The New England Patriots did what they do best in the 2020 NFL draft: They traded out of the first round, and drafted some quality, overlooked defenders who can help boost an aging defense.
The selections of Josh Uche and Kyle Dugger should help the one glaring weakness in their top-5 defense last season, as those two prospects are experienced in stopping a run-pass option offense, which Lamar Jackson proved was one of the only ways to crack the New England defense last season.
As smart as it was to embrace the youth movement for their defensive unit, one big weakness the Patriots didn’t address in the draft was in their wide receiving corp, even though this was one of the deepest classes for wide receiver prospects in history.
Even though they signed Will Hastings of Auburn, Jeff Thomas of Miami, and Sean Riley of Syracuse as undrafted free agents, the Patriots proved that they are putting a lot of eggs in the N’Keal Harry basket, even though the former Arizona State Sun Devil only had 12 catches and two touchdowns in his rookie season.
“One answer for why they chose to go that route is last year’s first-round draft pick at wide receiver: N’Keal Harry,” said Aidan Curran of Boston.com. “Harry had a shaky rookie season that was delayed due to injury, but New England’s decision not to add a rookie wide receiver shows that the team still has high hopes for Harry as he heads into his second year. Whether he can stay healthy and contribute in 2020 will go a long way toward determining whether New England was right not to take advantage of the depth that was available at the receiver position.”
While the Patriots did invest last year’s first-round pick in Harry, that doesn’t mean that some reinforcements in this draft would have been smart to acquire in case Harry is another flawed wide receiver that Bill Belichick has missed on in the early rounds of the draft.
In their recent ranking of wide receiving corps, Alex Chippin and Michael McClymont ranked the New England receiving room as 31st in the league.
This ranking makes sense, as the combination of a reliable, yet injury-prone Julian Edelman and the next two largely unproven wideouts in Philip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers combining for 55 catches and under 800 yards, give New England a relatively weak receiving core compared to the rest of the league.
Even though Cam Newton is still unsigned and seems to still be at the center of Patriots rumors, it appears that the Patriots are invested in using a young, unproven passer in Jarrett Stidham, who the New England coaches seem to really like after a year in their system.
The Patriots have never been big free agency spenders, but now may be as good a time as ever to find some talented pass catchers who are still available like Paul Richardson, Taylor Gabriel and Tavon Austin to give a young Stidham his best chance to succeed in 2020 and beyond.