece of their offensive line and a hole at their right guard position. Cooperman says that he sees New England and Bill Belichick drafting a lineman as early as round 2 to fill that void. “I know with their history that they hit on lineman late in the draft. Honestly, I can see them going for a guard in the second then going for a tackle later on as Wynn has been a so-so player so far in his career and his contract is almost up.”
The Patriots have excelled at drafting interior linemen during the Belichick tenure as head-coach and GM hitting on players such as Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, and Michael Onwenu. Barth says that the Patriots are more likely to use a top 50 pick on an offensive tackle rather than a guard. “When it comes to filling their need at guard, the Patriots have proven they can take players on Day 3 and turn them into starting-caliber players. However, they’ve been very aggressive when looking for starting tackles. Their last three starting left tackles from the last 20 years were all top-50 picks.”