NFL Free Agency has slowed significantly and that can mean only one thing: The 2022 NFL Draft is near.
The splash trade for DeVante Parker aside, the Patriots have remained relatively quiet throughout the free agency period. New England seems intent on building through the draft this offseason.
With the Patriots’ 2022 offseason approach in mind, it’s very important that the organization ace the upcoming NFL Draft. New England has numerous needs going into the draft following the offseason departures of multiple 2021 starters.
In this article, I want to take an in-depth look at the Patriots’ draft needs and rank them in order of significance.
(NOTE: Ranking goes from 12 to 1, with 12 being the lowest priority need and 1 being the highest priority need.)
Patriots’ Position Groups Ranked by Draft Need
Almost every postion group on an NFL roster could use additional depth, but there are instances in which there is simply zero need for an organization to draft a specific postion group.
For the 2022 Patriots, that position group would be quarterback. Mac Jones is the obvious starter for the foreseeable future and Brian Hoyer was re-signed to serve as the veteran backup. Additionally, the Patriots still have Jarrett Stidham under contract.
11. Special teams (Kicker and Punter)
The Patriots have reliable starters at both kicker and punter. Nick Folk and Jake Bailey are both very good at what they do. Spending a draft pick on either position seems unnecessary.
The only caveat would be if New England spends a late pick on a punter and cuts Bailey for some cap space. Otherwise, this isn’t a position in which a need exists.
10. Tight End
New England could use some proven depth at tight end, but it feels unlikely to come through the draft. The Patriots are already paying big money to Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Furthermore, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene are still on rookie contracts.
Henry was the only standout last season, but pouring any big-time draft resources into the tight position would not be ideal. Instead of drafting a tight end with a significant pick, the Patriots will instead hope to see better play from Smith and increased development of Asiasi and Keene.
9. Running back
As far as 2022 goes, the New England running back room seems to be in good hands. Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, James White, J.J. Taylor, and WR/RB hybrid Ty Montgomery make for a talented and versatile group.
That said, it’s important to note that Harris is in the last year of his rookie contract and James White is coming off a significant injury. Those two situations make it possible that the Patriots select a running back in day three of the NFL Draft. Even so, in comparison to other positions on the roster, running back feels pretty well off.
Safety isn’t a need as it pertains to the 2022 season, in fact, it’s a postion of strength. However, looking beyond this upcoming season reveals valid reasons why New England may target the safety postion in the mid-rounds of the NFL Draft.
Devin McCourty is seemingly playing year to year and Jabrill Peppers is on a one-year prove-it deal. Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger feel poised to stay in New England for the long-term, but with McCourty in the later stages of his career, the organization may look to add a developmental deep safety to the roster.
7. Interior defensive line
The interior defensive line is an interesting group. Christian Barmore shined in his rookie season and I expect his role will continue to expand in 2022. Beyond Barmore though, the Patriots lack high upside. Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux are solid enough veterans, but there’s not a lot of upside there, especially on passing downs.
New England could use another talented interior defensive lineman. That said, unless a prospect like Devonte Wyatt or Jordan Davis falls in round one, this feels more like something New England could address on day two or three of the NFL Draft.
New England released Kyle Van Noy earlier this offseason, which left a sizeable hole at the edge spot. Can Josh Uche or Ronnie Perkins fill that hole? It would be nice. However, it still feels like both players are set for rotational roles rather than the big role Van Noy had last season. That could change with a strong training camp though.
Nonetheless, the Patriots need to find someone to pair opposite Matthew Judon. Will that be through the draft, free agency, or Uche/Perkins? Only time will tell, but it’s undoubtedly a need the Patriots should consider addressing on day two or three of the draft.
5. Wide receiver
Despite the DeVante Parker trade, the Patriots should still look to add a young wideout to the roster. One reason being that you can never get your young quarterback enough weapons. New England should continually be adding more and more around Mac Jones as the Chargers have done for Justin Herbert and the Bills for Josh Allen.
Furthermore, wideout still ranks as a relatively high need, because Parker has struggled with injuries in the past, and Jakobi Meyers is scheduled to hit free agency in the 2023 offseason. The Patriots don’t need to draft a wideout in round one, but adding a wideout with a round two or three pick would be an ideal way to keep the wide receiver room stocked and your quarterback happy.
4. Offensive tackle
Yes, New England brought back Trent Brown, but offensive tackle remains a high need, espically for the long term of the position. Brown is signed through 2022 and 2023 but Isiah Wynn, starting left tackle, is a free agent after this upcoming season. If New England finds their future left tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft it would be a tremendous victory.
It’s also worth mentioning that Brown and Wynn have a well-documented history of injury struggles. If injuries to either one of the pair were to crop up again it would be nice if the Patriots could turn to a talented rookie to take over. If a tackle prospect they like falls to 21, I would not be shocked to see the Patriots take a tackle in round one.
Here is the Patriots’ current linebacker group: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Mack Wilson, Raekwon McMillan, Cameron McGrone, Jahlani Tavai, Harvey Langi, Terez Hall, and Anfernee Jennings.
There are some intriguing projects in there, but Bentley is the only guy you can truly count on starting as it sits right now. That leaves a big potential opportunity for a rookie to step in and play a big role.
The Patriots not only need linebackers, but they need fast linebackers. Luckily for them, the 2022 draft offers plenty of avenues to do that. Christian Harris, in particular, is a round two target out of Alabama that would fill the speed void that New England has been missing for years.
2. Offensive guard
Following the loss of Shaq Mason and Ted Karras, the Patriots need to find a starting guard opposite Michael Onwenu. It’s a pressing need, as New England needs to do all it can to protect their quarterback.
The good news is that Bill Belichick and the Patriots have had a lot of success finding productive guards in the mid-rounds of the NFL Draft. That doesn’t mean guard is any less of a need, but it does inspire confidence that they can fill that need by the time the 2022 season kicks off.
In my eyes, waiting to draft a guard outside of round one is the best option. As previously mentioned, Belichick has found starting NFL guards later in the NFL Draft before and there’s simply not enough positional value to warrant taking a guard at pick 21.
Taking into account positional value and the current depth chart, the corner position is the Patriots’ biggest need. New England lost J.C. Jackson in free agency and thus created the hole that currently exists at corner.
The position has some mid-level talent, but having no high-level corner talent in the NFL is a bad sign of things to come. It’s even more concerning when looking around the landscape of the AFC. Almost every team in the conference strengthened its passing offense this offseason. New England needs to counter that with a premium draft pick at the corner position. Trent McDuffie, Andrew Booth Jr., and Kaiir Elam are all potential targets.