Most NFL analysts are projecting the Patriots to take Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro with the 29th pick in the 2014 draft, but that just doesn’t seem likely given the Patriots history drafting under Bill Belichick. While it’s no secret that the Patriots like drafting tight ends, it would be out of character for the team to spend a first round pick on one. In fact, it’s rare for the Patriots to spend a first round pick on the offensive side of the football at all and extremely rare for that pick to be at an offensive skill position. In the Bill Belichick era, the team has drafted offensive skill players with its first overall pick only three times. One of those picks was a tight end, Daniel Graham, and the other was Laurence Maroney. Remember, the last time the Patriots drafted a tight end was back in 2010 when they waited to take Rob Gronkowski in the second round and Aaron Hernandez in the fourth.
In order for the Patriots to break that mold, the team would have to think that Amaro is a unique talent and it’s not likely the Patriots personnel department has come to that conclusion given the prevailing opinion that Amaro still has a lot to learn to become valuable as a blocker. Many are comparing Amaro to embattled former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, but a review of the tape reveals serious differences. While both players are known for their ability to play multiple receiving positions, Hernandez was known for quick redirection routes that relied on his quickness and often put him in good position to pick up yards after the catch. Based on Amaro’s tape and his performance at the combine, I just don’t see that ability in him. Now, if Eric Ebron were to slip to 29, it’s possible the team might reconsider its philosophy. It’s more likely, however, that the Patriots look for a tight end available late in the second or third rounds.
What’s most likely to happen with the 29th pick is that the Patriots draft consistent with their enduring philosophy and focus on the defensive side of the football. My guess is that the team decides between the best player on the board at one of two positions: defensive tackle and safety. You don’t hear much about the Patriots needs in the secondary given their more high profile issues on the defensive line and at tight end, but the need certainly exists. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia got inconsistent play alongside Devin McCourty in 2013 and should be looking for a hard hitting strong safety in the draft or free agency. It’s unlikely that the top two prospects at safety, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and Calvin Pryor, will fall to the 29th pick but if either were available then the Patriots should pounce. There are a number of promising prospects at defensive tackle in this draft class, but who will fall to 29 is the real question.
Regardless of the Patriots needs on offense, I fully expect the team to focus on defense with its first round pick in the 2014 draft. As is the team’s philosophy, in the first round the Patriots will draft the best player on the board in a position of need. My guess is that player will not be a tight end.