The 2017 NFL Draft kicks off tonight. It is an indicator that the season is approaching. New England will open the 2017 season against Kansas City in five months.
However, before New England even thinks about the new season, they must first continue to build their roster. The best way to do that is through the NFL Draft.
The draft is where head coach Bill Belichick and company do their best work. However, the Patriots will not have a lot to work with in terms of draft picks as they used a majority of them to fill some holes within their roster earlier in free agency. When the first round of the draft begins at 8:00 pm tonight, the Patriots will have a total of six draft picks. They will have two in the third round, one in the fourth round, one in the fifth round, one in the sixth round and one in the seventh round. As the weekend continues, the Patriots could add more draft picks as Belichick usually wheels and deals throughout the four-day event.
As stated before, the Patriots have already made big moves in the offseason. The Patriots have already been named the favorites to win the Super Bowl next season as a result of their hot offseason. But there is still some work to do and still some holes to fill within the roster that won the Super Bowl three months ago.
On paper, the New England Patriots’ offense looks solid. They have their star, Tom Brady, with an arsenal of weapons that would make any quarterback smile with joy. Their wide receiver group is stacked and their tight end group seems to be good to go. New England also has a loaded backfield with four good running backs.
The big question mark would be their offensive line. This group was very good for New England last year but did struggle at times. It was occasionally difficult for them to keep Tom Brady standing in the pocket. Even in the Super Bowl, Brady was roughed up by the Falcons pass rush. Depth at the offensive line is always a good thing because when the starting quarterback is standing and can do what he wants, then the offense keeps rolling. Look for the Patriots to add depth to the offensive line throughout the weekend.
Some players that the Patriots could add include tackle Antonio Garcia (Troy), tackle Dion Dawkins (Temple), tackle Adam Bisnowaty (Pittsburgh), guard Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky), guard Dan Feeney (Indiana) and center Ethan Pocic (LSU).
The Patriots defense lost three top talents from the Super Bowl over the offseason. Defensive ends Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard as well as cornerback Logan Ryan all departed from the team in free agency. New England made up for it when they re-signed Dont’a Hightower, Duron Harmon and Alan Branch to keep the defense stable.
New England splashed in free agency when they signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore and traded for defensive end Kony Ealy to bolster the pass rush.
When analyzing New England’s defensive depth chart, they could add depth at every position. The Patriots did not have a consistent pass rush, but it was not terrible either. Hopefully, Ealy along with Trey Flowers will help significantly. New England has four good defensive tackles including Branch to help with the run defense. Vincent Valentine improved throughout the season and Malcom Brown played very well in his second season in New England. The team also added former Baltimore Raven Lawrence Guy over the offseason.
New England’s linebacker group looks solid on paper after the return of Hightower. The linebackers include Rob Ninkovich, Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts. That is a good group but as always, depth is good to have. The secondary in New England is arguably one of the best in the league. If Malcolm Butler decides to stay with the team long term, this could be the strongest group on the New England defense.
Some defensive players the Patriots could add include defensive end Solomon Thomas (Stanford), Charles Harris, (Missouri), linebacker Vince Biegel (Wisconsin) and linebacker Kendell Beckwith (LSU).
New England only has six picks to work with but earlier offseason additions have helped make this weekend a little easier. The roster does not have many glaring needs which is a good thing. The only issue would be depth at certain spots which can be solved over the next four days.