BOSTON (CBS) — This hasn’t been a great offseason for the New England Patriots so far. Tom Brady is heading south, and a handful of other free agents are walking out the door with him. New England’s incoming free agents haven’t been all that inspiring, either.
Granted, Bill Belichick usually sits back and lets other teams go out and “win” the first days of free agency, waiting in the wings to fill out his roster with the players that will play the way he wants. But now that half of New England’s two-headed monster is no longer part of the equation, there are some uneasy feelings surrounding the six-time Super Bowl champs.
With limited cap space, don’t expect a very big splash on the free agent market. Where Belichick will do most of his roster building this offseason is through the NFL Draft, which is slated to take place April 23-25. After receiving four compensatory picks, the Patriots have a whopping 12 picks to make on draft weekend, second only to the 14 selections the Miami Dolphins are slated to make.
Here’s a look at all of New England’s picks:
1st Round — No. 23 (assigned pick)
3rd Round — No. 87 (assigned pick)
3rd Round — No. 98 (comp pick for Trey Flowers)
3rd Round — No. 100 (comp pick for Trent Brown)
4th Round — No. 125 (from Chicago Bears)
5th Round — No. 172 (from Detroit Lions for Duron Harmon)
6th Round — No. 195 (from Denver Broncos for Duke Dawson)
6th Round — No. 204 (from Houston Texans for Keion Crossen)
6th Round — No. 212 (comp pick for Cordarrelle Patterson)
6th Round — No. 213 (comp pick for Malcom Brown)
7th Round — No. 230 (from Atlanta Falcons, part of Jordan Richards trade)
7th Round — No. 241 (from Seattle Seahawks for Jacob Hollister)
The Pats don’t have a second round pick, having traded it to Atlanta at the deadline for Mohamed Sanu last season, but they’ll still be busy on Day 2 with three selections in the third round. And with all those Day 3 picks, the Patriots will be in a great position to move up and down the board, as Belichick tends to do.
New England has plenty of needs heading into the draft, though most of the attention will be at quarterback. Maybe Belichick likes Jarrett Stidham as Brady’s eventual successor, but that shouldn’t stop him from drafting another QB this year. Utah State’s Jordan Love may be available at the end of the first round, though an early run on quarterbacks could change that. Other quarterbacks who could be around at No. 23 are Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Washington’s Jacob Eason. Eason played two seasons at Georgia before his one year at Washington, and Belichick loves to draft former Bulldogs.
And whoever gets tabbed to take over for Brady would probably like a tight end to throw the ball to, something the Patriots didn’t have last season when they decided not to do anything to replace Rob Gronkowski. Another wide receiver wouldn’t be a bad idea either, with Julian Edelman, Sanu and N’Keal Harry on their current depth chart. All three carry injury concerns into 2020. Damiere Byrd will join that group when he officially signs, but Phillip Dorsett is expected to depart in free agency.
On the defensive side, the Patriots could use another body or two at edge-rusher to get after the quarterback now that Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins are no longer around. Those two were a big part of New England’s pass-rush-by-committee last year, and will be missed in that department. Linebacker is also an area of need, with Dont’a Higtower and Ja’Whaun Bentley all to show for on the depth chart at the moment. Expect Belichick to draft at least one versatile defensive end/linebacker hybrid this year, similar to the Chase Winovich pick last year.
The Patriots are set at cornerback, but they could use some youth at safety with Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung another year older. Several mock drafts have them taking Alabama’s Xavier McKinney at No. 23, a versatile safety who can defend the run and the pass. Sounds like an ideal Belichick pick for the end of the first round.
The 2020 New England Patriots are going to look a lot different than the team we’re used to seeing. It’s not a total rebuild, even with Tom Brady no longer leading the charge on offense, but Bill Belichick certainly has his work cut out for him. Expect most of that work to be done come late April at the NFL Draft.