The 2016 NFL Draft is three weeks away, and teams are still figuring out what direction they are going to go.
The New England Patriots are in a unique situation, as they are the only team not to currently have a first round draft pick this year, as it was stripped as part of the punishment for Deflategate. However, the Boston Herald reports that a group of seven Patriots fans “filed a federal complaint Tuesday seeking to block the enforcement of the penalty.” The point of the lawsuit is to get the NFL to give the Pats their first round draft pick, and there is little chance of that happening.
The good news is that the Patriots do have 11 draft picks this year, including back-to-back picks in the second round at No. 60 and 61. The Pats received the 61st pick from Arizona compensation, along with guard Jonathan Cooper, in their trade of DE Chandler Jones to the Cards according to the Portland Press Herald. New England also owns Houston’s sixth round (196), Chicago’s sixth rounder (207), and the Texans’ seventh round selection as a result of previous deals. In addition, the Pats also received four compensation picks, tied with Dallas and San Francisco, from the NFL for the most in the league due to them losing six free agents last year.
With 11 picks in this year’s draft, it is possible that New England could land in the first round via a trade. If the Patriots do trade up into the first round, they can’t move past pick No. 29 — which is where the Pats would have picked if they owned their own draft selection, per ESPN. New England would forfeit the higher draft choice if the Patriots did move past pick No. 29 and then be rewarded the No. 29 pick as a result.
New England went into the offseason searching for upgrades at wide receiver, running back, offensive line, and linebacker. The Pats have been very active this offseason and did address their pass-catching issues with the acquisitions of WR Chris Hogan (free agent from Buffalo), WR Nate Washington (free agent from Houston), TE Clay Harbor (free agent from Jacksonville), and TE Martellus Bennett (trade with Chicago). Hogan is expected to be the Patriots’ third receiver, and Washington is currently the slated to be the fifth or sixth receiver, while Bennett will backup Rob Gronkowski.
New England also added depth to their front seven on the defensive side of the ball, signing nose tackle Terrance Knighton (free agent from Washington), DE Chris Long (free agent from Los Angeles Rams), LB Shea McClellin (Chicago), Ramon Humber (New Orleans), and DT Frank Kearse (Washington). The Pats also made a couple of moves in the secondary signing CB E.J. Biggers away from the Philadelphia Eagles and re-signing safety Nate Ebner.
So that leaves running back, offensive line, cornerback, and linebacker as primary needs in the draft.
Running back LeGarrette Blount, the team’s leading rusher, is still a free agent, and it doesn’t appear that the Patriots are interested in bringing him back. New England did sign former San Diego Charger Donald Brown a few weeks ago to bolster their backfield depth. Brown rushed for 229 yards on 59 carries last year and one touchdown to go along with eight receptions for 88 yards. Brown joins Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden, and Tyler Gaffney atop the depth chart. New England will likely wait until at least the third round to draft a running back this year.
Therefore, the Patriots will likely look to draft an offensive lineman, cornerback, or linebacker with their top two choices in the draft. Don’t be surprised if the Pats do draft a wide receiver or quarterback later in the draft.
New England has five sixth-round draft picks and two seventh-rounder and need a third-string quarterback, as Tom Brady and Jimmy Garappolo are the only two signal callers currently on the roster.
“The Patriots will be looking for a No. 3 quarterback at some point this offseason, and the draft is the most economical place to find one, assuming there’s a fit,” Mike Reiss of ESPN recently wrote. “Not to mention, it’s good business to draft and develop quarterbacks, even if a draft pick lands on the practice squad to open the season.”
New England recently worked out free agent quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Stanzi has spent time with the Jaguars, Texans, Giants, and Lions since being released by Kansas City during training camp in 2013. He was a 2011 fifth round draft choice of the Chiefs out of the University of Iowa. Stanzi has not thrown a regular season pass in his career.
Kevin Hogan (Stanford), Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech), Cardale Jones (Ohio State), Vernon Adams (Oregon), Nate Sudfeld (Indiana), Jake Rudock (Michigan), and Brandon Daugherty (Western Kentucky) are among the top quarterback prospects expected to be available in the sixth round or later. New England recently has met with Rudock and Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, according to Pro Football Rumors.
New England went 12-4 last year and captured its seventh straight AFC East title. The Pats fell to the Denver Broncos in the Conference Title game.
(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)