Patriots

Here are Patriots' options at tight end with T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant off the board

Here are Patriots' options at tight end with T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant off the board

The two top-tier tight ends in the 2019 NFL Draft are off the board.

Iowa's T.J. Hockenson went eighth overall to the Detroit Lions and his teammate Noah Fant went 20th to the Denver Broncos.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Patriots are SOL in the TE department.

There’s Alabama’s Irv Smith, Dawson Knox from Ole Miss, Jace Sternberger from Texas A&M, Kahale Warring from San Diego State and Foster Moreau from LSU all remaining on the board. Within that group alone there’s a variety of talents the Patriots can target. And all should be on the board at No. 32 and into Friday.

Meanwhile, there’s been no run at all on wide receivers yet. All are still on the board so, with the bottom tier of the first round closing in, we’ll see if Bill Belichick is interested in veering off his “no first-round wideout” philosophy.

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Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

With or without Tom Brady at quarterback, those traditional complaints about the Patriots having an easy schedule will likely die down a bit next season.

Yes, there's still the AFC East for the Pats to feast on, but based on their opponents' records in 2019, New England has the NFL's toughest schedule in 2020. 

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Patriots opponents had a .537 winning percentage in 2019. Dates and times will be released as usual in mid-April, but the opponents have been known for a while and they include the two Super Bowl teams (the champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road and the runner-up San Francisco 49ers at home) and five other games against teams that made the playoffs (the Buffalo Bills home and away, at the Seattle Seahawks, at the Houston Texans and home vs. the Baltimore Ravens).

The Pats are matched up with the AFC West and NFC West for non-division opponents, which throws some coast-to-coast trips in the mix. It also puts New England's AFC East rivals right up there with the toughest schedules, as well, with the Jets second, the Miami Dolphins third and the Bills the fifth-toughest. 

The team with the easiest schedule next season? It's the one that won the most regular-season games (14) last season and earned the AFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs: the Baltimore Ravens. Their opponents had a combined .437 winning percentage last season. 

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs' Instagram activity sparks Patriots trade speculation

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs' Instagram activity sparks Patriots trade speculation

One of the New England Patriots' primary focuses this offseason will be to add weapons to an offense that lacked its usual explosiveness in the 2019 season.

There are plenty of options on the free agent market that could help the Patriots in that regard, but they also could look to improve their roster via trade. In fact, one particular star wide receiver appears to be placing himself on the trade block.

On Tuesday, Minnesota Vikings star Stefon Diggs removed all Vikings-related content from his Instagram page. That means no Vikings photos or videos, and no mention of the organization in his "bio" section.

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Predictably, that sparked plenty of "Diggs-to-the-Pats" speculation on social media.

And there's much more where that came from.

Making a move to add a top-tier wideout like Diggs not only would give the Patriots' receiving corps a much-needed boost, it also could entice soon-to-be free agent Tom Brady to stay in New England. The 42-year-old quarterback is set to officially hit free agency on March 18.

As for Diggs, he has four years remaining on his contract and the Vikings' asking price would be reasonably high. The 26-year-old caught 63 passes for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns in 2019.

Is there a chance this is nothing and we're all reading way too much into social media? Of course. But it wouldn't be an NFL offseason if we didn't have this kind of drama to talk about.