BOSTON (CBS) –The NFL Draft is set to kick off Thursday night, albeit in a completely virtual way due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. No, we’re not talking about some complicated and confusing Westworld style draft, but just a bunch of old guys gathered around a video chat to make a couple hundred picks.

Then again, that will lead to a complicated and confusing process for some of those in charge of football teams, which should make for an entertaining side story for the NFL’s three-day bonanza.

It will also be a nice three-day escape from reality for football fans around the country, including right here in New England. The Patriots have 12 selections at their disposal, including a fresh new fourth-rounder thanks to Tuesday’s trade of Rob Gronkowski to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For a Patriots team that has suddenly entered rebuilding mode, these next three days are all the more important to the franchise.

Here’s everything you need to know heading into the 2020 NFL Draft when it comes to the New England Patriots.

The Picks

With 12 picks at their disposal, the Patriots have the second-most selections in the draft. They trail only the Miami Dolphins, who are scheduled to make 14 picks over the next three days, including three in the first round.

Here is what Belichick will be working:

Round 1, No. 23: Assigned Pick
Round 3, No. 87: Assigned Pick
Round 3, No. 98: Compensatory Pick
Round 3, No. 100: Compensatory Pick
Round 4, No. 125: From Chicago Bears
Round 4, No. 139: From Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 5, No. 172: From Detroit Lions
Round 6, No. 195: From Denver Broncos
Round 6, No. 204: From Houston Texans
Round 6, No. 212: Compensatory Pick
Round 6, No. 213: Compensatory Pick
Round 7, No. 230: From Atlanta Falcons

The Patriots don’t have a second-round selection, which they sent to Atlanta for Mohamed Sanu at last season’s trade deadline.

The first round of the draft will be held Thursday night, starting at 8 p.m., with each team getting 10 minutes to make a selection.

Rounds 2-3 are set for Friday night starting at 7 p.m., with teams getting seven minutes to make a pick in the second round and five minutes in the third.

The 2020 NFL Draft concludes with Rounds 4-7 stating Saturday at noon. Teams get five minutes to make a pick in rounds 4-6, and four minutes per selection in the seventh round.

The league is going to be a little lenient on the time limit though, given the speed bumps that teams may encounter during the virtual process. So this one may take longer — a lot longer — than previous drafts. That’s a scary thought, considering the first round took 3:39 last year.

No. 23

This will be the fourth time the Patriots draft at No. 23, and the team has had success in this spot in the past. In 1995, New England took Ty Law out of Michigan, a Hall of Famer who would lead the Patriots secondary for 10 seasons — earning three Super Bowl rings along the way.

In 1987, the Patriots drafted tackle Bruce Armstrong out of Louisville, who spent his entire 14-year career in New England and earned six Pro Bowl berths.

More recently, the Patriots drafted left tackle Isaiah Wynn out of Georgia at No. 23 in 2018.

The Needs

Quarterback: You’ve probably heard this over the last month, but the Patriots could use another quarterback on the roster. With Tom Brady now in Tampa Bay, it leaves New England with just Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer on the QB depth chart.

The Pats have been connected to a handful of passers, from first-round talents like Utah State’s Jordan Love (unlikely) and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (who may slip to No. 23) to later-round picks like Florida International’s James Morgan and James Madison’s Ben DiNucci. It’s a good thing James Morgan didn’t go to James Madison, because that would have been really confusing.

Tight End: This position near the top of the list of needs last year, but was neglected in a tight end-heavy draft. Now in 2020, there aren’t as many intriguing options on the board, so the Patriots may need to get creative to address this major area of need. Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, Dayton’s Adam Trautman and Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant are three intriguing options on this front.

Linebacker: After losing Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts in free agency, the Patriots are hurting for another linebacker or two. There are several intriguing options in the first round including LSU’s Patrick Queen, Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray and Wisconsin’s Zack Baun.

Edge Rusher: Another area of need following Van Noy’s departure, several mock drafts have the Patriots going with Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa (26.5 sacks over his three-year college career) at No. 23.

Safety: The secondary is stout overall, but Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung aren’t getting any younger.

Wide Receiver: Don’t expect Belichick to draft another wide receiver in the first round, after he did so for the first time ever last season. But Julian Edelman will turn 34 before the season, and Sanu is a free agent after this season. 2019 first-rounder N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski round out the 2020 depth chart at receiver.

Trades Trades Trades

Belichick is usually a busy man during the draft, trading up and down and occasionally out of that year’s selection process. The only year he has not engaged in any draft-day trades with the Patriots was 2004.

With 12 picks, chances are he is going to make a move or two or a dozen. Belichick has 12 picks heading into last year’s draft, and after making seven trades, the Patriots only ended up using three of those original selections. In 2018, he made a whopping eight swaps during the draft.

Hopefully, Bill has a great WiFi connection at home.

And if you’re hoping Belichick trades up during Thursday’s first round, he’s done that four times during his time with the Patriots, with the largest leap coming in 2002 when he traded up 11 spots to take tight end Daniel Graham. He has never traded a future first-round pick to move up in the first round while with the Patriots.

Post-Draft Signings

Belichick’s draft classes have been somewhat … disappointing at times. But he’s proven to be pretty good at landing some quality talent on the undrafted free agent market.

Center David Andrews and cornerback J.C. Jackson are his most recent success stories, and Meyers and Olszewski both showed promise in 2019. The Patriots have had a rookie free agent make their 53-man opening-day roster for 16 straight seasons, the third-longest streak behind the Chargers (23) and the Colts (21).


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