New England Patriots Draft Strategy: Expect the Unexpected


Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With so much focus on the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft at the end of the week, this is the opportune time to take a look at the New England Patriots draft position and possible draft day moves as they gear up to cap off an offseason that already saw them bring in the best player on the free agent market (cornerback Darrelle Revis) for the first time in the Bill Belichick era.  With the chance to add contributors on both sides of the ball, the Patriots will look to find the players to help them take the next step beyond the AFC Championship Game and into the Super Bowl.

The Patriots currently have the following draft picks in 2014:

1st round: 29th overall

2nd round: 62nd overall

3rd round: 93rd overall

4th round: 130th overall

4th round: 140th overall (compensatory, can’t be traded)

6th round: 198th overall (from Eagles)

6th round: 206th overall

7th round: 244th overall

The team’s fifth round selection was traded to the Eagles for defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and the extra sixth round pick last October. Also, the fourth round compensatory draft choice for loss of free agents last offseason cannot be traded.

Recently the Patriots have ranged through all aspects of draft movement having stayed put, moved up, and then traded down in the draft. In 2011 the Patriots stayed put at 17th overall in the first round (with a pick acquired from the Oakland Raiders) and selected cornerstone offensive lineman Nate Solder. With their second first round pick they traded it for a second round pick (used to select running back Shane Vereen) and a 2012 first round pick (more about that later). The Patriots also had the first pick of the second round from a canny trade the year before when Carolina parted with their second round pick for a 2010 third round pick. With every draft expert expecting New England to trade the pick to quarterback hungry team (Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton were still on the board) instead the Patriots kept the pick and drafted Ras-I Dowling.

In 2012 the Patriots held two first round picks (thank you, New Orleans. Hope you are enjoying the Mark Ingram era at running back) and in a surprise to all the draft experts again the Patriots traded up to grab two key pieces of the defense. Moving up to 21st overall netted the Patriots their star defensive end Chandler Jones. Another aggressive move up the draft list landed linebacker Dont’a Hightower who stepped up with a big second half of the season last year finally flashing his potential.

Last year the Patriots had the 29th overall selection and traded it to Minnesota for the 59th, 91st, 229th, and 235th overall selections. The Patriots disappointed their many fans who stayed up to see their draft pick and instead was treated to an anticlimactic trade down.  However, the Patriots turned the draft pick that Minnesota used to draft wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson into wide receiver Aaron Dobson, safety Duron Harmon, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, and a one year rental of running back LeGarrette Blount. As electrifying as Patterson was in the second half of 2013 it is hard to argue that the Patriots did not come out on top of the trade.

For the 2014 NFL Draft all bets are off on whether the Patriots move up, move down, or stay put.  With the depth of quality in the first 100 picks this year (primarily due to the influx of underclassmen) it seems logical for the Patriots to again find a team looking to trade back into the first round of draft in exchange for at least a high second round pick and a third or fourth round selection. Expect the Patriots to again look to add as many quality players to fill in their needs and provide depth on both sides of the ball.

With the depth at quarterback and the expectation that the quarterbacks will be available at the end of the first round there may be a number of teams looking to move up to the Patriots’ selection at 29th overall. The Houston Texans at 33rd overall, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 38th overall, and the Jacksonville Jaguars at 39th overall may all be jockeying for a late first round draft pick. With New Orleans, Carolina, New England, San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle all unlikely to draft a quarterback, picks 27 through 32 may have a lot of value to the quarterback needy teams.

With their three most recent drafts serving as a reminder that head coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are capable of anything on draft day, with the depth of talent it looks like a quiet Thursday on day one of the draft and much more activity again on Friday and Saturday for the New England Patriots. However, one thing is for sure: expect the unexpected.