With the draft set to begin with the first round Thursday night, it is time to lay out a few predictions for the Patriots first round and beyond. These are not necessarily things that I want to happen, rather trends and picks that I feel will happen.
1) For weeks the consensus has been that the Patriots biggest needs are along the offensive and defensive lines and at tight end. With the Patriots bringing in guard Davin Joseph for a free agent visit, signing defensive end Will Smith, and visiting with tight end Dustin Keller, they appear to be investigating alternate ways to fill those needs. Now, these three veterans are not the long terms answer at their respective positions, but they do confirm the need to fill those positions. Each of these positions will be addressed in the draft.
2) Bill Belichick is known for wheeling and dealing in the NFL draft, and there is no reason to suspect that this year will be any different. At pick 29, the Patriots will be a prime spot for teams picking early in round two to trade up and get their quarterback. Either Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, or Johnny Manziel falls to the end of round one and a team that passed on them earlier will look to jump back into round one, or those three are selected and someone like Derek Carr goes at the end of round one. Watch out for teams like Jacksonville, Houston, Oakland, or Minnesota, if they pass at the top of the round, to try and move back up to grab their next signal caller of the future. Besides, we all know that we will wait hours until late tonight only to see the Flying Elvis replaced with some other teams logo as we frantically scour twitter for trade details.
3) If the Patriots do end up staying in the first round, I expect the pick to be used on a versatile offensive lineman. There is some depth for defensive tackles in this draft, and at pick 29 it may be the sweet spot for drafting a lineman with upside who can nonetheless push for time right out of the gate (look out Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly).
4) The Patriots will select a quarterback earlier than expected this year. Though I expect the Patriots to trade out of late round 1 for a quarterback needy team, I also expect the Patriots to use a draft pick in the top half of the draft on a quarterback, possibly as early as round 2. This is a deep draft for quarterbacks, Ryan Mallet is on the last year of his deal, and though he is signed for three more years, it may be time to at least start looking at the post Tom Brady future (bleak as it may be).
5) The Patriots will select a tight end, though it will not be Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, and they will select a defensive tackle, though it will not be Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman. Hageman comes with numerous character concerns, and though he is a physical specimen, I think the Patriots steer clear of him. Amaro, to me, seems more like a big wide receiver than a true tight end, and I can’t see Belichick drafting that type of tight end. I do, however, think Amaro would be a weapon in this offense.
6) A run on wide receivers and offensive tackles will help someone fall to the Patriots. Some have speculated that as many as eight wide receivers could go in the first round, and if the offensive tackles start going, that leaves a number of positions of need (OG, DT) for the Patriots falling directly into their lap. This is the only scenario in which I see the Patriots staying in the first round.
7) The Patriots will reach for a safety, and in a deja vu move, it will occur in round 2. Like Duron Harmon last year, and Tavon Wilson before him, the Patriots will select a safety in the second round and it will be deemed a reach. Only two safeties are projected to go in round one Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama, and Calvin Pryor from Louisville (both projected to be gone before the Patriots original selection), and this class is not particularly deep in terms of talent.