The New England Patriots will be on the 2023 NFL draft clock in a week or so with 11 picks as things now stand. Mock drafts are ubiquitous. Expect that number to vacillate during the festivities. The Patriots almost always trade around the board.
Whether fans like the whole enterprise or not, it’s a key component of any NFL team’s 2023 off-season team-building. You are who you sign or draft. You need to get it right.
That being said, the whole business is a gamble. Make enough picks and you’ll hit some. You’ll also miss on some, no matter how many picks you have.
The draft is, has been, and always will be a crap shoot of sorts. Use fancy analytics, you’ll still miss. Use the eye test, you’ll miss. Use past achievements, you’ll miss. Use any other metric at all, you’ll miss. Sorry analytics people, it’s still an iffy proposition at best.
The draft is an inexact science. In reality, it isn’t a science at all (though some try to “analytics” it to a fare-the-well). It is what it is, an art.
So what must the New England Patriots do next weekend to maximize the draft?
New England Patriots have tough decisions to make
Since none of this draft business can really be quantified to any great degree to ensure a result, how should the Patriots act to maximize their opportunities to be successful?
This space has made its option abundantly clear, don’t go way outside the box for reaches and take players far earlier than anticipated by most of the NFL draft world. This is a prescription for draft disaster.
It’s difficult enough to draft well, the team shouldn’t make it any harder by taking fliers on players as they did in 2022, reaching far too early for Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton. Neither pick was justifiable at that point.
The team has to center on a consensus draft and not succumb to the temptation of “trying to be smarter than everyone else”. Usually, as many high Patriots picks of late have borne out, you aren’t.
You have to have a rational draft strategy and a needs-based approach. In the opinion of this space, it’s the only way to go. Using “best player available” is fine if you’re a Super Bowl-ready team as the Tom Brady-era teams were. This team isn’t, far from it.
New England Patriots decisions are on positions
Assuming the New England Patriots adopt a consensus drafting posture (a big assumption and one likely to be incorrect. Whatever.), then what?
The team first has a tremendous advantage in this draft. While needs at several positions are absolute, e.g. offensive tackle, wide receiver, cornerback, and tight end, the team has great flexibility to draft virtually any position at any time. Their needs are so pervasive.
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That’s a nice place to be. Yet building from the offensive and defensive lines out is felt to be the way to go here.
The team can actually concentrate on a modified best-player available strategy since they have needs all over the field as mock drafts have pointed out. Whomever you select will be a needs position. Just get it right more often than not.
That’s the Ace-in-the-hole this year for the Patriots. They can’t positionally really mess up, though not addressing the positions noted above would be shortsighted. It’s a nice spot to be in.
The denouement or culmination of all this has to be this, draft uniformly acknowledged top players, and keep it real, no “shocckkahhh” picks.
On some, you’ll hit (hopefully), on others not so much. But staying the course with a logical strategy of drafting players where they should be drafted will the pieces fall into place.
If not, and they flop, at least you’ve done due diligence and not rolled the dice on long shots especially early in the draft.
Draft sleepers and injury-risk players later on. That’s when those picks make the most sense.