After key losses, the New England Patriots offensive line is decimated and the team needs additions in the NFL draft beginning on Thursday, April 28th. Since the Patriots have lost two starting guards in Shaq Mason in a trade and Ted Karras to free agency (again), it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest tackle is the top need rather than a guard.
Rather, the Patriots still could be somewhat better situated at guard than suspected. If they move Isaiah Wynn from tackle to guard, likely his best position, and play Michael Onwenu at right guard they will be rather well-situated. Trent Brown was thankfully re-signed this week, but the Pats can still use an additional (capable) starting tackle.
In any event, they need to select a tackle high up in the draft. Let’s take a look at some of the options that may be available in the first two rounds where they should be looking to add young offensive tackle help.
Patriots top possible options at pick No. 21 in the first round
The Patriots’ first pick is No. 21 in the draft. Unfortunately, that’s not high enough to garner one of the very best-rated offensive tackles in the draft. Pro Football Focus ranks the top three offensive tackles this way: Charles Cross of Mississippi State, Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State, and Evan Neal of Alabama. All are in PFF’s top 10 players in the entire draft. The Patriots won’t be seeing any of those three in their rookie camp. Next is Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan.
Raimann may be available, but should the team decide to go offensive line with the 21st pick and he’s available, Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa is the guy. He’d fit perfectly in New England. Penning has all the attributes the Patriots need at left tackle if Wynn is moved inside.
First, he’s massive, listed at 6-7 tall and at 325 pounds. He’s also quick for a big tackle, having run a blistering 4.89 40-yard dash at the combine. Yet his best attribute of all is his nastiness. Anyone who watched the Senior Bowl drills saw Penning not only finish his blocks but also plant his opposition into the turf. Here’s what NFL.com has to say about Penning,
"Three-year starter at left tackle with outstanding measurables on a low-cut, well-built frame. Penning plays with a level of disgust for anyone lining up against him and seeks out violent block finishes when possible … He should become an instant starter at left or right tackle but the jump in competition will take time to navigate."
His demeanor really caught their attention.
He has a trait of a former great Patriot guard John Hannah. He loves pancakes and leaves defenders flattened all over the field. Taking Penning if he’s available at No. 21 can’t be ruled as anything but a solid move.
Other tackle options for the Patriots in the draft
Since the Patriots are pick-deprived in this draft with only seven selections available, they may move down to garner more picks. A trade down in the first round can’t be ruled out, nor would it necessarily be negative. Securing another third-rounder and maybe more could make sense for a team that desperately needs help all over the field. The aforementioned Raimann is a possibility maybe later on.
Another option would be Darian Kennard of Kentucky. He’s looked upon as a great run-blocker by PFF and can move to guard depending on the team’s deployment of its offensive linemen. PFF has him as their seventh-best tackle and their 62nd-ranked player. The Patriots could trade down, get the No.1 wide receiver they need (maybe John Metchie III?), and then land a top tackle perhaps in the second round.
Alternatively, the Patriots could trade down, maybe get lucky and land a top wide receiver later in the first round, pick up an additional selection or two, and then land the tackle they need in the second round. There are a lot of options. Anyone trying to predict the Patriots’ pick (other than maybe last season when they took Mac Jones!) will be engaging in an exercise in futility.
But again, since the Patriots have so many clear needs, they almost can’t go wrong picking any position. The only requirement is to get it right. We’ll see in a little over a month. The Patriots still have time to add draft picks through trades. That’s the suggestion here. There’s lots to be done and too few picks at the moment to do it all.