After winning the Super Bowl for the second year in a row, the New England Patriots enter this year’s draft with more immediate than long-term needs.
When a franchise has won six Super Bowls in almost 20 years and is showing none of the telltale signs of an empire that is crumbling, the draft doesn’t seem that important. The New England Patriots have been able to string together championship teams through key trades and clutch signings, but Bill Belichick’s drafting ability hasn’t been at the forefront of the conversation about his success.
That’s because he’s not always good at it.
Belichick hasn’t hit neraly as often as draft retrospectives will make you think, but that hasn’t stopped him from finding guys in the right spot to set up the team’s success. While first-round picks have been hit and miss, Belichick has filled out depth on his roster by drafting well in later rounds, and picking up guys that fly under the radar until they’re beating you in the playoffs.
State Of The Team
As has usually been the case in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, the New England Patriots are very firmly contending as they approach the 2019 NFL Draft. Thanks in large part to organizational stability, smart drafting, frugal spending in free agency, timely contributions from unheralded players, and – of course – the benefit of having the winningest head coach/quarterback combination in NFL history, the Patriots very much appear to be the team to beat in 2019 once again. Until and unless either Brady or Belichick decides to call it quits and ride off into the glorious sunset, this franchise is here to stay atop the NFL’s current pantheon of superpowers.
Total Draft Picks
The New England Patriots have 12 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft:
- Round 1 (No. 32 overall)
- Round 2 (No. 56 overall)
- Round 2 (No. 64 overall)
- Round 3 (No. 73 overall)
- Round 3 (No. 97 overall)
- Round 3 (No. 101 overall)
- Round 4 (No. 134 overall)
- Round 6 (No. 205 overall)
- Round 7 (No. 239 overall)
- Round 7 (No. 243 overall)
- Round 7 (No. 246 overall)
- Round 7 (No. 252 overall)
Top 3 Draft Needs
Wide Reciever: If Super Bowl 53 was a positive showcase of just how talented, cohesive, and productive the Patriots defense has become, it was also a negative showcase of just how one-dimensional the wide receiver position has become in New England. There’s Julian Edelman, and that’s about it these days. Especially with Josh Gordon suspended indefinitely, Cordarrelle Patterson in Chicago, and the Patriots missing out on signing a free agent from the Golden Tate/Adam Humphries/Cole Beasley triumvirate, wideout figures to be their greatest area of need entering the draft.
Tight End: Dwayne Allen never developed into the “Robin” he was supposed to be next to Rob Gronkowski’s “Batman,” but he was still a useful blocking tight end and could sub in whenever Gronkowski was injured. With Allen in Miami now – and more importantly, with Gronk still undecided on whether he wants to retire or not – the Pats need to concentrate on finding one or two young prospects in the draft to develop. Even if Gronkowski does return, his age, durability issues, and apparent indecision on his future should be a wake-up call that it’s time to start thinking about a youth movement at the position.
Defensive End: No one can blame Trey Flowers for capitalizing on his market value and signing a massive new contract with the Detroit Lions. His departure does open up a glaring hole, however, at a position that wasn’t exactly stable even when Flowers was still on the roster. Hopefully, trading for Michael Bennett helps bolster the New England pass rush a bit, but he’s still just one man (and he’s 33 years old). The Patriots need to look for Flowers’ heir in the draft.
Top 3 Draft Targets
The Patriots can’t go wrong drafting either one of the star tight ends that lit up the field for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2018. Hockenson is a redshirt sophomore who won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end last year after catching 46 passes for 717 yards and six touchdowns. His teammate Noah Fant is something special too, having caught 69 passes for 1,012 yards and 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons. We’ll give Hockenson the edge here just because he’s a little bit of a better blocker than Fant in the run game, and that’s something the Patriots prioritize in their tight ends.
DE, Boston College
Like Andy Isabella, Allen going to the Patriots would be a great local story in the Massachusetts area. The senior out of Boston College put together a terrific season in 2018, playing in all 12 regular season games and registering 61 tackles, 15 of which were for yards lost. He also tacked on 6.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and a remarkable seven pass deflections. He’s a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage and a natural edge-setter who could fill in ably for Trey Flowers.
Isabella going to the Patriots seems almost like a matter of destiny at this point. A 5’8, 190-lb kid out of Ohio, the 2018 All-American looks like a direct descendant of Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. As a senior, he led the nation in receiving yards per game (141.5) and was a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award. How great would it be to see a hometown UMass Minuteman go to the New England Patriots in the draft?
Decision Maker (Or Who To Blame If Things Go Wrong)
The buck stops with Bill Belichick, as always. He is one of the very few head coaches around the league who also doubles as his team’s GM, and his track record so far over the past two decades has validated owner Robert Kraft’s faith in him to perform both duties with skill and success.
Best/Worst Pick In Current Draft Slot
Historically, who was the best pick and the worst pick based on where the team is currently picking.
Best Pick: Logan Mankins – Guard – Round 1 (Pick No. 32) in 2005 NFL Draft
The exact same draft spot the Patriots have in 2019 was used 14 years ago to select one of the greatest players in New England history, left guard Logan Mankins. From 2005-2013, Mankins was the NFL’s gold standard for guard play, earning seven Pro Bowl nominations and being named an All-Pro on six separate occasions. Although he was eventually rather unceremoniously exiled to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers towards the end of his career, he remains today one of the most beloved and valuable Patriots players of all time.
Worst Pick: Chad Jackson – Wide Receiver – Round 2 (Pick No. 36) in 2006 NFL Draft
Drafted just one year after Mankins and only four spots later, Chad Jackson was a highly-touted receiver out of Florida who seemed all-too-deserving of his selection placement at the time, right at the turn between the first and second rounds. New England actually wanted Jackson so bad that they traded up to get him, passing on Greg Jennings in the process. As a rookie, Jackson caught just 13 passes on 19 targets for 152 yards. In 2007, Jackson was a healthy scratch for the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLII after finishing the entire season with just one catch for 19 yards. He was released by the team just 28 months after being drafted.