What the Patriots didn’t do in the 2020 NFL Draft, and one thing they definitely got right


There’s naturally a lot of attention being paid to a certain generational quarterback leaving the Patriots this offseason and rightfully so. However, one of the biggest detriments to New England’s play in 2019 was not a 42-year-old quarterback, who had his eyes on hitting free agency for the first time in his career. Far from it, in fact. 

Really, the Patriots failed to live up to their Super Bowl expectations last year partly due to the generational talent that walked out the door in the offseason prior in tight end Rob Gronkowski. With his retirement and the team’s subsequent failed attempt to replace him, New England went from arguably having the biggest mismatch at the position in the entire NFL to zero production whatsoever. Veteran Ben Watson led the position group with just 17 receptions and 173 yards for the entire season. To future illuminate that disparity, Gronkowski had the ability to put up most of those totals in a single game and went over 140 yards receiving nine times throughout his career (including playoffs). 

Addressing that position was a clear mission for Bill Belichick as he stood next to his dog Nike in his Nantucket home and, for the first time since the 2010 draft where New England picked both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots double-dipped at tight end. 

The 2020 draft is in the books and that means it’s time for grades. Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends grade how all 16 AFC teams did; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.

The team used third-round selections to bring in UCLA’s Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech. Asiasi appears to be the more traditional receiving tight end, who caught 44 passes for 641 yards and four touchdowns at UCLA last season. As for Keene, he’s an H-back more than anything. Along with lining up at the familiar tight end spot, he’s also been in the backfield as well. He’s a bit more of a project but does have the potential to be used in a similar style to Hernandez during his playing days with New England, which features moments lining up in the backfield and in the slot along with a more traditional in-line tight end. 

Of course, trying to compare either of these two prospects to the home run draft the Patriots hit by adding talents like Gronkowski and Hernandez in 2010 is unfair. That said, addressing this spot by taking a couple of swings with valuable third-round selections is a strong step in the right direction for New England as they try to have a more dynamic passing attack in 2020. 

Now that we’ve tipped our cap to one thing that the Patriots did right at the draft, let’s dive a bit deeper at some things they didn’t do and may need addressing as we move forward into this offseason. 

1. Draft a QB to possibly replace Tom Brady

Despite the talk of Bill Belichick possibly taking all of his draft capital, strapping it next to franchised left guard Joe Thuney and using all that to launch up into the Top-5 of the draft to select Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa to be the franchise’s quarterback going forward, none of that came to be. In fact, the Patriots elected to punt on the quarterback position entirely. There were opportunities for New England to acquire the likes of Jordan Love, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, Jalen Hurts and others throughout various points in the draft, but the team decided to go in a different direction and address more pressing needs on the roster. 

Bill Belichick noted “that wasn’t by design,” but it’s hard not to look at this as a major vote of confidence in second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Just by looking at the club’s decisions at this draft, they feel like he’s at least better than current Packers draftee Jordan Love or they would have taken him at No. 23 overall instead of trading out. 

“Jarrett had a good year last year,” Belichick said after the draft. “He improved a lot. We’ll see where that takes him.”

There’s always a chance that New England swings for the fences and goes after some of the veteran quarterbacks that are still to be had on the market (Cam Newton Andy Dalton, etc.), but the club’s lack of aggressiveness at the quarterback spot is telling in how they feel about Stidham heading into 2020. Whether or not they are right to be confident in him remains to be seen. 

2. Take a WR in what is considered to be a legendary class

For 2020, the Patriots have solid group of receivers with Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry headlining the unit. That’s not a terrible trio at all, but it is one with a rather short shelf life. Edelman will be 34-years old by the start of the 2020 season and Sanu is entering the final year of his current contract. 

Given that this class was pegged to have historic depth to it at wide receiver, it would have been wise for the Patriots to dip their toe into the wide receiver waters at some point on Day 2 or Day 3 with the likes of Van Jefferson, K.J. Hamler or Tyler Johnson. Not only would that give the 2020 club some much-needed depth, but it’d also ensure a solid foundation for Stidham or whoever is under center in the years to come. 

3. Address offensive tackle

The Patriots did have some needs along the front seven of the defense along with a sneaky need at safety, which they addressed with their first handful of picks. Another sneaky draft need that New England could have been addressed was offensive tackle. They did take Justin Herron out of Wake Forest in the sixth round, but we’re talking more of a valuable draft selection being spent at the position. 

The team has an out in starting right tackle Marcus Cannon’s contract after this season that could clear around $6 million in cap space. Meanwhile, 2018 first-round pick and starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn has struggled at times to stay healthy throughout his early career, so there is some uncertainty with both tackle spots going forward. 

The offensive line is also set to go through a transition period, specifically atop the masthead with coach Dante Scarnecchia retiring. On the personnel side, left guard Joe Thuney’s future with the team is a bit murky as trade rumors have already started flowing as the team has struggled to find a middle ground in contract negotiations. On top of that, center David Andrews is trying to come back to the league after missing all of last year after blood clots were found in his lungs. 

The Patriots were never going to get one of the top-tier offensive tackles in the draft, but there were opportunities to select Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson at No. 23 before trading out or looking to the likes of Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones on Day 2. By taking someone like that higher in the draft, it would have given that team some more options at a key spot as they enter an uncertain future for the unit.





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