In 2020, otherwise known as the “Cam Newton Year,” the Patriots basically were out of the playoff race by late December. Consequently, many fans shifted their focus toward the NFL draft and who/when New England could pick.
Well, history is repeating itself.
The 7-7 Patriots currently are on the outside looking into the playoffs with three games left. And, with those games coming against the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, it’s easy to envision New England finishing 7-10. Obviously, this isn’t where the Patriots expected to be in Year 2 of the Mac Jones era, but the reality is they are an average-at-best football team — and that’s reflected in their current draft position.
Here’s what the 2023 NFL Draft order would be if the season ended today:
1. Houston Texans (1-12-1)
2. Chicago Bears (3-11)
3. Seattle Seahawks (via 4-10 Denver Broncos)
4. Detroit Lions (via 4-10 Los Angeles Rams)
5. Arizona Cardinals (4-10)
6. Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)
7. Atlanta Falcons (5-9)
8. Carolina Panthers (5-9)
9. Philadelphia Eagles (via 5-9 New Orleans Saints)
10. Las Vegas Raiders (6-8)
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8)
12. Houston Texans (via 6-8 Cleveland Browns)
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)
14. Green Bay Packers (6-8)
15. Seattle Seahawks (7-7)
16. New England Patriots (7-7)
17. New York Jets (7-7)
18. Detroit Lions (7-7)
—–Teams currently in playoffs—–
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
20. Tennessee Titans (7-7)
21. Washington Commanders (7-6-1)
22. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)
23. Miami Dolphins — forfeited (tampering punishment)
24. New York Giants (8-5-1)
25. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
26. Denver Broncos (via 10-4 San Francisco 49ers)
27. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
28. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4)
29. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
30. Minnesota Vikings (11-3)
31. Buffalo Bills (11-3)
32. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1)
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As you can see, a top-10 pick is within reach for the Patriots. All the need to do is lose every game and get some wins from the teams above them.
That said, New England still controls its own destiny for a playoff spot. If it wins out, it’s guaranteed a spot in the postseason. So, there remains a slim chance the Patriots still end up picking in the 20s.
As for what kind of player they could target in the draft, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots not using their top pick to select a franchise offensive tackle.