Many questions have arisen following the Patriots heartbreaking (for some) loss against the Titans just a couple of weeks ago. Draft discussions in New England normally hold off until February. But, this year has given the fans and the front office time to think about the future of this team. Who are some of the top draft candidates that the Patriots should grab at pick 23?
So many important pieces to the Patriots have question marks above their head. That includes none other than Tom Brady. It’s hard to determine what direction this team should go. With the possibility of Tom Brady leaving still in play, the Patriots have got to take into account life without number 12. With that, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft must be weighing their options at the quarterback position in the draft.
However, I believe that Tom Brady will continue to be a Patriot until he retires, so I am basing this draft list off of that scenario. These are some top draft candidates for the New England Patriots, that they should consider come April (in no particular order).
Top Draft Candidates For the New England Patriots
Henry Ruggs III WR (Alabama)
Player Comparison: Tyreek Hill
Although his player comparison may seem a bit high, I do believe Henry Ruggs III has what it takes to be a top receiver in this league. As the NFL evolves, speed and big-play offense are starting to become a normalcy in this day and age. Ruggs blew away scouts with his 4.25 40-yard dash last March. For comparison, Hill has been unofficially recorded running a 4.21. A mere .04 difference. Ruggs has the ability to beat nearly any defender off the line, preventing many teams from playing press coverage and allowing his quarterback more open field to work with.
Ruggs broke out in his sophomore year and continued his astute play onto the next season. He combined for over 1400 receiving yards and found the endzone 18 times in those 26 games. Having played second fiddle to Jerry Jeudy for those two seasons, it’s impressive to see these numbers from a number two target.
Tom Brady and the Patriots have lacked a reliable deep threat for a good while now. The short stints that Josh Gordon had with the Pats showed exactly what could happen if Brady can develop true chemistry with a speedy deep threat. With the inevitable departure of Phillip Dorsett, New England needs to grab another receiver. With the assumption that a big trade (OBJ) will not be made this offseason, Ruggs is the perfect candidate. The Patriots shouldn’t pass on Ruggs if he slips, but he very well could be taken just a couple selections before New England. He remains one of my top draft candidates for the Patriots in 2020.
Cole Kmet TE (Notre Dame)
Player Comparison: Greg Olsen
The tight end position is hurting pretty bad in New England since the departure of Rob Gronkowski. A shuffling rotation of Benjamin Watson and Matt Lacosse seemed to be the go-to strategy later in the season. But, it was without a doubt a major factor in the Patriots disappointing finish. There aren’t many currently in the NFL, let alone in the draft that can replace Rob Gronkowski. But anything is better than what they have now.
I think Coel Kmet from Notre Dame fits the mold perfectly. His numbers from this season don’t amaze you, but he did grab six touchdowns in just 10 games with the Irish. At 6’5” 250lbs, Kmet is a force on the field. His ability to run routes and play pretty much anywhere in an offense is second to none. However, his blocking abilities have caused his stock to stay rather low. The Patriots do love to use their tight ends for a variety of purposes, but he is missing a key trait in relation to the New England offense.
I personally think his pass-catching ability is far better than any other tight end on the board this year and it should outweigh his lack of blocking ability. The Patriots can stop their tight end problems right here. But it may be a reach for Belichick, who hasn’t drafted a tight end in the first round since 2004 (Benjamin Watson).
Curtis Weaver LB (Boise State)
Player Comparison: Dee Ford
The Patriots front seven was decimated by Derrick Henry in the AFC Wild Card game. It’s a hidden weakness, but one that might need to be addressed. Weaver is more of an edge rusher, so his 4-3 capability is intriguing. He finished last season with 13.5 sacks, good enough for 1st in the Mountain West Conference (MWC). Weaver was also voted MWC Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.
He is without a doubt one of the best edge rushers in the draft and his ability to get to the quarterback is second to none. Although his tackling capabilities will look to be improved upon in his first season, he’s got the raw talent to be great in this league. The Patriots have three linebackers as UFA’s this upcoming offseason (Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts), and it’ll be tough to get all three of them to return. It wouldn’t be a bad move for Belichick to go out and grab some help on the defensive end, and focus his attention on the free agent and trade market around helping Tom Brady out.
The Mystery Remains
Bill Belichick has never been one to give any indication about his draft strategy and that remains true this year. They have some top draft candidates to choose from. It’s simply a matter of which one they choose. They have the ability to really move in any direction they would like. I think most of these decisions ride on Tom Brady’s future with the team. If he decides to stay, you need to do everything in your power to get him some help on the offensive side. If he decides to leave, you may want to switch your focus to the defensive side, built on what you already have, and figure the offense out in free agency.
Either way, it’ll be an interesting few months for New England. Quite possibly their most interesting offseason since “deflate-gate”, lies ahead.
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