Part 9: Draft an offensive tackle in the 1st round
This is a very, very deep tackle class, especially at the top. At least five players in this class have the potential to be franchise tackles at the NFL level, and the Patriots should take advantage.
If the Patriots sign one of the right tackles – Mike McGlinchey or Kaleb McGary – in free agency, they could look to draft one of the top left tackles in Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., or Georgia’s Broderick Jones. If they add Orlando Brown instead as a left tackle, 6-foot-8, 360 pound Ohio State right tackle Dawand Jones would take over on the right side.
It’s not likely all four of those players will be on the board at pick 14, but that’s the great thing about the depth in this class. The Patriots only need one to be there, as they all project at potential franchise tackles.
We’ll see in the coming weeks and months through the Senior Bowl, Shrine Bowl, Combine, Pro Days, etc. exactly how this group shapes up between one another. But the depth in the class at the position is there for the Patriots to fill a major need.
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Part 10: Other draft needs
So the Patriots have used their first pick on a tackle, and for the sake of continuity traded their second for DeAndre Hopkins as we discussed in Part 6. What should they do with their remaining nine picks? Let’s take a look in the order of prevalence…
Their next biggest need, one we discussed in free agency as well, is a big cornerback. If they sign a player like James Bradberry or Stephon Gilmore it would likely be for just a year. They should also draft a prospect at that position to help fill the need long-term. Alabama’s Eli Ricks, Michigan’s D.J. Turner, and Kansas State’s Julius Brents are all players who would make sense late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.
They could also use a young versatile safety who could help fill some of the deep safety responsibilities if Devin McCourty retires, as well as offer some insurance behind Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips. Players that stand out fitting that description available in the logical range are Sydney Brown of Illinois, JL Skinner from Boise State, Trey Dean III from Florida, and DeMarcco Hellams of Alabama. Tykee Smith from Georgia is also a fit, but has yet to declare for the draft and could go back to school.
An off-ball athletic coverage linebacker remains a need as well. Names to keep track of here are Henry To’oto’o from Alabama, DeMarvion Overshown of Texas, and SerVocea Dennis from Pitt.
If Jakobi Meyers leaves, slot receiver will also be a need. Unlike ‘X’ receivers, this is a good draft for slots from Boston College’s Zay Flowers and North Carolina’s Josh Downs at the top of the class, down to Houston’s Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell, Maryland’s Rakim Jarrett, Texas A&M’s Ainias Smith, or Purdue’s Charlie Jones, who was drawn comparisons to Meyers.
With Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith heading towards the end of their contracts, using a late-round pick on a project tight end to ‘redshirt’ in 2023 and take over in 2024 should also be in the cards. Again, it’s not a bad draft for that with players like Alabama’s Cameron Latu, Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker, and Kansas’ Mason Fairchild.
Finally, special teams. Kicker is an under-the-radar need given the way Nick Folk fell off at the end of the season. It’s a good kicker draft, especially given the Patriots’ preference of players experienced in kicking in inclement weather. Ohio State’s Noah Ruggles, Michigan’s Jake Moody, and Missouri’s Harrison Mevis could all be fits.
Punter could be a need as well with Jake Bailey’s suspension potentially eliminating the remaining guaranteed money in his contract. The Patriots coaching staff will get a close-up look at Oklahoma’s Michael Turk and Wingate’s Ethan Evans at the Shrine Bowl later this month. Adam Korask from Rutgers and Bryce Baringer from Michigan State are the other punters in this class who currently project to be drafted.
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