With the rush of free agency in the rearview mirror it is time to focus in on the NFL Draft, specifically team draft needs. In this article, we look at the New England Patriots draft needs for 2016 as we approach the April 28th 1st round from Chicago. New England went into the off-season with a few needs and were very calm when Free Agency happened. Then everything changed. They traded Chandler Jones away, bringing in Jonathan Cooper and a 2nd round pick from Arizona for the Pro Bowl defensive end. They signed Chris Long and Donald Brown to plug some gaps and it threw most draft expectations out. So what are we left with?
Adding Jonathan Cooper, the seventh overall pick of the 2013 draft, was a good start but his pre-draft promise never materialised in Arizona. He can’t be expected to step in right away and be Logan Mankins 2.0. The Patriots also need help at tackle; They’ll get Nate Solder back for 2016 but Sebastian Vollmer and the cast of others who filled in were not impressive. They gave Tom Brady very little time against Denver in the AFC Championship Game and that is something that will need close examination going forward.
Dion Lewis will return to be the receiving threat but LeGarrette Blount is unlikely to be bought back. Donald Brown isn’t going to be setting the world alight so the Patriots could really use a new back. It’s unlikely they follow their 2011 draft and take a pair of them on day 2 of the draft, but with that extra 2nd round pick it’s possible at least one will be spent upgrading the offensive backfield.
Chandler Jones was undoubtedly the Patriots top pass rusher, so his departure hurts. They still have Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard and have added the veteran Chris Long but with Sheard in his final year and both Ninkovich & Long the wrong side of 30 they could use some fresh blood in their pass rushing arsenal. Not having a first round pick as a consequence of the Deflategate scandal will hurt New England but if any team is equipped to overcome this issue it is the Patriots as Bill Belichick is well versed in finding solid contributors in the middle rounds of the draft.