The New England Patriots made their first big offseason move when they traded for DeVante Parker, but there’s still a ton of work to do before this squad can be regarded as anything close to a contender. Nailing the 2022 NFL Draft would be a big step in the right direction.
Even though New England has a standout young quarterback in Mac Jones, the holes on this roster are apparent on even the most basic observation. The biggest issue is on the defensive side, as the departure of one of the best individual stars on that side of the ball is creating a massive open wound.
JC Jackson is now on the Los Angeles Chargers after New England refused to pay up, leaving them with a legitimate need for a star defensive back that changes the calculus on defense. Bill Belichick would be foolish to go into a season with Malcolm Butler in a position of prominence.
The Patriots have an obligation to use the No. 21 pick on drafting a star defensive back, both due to the need at the position and the uncommon assortment of talented players available in this range. With names like Andrew Booth Jr. and Trent McDuffie potentially ending up in New England’s range, they need to invest in the defensive backfield.
The New England Patriots need to draft a cornerback in the first round
No matter what type of player you’re looking for, the end of the first round will have a cornerback that can satisfy you. Need a smaller inside corner with a sticky man coverage? McDuffie is your guy. How about a technically proficient corner with some eye-popping ball skills? Booth makes a ton of sense.
The mock draft prognosticators already had the Patriots making a move for Kaiir Elam. Given his physical tools, Belichick could have a fun time developing him. Let’s say the Patriots move down just a few pegs. They could still be in the range for Washington’s Kyler Gordon.
Perhaps the Patriots eschew reinforcing this position until later. That would leave Butler, Jalen Mills, and Jonathan Jones as the starters in a base nickel look. With Miami’s Tyreek Hill and Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs in the division, that depth chart is simply not going to cut it.
It might be tempting to grab Jones another standout wide receiver or to reinforce the offensive line, but Jerod Mayo’s defense is much worse on paper than it was last season. With the perfect intersection of a positional need and a multitude of talented players available at No. 21, New England needs to find a defensive back.