April is here and that means draft season is upon us.
The Patriots have eight draft picks (a first, a second, a third, a fourth, two fifths and two sixths) when the NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 18. It’s never ideal to head into the draft looking to select a player at a certain position (you want to see a team select the best player), but the Patriots have some clear needs at the moment. It’s not all about 2022, either. The Pats need to build depth that extends beyond this season.
When looking at the roster and the contract status, the Patriots have five big needs so don’t be surprised if the Pats select players at these positions:
No. 1: Guard
The Patriots traded starting right guard Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay. This came after they lost starting left guard Ted Karras in free agency. The Pats made a push for Karras, but were outbid. They can pencil Michael Onwenu into one of those starting roles, but guard depth is the team’s biggest issue. They already have Arlington Hambright and Drew Desjarlais on the roster but they need a starter. There’s no bigger need. Unless they sign another veteran, we’d be shocked if they don’t draft a guard this month.
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No. 2: Cornerback
The Patriots lost their best defensive player when J.C. Jackson signed a massive deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. They’ve added two veterans in Malcolm Butler and Terrence Mitchell. Both have starting experience, but Butler didn’t play last season and Mitchell lined up for a very bad Houston team. The Pats lack a bona fide No. 1 cornerback. Although it appears they’re moving to more of a zone-based defense, there is clearly a need here at cornerback. The team lacks ample depth outside of Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Butler and Mitchell. Adding a young, promising corner makes too much sense.
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No. 3: Linebacker
The Patriots cut starter Kyle Van Noy. Their other starter, Dont’a Hightower, remains a free agent. The same goes for Jamie Collins. The team also traded away Chase Winovich. The Pats have numbers here, but other than Ja’Whaun Bentley, who can they count on? Maybe Mack Wilson, Josh Uche, Raekwon McMillan, Jahlani Tavai, Ronnie Perkins, Anfernee Jennings, Cameron McGrone and company will fill the void. We’d argue they should draft a speedy linebacker. There’s too much unknown on the depth chart right now. The Pats should add a blue chip prospect to fill the void.
No. 4: Offensive tackle
The Patriots return both starting tackles in Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown. That’s good news. The problem here is both players are unreliable when it comes to health. Wynn is also in a contract year. It would be wise to add some depth to go with Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste, Yasir Durant and Will Sherman. If the Pats are going to start Onwenu at guard, that means they lose their best backup tackle. The Patriots should draft a tackle in the first four rounds to be their top backup and eventual replacement for Wynn. That would be smart planning.
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No. 5: Wide Receiver
The Patriots receiver depth chart looks much better now that they've acquired DeVante Parker. Parker along with Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor make for a solid group. However, it’s smart to plan for the future. Both Agholor and Meyers will likely become free agents next offseason. If the Patriots play their cards right, they could add a young receiver, who brings size and/or speed, to the depth chart. That player would develop behind the veterans on the roster and then replace either Agholor or Meyers in 2023. That would be a smart business decision. Until the Pats land a bona fide No.1 receiver, the team should continue to take shots at the receiver position in the draft until they get it right.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Patriots need to fill these positions in the 2022 NFL Draft