The New England Patriots have a league-high five different picks to make on Friday night as the 2020 NFL Draft continues with rounds two and three.
Surprise, surprise — the New England Patriots traded out of the first round altogether last night.
Under Bill Belichick as GM, the team has made something of a habit of leaving all the opening night drama behind them when it comes to the three-day NFL Draft marathon. Sometimes the Patriots move out of the first round completely, more often they move way down in the pecking order, and occasionally they don’t even have a first-round pick at all.
Evidently, Belichick and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio were more than content to take the L.A. Chargers’ call and give them the No. 23 overall pick in exchange for the No. 37 overall (second round) and No. 71 overall (third round) picks.
As a result, the Patriots now have a league-high five picks to make tonight: one in the second round (No. 37) and four in the third round (No. 71, No. 87, No. 98, and No. 100). Even after the dust settles on Friday night, New England will still have a whopping eight selections left to make during rounds four, five, six, and seven on Saturday.
The Pats are not without roster holes as they enter the meat of this draft. They could choose to address several areas over the next two days, but let’s take a look at the most pressing ones they should try to take care of if they can Friday night — and who might represent the best candidates to fill those holes.
New England still desperately needs to find a replacement for Rob Gronkowski. Even with Ben Watson on the roster last season alongside Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo, the Patriots had measly production from the tight end position throughout 2019 — and Watson has since retired.
Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, Dayton’s Adam Trautman, Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney, and Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins are four names to keep an eye on Friday night. Kmet and Trautman, in particular, are expected to go in the second round, so if the Patriots are interested in either, they may need to burn that 37th overall pick on one of them.
Just as the Pats have never really found a replacement for Gronk, they’ve yet to find a guy for Trey Flowers, either.
Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Chase Winovich all had spurts last season of being effective coming off the edge and rushing the passer, but none of them were ever consistently used in that capacity like Flowers was during his New England tenure. Winovich has a bright future and might end up being one of those guys on the edge, but Belichick needs someone on the other side to complement him.
Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos, Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, and Florida’s Jabari Zuniga could all represent potential targets for the Pats Friday night if they want to address this need. Epenesa, in particular, has often been mock drafted to New England, and many had a first-round grade on him coming into this week as well.
This draft is arguably one of the deepest ever when it comes to quality wide receivers. Six different wideouts were taken in the first 32 selections last night, and it still feels like teams are just scratching the surface when it comes to the available talent at the position in this draft.
The Patriots right now have Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, and N’Keal Harry atop their depth chart. Only Edelman has proven he can be a reliable receiver in this offense so far, and that was while Tom Brady was still in town. Who knows what kind of chemistry he’ll have with Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, or whoever ends up playing QB for the Patriots in 2020?
USC’s Michael Pittman Jr., Clemson’s Tee Higgins, and Baylor’s Denzel Mims are the best remaining wideouts out there. If the Patriots want to wait till the third round, they might need to focus on Ohio State’s K.J. Hill, Penn State’s KJ Hamler, or Texas’ Devin Duvernay.
Everyone wants to see just what the Patriots will do at quarterback.
Are they content to roll with Stidham and Hoyer? Or will they take someone in this draft like everyone expects them to?
Remaining possibilities include Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Georgia’s Jake Fromm, and Washington’s Jacob Eason. If the Pats want Hurts, they’ll need to spend a second-rounder on him most likely.