Defense was the New England Patriots’ strong suit for the majority of the 2019 NFL season.
That’s poised to continue in the upcoming campaign, but some voids will need to be filled if the unit wants to remain among the league’s best.
Free agency hit the Patriots defense hard this offseason, as several key players found new homes outside of Foxboro. While New England’s secondary underwent few changes, the same can’t be said for the front seven. With this in mind, Mel Kiper Jr. in his latest mock draft has the Patriots addressing a major need in the first round by selecting Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun.
“It’s really tough to predict what Bill Belichick is going to do in a draft, but we know that he likes versatile front-seven pieces,” Kiper wrote for ESPN. “That’s Baun, who broke out for the Badgers last season with 12.5 sacks and 19.5 total tackles for loss. The Patriots lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts in free agency, so Baun fills a need. Since it appears New England is happy with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer at quarterback, I’ll stay away from that position.”
Kiper isn’t the only analyst who expects the Patriots to go the defensive route at No. 23. His ESPN colleague, Todd McShay, and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah both have New England taking Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, while NFL.com’s Lance Zierlien and Chad Reuter see Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos as the ideal fit.
We’ll have our answer soon enough, as the 2020 NFL Draft will kick off next Thursday, April 23.