The Patriots’ biggest needs in the 2020 NFL Draft

Tight end and quarterback stand out.

Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. AP


With only a few days left until the 2020 NFL Draft, which will now be held completely virtually, the Patriots will soon be on the clock in what is turning into a crucial draft for a franchise that is looking to rebuild on the fly, and quickly, after an offseason that has brought about a ton of change already.

As the Patriots look to enter into a new era of football in Foxborough, they find themselves in an unfamiliar situation with several glaring needs on the current roster that need to be addressed in the draft this year. With a total of 12 draft picks, including four in the top 100, New England will have a chance to replenish the team with some talented, young players heading into 2020. But with so many holes on their roster, it will be a delicate balancing act deciding which positions to prioritize.


Here’s our take on what the team’s biggest needs are heading into this year’s NFL Draft.

Tight End

New England failed to properly address the position after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement last offseason, and they paid for it, finishing last in the NFL in tight end receptions and targets.

This year’s draft doesn’t have the same quality or depth at tight end as in 2019, as Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet is the only top talent at the position this year. But his physical profile (6’5”, 262 pounds) and ability as a blocker and pass-catcher could make him an attractive player to New England in the first round, as they look to fill the Gronkowski-sized hole.

If New England decides to wait until later in the draft to address the position, Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) and Adam Trautman (Dayton) are two names to watch to be taken with any of New England’s trio of third-round picks.


Next to tight end, this is the position with the weakest depth on the team currently, with Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley the only starting-caliber linebackers on the team right now. With Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts all leaving as free agents, the Patriots need an injection of youth and speed at this position.


With Hightower and Bentley both being more physical ‘backers who like a smash-mouth, downhill style of play, the team could use an athletic linebacker who fits the mold more of a Collins-type player who can play up on the line or off of it, and be able to cover running backs and tight ends downfield as well.

One variable for the team to consider is the presence of Adrian Phillips, who can play linebacker in sub packages. But if the Patriots want to address the position in the draft, Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray, at 6’2”, 241 pounds, projects to a similar role as Collins does, and has the speed and athleticism to match Collins as well.

Bill Belichick has always been one to prioritize the linebacker position early on in drafts, and Murray could be the franchise’s next mainstay at the linebacker position, and would provide much-needed athleticism and play-making ability at the position in 2020.

Defensive Tackle

After being run over by Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, and after losing Danny Shelton in free agency, the Patriots could really use some more size in the middle of their defensive line. With Lawrence Guy and Beau Allen projecting as the starters at the position as of now, the team could use a lineman who is a force against the run and can occupy multiple blockers up front, like Shelton did in his time with New England.


Utah’s Leki Fotu (6’5”, 330 pounds) or Alabama’s Raekwon Davis (6’7”, 311 pounds) could be options outside of the first round for New England to consider, with both having massive frames and carrying reputations as being stout in the run game.


The team releasing third-string quarterback Cody Kessler a couple of weeks ago was as clear an indicator as any that the team intends to draft a quarterback again this year.

With Jarrett Stidham expected to be given every opportunity to win the starting job in training camp, it would be surprising to see New England select a quarterback high up in the draft, but it can’t be ruled out.

Instead, expect the team to make another developmental pick in the middle rounds like they did with Stidham in the fourth round last year. The team will need to groom a new quarterback to take over for Brian Hoyer at the backup position in a year or two anyways, and if Stidham takes a step back in 2020 and fails to establish himself as the No. 1 option at the position for New England, drafting a rookie will provide another layer of protection for the Patriots at the position.

Florida International QB James Morgan’s name picked up steam this past week after it was revealed that he had a virtual visit with the Patriots. Jake Fromm (Georgia) and Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) are other names that could be waiting for the team in the middle of the draft that would be solid developmental selections with upside, with Hurts being able to make more plays with his feet than Fromm, and Fromm being the more accurate and poised passer overall.

Edge Rusher

New England has plenty of depth at the position currently, with Chase Winovich and John Simon currently projecting to be the starting edge rushers in a 3-4 base defense, and Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland, and Dietrich Wise providing depth behind those two players. But what they have in depth, they lack in pure talent. The Patriots could really use a more athletic, powerful edge rusher in the Chandler Jones-type mold; someone who is capable of making plays consistently in the run and pass game and can inflict his will on opposing tackles.


Most conversations I hear about what the Patriots need heading into 2020 leave out the fact that they don’t have a kicker on their roster right now. With free agent options at the position extremely shallow, the team will almost certainly need to address the position in the draft.


Luckily, the team has four sixth-round picks, and three seventh-round picks, so they should have the ammo to draft either Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship or Georgia Southern’s Tyler Bass, widely considered to be the top two kickers in this year’s draft.


In a normal year, one without a roster with several weaknesses, Belichick would be able to draft for the future, and select a young safety to learn and develop under Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung.

With McCourty and Chung both turning 33 in August, the team could really use a young safety (or two), especially after the team unloaded Duron Harmon’s contract to the Detroit Lions for salary cap purposes.

Besides McCourty, New England doesn’t have much depth at the free safety position, placing a heavy burden on the aging McCourty to play a large bulk of the snaps back there in 2020. Adrian Phillips has the ability to play as a true free safety, and back up McCourty, but he projects more to the box safety/linebacker hybrid role that Chung currently plays.

Cal’s Ashtyn Davis is one player whose tape is similar to Harmon’s at Rutgers. The safety has good range, ball skills, and toughness, and would be an ideal successor to McCourty as a true free safety.

Wide Receiver

On paper, Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, and N’Keal Harry are a solid wide receiver corps. But Edelman will be 33 years old in 2020, Sanu is coming off of offseason ankle surgery and is still a candidate to be released or traded this offseason, and Harry is still a question mark after a shaky rookie season that saw him play in only seven games after suffering a hamstring injury in the preseason against the Detroit Lions.


With Jarrett Stidham needing all the help he can get, it would be smart for the team to give him another toy to play with out on the field. New England still needs more speed at the position, and players like KJ Hamler (Penn State) or Denzel Mims (Baylor) would help the team’s downfield passing attack and let Stidham show off the pretty deep ball that he is capable of throwing.

Offensive Line

With the left side of the line set for the future with Isaiah Wynn at left tackle and Joe Thuney (if he isn’t traded) at left guard, and Shaq Mason entrenched as the team’s starting right guard, the team could use some depth at the center position. Ted Karras left for Miami and David Andrews continues to work his way back from being put on IR last season with blood clots. At right tackle, 31-year-old Marcus Cannon continues to deal with one or two nagging injuries seemingly every year at this point.

Two wild cards for the team that could effectively serve as draft picks for this year’s team are 2019 third-round pick Yodny Cajuste and 2019 fourth-round pick Hjalte Froholdt, both of whom missed the entire season with injuries.

Froholdt is an impressive yet raw offensive guard, who played left guard at Arkansas. It’s possible that the team could try him out at center this summer, to provide insurance to the team in case Andrews can’t regain his form prior to developing blood clots in his lungs last summer.


Cajuste serves as depth at both tackle positions, but especially at right tackle behind Cannon.

If the team isn’t confident in either player to provide depth on the offensive line in 2020, they could invest a draft pick in either an interior lineman or a tackle, to make sure whoever is playing quarterback for the team in 2020 is well-protected.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on