With the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots … traded back.
As a result, they’re now fully stocked with Day 2 selections, owning one in the second round (No. 37) and four in the third (Nos. 71, 87, 98 and 100). They also have eight more on Day 3, including two fourth-rounders.
That trove of assets will give Bill Belichick and Co. the flexibility to move up or down the board as they see fit. Here’s a look at how they can address some of their biggest draft needs on Friday night:
A grand total of zero tight ends were selected Thursday night, leaving the Patriots with an array of options to fill their most glaring roster hole. Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet is an option at No. 37. Many evaluators consider him this year’s top tight end prospect, and he’d been rumored as a potential Patriots target at No. 23 during the final days of the pre-draft process. We also like Dayton’s Adam Trautman, who dominated against lesser competition and might be the best two-way tight end in this class. Other Day 2 options include Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant, UCLA’s Devin Asiasi and Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam.
Presented with the chance to select Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray, the Patriots passed. He promptly went to the Chargers, and Jordyn Brooks (Seattle) and Patrick Queen (Baltimore) heard their names called shortly thereafter. What’s left for Day 2? Plenty. Wisconsin’s Zack Baun is a Kyle Van Noy clone who can play off the ball or on the edge. Ohio State’s Malik Harrison is a near-perfect athletic fit for the Patriots. Wyoming’s Logan Wilson was a tackling machine who also fared well in coverage. Mississippi State’s Willie Gay Jr. has enticing athleticism but comes with off-the-field concerns. With little depth behind Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley, expect the Patriots to draft at least one off-the-ball linebacker over the next two days.
Six wideouts went on Day 1, but thanks to the historic depth of this year’s class, a ton of talented wideouts still are available. Baylor’s Denzel Mims, who ran a blazing 6.66-second three-cone drill at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, would be a great Patriots fit from an athletic perspective. USC’s Michael Pittman Jr., Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden, Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool, Florida’s Van Jefferson, Ohio State’s K.J. Hill, South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards and Texas’ Devin Duvernay could be on New England’s radar, as well. It also was a bit surprising to see Clemson’s Tee Higgins tumble out of the first round.
Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, whom ESPN’s Todd McShay said is “meant to be a New England Patriot,” didn’t hear his name called in Round 1. Nor did Yetur Gross-Matos, the uber-productive edge rusher from Penn State. Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, Michigan’s Josh Uche, Florida’s Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, and Boise State’s Curtis Weaver all are available, as well.
Safety is an underrated need for New England with Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung both turning 33 this summer, and not a single one was selected Thursday night. Alabama’s Xavier McKinney, our Patriots pick in our final NFL mock draft, shouldn’t last long on Day 2. Cal’s Ashtyn Davis is the type of single-high free safety the Patriots are lacking following the Duron Harmon trade. Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr. and LSU’s Grant Delpit were versatile and productive in college, though Delpit’s missed tackles are a concern. Southern Illinois’ Jeremy Chinn and Lenior-Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger are intriguing small-school prospects with hybrid linebacker potential. Utah’s Terrell Burgess, a former cornerback with a high football IQ, would fit the Patriots’ mold.
Some expected Houston’s Josh Jones, a four-year starter at left tackle, to go in the teens. He’s still on the board. So is Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland, a three-year starter on the left side who impressed at the combine. UConn’s Matt Peart and TCU’s Lucas Niang could be options later in Day 2. The Patriots have no proven depth behind oft-injured left tackle Isaiah Wynn and soon-to-be 32-year-old right tackle Marcus Cannon.
Lot of big fellas still up for grabs, with only Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw going in the first round. Among them: Auburn’s Marlon Davidson, TCU’s Ross Blacklock, Missouri’s Jordan Elliott, Texas A&M’s Justin Madibuike, Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore, Alabama’s Raekwon Davis, Baylor’s James Lynch and Ohio State’s Davon Hamilton.
No ambitious trade-up for Tua Tagovailoa ever materialized, and the Patriots passed on Jordan Love, who was available at No. 23. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Georgia’s Jake Fromm are two very different quarterbacks who both would make sense for New England on Day 2, likely in the third round. NESN.com’s Doug Kyed also mentioned Oregon State’s Jake Luton as a potential surprise third-round target. Florida International’s James Morgan, whom the Patriots reportedly have shown interest in, is projected as an early Day 3 pick but could rise.