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Why Patriots might still take OT early in NFL Draft despite Onwenu's return

The New England Patriots re-signed their most important free agent, Mike Onwenu, early in NFL free agency. But there’s more work to be done to improve the team’s talent and depth at the offensive tackle position.

Despite Onwenu’s return, the Patriots could still target an offensive tackle early in the 2024 NFL Draft because, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the 26-year-old veteran is expected to play at right tackle going forward.

Onwenu playing on the right side allows the Patriots to make the left tackle spot a priority over the first two days of the draft. Offensive tackle is one of the deepest positions in the 2024 class, so much so that we could see 10 or more of these players taken in the first two rounds.

“I think outside of quarterback, this is the most interesting group overall, on everybody’s draft board,” ESPN’s Jordan Reid told Phil Perry on NBC Sports Boston’s Next Pats Podcast in January.

“Everyone wants to see the pre-draft process play out with this offensive tackle group because I think we could see as many as seven or eight go in the first round — an astronomical number. I think it would be the most since 2007 or something like that.”

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If the Patriots trade the No. 3 overall pick and move down in the first round, they could look at one of the top left tackles available, depending on how far down in the order they go.

Perry explored one such scenario in his mock draft 4.0 earlier this month where the Patriots moved back to No. 6 in a trade with the New York Giants and selected Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt. Alt and Penn State’s Olu Fashanu are the highest-rated tackles in this draft.

“If the Patriots aren’t going to take a quarterback at No. 3, it’s time for them to do ‘The Packer Way’ thing and take the best player available. That’s Alt, particularly when considering what Eliot Wolf might want at this point in the first round,” Perry wrote in his analysis.

“First, there’s his size. He has a mammoth frame at 6-foot-9, 321 pounds with over 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands. But even more importantly, perhaps, is that he can really move for a human being his size.”

The Patriots could still address the left tackle spot in free agency, but the remaining options aren’t great. The best way to upgrade at this super important position is early in the draft, and based on the talent available at offensive tackle, this is a great year to do it.

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