Faced with a tighter budget, Belichick will seek help at LB, WR, OL and corners for Pats in draft

Published: 04/22/2022 18:44:57

Modified: 04/22/2022 18:43:41

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots were one of the biggest spenders in free agency during the 2020 offseason, uncharacteristically shelling out big deals to plug holes on both sides of the ball.

Because of that, they entered this offseason with a much tighter grip on the wallet.

That means Bill Belichick will look to the draft to bolster a roster that still needs young people all over the court, especially at linebacker, receiver, offensive line and cornerback.

One of the reasons the Patriots were so successful during the Belichick era was because they were able to maintain a core of players who adapted to New England culture. These players just haven’t always made it through the draft, where Belichick has had his share of duds.

The Patriots’ approach underwent adjustments ahead of this year’s draft. Not necessarily because of an overall adjustment in philosophy, but because changes in the college game have resulted in an NFL pipeline that is simply producing different types of players than it has in years.

“We are always evaluating all of our processes and how we evaluate different positions. There’s never any ‘Oh, OK, well, that’s how we do things’,” said new director of player personnel Matt Groh. “We’re constantly trying to evolve and adapt and trying to find better ways, more efficient ways to do that.”

That will be especially true at linebacker, a position New England will focus on as they try to rejuvenate and gain momentum after their first return to the playoffs since the departure of Tom Brady that ended a loss in the round of jokers.

“It’s a different game than it was 20, 30, 40 years ago, and that player has changed as well. There aren’t as many of these big linebackers, they just don’t exist” “Colleges want them smaller because they have to be able to adapt to the college game. So you can’t just create these guys from scratch, and so that’s the case with all positions.” that’s what the college game gives us, we just have to take what they’re going to give us year after year.

New England enters the draft with eight overall picks, including the 21st pick in the first round. Possible early targets include linebacker Nakobe Dean, receiver Kyle Philips and cornerback Andrew Booth.

Alabama pipeline: Belichick hasn’t been shy about signing players who have gone through the program of his friend and Alabama coach, Nick Saban.

New England selected the Crimson Tide players with its first two picks in 2021, grabbing quarterback Mac Jones and defensive lineman Christian Barmore. This was the third straight draft the Patriots have taken at least one player from Alabama.

Alabama’s prospect list isn’t as long as in years past, but wide receivers John Metchie and Jameson Williams could be possibilities.

Looking forward: Jones and Barmore’s success in last year’s draft was one of the best New England had under Belichick. But some of the recent early round misses (Cyrus Jones 2016, Derek Rivers 2017, N’Keal Harry 2019) are eating away at team owner Robert Kraft.

In league meetings last month, he said improving his team’s draft shortcomings was the priority.

“More than anything, it bothers me that we haven’t been able to win a playoff game in the last three years,” Kraft said. “I’m happy that we had, I think, a great draft last year. Compensated for what happened in the previous four years. I look forward to having a good draft this year. This is the only way to build your team long term and have a good chance of winning consistently. »

Merchant invoice: New England have been known to come back in later rounds of the draft. While they’re expected to make more picks than in the past, that probably won’t stop them from making a trade or two to add additional players or picks.

In Belichick’s 22 seasons, 2004 was the only year the team did not execute at least one draft-day trade.

Comments are closed.