Patriots: Patriots top 6 needs heading into the draft

With the NFL Draft less than a month away, we will now shift gears and begin focusing on the players that are available and how the Patriots can improve their roster.

The Patriots have been limited in free agency due in large part to their salary cap situation but they could address several needs in the draft, most notably tight end and linebacker.

Here are the Patriots top six nerds in order.

1. Tight end: After ten years of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots literally got nothing out of the tight end position last season. Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo and Ben Watson combined for 36 catches and two touchdowns in 2019.

It is obvious that the Patriots need to address the position in this draft. Patriots brass met with Dayton’s Adam Trautman and Washington’s Hunter Bryant at the combine but they are also interested in Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, Stanford’s Colby Parkinson and LSU’s Thaddeus Moss. All would be a good fit in the Patriots offense.

On paper, this tight end class is not on par with the previous classes but it is a better class than people think and at least four to five of the top tight ends in this class have the potential to contribute long term.

2. Outside linebacker: Losing Jaime Collins and Kyle Van Noy in free agency was a blow to the Patriots defense. Replacing both of them will be difficult however the Patriots still have Dont’a Hightower and this year’s draft is deep at outside linebacker.

The Patriots could address the position in the first round with pick number 23. LSU’s Patrick Queen and K’Lavon Chaisson are both possibility at that pick. Queen is more of your traditional stack weakside linebacker while Chaisson is more of a hybrid linebacker, on the line edge rusher.

Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray could also be a possibility in the first round. Murray was a highly productive three year starter at Oklahoma and can play all three downs.

If the Patriots wait, they could still get a quality outside linebacker in the third round. Wisconsin’s Zack Baum, Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara and Michigan’s Josh Uche could all be available and are all solid scheme fits.

3. Inside linebacker: With the defection of Elandon Roberts to Miami, the Patriots will need to add depth at the MIKE or middle linebacker spot.

Third year linebacker J’Whaun Bentley is expected to step in and start but the Patriots will need to add another inside linebacker that can back up Bentley.

Joe Bachie of Michigan State, Jordyn Brooks of Texas Tech, Anfernee Jennings of Alabama and Malik Harrison of Ohio State all have the size and physical traits the Patriots look for in an inside linebacker.

The Patriots will address linebacker in this draft and could potential add at least two of them by the end of draft weekend.

4. Quarterback: The elephant in the room. Tom Brady is gone so we don’t need to keep talking about him. The Patriots currently have Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and Cody Kessler on the roster.

Chances are Bill Belichick will add another quarterback to the mix whether it be in the draft or as a priority free agent.

I don’t expect the Patriots to draft a quarterback in the first round unless one falls to them and they can’t pass them up. The more likely scenario is that they take one either in the third round or more than likely in day three.

That means the quarterbacks they have been linked to are the ones to watch. Anthony Gordon of Washington State, Jake Fromm of Georgia, James Morgan of FIU and Nate Stanley of Iowa. Bill Belichick could opt for one of these developmental options instead.

5. Wide receiver: Patriots fans are not going to want to hear this but receiver is not a position of need for the Patriots. Sure, Belichick could look to add some depth at some point in the draft but with Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry back, the Patriots are all set with at the top of the depth chart.

The recently added Damiere Byrd gives the Patriots a speedy slot receiver who can take the top off of coverage. He will be their fourth receiver. Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski will compete for the fifth receiver spot.

It is conceivable that the Patriots don’t draft a receiver at all.

If they do, James Proche from SMU and Devin Duvernay of Texas are two names to keep an eye.

6. Defensive tackle: The Patriots lost Danny Shelton in free agency so they are going to have to address the defensive tackle and defensive end positions in the draft.

The defensive coaching staff really likes Adam Butler who was retained and second year tackle Byron Cowart but the Patriots want to add some size upfront to replace Shelton.

There are several quality prospects in what is a deep tackle class. Ohio State’s Da’Von Hamilton, Utah’s Leki Fotu and Ole Miss’ Benito Jones are nose tackle/shade tackle possibilities.

If the Patriots want a longer, more athletic player at the position, then there are several quality options that would be available day two and three.