The New England Patriots just concluded their worst season in two decades.
In fact, this is their first year since 2000 without Tom Brady, and their first time missing the playoffs since 2002; there is no denying the Patriots have a lot of holes to fill.
The Patriots were a top 7 team in points allowed, only allowing 22.1 points per game; at the same time they were a bottom 7 team in yards gained, only gaining 327 yards per game.
As long as New England focuses on signing their defensive free agents, they should be fine, as some of their stars did not play in 2020, and they were still the 6th best defensive team.
The Patriots need substantial offensive help and that’s where we will be looking as we head toward the 2021 draft.
Let’s look at 3 of the biggest draft needs the Patriots should seek to bring their team back into the spotlight.
Let’s face it, Cam Newton was a cool test run, but he is not the long-term, or even short-term, solution.
Newton is set to become a free agent this off-season and even if he came back, he is not the quarterback of the future for New England.
It looks like Cam Newton is going to be a free agent again and searching for a new home after leaving the Patriots.@Brentley12 breaks down his 3 best fits for Cam in 2021.#FrontOffice33 | #DaBears | #FTTB | #WashingtonFootballhttps://t.co/bsl5BScygf
— The Draft Network (@TheDraftNetwork) January 4, 2021
There are a few ways the Patriots could go with this.
Free agency/Trade Options
The first option would be signing or trading for a proven veteran that can replace Brady immediately.
Deshaun Watson is the first player that comes to mind; a young superstar playmaker that will boost the team to the next level and beyond, but what will it cost?
No doubt Watson is a top 5 QB, but is he worth 2 or maybe even 3 first-round draft picks when they can draft someone like Justin Fields or Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick?
I go more into depth about Watson and his worth in my article about the Jets’ offseasons here.
NFL personnel unanimous: Acquiring Deshaun Watson in a trade would take at least three first-round picks. https://t.co/lOVvnZnewc
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 20, 2021
Stafford has a big contract and is almost 33 years old, and Wentz has not exactly proven himself after coming off of his worst year yet.
My favorite solution for the Patriots would be to acquire Gardner Minshew who is cheap, young, smart, and talented.
In 8 games Minshew boasted a 66.1 completion percentage, a 16 to 5 TD-INT ratio, and was on track for over 4,000 yards with very little receiver help.
Minshew is the perfect man for Bill Belichick, as Belichick could mold Minshew into whatever he needs him to be.
With the 15th overall pick, options will probably be limited, but not empty for the Patriots.
Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Zach Wilson will probably be off the table unless a miracle happens.
That leaves Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance out of the top 5 QBs that are projected first-rounders; the difference between these two is Jones is a distributor and Lance is a playmaker.
Jones achieved a 77.4% completion percentage, 4500 passing yards, a 41 to 4 TD-INT ratio, but only 14 rushing yards on 25 attempts, making him your perfect pocket passer, aka The Distributor.
Lance had a 66.9% completion percentage, 2786 passing yards, a 28 to 0 TD-INT ratio, and 1100 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns on 169 attempts, making him the ideal dual-threat quarterback, aka The Playmaker.
Both players have only started one year at their respective universities, but Jones is 22 and Lance is only 20.
With the offensive weapons the team has, as well as how Belichick runs the offense, this team needs The Playmaker, Lance.
Breaking: North Dakota State QB Trey Lance (@treylance09) is declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft. He tells @YahooSports he's leaving NDSU to focus on training. Lance is a projected first-round pick and the most intriguing prospect in the upcoming draft. https://t.co/Gr1qiOnf7w
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) October 6, 2020
2. Wide Receiver
New England should look towards a receiver with their 2nd round pick.
The only exception the Patriots should make to taking a QB is if Lance is gone and Kyle Pitts, Devonta Smith, or Ja’Marr Chase fall to the 15th pick; then they could take a QB in the second or get one of the trade/free-agent options.
Otherwise, they should put all their focus on a talent who can catch the ball from their shiny new passer with the 46th overall pick.
There is a large gap between the top 3 (Chase, Smith, and Jaylen Waddle) and everyone else, with the top 3 being top 20 picks and the others projected to go after the first round.
One player that comes to mind is Terrace Marshall Jr., who has been in the shadow of Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase for years at LSU.
After Chase opted out of the 2020 season, Marshall took the responsibility of becoming the #1 receiver in Baton Rouge.
Marshall had 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns with below-average QB play.
Marshall also only played 7 of his 10 games after opting out for the draft; before, that he was on pace for over 1000 yards.
Another option would be Kadarius Toney, the flashy prospect out of Florida with a lot of speed who can play out of multiple positions.
Toney can play on the outside, in the slot, take balls from the backfield, and return punts and kicks.
Most touchdowns from the slot in 2020:
🔸 Jaelon Darden, North Texas – 16
🔸 DeVonta Smith, Alabama – 13
🔸 Kadarius Toney, Florida – 9
🔸 Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU – 8 pic.twitter.com/m1jpKF7csE
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 20, 2021
Toney caught 70 passes for 984 touchdowns and 10 touchdowns while having 19 rush attempts for 191 yards and 1 touchdown, totaling 1145 yards from scrimmage.
Both receivers would be great talents for the Patriots to pick up in the 2nd round.
3. Offensive Guard
New England allowed 37 sacks last year, the 14th most in the league.
You might be thinking, “That’s not that bad.”
You also have to realize they are probably losing their best offensive lineman, Joe Thuney, to free-agency.
After today’s game, one Patriots player took a seat on the logo at midfield to soak it all in. It looked like Joe Thuney to me, which would make sense given his impending status as a free agent, but hard to tell from far away.
(Photo by Joe Kiernan) pic.twitter.com/nRBnjtwtsQ
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 4, 2021
The Patriots need to address their offensive line to help their new QB/WR duo, as the offense completely depends on the success of its line.
New England also had to forfeit their 3rd round pick due to filming the sideline during a Bengals game, as well as $1.1 million dollars, so we will be looking at the fourth round for this pick.
My absolute favorite choice here is Aaron Banks, a 6’5, 330-pound guard out of Notre Dame.
Banks only allowed 2 sacks out of 844 snaps for the Fighting Irish, with great size, strong run blocking, as well as reliable pass protection for the past two years.
I do not see a better fit for the Patriots with the 111th overall pick.