With the 2017 NFL Draft just around the corner, the rumor mill is churning out some interesting chatter surrounding the New England Patriots’ potential plans.
Coming off another Super Bowl win, the New England Patriots will undoubtedly head into 2017 with sky-high expectations. While their roster is still loaded, scoring some more playmakers during the 2017 NFL Draft wouldn’t be the worst idea.
At this point, the Patriots have seven picks to work with when the party gets started on April 27. Although none fall in the first two rounds, New England will have some flexibility in the middle rounds. There’s also a decent chance they make a trade before the draft in hopes of getting back into Day 1.
While the Patriots and Bill Belichick aren’t exactly prone to making splashes, one could be just what this franchise needs to stay on top in 2017. They’ve done a great job of reloading this offseason, but could still use a few more contributors to ensure their status as a serious contender. So what will New England’s plan be during draft weekend?
No one knows for sure, but the latest rumors can give us a solid idea of what to expect. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five Patriots rumors you need to know with just under two weeks remaining before the 2017 NFL Draft.
5. Patriots Doing Their Homework on Nathan Peterman?
We all know the Patriots love stocking up on high-upside quarterbacks. They’ve already got one of the best in NFL history atop the depth chart, and have behind him two young, promising arms. So why not add another to the mix during the 2017 NFL Draft?
Nathan Peterman has been mentioned as one of the top sleepers of the 2017 quarterback class. Especially with teams looking for this year’s Dak Prescott, the Pitt product has seen his name thrown around as a mid-round pick worth keeping an eye on. So it only makes sense for New England to be interested.
With Jimmy Garoppolo considered a potential trade chip, adding another young gunslinger seems logical. If Garoppolo is traded, that would leave only Jacoby Brissett behind the 39-year-old Tom Brady. Brissett was solid in limited action as a rookie, but the Patriots likely aren’t sold on him as the lone backup.
According to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson, Peterman has a workout with the Patriots, among other teams. With five picks available in Rounds 3-5, don’t be surprised to see New England target another capable quarterback — especially if Garoppolo is dealt.
4. New England a Possible Landing Spot for Mo Alie-Cox?
We know the Patriots love their athletic tight ends. They had two outstanding options at the start of the 2016 campaign, but Rob Gronkowski got hurt (as usual) and Martellus Bennett bailed during free agency. Now, New England has set it sights set on finding another possible playmaker at the position.
According to WTVR’s Lane Casadonte, the Patriots were present for the workout of Mo Alie-Cox. Haven’t heard the name yet? Well you may need to get familiar with it, because he could be the next Antonio Gates based on some of the physical attributes he brings to the table. In fact, even Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten believes he could make it in the league (via NFL.com).
A former hoops star for VCU, Alie-Cox has decided to try his luck on the gridiron. Based on the reports of Casadonte and others, NFL teams are taking notice.
It is worth noting, though, that Alie-Cox technically isn’t a draft prospect. He was eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft, and is now a free agent after going undrafted. It’ll be interesting to see if (or when) he gets signed leading up to or after the 2017 NFL Draft.
Since essentially the start of free agency, there’s been speculation on Malcolm Butler’s potential departure. The Patriots have been hesitant to reward him with an extension after turning in an All-Pro performance a season ago. As a result, trade talks have commenced.
More specifically, there have been conversations with the New Orleans Saints about a potential deal. The two teams already made a trade earlier in the offseason that sent Brandin Cooks to New England. Could the Saints essentially send the first-round pick they received back for Butler?
It’s a serious possibility at this point. In fact, according to MMQB’s Albert Breer, it’s more likely that Butler is a Saint than a Patriot when the 2017 campaign begins. It seems like a strange turn of events considering the impact he’s had for the New England defense since signing as an undrafted free agent, but we all know Belichick typically isn’t a fan of handing out massive contracts.
There are some who believe Butler will end up staying in New England for the time being. However, based on the way things have gone, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him playing down in the Bayou in 2017. Realistically, the relationship between Butler and the Patriots is probably broken beyond repair by now.
So let’s say Butler is dealt to the Saints. That then leaves the Patriots with Justin Coleman and Eric Rowe as the top options to slide in opposite Stephon Gilmore as the other starting cornerback. They could definitely be in a worse situation, but having more options may be ideal.
That’s why it makes plenty of sense that New England is doing its homework with Teez Tabor (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). One of the more intriguing cornerback prospects in the 2017 draft class, he recently saw his stock take a hit due to poor 40 times and Combine interviews. With the Patriots’ first pick sitting at No. 72 overall, there’s a decent chance the Florida product will be available.
Despite his recent decline, Tabor has the potential to be a star in the NFL. He was considered a possible Top-10 pick before last season, and still possesses the outstanding mix of instincts in coverage and athleticism. At this point, it seems as though he needs to get out of his own way and let his play speak for itself.
If Butler is sent packing in the next couple of weeks, don’t be surprised to see the Patriots target a cornerback early. While they could yield a first-round pick in the hypothetical Butler trade, aiming for someone such as Tabor in the third round seems like the right option for New England.
1. Patriots Plan to Address Edge With Derek Barnett?
At this moment, the Patriots don’t own a first-round pick. However, with players like Garoppolo and Butler serving as potential trade bait, it wouldn’t be shocking to see New England find its way back into Day 1 in the coming weeks.
If that does happen, I would expect them to address the edge. I mean, it is arguably their top need at this point in the offseason. The only move the Patriots have made to upgrade the pass rush, trading for Kony Ealy, isn’t a solve-all. Hence, their interest in some of the 2017 draft class’ top edge defenders.
One in particular has received significant interest from Belichick and Co. Derek Barnett has had a private workout with the Patriots, according to ProFootballTalk. The Tennessee alum is an intriguing candidate for a New England defense that can’t keep struggling to get after opposing quarterbacks.
There are currently mixed opinions on where Barnett could land, with the general consensus being that he goes in the early-to-mid teens. Trading Garoppolo to the Browns for the No. 12 pick could be just the right situation for the Patriots to secure Barnett. The selection would give their pass rush an immediate boost.