INDIANAPOLIS -- As an NFL franchise, you never want to be picking near the top-10 if you can avoid it. Obviously. But this might be about as bad a year as any to find yourself in that situation.
Picks No. 10-32, I was told by one senior evaluator, look like they're going to result in similarly-talented players this year. You might even be able to start higher than that, I was told. The Lions at No. 8, for instance, could be taking a player whose grade will be similar to that of someone coming off the board 20 picks later.
Not ideal for those teams drafting high and looking for a franchise-altering player.
From a Patriots perspective, though, that's not the worst news in the world. Sure, the odds on a top-level talent sliding all the way to them at No. 32 are next to zero, but that's something they're used to. More importantly, it means that the second tier of players available this year looks relatively deep. It may even extend a few picks beyond No. 32.
That should give Bill Belichick and his front office -- they of the famously small draft boards, as picky a team as there is in the league -- plenty of options. They could make a pick, or if they feel like a similarly-graded player could be had at the top of the second round, they could make a deal to move out.
A trade back might be logical if they have future drafts mind. They already have 12 picks and six in the top 101 this spring. It's highly unlikely the Patriots take 12 players this year, and so adding more draft capital to their cache of picks in 2019 wouldn't make much sense. But if Belichick traded back in return for ammo to use next year, when the draft class might be deeper? Feels like there would be some merit to that line of thinking.
Additionally, a draft class that is top heavy this spring and deep through the majority of the first round would seem to make a trade up by the Patriots from No. 32 less likely. If that's how their board is structured, and if they hold to that, why spend picks to move up into the teens if the player who may fall to you later in the night has a similar grade? Perhaps a trade from second-round picks No. 56 or 64 -- deals that might allow the Patriots to capitalize on that late-first depth -- would be sensible.
Which players might be available to the Patriots at No. 32 if they want to hold tight to the last pick of Day 1? We mocked Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence to New England at that spot recently. Versatile Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson could be an option. The Patriots have also taken close looks at the tight end class this year, which includes Iowa's T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant as well as Alabama's Irv Smith -- all of whom could end up first-rounders.
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