Needs: The Patriots traded their first- and second-round picks for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy, respectively, leaving them a bit thin at the top of the draft. Jimmy Garoppolo and Malcolm Butler could be traded and yield first-round picks, so there's a lot to be determined in New England. That being said, the Patriots will attempt to address needs at running back, defensive end and cornerback with the picks they have left.
The Patriots have a clear need at running back with LeGarrette Blount aging and becoming a free agent. New England is unlike most teams with the way they use their running backs, though. That’s what makes McCaffrey such an ideal fit.
Bill Belichick would find the best way to utilize his skill set, whether it’s as a receiver or as an early-down back. McCaffrey can also return kicks and punts, which is something Belichick has always valued.
Of course, this only has a chance of happening if the Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo or Malcolm Butler to get back into the first round. And even then, McCaffrey might be out of their reach, depending on what pick they land.
Tarrell Basham, DE, Ohio
Basham isn’t the best athlete or someone who’s going to make an offensive tackle look silly with a spin to the inside. He does, however, have a very high motor. He never gives up on a play and plays with relentless effort. Sound like a guy Bill Belichick would love to have on his team? I would certainly think so.
He doesn’t have great bend, but in the Patriots’ scheme, a pass rusher doesn’t necessarily need it. Chandler Jones is the last explosive pass rusher the Patriots had, and they’ve proved they can have success on defense without a player of his caliber. Basham’s position flexibility as a 4-3 end or standup linebacker should be something the Patriots covet in the middle rounds.
Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
Moreau had a chance to go in the first round – and still might – before injuring his pectoral at his pro day. Now that he’ll be out of football for most of the offseason, his stock is dropping a bit. That should actually work in the Patriots’ favor because they could potentially get him in the early part of the third round, or possibly with a trade up into the second.
As a pure cover corner, Moreau is great player. He doesn’t have the best ball skills of the cornerback prospects, but thanks to his size and speed (4.35 40-yard dash), he can stick with receivers in man coverage. If the Patriots trade Malcolm Butler, Moreau would be a good fit. And even if they don’t, they still need a third cornerback with Logan Ryan gone.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
If the Patriots would rather wait on a running back – or if they can’t nab a first-round pick via trade – Hunt would be a good consolation. Expected to go in the second or third round, Hunt is a bigger back who can handle the workload New England might give him. He also has decent hands, which are good enough to hold up as a receiving back on first and second down before James White and Dion Lewis take over.
The Patriots would probably consider drafting Hunt only if LeGarrette Blount doesn’t return. If he does, there likely isn’t enough room for him, Hunt, Rex Burkhead, Lewis and White. However, Belichick loves low-cost players at running back, and that’s exactly what Hunt would be.
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Before you tell me the Patriots don’t need a tight end because they have Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, hear me out. Gronk is legitimately injury-prone, and there’s no telling how many games he’s going to miss in a given season. Allen is a good backup, but he’s not a long-term No. 1. The Patriots can get out of his contract for no penalty after this season before his cap hit jumps to $4.5 million.
Butt isn’t going to play in 2017 due to a knee injury, but he can be a Jason Witten-type player for more than a decade. You’re telling me that’s not something the Patriots would love to have in the second or third round? Of course they would, and it would protect them from future injuries to Gronk.