With where the Patriots sit roster-wise, the ideal draft situation would be for them to be set up like they were in 2010, when they had a mid-late first in a class that had similar quality from 20 to 30, then three second-round picks thanks to some stealth maneuvering the year before.
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But that's not the case. The "similar quality from 20-30" thing exists where they're picking (No. 23) next week, but the second round? They've got nothing. Here are the Pats' picks.
1 - No. 23
3 - No. 87
3 - No. 98 (compensatory)
3 - No. 100 (compensatory)
4 - No. 125 (from Bears)
5 - No. 172 (from Lions)
6 - No. 195 (from Broncos)
6 - No. 204 (from Texans)
6 - No. 212 (compensatory)
6 - No. 213 (compensatory)
7 - No. 230 (from Falcons)
7 - No. 241 (from Seahawks)
New England has major needs at multiple positions, and that's not even considering the uncertainty at quarterback. They desperately need bodies at tight end and linebacker (remember, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts are all gone). Last year, the offensive line struggled to survive injuries — and oh hey, who's their kicker?
Now factor in that the Patriots' first-round pick is right at the top of where experts say is a lengthy stretch of similar impact players. According to Todd McShay's draft tiers, players No. 22 through 43 are of similar caliber. Then the next tier after that is a group of 19, running through the 62nd-ranked player in the class.
So if you can get similar value at, say, 31 or 32 that you could get at No. 23 and pick up an extra pick in the process, you should do it. That's what the Patriots did in 2010, when they had the 22nd pick and moved down twice (passing on Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant) to take Devin McCourty at No. 27.
They should aim for that approach this year. Ideally, they find a way to pick twice between the late first and late second. The Colts have Nos. 34 and 44. The Bears have Nos. 43 and 50. A draft pick value chart says the Pats would have to throw in more to move down from 23, but if the Colts love someone at 23 and you don't, maybe you can make it happen.
Otherwise, you can just move back with a team that doesn't have multiple seconds and use whatever they give you to move up with a later pick. For example, say you move from 23 to 30 and pick up an additional third. You can then package two of your thirds to get back into the second, and bam, you'll have had one pick in the first, one in the second and two in the third.
Then the question becomes what the Pats do with these multiple seconds, or a late first and a second, because if you've paid attention at all in recent years, they ain't so good at it.
We should all be keeping our eyes on Cole Kmet. He's the highest-rated tight end in this class, but might not be a sure-fire first-rounder. Translation: It's a weak class, so if a team badly needs a tight end, they might need to take Kmet a little earlier to make sure they fill their need.
McShay has Kmet ranked as the 42nd-best prospect in this class. Daniel Jeremiah from NFL.com ranks him 41st. The gist from the scouting reports for the 6-foot-6, 262-pounder is that he can block, has great speed for his size and is a good receiver.
Scott Pioli said on Tom E. Curran's Patriots Podcast that he has been enamored with Kmet since noticing him in a practice at Notre Dame as a true freshman.
"He's a big kid who can be physical when he needs to be," Pioli said. "He can catch the ball, he can run routes and I'm telling you, one of the things I really loved was in pre-practice and post-practice that day I was there, he was working with the offensive linemen and getting extra reps with the offensive line as a true freshman. He's one player that I really like."
I'm not saying Kmet is a star and neither can you because we don't know. I'm saying that in a year that's lacking quality at the position, teams desperate for a tight end might have to get on their horses.
So you move to the late first/early second and get your tight end. Then you've got your three thirds, a fourth, plus whatever you picked up for moving down. You'll have ammunition to combine a couple of thirds and maybe something else to get into the second round, where an inside linebacker like Kenneth Murray or Patrick Queen could be available.
Or maybe it's an offensive lineman. Whoever it is, this would be the chance to address two major needs early instead of one.
Focus more on the picks than the names here, because it really isn't about the players I like or the players people far smarter than me like. It's about the players the Patriots like, and those players actually being good.
So unless a star slides early, move down with the first then move up with the others. Take as many shots as you can.