The NFL draft is only a month away and the Patriots roster still has some serious needs they have to address before training camp starts. The Patriots need youth and athleticism across the board and with free agency dying down they’ll need to have a good draft as they look for their fifth Super Bowl.
Offensive Line: Adding Johnathan Cooper via trade should help out the Patriots’ line and QB Tom Brady but it was evident in the playoffs that more than one lineman is needed. Throughout the season the Patriots offensive line was decimated by injuries and they will be adding Nate Solder back but they need depth and a lot of it. Watching the offense last season Brady rarely had time to drop back and make multiple reads and with him turning 39 before the start of the season it should be the Patriot’s top priority to find an upgrade among the offensive line and keep their star upright for the duration of the season.
Cornerback: Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler had a great season establishing himself as one of the more talented players at corner and establishing himself as the Patriots’ top coverage man. Logan Ryan played well all season on the outside and in the slot showcasing his versatility. The Patriots however do not have a reliable third corner in the rotation and with today’s spread offenses many teams use a third corner in base packages. This years draft is deep and talented at the position and adding a player like Kendall Fuller in the second round if still on the board could give the pats a nickel corner right away. The Patriots could also look to add someone that has the tools to play on the outside right away so they can move Logan Ryan into the slot full time.
Linebacker: The Patriots have two bona fide stars with starting linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower but they’re still looking for a third starter at the position. MLB Jerod Mayo retired earlier this year and now the Patriots need a player that can play either middle or outside linebacker. They signed former Bear Shea McClellin and although he is extremely versatile he may not be an every down starter. One player to watch for them is Notre Dame prospect Jaylon Smith who looked like the best player in college before getting hurt in the Fiesta Bowl. If he is available while the Patriots are on the board he becomes almost a must draft player for them.
Wide Receiver: No receiver on this team possesses top tier athleticism, none of them are reliable deep threats, and none of them would regularly line up on the outside for another team. I’m not saying our receiving corps is bad but it is completely void of a player that can stretch the field or take the top off the defense. Unfortunately this year’s class of receivers is not very talented and the Patriots likely won’t find an immediate impact player, but they could draft a development project in the later rounds with the hopes that he starts performing well come playoff time. TCU’s Kolby Listenbee fits this mold perfectly and having won multiple NCAA championships for the 100 meter dash he may be the athletic deep threat New England has been looking for.
Running Back: The Patriots often employ a committee backfield but right now their committee isn’t that impressive. Dion Lewis should be the primary playmaker and pass catcher out of the backfield for New England next year but they need a power runner to compliment him. Adding Alabama’s Derrick Henry would be a perfect fit but he most likely won’t be there at the end of the second round. Adding a player such as Alex Collins or Kenneth Dixon possibly in the third round could work out for New England and add a more dangerous rushing attack.