When the NFL Draft begins selections in Arlington, Tex., April 26, the New England Patriots have the No. 23 pick in the first round.
Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com’s experts.
Who would you pick and why?
TOP 5 NEEDS
- Tackle: Left tackle Nate Solder’s free-agent departure and the fact that 2016 top pick (third round) Antonio Garcia missed his entire rookie season on reserve/non-football illness with blood clots in his lungs has left New England with no real options at the most important line spot. It’s not a great class of tackles, but the Patriots might need to find one who can step in and play as a rookie on one of the NFL’s top passing attacks.
- Pass rusher: Adrian Clayborn is a solid defensive end addition, but not an impact pass rusher. It’s not a strong class of edge talent, but finding a guy with at least rotational pass-rush ability is a goal in Foxborough.
- Quarterback: The 40-year-old MVP Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger and there is now doubt he’s still driven to play until he’s 45. In a top-heavy quarterback class, the Patriots could have strong interest in finding the developmental heir after trading away impressive young backup Jimmy Garoppolo last fall.
- Linebacker: Given Dont’a Hightower’s durability issues and Elandon Roberts’ limitations, New England would love to add an athletic off-the-ball linebacker with three-down capabilities.
- Tight end: Rob Gronkowski admitted after the Super Bowl that he was pondering his professional future. New England doesn’t have a pass-catching backup or a guy with the capability of taking on a bigger role if/when Gronk isn’t an option.
–BEST FIT: Connor Williams, T, Texas. Though some think Williams actually might be better suited at guard, others see him as an NFL-ready top left tackle. Need may trump true value and Williams might be the best option to step in and play as a rookie at New England’s biggest hole on the depth chart.
–Rob Rang: Kolton Miller, T, UCLA. Proving that there is more than one way to make his future Hall of Fame quarterback happy, head coach Bill Belichick nabs a massive, long-armed left tackle to take the place of Nate Solder with the selection picked up in the Brandin Cooks trade. Miller is a polarizing prospect but his height, length and athleticism would fit well in New England’s pass-heavy scheme.
–Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. With Malcom Butler now in Tennessee, Belichick will be on the lookout for another playmaking cornerback with Jackson — who led the country with eight interceptions in 2017 — a logical candidate for the perimeter.
–Dane Brugler: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. Wide receiver isn’t at the top of New England’s needs list, but the Patriots have shown steady interest in the talented wideout, who has the raw talent to develop into a true NFL No. 1 receiving threat.
–Kolton Miller, T, UCLA. With Nate Solder no longer in New England, Miller will likely appeal to the Patriots, who is very similar to Solder as a prospect thanks to his rare size/athleticism combo.
FANS ON THE CLOCK, ON THE RECORD
OK, it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.