Pro Football Focus has recently released their third 2017 NFL Mock Draft. Who did they have the New England Patriots taking in the first round?
The New England Patriots are completely focused on winning Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons. However, the front office is always planning ahead. The 2017 NFL Draft can sneak up on the Patriots, and they must be prepared.
As always, the Patriots are a team that is willing to trade down to acquire more picks if a player they desire isn’t there. That, of course, could be the case again this season. In the Pro Football Focus Mock Draft, they have the Patriots selecting Alabama tight end O.J. Howard with the final pick in the first round.
"Howard is expected to turn a lot of heads during the draft process, and the nation’s top-graded run blocker will likely be a bigger receiving threat at the next level. He averaged 7.3 yards after the catch per reception, showing just how much he can add to a passing offense. Howard has the speed to stretch the seam and New England will look to add another playmaking tight end to their offense."
This would be a very interesting selection for the Patriots. Tight end Martellus Bennett is a free agent this offseason, and while he would like to stay in New England, his solid season has made him deserving of a good contract.
Assuming Bennett leaves in free agency, the Patriots would likely want to get a solid replacement for him. At Alabama, Howard was certainly a bright spot on their offense. In four seasons at Alabama, Howard totaled 114 receptions, 1,726 receiving yards, and seven receiving touchdowns.
In his senior season, Howard played well. He was able to total 45 receptions, 595 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns. Also, it must be noted that he was playing with a freshman quarterback in a run-heavy offense in 2016.
Due to the injury history of Rob Gronkowski, having another good tight end is important for the Patriots. Also, the Patriots’ offense has thrived with two talented tight ends on the field together. It is early in the draft process, but Howard will be a player to keep an eye on.