The New England Patriots will participate in the NFL draft in a few days and it will determine the short-term outlook of the club. The team hasn’t won a playoff game in four years and missed the playoffs in three of the four Tom Brady-less years.
That’s not exactly a great portent for the future. Nevertheless, a great draft could provide additional strength to bridge the gap from all-ran to a playoff team.
That gap was just one win and literally one play away in 2022. So the canyon to cross isn’t exactly grand. It’s a short jump, not a chasm. That’s why this 2023 draft is so important.
Bill Belichick has been tainted with a post-Tom-Brady brush of mediocrity. If Belichick can shed his usual stubborn ways, he can bridge that gap by implementing a consensus draft.
Striking gold on his first three picks will set the stage. Blow those (like the massive reaches in last year’s draft for their first two picks), and they’ll be firmly ensconced in last place in the AFC East.
New England Patriots trade down in the first round for an impact player
A dream scenario would be for the Patriots to trade down a couple/few picks in the first round, gain another premium pick, and take a player who’s been in for a visit.
If defensive end Lukas Van Ness is on the board after trading down, take him. (Another top option is an offensive tackle with the first pick at 14 if one of Paris Johnson Jr., Broderick Jones, or maybe Peter Skoronski is available).
Why Van Ness? Van Ness provides explosiveness off the edge for the Patriots. The team has Matthew Judon and emerging Josh Uche as stand-up edge players.
Dietrich Wise Jr. is a big defensive end who can also rush the passer. Adding Van Ness to the right side provides a “fearsome foursome” for opposing offenses to contend with.
Van Ness is big enough at 6’5″ tall and about 275 pounds to also slide inside on passing downs. He’d be a solid addition to a defensive line that absent Wise and Christian Barmore is pedestrian.
New England Patriots get their offensive tackle and insurance
After shoring up the defensive line, the New England Patriots move next to shore up offensive tackle. They’d have to trade up to the late first or early second, but the target is worth it. It’s Dawand Jones, a mammoth offensive tackle from Ohio State.
Jones at 6’8″ tall and about 380 pounds or so is another gigantic bookend tackle to pair with Trent Brown. Jones can either start immediately on the right or be the first tackle off the bench. If the team prudently decides to build from the lines out, both top picks maximize that strategy.
With their third pick, assuming that they still possess their 76th pick in the round, the Patriots go bold and select a quarterback, Hendon Hooker from Tennessee if he’s available. Hooker is a top passer and he can run. He’d be a welcome dual-threat QB for the New England Patriots.
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Since he tore his ACL late in the season, Hooker’s rehab will limit his availability in 2023. No matter. He can heal, learn, and be ready for the next season.
The team may still have a plethora of picks in the fourth and sixth rounds to add players at wide receiver, defensive back, and elsewhere. Waiting until the middle rounds worked out great for the team in 2022.
They drafted cornerbacks Marcus Jones and then Jack Jones, in the third and fourth rounds respectively. They panned out. That’s exactly where the team should draft their wide receivers and cornerbacks. They’ve flopped for the most part taking them higher in the draft.
This a dream top-three pick scenario for the New England Patriots. It’s practical and pragmatic rather than glitzy. They’ve added quality to both and a future insurance policy. Should Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe fail to impress in 2023, Hooker will be ready to take charge in 2024.
Who’d be your dream top three in the draft? We’d like to hear.