Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential draft-day solutions.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
Patriots No. 1 Team Need: Edge Pass Rusher
The Super Bowl champs don’t have many needs, but one position we should expect them to address in the draft is defensive end, where 33-year-old Rob Ninkovich and trade acquisition Kony Ealy are both entering contract seasons. 2016 breakout player Trey Flowers has two years left on his rookie deal. Last year’s Patriots finished 18th in sacks (34) and 26th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate. They should continue to add talent on the edge.
Patriots No. 2 Team Need: Cornerback
While Stephon Gilmore gives New England a toolsy man-coverage corner with shutdown upside, restricted free agent Malcolm Butler reportedly wants out of Foxboro, and Logan Ryan’s free-agent loss stripped the Patriots of a high-end slot corner. At very least, the Patriots will want to add competition in the slot for Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones, who both struggled last season.
Patriots No. 3 Team Need: Offensive Line
The Patriots’ roster is strong enough that they will likely make most of their draft picks with forward-thinking intentions, and not necessarily to fill immediate needs. Inconsistent LT Nate Solder and C David Andrews’ contracts expire after 2017.
Other Considerations: Running Back, Outside Linebacker
Norris’ Mock Draft
Round 3 (72): CB Howard Wilson, Houston - The Patriots prioritize agility scores when evaluating corners. Wilson only tested in the 27th percentile, but his short shuttle time of 3.94 seconds and 3-cone time of 6.68 seconds were outstanding. If you eliminate Wilson’s game against Tulane, his 2016 season was also outstanding.
Round 3 (96): EDGE Trey Hendrickson, FAU - Hendrickson followed up a quality week of practice at the East-West Shrine with a wonderful NFL Combine workout, testing in the 89th percentile. His last two seasons at FAU were impressive, specifically as a pass rusher and not a run defender… which is uncommon out of college.
Round 4 (131): LB Harvey Langi, BYU - Langi will be 25 years old in September. Apparently the Patriots would have selected him in round one in last year’s draft. I won’t argue with that. Obviously the Patriots paid MLB Dont'a Hightower, but the rest of their linebacker group is a question mark.
Round 5 (163): RB James Conner, Pitt - I love Rex Burkhead. Love him. Think of Conner as a short-yardage role player to replace that element of LeGarrette Blount’s game. Conner displays balance and aggression to create space and convert those difficult plays.
Round 5 (183): TE George Kittle, Iowa - Kittle is a tremendous athlete and might be the best blocking tight end in this class. Possessing an obvious area where he wins, with a possible athletic ceiling in others, would allow Kittle to see the field early.
Round 6 (200): S/CB Johnathan Ford, Auburn - The Patriots could be looking for a corner/safety hybrid who can play the slot. Ford has experience in that area, which is difficult to find from a collegiate prospect.
Round 7 (239): T Jylan Ware, Alabama State - A project tackle in a class shallow for third-day tackles. The Patriots could target a tackle early if they land a first-round pick, since Nate Solder’s contract ends after the 2017 season.