NFL Draft: Patriots Day 1 Cheat Sheet

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The wait is finally over. The NFL draft begins tonight, and the Patriots are sure to be in the thick of the drama. With that in mind, I've made a "cheat sheet" to help you watch and contextualize the action for tonight's first round.

Key Team Needs
Let's start out with the basics. The general consensus heading into the draft is that the Pats will try to address holes at offensive tackle, linebacker, edge rusher, defensive back, or quarterback in the first round. Obviously, most of those gaps will probably be better dressed on Days 2 and 3, but it's

Top Targets
This is where it gets interesting. The Pats currently have picks #23 and #31, though Bill Belichick may very well maneuver around the board when he ends up on the clock. Assuming he decides to stand pat, it will be easiest to find offensive tackles and linebackers towards the back end of the first round--UCLA's Kolton Miller, Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey, Alabama's Rashaan Evans, and Boston College's Harold Landry are all popular targets here, though McGlinchey and Landry may be off the board before the 20th slot. Beyond those four, players like Stanford safety Justin Reid, UTSA edge rusher Marcus Davenport, and Colorado corner Isaiah Oliver are also potential Belichick selections. If the Pats go quarterback without trading up, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph is the clear choice here.

Trades Up
However, if the Patriots want one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, they'll have to trade up to get him. The Pats have been linked to Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson by various sources, but unless the team sacrifices most of its capital Rosen and Mayfield will probably be out of reach. Jackson is the one Pats brass are supposedly most interested in--he's worked out twice for the team, and reportedly left the team "intrigued and impressed." Trading up for the Louisville product would probably only require a move into the 12-20 range.

Picks to Watch
There are a couple of picks in the top half of the first round that will go a long way towards determining the Patriots' eventual strategy. The first is the Broncos, at #5 overall. If John Elway falls in love with a quarterback (possibly the fourth in the first five picks), it will likely trigger some desperate teams to move up above the Patriots and snag whoever remains. In that situation, the Patriots would more likely sit back and address other holes while grabbing a quarterback on Day 2. After Elway comes the San Francisco 49ers at ninth overall. If the Pats are interested in trading up and Josh Rosen is still sitting on the board, this is the most likely trade partner. Belichick gifted the Niners Jimmy Garoppolo, and he may cash in that favor tonight. Finally, the Packers are another possible trade partner at the 14th pick. If Lamar Jackson is available, the Cardinals would likely snap him up at #15. To avoid that, Belichick could strike a deal with the Packers (who don't need a QB and might happily trade down to fill other spots) and nab his eventual replacement for Tom Brady.

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