Following an ugly Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans, the New England Patriots are facing their most significant offseason in franchise history. Head Coach and General manager, Bill Belichick, will be faced with negotiating contracts for cornerstone players such as Tom Brady, Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, Joe Thuney, and Kyle Van Noy. Furthermore, while trying to retain key players, the Patriots must also address needs within the offensive line, safety, and tight end positions. The league free agency period will help New England add and retain veterans, but Belichick must hit on their 23rd overall draft pick this spring. Aside from the 2018 draft in which the Patriots packaged receiver Brandin Cooks for the 23rd overall pick, New England has not made a pick in the low 20s since 2012.
New England Patriots Draft: Round One
Fortunately for the Patriots, this year’s draft class is loaded with front end talent at needed positions. While there are a plethora of different directions Belichick could go with his first-round pick, much of the decision will be based upon which veteran players are re-signed.
The Pick: EDGE 3-4 linebacker Terrell Lewis, Alabama.
At a height of 6-5 and a weight of 252 pounds, Lewis has the powerful frame of a dominant NFL pass rusher. Additionally, Lewis has tremendous, but extremely raw and unpolished talent for his position. After missing time due to injury as well as having some underdeveloped aspects to his game, Lewis’ draft stock has taken a hit. However, with Hall of Fame level defensive coaching from Belichick, coupled with time to fully heal, Lewis could be the next great New England 3-4 linebacker.
The Pick: Safety Xavier McKinney, Alabama.
McCourty has anchored the back end of New England’s defense for the better part of the last decade. Although, with his return status up in the air as well as fellow safety, Patrick Chung, getting increasingly fragile with age, McKinney at 23 makes a lot of sense. With an impressive 6-1, 200 pound build, McKinney fits the mold of the new age NFL safety. McKinney’s size, physicality, and athleticism earned him a versatile role within Alabama’s defense, where he blitzed, played in the box, and covered receiving threats. In fact, in Matt Miller’s latest draft big board, McKinney ranked as the best coverage safety prospect. The Alabama prospect has the ability to match up in man coverage with tight ends as well as the ability to play a single high, over the top safety role.
The Pick: Center Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin.
The likelihood of Thuney walking in free agency is strong. The Patriots inked fellow guard, Shaq Mason, to a hefty contract extension in 2018 which will give the lineman just over an 8.5 million dollar cap hit in 2020. New England probably will not be able to justify paying two guards top dollar, especially if Thuney receives the high offers he is expected to.
Biadasz, a 6-3, 321 pound stereotypical country strong farm boy, would slot in perfectly as a Thuney replacement. According to Pro Football Focus, Biadasz ranked as the Badgers best offensive lineman in 2019 within an overall unit which ranked eighth in the country. The center plays with a high motor along with intelligence while utilizing his nastiness and naturally raw strength to develop into one of the best run-blocking linemen in the country. Despite spending much of his time at center run blocking, New England’s offensive line coach, Dante Scarnecchia, would easily be able to polish Biadasz’s pass blocking techniques.
Belichick will have several tough decisions this offseason which feels as though they will set the course of New England’s franchise for the next three years. The Patriots are in desperate need of hitting a grand slam on their first-round draft pick this spring and they are certainly in a position to do so. However, after trading away their second-round pick this past fall for Mohamed Sanu, the Patriots are scheduled to have a 64 pick layover between their first and third-round selections. Belichick is known for hating large gaps between his draft selections and given the 64 pick gap along with this draft’s second round depth, it would not surprise me to see New England trade down this spring.
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