How Patriots can have perfect 2020 NFL Draft in five steps, staring with adding another QB to the mix

Free agency wasn’t exactly kind to the New England Patriots this year. While they retained leaders like safety Devin McCourty and special teams ace Matthew Slater, they did lose linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins at the start of the new league year. Safety Duron Harmon was also traded to Detroit for cap reasons. Oh, they also lost a guy named Tom Brady, who signed with the Buccaneers. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly a roaring start to 2020 for the folks in Foxborough. 

So how do they fix it? Well, we can start by looking at the 2020 NFL Draft, which is right around the corner. 

New England owns a total of 12 selections at this year’s draft, including the No. 23 overall pick in the first round. This year will be unlike any that we’ve seen from Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the past as they’ll not only look to replace their franchise icon, but patch up a roster that lost key playmakers on defense and is in desperate need for more weapons at the skill positions on offense. Below, we’ll dive into how New England can cover all their bases and walk away with an ‘A’ grade at this year’s draft. 

Step 1: Bring in a third quarterback

It’s no secret that the Patriots will be in the market for a quarterback at the draft. The question, however, is when they’ll actually make that move. My ears perked up when I heard Bill Belichick say during his pre-draft conference call that this year’s group of quarterbacks  has “decent depth to it.” My impression off that was it could be a signal from the hooded head coach that New England won’t be spending the No. 23 pick on a QB and are instead going to target a second or third tier player at the position later on. The Patriots own three third-round picks and could look for Georgia’s Jake Fromm or Jalen Hurts out of Oklahoma or someone of that stature with one of those selections. 

Regardless of whether or not they go that route or go gangbusters and trade up for Tua Tagovailoa, it’s imperative that the Patriots bring in a third quarterback to compete this summer. Even if they like second year quarterback Jarrett Stidham for the starting spot, they can’t just give it to him and I’m not sure Brian Hoyer — while a trusted veteran backup and someone who is very knowledgeable in New England’s system — poses a serious threat to be the franchise guy to start the post-Brady era. 

By adding a young quarterback in the first two days of the draft, not only will it drive up the competition this summer, but it also gives New England some insurance in the event that Stidham doesn’t prove capable to carry that baton going forward. Under that scenario, they’d at least have another young quarterback on the roster they could continue to develop. 

Step 2: Come away with a starting-caliber player for the front seven

As I highlighted in the intro above, the Patriots are in need of a boost in the front seven, especially at linebacker with the loss of Van Noy, Collins and Roberts. Recent draft picks like Ja’Whaun Bentley and Chase Winovich are prime candidates to ascend into more prominent (possible starting) roles in New England’s defense with some of those folks heading out the door, but it’d behoove the Patriots to add even more to a unit that currently has it’s leader in Dont’a Hightower heading into the final year of his contract. 

This wouldn’t be a bad area to attack with that top overall pick at No. 23. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that LSU linebacker Patrick Queen or Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray will be available at that spot. If they want someone with a bit more of an edge presence, Clemson’s K’Lavon Chaisson or Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos wouldn’t be bad options either and likely will still be on the board.  

Step 3: Add a receiver with one of the third-round picks

Strictly speaking for the 2020 season, the Patriots aren’t in as bad of a spot at the receiver position as you may think. A combination of Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry isn’t the worst trio, but it’s hardly the best and it needs to see an upgrade as the future of the position group isn’t exactly rosy. Edelman will be 34 years old by the start of the regular season and Mohamed Sanu is entering the final year of his contract. 

New England must bring in another pass catcher in what is said to be a historically great class this year. Henry Ruggs III, CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy will likely be long gone before they are on the clock in the first round so it may not be the worst move for the Patriots to simply wait and see what falls to them in the third. Because they have three selections that round and plenty of other capital later on the draft, the Patriots do have the ability to move around the board and bring in a pass catcher they like. Florida’s Van Jefferson is a prospect that would thrive in Foxborough and could be had in this area of the draft. 

Step 4: Find a tight end with upside

The Patriots got next to no production from the tight end position this past season. Veteran Ben Watson, who played in 10 games, led New England tight ends with just 17 catches and 173 yards receiving for the entire year. While it was going to be impossible to replace Rob Gronkowski after he retired last offseason, the Patriots completely whiffed at that spot in 2019 and the offense suffered because of it. 

Now, they are heading into a 2020 draft that isn’t exactly known to have a great tight end class, but they should still look at some of the prospects that are available. Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet is widely viewed as the No. 1 player at the position, but Dayton’s Adam Trautman does have good size and did dominate subpar competition during his collegiate career. New England should do everything they can to use a third or fourth round selection to bring in a tight end to at least begin the rebuild of that position.  

Step 5: Target Stephen Gostkowski’s replacement

With all this talk about Tom Brady’s departure and the exit of various players on defense, veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s release is sometimes swept off to the side. That can’t be the case at the draft. New England still has not found a replacement for Gostkowski and could look to fill his shoes with someone in the draft. Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship is considered to be the top kicker on the board after a collegiate career where he hit 82.5% of his field goals and netted every single one of his extra point attempts. If New England were able to pair him with punter Jake Bailey, who they drafted last spring, they’d be set at two key special teams spot for the next handful of years. 

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