Is the reign of the greatest dynasty in NFL history finally over? It didn’t seem possible that Tom Brady would ever play for a team not named the New England Patriots, but Brady signed a two-year deal to be the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady’s run, which included six Super Bowl wins, puts him in the conversation to be one of the best players to ever play in the NFL, and his departure leaves a lot of questions surrounding the Patriots.
Does Bill Belichick truly believe that Jarrett Stidham is the quarterback of the future? The answer to that question remains to be seen. However, living up to the legacy of Brady will be quite the challenge for Stidham, or anyone else for the matter. To add to the quarterback room, New England could go the route of signing a veteran, such as Cam Newton or Jameis Winston. Finding the Patriots’ solution to the departure of Brady will be intriguing.
Even with Brady, the Patriots looked like a shell of themselves. The wide receivers couldn’t get open, the offense lacked speed, and they just couldn’t seem to find their rhythm. Retooling the offense should be priority number one for the New England Patriots. Make no mistake about it, this is war between Brady and Belichick, as you can bet everything you have that these competitive men want to show the world that they can achieve the pinnacle of the sports world without the other man.
Team Needs: QB, TE, LB, WR, EDGE
Unless you’re a big believer in second-year quarterback Stidham, quarterback is undoubtedly the biggest need for the Patriots. Even though he is on the tail end of his career, Brady is still in the upper-echelon of quarterbacks in the league, and his departure leaves a void in leadership on the offensive side of the ball.
Since the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, the production at the tight end position has been horrific for the Patriots. Heading into 2019, the organization was so desperate to find a quality player at the position that they decided to sign Benjamin Watson for a second stint with the team. The Patriots will certainly be looking at options in April’s draft, with players such as Brycen Hopkins (Purdue), Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri), Adam Trautman (Dayton), and Cole Kmet (Notre Dame) making a great deal of sense.
Additionally, while the team still has Donta Hightower and Chase Winovich, there is no doubt that they took a big hit at the linebacker position, losing the likes of Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy to free agency. Belichick is a defensive guru who loves drafting talented players at the linebacker position.
Lastly, the Patriots’ wide receivers looked slow and couldn’t get open in 2019. While the group of Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, and N’Keal Harry offers reliable pass-catchers, the unit lacks speed in a big way. As it is well documented, the 2020 wide receiver group and the Patriots would be foolish if they didn’t take advantage of this.
Round 1, Pick 23: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
LSU linebacker Patrick Queen busted onto the scene in 2019. He brings tremendous speed to the linebacker group, possessing exceptional lateral movement ability. Queen can quickly diagnose plays, trigger even faster, and has sideline-to-sideline speed, allowing him to make plays all over the field. One thing that will separate Queen from the pack when it comes to the 2020 linebacker group is that he is the best cover linebacker not named Isaiah Simmons in this class. He is absolutely brilliant against the run, as he does a great job of shedding blocks and filling gaps.
There is no doubt that the Patriots have bigger needs than linebacker, but the explosive Queen has superstar qualities that will get even Belichick excited. With the Patriots likely to turn over the reigns of the offense to their 23-year old quarterback, they will have to rely heavily on their defense in 2020.
Round 3, Pick 87: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
As mentioned above, the Patriots’ tight end position has been a giant mess since Gronk retired. Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was once widely considered a first-round caliber prospect, but a pedestrian 2019 season had his draft stock on the decline. However, the NFL Scouting Combine allowed scouts to get a glimpse of the marvelous athleticism which Okwuegbunam brings to the table. Okwuegbunam was magnificent at the combine, running a jaw-dropping 4.49 40-yard dash, along with impressive measurables.
One common NFL comparison that you will find for Okwuegbunam is Jimmy Graham, as he possesses great size, outstanding length, and unparalleled leaping ability. The combination of size and athleticism that comes with Okwuegbunam is rare. He has good hands and his ability to leap makes him a tremendous threat in the red zone. He isn’t the perfect prospect, as he comes with durability concerns, as well as not being the best blocker, but he offers the most upside at the position in this draft class.
Round 3, Pick 98: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
When you watch Jake Fromm on tape, he will display traits that are very reminiscent of a New England Patriots’ quarterback. Fromm doesn’t possess great arm strength, however, he is smart, savvy, and poised under pressure. He is a true leader who is well respected by his teammates. Fromm is an accurate passer who consistently flashes the ability to throw with touch and anticipation. Let’s also not forget, Fromm is the player who chased Jacob Eason out of the University of Georgia. When Eason was the Bulldogs starting quarterback and went down with an injury, it was Fromm that replaced him and never relinquished the position.
