The Patriots and the other 31 teams will make their way to Indianapolis next week for the NFL's scouting combine and the chance to get a closer look at some of the top prospects coming out in this year's draft. New England has a number of needs, both short and long term, and among these potential picks will hopefully be some new foundational players who can help lead the team to a third decade of dominance.
Tom Brady's status looms large over everything at this point, and while the need for a quarterback to succeed Brady either now or down the road is significant, so too are the needs at tight end, wide receiver, defensive line and linebacker.
Each draft class comes with its own unique dynamic. Sometimes a position of need for a team can be devoid of talent, while positions of strength can be stacked. It is never a perfect science. Teams must balance needs, fits and value and few have done it better than the Patriots.
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question of the week is…
Which position group should the Patriots be most focused on at this year's combine?
Mike Dussault says…
While receiver isn't the position with the most glaring holes, the need to upgrade the offense and add another young dynamic threat to go with last year's first-round pick N'Keal Harry is still very important. A bigger part of this is that this year's receiver class at the combine is stacked. There's a receiver for every need, so much so that Mel Kiper Jr was led to optimistically predict that 25-30 receivers could be selected in the first three rounds.
Though the need at receiver isn't the biggest, hitting on an impact player in a loaded draft class would be a home run for the future of the offense. The tough question is deciding who fits best and why? Do they draft for Tom Brady's strengths, or do they have an eye toward the future that could accommodate a different kind of pass catcher?
Potential late first-round options like Laviska Shenault Jr., Tee Higgins, Bradon Aiyuk and Jalen Reagor could all fall into the Patriots 23rd overall draft spot, while high-end prospects like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and CeeDee Lamb might be intriguing but are likely to be drafted within the first 20 picks. Even later round options like James Proche, KJ Osborn and Tyler Johnson could be good fits for the Patriots.
With all these players with Patriots potential, the team will have their work cut out for them, finding the perfect intersection of talent, fit and value. There are impact players to be had and a good number of them. Nailing a wide receiver pick who will be a future game-changing playmaker would be a home run for New England.
Paul Perillo says...
It's no secret that the loss of Rob Gronkowski created a huge hole in the offense in 2019, and the Patriots can't go into another season with no options at the position. I expect Bill Belichick to show some interest in free agents at the position, but New England also needs some younger, more affordable options as well.
As luck would have it, many draft experts feel there will be a quality crop of tight ends available in the draft. Our first chance to gauge them will come next week at the Combine in Indianapolis, and I'm looking forward to making some first impressions.
Notre Dame's Cole Kmet and Purdue's Bryce Hopkins are considered among the better options at tight end, but they are not alone. Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney and Washington's Hunter Bryant also will be in the mix, and Thaddeus Moss, Randy's son, is certain to generate some buzz based on name recognition alone.
The Patriots need to add significantly to the tight end depth chart, and that's the position I'll be most focused on next week.