Tight end, linebacker, wide receiver, and kicker. Those are the biggest needs on a soft Patriots roster at the moment. With less than a million in cap space and dwindling free-agent options, the Patriots need cheap bodies more than ever. It isn’t a stretch to say this is the most important draft the Patriots have had since 2012.
Poor drafting in the past few years has gotten the Patriots to where they are now. Too many misses on high picks like Dominique Easly, Anthony Garcia, Duke Dawson, Derek Rivers, Cyrus Jones, and many more have left the Patriots in an extremely undesirable situation.
They had to spend money bringing back their own players as well as other free agents to plug holes that the draft failed to fill.
Duke Dawson should be manning the slot right now. Instead, Jonathan Jones is making $7 million a year filling that role. Dawson, a second-round pick, was cut before playing a single regular-season game.
Anthony Garcia, a third-rounder in 2017, should be starting at the tackle spot instead of an aging Marcus Cannon. Garcia never even made it to the preseason.
Instead of paying John Simon over $2 million per season, Deatrich Wise or Derek Rivers should be able to adequately fill his spot on the edge. It turns out both players are useless, and the team is stuck paying another veteran real money.
That’s the reason they are where they are. Too many pricy veterans eventually add up. Cheap labor is essential for building a contender. Look at the 2014 Patriots for example. They had Hightower, Jones, and Collins all on rookie deals. The 2019 Chiefs had Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones, and Tyreek Hill all on rookie deals. Right now, the best players the Patriots have on rookie contracts are J.C. Jackson, Sony Michel, and Isaiah Wynn. Not exactly the dream team right there.
The Pats need their next Gronk in the second round. The next Hightower in the first. Impact, plug and play starters that come in at a bargain and outperform rookie contracts. They really haven’t had one on a first or second rounder since Jamie Collins in 2013. Malcolm Brown and Sony Michel are probably the next best, but neither were/are anything special. N’Keal Harry has a shot to be a stud, but it remains to be seen if he can stay on the field. Same with Isaiah Wynn, albeit at a far less glorious position.
A three-down linebacker and starting-caliber tight end would be my biggest focus if I were in the (virtual) New England War Room this year. We’ll see if Belichick can turn back the clock and works his magic in this year’s draft. Knowing Belichick, he probably won’t take a single tight end or linebacker and be completely fine, but we’ll see what happens come late April.
Stay tuned for more draft coverage at SideHustle Sports. We’ll be going over each position one by one to identify potential Patriots fits.