New England Patriots
Dont’a Hightower was selected 25th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the New England (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots headed into the offseason as reigning Super Bowl champions with little work to do. Unlike other years, New England was aggressive in free agency adding Stephon Gilmore. They also improved their roster via trades adding Brandin Cooks and Dwayne Allen. Those transactions depleted their draft pick staff as they won’t pick until the 3rd round. That is of course if they don’t get a first round pick back with the ongoing Malcolm Butler – Saints debacle. With 7 later round draft picks to work with, what can we expect the Patriots to do come draft day?

With the ongoing Malcolm Butler to the Saints rumors and potential Jimmy Garopolo trade going on, let’s digest a scenario in which the Patriots do wind up with a first-round pick. (For the record I am against the Brandin Cooks trade as I believe he is not worth a 1st and 3rd round pick but that’s a story for a different day). If the Patriots do get a first round pick they will likely go defense. Taco Charlton would be an excellent fit for the Patriots. Charlton is a long bendy pass rusher who could play in either 4-3 or 3-4 system. I thought he closely resembled Chandler Jones in my combine notes as Patriots fans could really use a similar presence. Another Michigan product that fits New England would be Jabrill Peppers. Is there a better coach in the NFL at winning matchups than Bill Belichick? Peppers could fill numerous roles for the Patriots including safety, nickel corner, and linebacker.

If the Pats do not acquire a first round pick they have two third-round picks to work with (72nd & 96th overall). In what is expected to be a deep draft in regards to the secondary, expect the Patriots to target cornerback and safeties. The Patriots are going to take the best player available, it’s just going to be a matter of which one falls to them. They could also be a team that selects Sidney Jones in this slot after the projected first-round pick tore his Achilles. New England has enough talent that they could afford to redshirt him. Maybe a player like Cameron Sutton fits the 3rd round range and replaces the departed Logan Ryan.

The Pats also have a 4th rounder and two 5th rounders to choose from. Knowing Belichick, I doubt he stands pat on all of those picks whether he maneuvers up or down the draft board. Other areas of need for the New England Patriots include offensive line depth and linebacking help. A developmental guard could be on the radar including IUP’s Ethan Cooper who looked fantastic at the Combine. With Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower locked in as starters, a speedy weakside linebacker could be next. One player who I really like is Duke Riley of LSU. He covers a ton of ground and figures to be a perfect fit alongside two guys who get after the quarterback. New England loves guys that can tackle and Duke Riley fits that mold as a tough SEC linebacker. Vince Beigel of Wisconsin could be an interesting fit as well as those Badgers are always reliable.

New England Patriots 2017 NFL Draft Picks:
  • 3rd Round – 72 overall (Via Panthers)
  • 3rd Round – 96th overall (Via Browns)
  • *4th Round – 118th overall (forfeited deflategate)
  • 4th Round – 131st overall
  • 5th Round – 163rd overall (Via Broncos)
  • 5th Round – 183rd overall
  • 6th Round – 200th overall (Via Colts)
  • 7th Round – 239th overall (Via Lions)