The New England Patriots’ roster is far from complete as the 2022 NFL draft begins on Thursday night.
The Patriots may look to get younger and faster on defense, and the draft would be a good place to start. Linebacker and corner are positions of note, as both positions are deep heading into the draft.
On the offensive side of the ball, New England’s may focus on upgrading at wide receiver. Although they added depth this offseason, they could still use additional help in what is becoming a pass-friendly league.
Let’s take a look at the five most important positions for the Patriots heading into the draft. As the league and its playstyle changes, the draft selections by the Patriots will need to reflect that as well.
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Safety is one of the bottom-tier positions on this list, but the Patriots would be wise to address it.
However, McCourty is getting older. He signed a one-year and $9 million contract extension with the Patriots back in March. , he is certainly one of the more veteran players at the position a 34 years of age. Phillips is 30 years old. Right now, he is in the prime of his career. He signed a three-year extension with New England on January 1.
To be fair, Dugger is only in his second season. However, the Patriots would be wise to add younger depth at the position, especially as speed has become an important factor in the NFL.
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Running back is an interesting position in terms of draft considerations. The Patriots have two, young, capable backs and Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. They also have a veteran in James White.
Drafting a running back would be for depth purposes. Harris and Stevenson figure to be the main cogs in the rushing attack year. Stephenson showed promise as a rookie last season, carrying the ball 133 times for 606 yards and five touchdowns. Harris had a strong year in his own right, hearing the ball 202 times for 929 yards and 15 touchdowns.
As for White, he suffered the injury bug last season. He suffered a hip injury in week three, and was placed on injured reserve on October 1, 2021. The Patriots signed him to a two-year $5 million contract extension on March 15. He figures to be in the Patriots future plans for the short term.
With the loss of Brandon Bolden, the Patriots could use more depth at the running back position, especially as White returns from injury. This position isn’t a necessity, but New England likes to use running backs in multiple ways. In terms of what the Patriots do on offense, drafting another running back would not seem like such a reach here.
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Heading into the offseason, one of the Patriots biggest needs was wide receiver. At the beginning of April, that all changed. New England traded for Miami wide receiver DeVante Parker.
The Patriots need a number one weapon. Parker will have a chance to show he can do so. Nevertheless, this wide receiver draft class is particularly deep. We’ve heard names such as Ohio State’s Chris Olave connected with the Patriots via mock drafts. However, the acquisition of Parker makes the Patriots need for a top wide receiver a little lower on the priority list.
Quarterback Mac Jones established a good rapport with the receiving group last year. In particular, tight height end Hunter Henry and wide receiver Jakobi Meyers were two of his favorite targets. Henry had 50 catches for 603 yards and nine touchdowns. Meyers recorded 83 catches for 866 yards and two touchdowns.
There is a need for the Patriots to draft a wide receiver, however the acquisition of Parker combined with the talent New England can grab in the later rounds makes this less of a priority.
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Right guard is a position that the Patriots needed to address in this upcoming draft. The Patriots traded away Shaq Mason on March 15. Now, they need to fill that void.
Local product Zion Johnson could be an option, as the Patriots need another solid pass protector. Johnson allowed only six pressures in 2021.
The Patriots allowed only 28 sacks in 2021, and that was key to Jones success. To put the dominance of the Patriots line in perspective, they allowed the fewest sacks allowed from 2015-21 with 211. They also had the fifth fewest sacks allowed per pass attempt (5.1 percent). Good line play has been a hallmark of Patriots teams for several years now. Finding a solid guard is crucial for the development of the line not only now but in the future as well.
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The Patriots need help at the linebacker position. With Kyle Van Noy no longer in the picture and Dont’a Hightower still a free agent, the Patriots have a bunch of holes at the position right now. Perhaps more so than just re-signing players, they also have a lack of speed at the position. This is something that Patriots could address in the draft.
Devin Lloyd of Utah, Nakobi Dean of Georgia, and Christian Harris of Alabama could be targets for the Patriots. Lloyd has been the subject of several mock drafts, and many experts believe he would be a good fit. All three linebackers mentioned above bring speed and versatility. A Versatile defender is something Bill Belichick loves, and Patriots could use that as they look to revamp the position.
The Patriots need to get faster and younger defensively. Linebacker would be a very good place to start. Linebackers that can cover as well as linebackers that have speed are the name of the game in the NFL right now. Patriots would be wise to get with the times.
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Corner is by far the biggest need one the Patriots this draft. Losing J.C Jackson and Stephon Gilmore over the course of the season means that this position will have to be revamped.
The Patriots do have depth at the quarter position, but the lack of starting depth is a concern. Andrew Booth, Roger McCreary, and Ahmad Gardner are options for the Patriots at the position. If the organization take a corner with their first selection, Gardner could be a viable option. McCreary and Booth could find their way into the back half of the draft.
Losing Jackson is certainly a big blow for the Patriots. Jackson tallied 25 interceptions in four seasons with New England. Now, it’s going to be up to New England to rebuild the position entirely. Selecting a corner with a high-round draft pick could be a possibility. This is undoubtedly their biggest need heading into Thursday night.