The New England Patriots must have an insurance policy in case Stidham fails miserably. Even if they sign or trade for a veteran, having a young player to groom at the position is paramount. Fromm possesses qualities that ooze “The Patriot Way”, so this is a match made in heaven.
Round 3, Pick 100: K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
When you watched New England’s playoff game in which they were defeated by the Tennessee Titans, it was overwhelmingly apparent that the Patriots’ wide receivers just couldn’t get open. As it stands today, the group is just too slow to instill fear in opposing defenses. Enter K.J. Hill from Ohio State. Hill is quick, elusive, and a polished route runner. He would thrive in the slot in the New England passing attack, as he is a smooth operator in space. We know that Belichick and the Patriots’ front office are big fans of versatile players, and Hill brings that as an electric return man.
Round 4, Pick 125: Leki Fotu, DT, Utah
A true nose tackle is key to Belichick’s defense. Danny Shelton manned the position for New England in 2019, but he signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency, which leaves a big hole in the middle of the Patriots’ defense. Leki Fotu is a mammoth of a man who can eat blockers for breakfast, freeing up his teammates to make plays. For his size, Fotu possesses impressive quickness off the snap. Due to his immense size, it is hard for blockers to move him. Fotu is one of the most powerful prospects in the 2020 draft class, and he can immediately assume a starting role on the Patriots’ defense.
Round 5, Pick 172: Oluwole Betiku, Jr., EDGE, Illinois
There is no better team in the NFL when it comes to finding quality pass-rushers in the middle rounds of the NFL draft than the New England Patriots. They have been able to find studs such as Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise, Jr. in the mid-rounds of the NFL draft, and they hope to strike gold again with the selection of University of Illinois’ standout Oluwole Betiku, Jr.
Betiku was born and raised in Nigeria, so his path to the NFL was not easy. After a couple of seasons of disappointment, he enjoyed an impressive 2019 campaign for the Fighting Illini, as he was able to account for an outstanding 9 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. He is raw and has a lot to learn, but the ceiling is high for the athletic defender.
Round 6, Pick 195: Charlie Taumoepeau, TE, Portland State
Okwuegbunam alone is not enough to fix the tight end position for the New England Patriots. Charlie Taumoepeau is the prototypical “H-back”, as he possesses the combination of size and speed that creates mismatches. At the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Taumoepeau displayed outstanding athleticism and promise as a blocker.
With the selections of Okwuegbunam and Taumoepeau, the Patriots have added dynamic and athletic playmakers to the tight end position.
Round 6, Pick 204: Josiah Scott, CB, Michigan State
The Patriots have the best cornerback in the NFL in Stephon Gilmore. They have some quality players opposite of Gilmore in Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty, but it would be wise to start injecting some youth into the group. The selection of Josiah Scott adds some depth and an intriguing developmental project to the cornerback group.
Round 6, Pick: 212: Danny Pinter, OL, Ball State
In a surprise move, the New England Patriots applied the franchise tag to Joe Thuney. Thuney is a tremendous player, probably one of the five best offensive guards in football, so keeping him around was a smart move. Rumors have been floating around that the Patriots may try to trade Thuney leading up to the draft, so it will be interesting to see if he is on the team come April 22nd.
The Patriots need depth along the entire offensive line. Ball State’s Danny Pinter is a versatile player, boasting the ability to play both guard and tackle along the offensive line. He is extremely athletic, starting his career at Ball State as a tight end. Instantly, Pinter provides quality depth and could develop into a starter down the road.
Round 6, Pick 213: Yasir Durant, OT, Missouri
The Patriots continue to add depth to the offensive line. This time, they select the athletic offensive tackle from Missouri, who plays with great length and toughness. Durant has the raw tools to be a future starting right tackle in the NFL but will need some coaching and development. Luckily for the Patriots, they have one of the best offensive line coaches on the planet.
Round 7, Pick 230: Jalen Elliott, S, Notre Dame
The Patriots will be on the lookout for a safety to replace Duron Harmon. Harmon was traded to the Detroit Lions for a late 2020 draft pick. Jalen Elliott was a three-year starter for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He is a physical football player that knows his assignments and executes them well. Elliott has a high football IQ and should provide extra value as a core special teamer.
Round 7, Pick 241: Tyler Bass, K, Georgia Southern
Brady isn’t the only Patriots’ legend that won’t be back with the team in 2020. Long-tenured kicker Stephen Gostkowski was released by the Patriots after a disappointing 2019 season. His departure leaves a void at kicker, which the strong-legged Tyler Bass can fill.