2023 NFL Draft: Patriots need to avoid the glitzy picks

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - NOVEMBER 04: Zay Flowers #4 of the Boston College Eagles scores a touchdown during the first half of a game against the Duke Blue Devils at Alumni Stadium on November 4, 2022 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)
CHESTNUT HILL, MA - NOVEMBER 04: Zay Flowers #4 of the Boston College Eagles scores a touchdown during the first half of a game against the Duke Blue Devils at Alumni Stadium on November 4, 2022 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots will be drafting on Thursday, April 27 (possibly) with the 14th pick in the NFL draft. For some, this is a time of excitement. For others, not so much.

Some fans feel the draft is the best thing since proverbial sliced bread. For others, it’s just a dull exercise until the real games begin. For yet others, there’s no interest whatsoever.

Yet, the astute and discerning component of fan NFL team’s fandom clearly recognizes the significance of the draft. The importance lies in off-season team building.

Without question, championship teams are built in the offseasons. You sign your own top free agents or others’ best, and you’ve made a good first step. Then follow up with a knockout draft, and you’re on your way further still.

Add both of those components to a solid base along with perhaps a trade (maybe a blockbuster!?) or two, and you may well be on your way to the playoffs and more.

In two weeks’ time in Kansas City, the temptation will be to go for a glitzy draft for the New England Patriots but is that the way to go?

New England Patriots need to build strategically

While the glitzy picks are a wide receiver and then maybe a starting cornerback this year, are those the positions the team should augment its team with early in the draft? Here, the answer is an emphatic “NO”.

Everyone likes the idea of (even this space!) bringing in that first-round wide receiver such as Zay Flowers from BC rated third best by Pro Football Focus, or the two receivers rated higher, Quentin Johnston from TCU or Jaxon Smith-Njigba from Ohio State.

Related Story. Patriots have serious interest in Zay Flowers. light

Who wouldn’t like that prospect? But the reality of team-building necessitates otherwise. It’s no secret that the Patriots absent drafting a dual-threat quarterback who instantaneously amazes will roll with either Mac Jones (presumably) or Bailey Zappe at quarterback.

Neither can operate successfully without a clean pocket. The New England Patriots didn’t deliver clean pockets in 2022 very often. Their two quarterbacks were harassed and harried to a fare-thee-well all season long.

The lack of escapability of both Jones and Zappe proved to be a massive impediment to making the playoffs, as close as they came. Their offensive line just wasn’t good enough to compensate.

New England Patriots need offensive line enhancements first

In free agency, the New England Patriots addressed the position but not well enough. This was a mistake on a couple of levels. Had they signed a top starting offensive tackle like Orlando Jones Jr. or Mike McGlinchey, they would have instantaneously improved the O-line dramatically.

They passed and instead signed an older tackle, 34-year-old Riley Reiff, and a tackle they had discarded a while back, Calvin Anderson along with the signing of their own waiver wire-level tackles, as well.

The team whiffed on getting better there. The problem it now faces is that had they addressed the line in free agency, they then would have had much greater flexibility in the draft to do other things. That’s the opportunity cost of wasting that aspect of the free agency period.

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The New England Patriots are thus left with no alternative other than drafting a top offensive tackle earlier in the draft. If they don’t (and it’s not really expected here that they will, it’s too logical), the prospectus for 2023 will be similar to 2022, abject mediocrity.

Is this belaboring the point? Perhaps, but it’s a singular foundational element of any NFL team without a mega-quarterback to bail them out of unsatisfactory offensive situations.

The offensive line is the key to the entire team’s performance, especially with two immobile quarterbacks who without a clean pocket will fail.

Next. 2023 NFL Draft position analysis: Patriots wide receiver fits vs. draft wishes. dark

The outlook there is this, while it ain’t glitz and glitter to take an offensive tackle or two high and higher up in the draft, it’s what could make things work for the Patriots in 2023

The glitter of a wide receiver especially with the first pick is certainly golden, but the result absent a clean pocket will be more of the same mediocre offense we saw and cringed at last season.

The team needs to draft wisely, not as they have much of the time in the past dreadfully. That means drafting an offensive tackle in the first two picks.

We’ll see. This space doesn’t expect much, but who knows maybe they will surprise us for once. Maybe.