With free agency set to kick off a week from Wednesday, how the Patriots will fill out their roster is taking over the news circuit in New England.
Because the new league year begins so much before the NFL draft, many holes can be addressed relatively quickly. A slew of big names was announced to be either on the trade block or set to be released on Monday, opening a realm of possibilities for the Patriots to improve their weakest areas.
But what about the positions they don’t address through free agency?
What will they do in the draft, especially in the first round?
Owning the 14th overall pick is the highest selection the Patriots have had since 2008, making the guessing game of who they will choose far trickier than in years past. The assumption is that they will go with an offensive position, like wide receiver or offensive tackle, but because of the loaded talent available at cornerback as well, that option can’t be eliminated either.
However, in his latest column for the Boston Herald, writer Andrew Callahan revealed what he’s been hearing about the Patriots’ plans in the first round, laying out specific details that have been whispered about over the last few weeks.
"“The Patriots don’t know yet what they’ll do with the 14th overall pick, but league sources expect them to make an obvious choice come late April: draft an offensive tackle or trade back. The Pats currently roster one starting-caliber player at tackle and none are under contract past next season. Bill Belichick has spent his first pick on an offensive lineman five times, including twice in the last five years (Cole Strange in 2022 and Isaiah Wynn in 2018). Belichick is also famous for trading down, and in a draft with few blue-chip prospects at the top, he may see value in sliding back 10-12 spots to select a player of similar caliber later in the first round, such as Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., Tennessee’s Darnell Wright or North Dakota’s Cody Mauch.”"
Although the information doesn’t immediately yield shock and awe from those around New England, it is curious, considering Bill Belichick’s alleged more relaxed role when it comes to the draft.
Matt Groh, the director of player personnel, has seen an increased role over the last few years, including more say in how the team builds its roster. He was given a lot of responsibility for the 2022 draft and is likely on the same track for this year’s as well.
The alleged plans the Patriots have for the draft next month stay within the lines of a typical Belichick draft, but with Groh’s increased influence, isn’t it possible that this draft will not be as predictable?