The New England Patriots are one of the most difficult teams to figure out on draft day each year. The 2016 NFL Draft appears to be another such season.Head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio seemingly operate off a different draft board than the rest of the NFL. The list of draft picks that left draft analysts scratching their head is quite long and some are home runs (Sebastian Vollmer) while others are strikeouts (Tavon Wilson).
Of course, a large part of that is due to Belichick having been head coach (and de facto general manager) since 2000. He is looking not only at the 2016 roster with the upcoming NFL Draft, but he is taking a long view and identifying needs for future seasons when roster moves take place. Most general managers and coaches are unable to take this approach because they need to keep their job security by having their team make an immediate impact in the coming season and do not have a quarterback playing at an absurdly high level as he approaches 40 years of age.
The trade of defensive end Chandler Jones shocked the other 31 teams in the NFL due to his now reasonable final year of his contract (just under $8 million salary and cap charge) and his Pro Bowl talent and double-digit sacks. However, the groundwork for the deal was laid last offseason when the Patriots signed Jabaal Sheard in free agent and drafted three defensive ends (Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers, and Xzavier Dickson) in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Predicting the Patriots in the NFL Draft is perilous, but this season they have been far more active in free agency and may have tipped their hand. Here are five positions New England is likely to target with their four picks in the second and third round. New England has four sixth round draft picks and the expectation is that two of those will be packaged to move up into the fourth or fifth round.