New England Patriots: Reassessing top 3 needs heading into the Draft

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
Ja’Whaun Bentley #8 and Dont’a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots  (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots position of need No. 2: Linebacker

ADDITIONS: Mack Wilson, Ja’Whaun Bentley (re-signed)

DEPARTURES: Kyle Van Noy, Chase Winovich

New England needs to get younger and faster on defense, and it starts at the linebacker position. Veteran holdovers such as Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins all appear set to depart in free agency or have been released earlier in the offseason. With a thin depth chart currently, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Belichick pick up multiple linebackers throughout the draft.

One of the biggest re-signings of the offseason was Ja’Whaun Bentley, who was brought back on a team-friendly deal for the next two years. Bentley was New England’s best linebacker last season and he was the team’s leading tackler. He’s young, fast, and a very instinctive player, especially against the run. He’s a building block for the team on defense at linebacker, and bringing him back was a huge move.

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The addition of Mack Wilson is really just Belichick taking a bit of a flier on an out of favor player in hopes he can fit in with New England. Wilson had a solid start to his career with the Cleveland Browns before finding himself on the bench, but he’s a very smart player who has proven he can always do what’s asked of him. He could fill in as an immediate starter, but depending on what the Pats do in the draft, he may become more of a situational player.

Heading into the offseason, I believed it would be in the Patriots best interests to draft a linebacker with their first round pick, and I still think that’s the case. The two consensus top linebackers in the draft, Nakobe Dean and Devin Lloyd, both may be on the board when they are up to pick at #21 in the first round, and either one of them would be a stellar selection.

Continuing to get younger on defense is key, and while this isn’t the team’s top need, drafting a key player to come fill a hole at the center of the defense is exactly what the Patriots need. It may not be done in the first round, but it will be a shock if Belichick opts to not address the linebacker position with at least one pick in the Draft.