After an offseason splurge like the Patriots have never seen before, their roster did a complete turnaround from where they ended last season. A bottom-five roster talent-wise in 2020 has become one of the more talented ones heading into next season.

New England’s additions in free agency checked a lot of boxes and put a lid on some of the more glaring holes in the roster, making their draft needs more specific.

Now, it is worth noting that the Patriots don’t do “need-based drafting” where they will take someone at a position of need over a prospect at a position they don’t need who is objectively better. However, it is still important for them to identify places on their depth chart where they could improve, which is what I will try to do for you.

In this article, I go position by position looking at the depth chart and judging draft need at that spot based on how I view the situation.

KEY (Need Levels)

  • High = Need to address in the draft this year, spend a high pick on the position.
  • Above Average = Definitely need to look towards the future, spend a day-two pick on the position.
  • Average = Could be replaced/add some depth behind what is already there, spend a late day-two or day-three pick on it.
  • Minimal = Have good players in that position both starters and backups, don’t need to spend draft capital to address it this year.

Offense

Quarterback

Current Depth: 

  • QB1: Cam Newton (Average)
  • QB2: Jarrett Stidham (Depth)
  • QB3: Jake Dolegala (Depth)

Need Level: High

  • Newton is only under contract for one year and Stidham hasn’t shown any promise in his two years in the system. Newton is a good bridge guy and can run the offense well enough to keep the Patriots afloat in 2021. However,they need to look towards the future and with the current roster, I don’t see them picking as high as 15 any time soon (unless they lose Newton and have a bad QB situation 2022 and beyond.) I would expect them to look to make a jump into the top-ten if their guy (whoever that may be) starts to slip.

Running Back

Current Depth: 

  • RB1: Damien Harris (Above Average)
  • RB2: Sony Michel (Average)
  • RB3: Brandon Bolden (Depth/Specialist)
  • 3DRB: James White (Above Average)
  • 3DRB2: J.J. Taylor (Depth)

Need Level: Average

  • Very good RB room as it stands but White is getting older and Michel and Harris have their fair share of injury problems. Wouldn’t be surprised to see them add a piece in the later rounds who has a more all-around skill set than Michel/Harris to provide depth for all three RBs as well as provide some special teams help.

Full Back / H-Back

Current Depth: 

  • FB1: Jakob Johnson (Average)
  • FB2: Dalton Keene (Depth)
  • FB3: Danny Vitale (Depth)

Need Level: Average

  • Full Back is a big part of the Patriots offense and definitely necessary. Johnson is only under contract for one year while Keene and Vitale are closer to backfield TEs (think Kyle Jusczyk) than in-line fullbacks. I think Bill has plans for those guys in certain offensive sets, but Johnson could definitely be upgraded. There aren’t a ton of FBs so don’t necessarily need to spend a draft pick on them, but look to add a piece to compete for a roster spot through UDFA.

Wide Receiver “X”

Current Depth:

  • WR1: Nelson Agholor (Average)
  • WR2: Kendrick Bourne (Average)
  • WR3: N’Keal Harry (Depth)
  • WR4: Isaiah Zuber (Depth)
  • WR5: Devin Smith (Depth)
  • WR6: Matthew Slater (Depth/Specialist)

Need Level: Above Average

  • While adding guys like Agholor and Bourne were nice, they seemed more like band-aids over what is a gushing wound. The Patriots need to find a dominant X receiver who draws attention from the defense from the outside to open the middle of the field and can also punish the defense over the top when left one-on-one. Was a main reason the Patriots passing offense was horrific last year, but they did a decent job covering that base through free agency. After the failed N’Keal Harry experiment, the Patriots should look to take another stab at the position this year on day two.

Wide Receiver “Slot”

Current Depth: 

  • WR1: Julian Edelman (Above Average)
  • WR2: Jakobi Meyers (Above Average)
  • WR3: Gunner Olszewski (Depth/Specialist)
  • WR4: Kristian Wilkerson (Depth)

Need Level: Average

  • Edelman is coming off an injury and his future is up in the air. Meyers was great last season but shouldn’t be viewed as solely a slot guy. Even if Edelman comes back and is healthy, you wonder how much of himself he still is. Wouldn’t say it’s a glaring need, but wouldn’t hurt to add a shifty guy who can play inside to take over the Edelman role sometime down the line and allow Meyers to play both inside and out. 

Tight End

Current Depth:

  • TE1: Hunter Henry (Above Average)
  • TE2: Jonnu Smith (Above Average)
  • TE3: Devin Asiasi (Depth)
  • TE4: Matt LaCosse (Depth)

Need Level: Minimal

  • The Patriots attacked the TE position HARD this offseason, bringing in (for my money) two of the top-ten TEs in the NFL in Henry and Smith. Add Asiasi as a young and unknown prospect taken in the third round last year and I would be extremely surprised if they add anyone through UDFA, nevermind the draft. 

Offensive Tackle

Current Depth:

  • LT1: Isaiah Wynn (Above Average)
  • LT2: Yodny Cajuste (Depth)
  • RT1: Trent Brown (Above Average)
  • RT2: Justin Herron (Average)
  • RT3: Korey Cunningham (Depth)

Need Level: Above Average

  • Wynn is a tremendous talent when he is on the field, but the key phrase there is on the field. The oft-injured LT has missed his fair share of games over his young career and is a free agent next year (unless they pick up his club option at around 10M APY). Trent Brown is signed until the end of next season as well, and they will need something in place for when he inevitably leaves. Herron is a good backup, but I am not sure if you want to roll him out there for an entire 16 game season (yet). Would not hurt to spend a higher pick on a tackle this year to at the very least replace Trent Brown, at very worst to replace Isaiah Wynn if the Patriots let him walk next offseason.

Offensive Guard

Current Depth: 

  • LG1: Mike Onwenu (Above Average)
  • RG1: Shaq Mason (Above Average) 
  • RG2: Ross Reynolds (Depth)

Need Level: Average

  • At the very least, there is really no one to back up if one of these guys were to go down with an injury. Ted Karras (backup center) can slide in and help out if needed, but he has been a center his whole life. Not a huge learning curve (especially for a veteran like Karras) but would not hurt at all to add to that group. Also, Shaq Mason is getting up there in age even though he is signed through 2023. Wouldn’t say it is a need necessarily, but definitely should look to add a depth/developmental piece later in the draft.

Center

Current Depth:

  • C1: David Andrews (Above Average)
  • C2: Ted Karras (Average)

Need Level: Minimal

  • Andrews is re-signed for the near future as well as Karras. Not many teams can say their backup center could be the starting center on a lot of NFL teams at the moment. Don’t need to really add depth to the center position at all, at least not in this draft. 

Defense

Cornerback

Current Depth:

  • CB1: Stephon Gilmore (Elite)
  • CB2: J.C. Jackson (Above Average)
  • CB3: Jonathan Jones (Above Average)
  • CB4: JoeJuan Williams (Depth)
  • CB5: Myles Bryant (Depth)
  • CB6: D’Angelo Ross (Depth)
  • CB7: Michael Jackson Sr. (Depth)
  • CB8: Dee Virgin (Depth)

Need Level: Above Average

  • At first glance it looks like they don’t need to do anything at CB, but there are a couple of question marks going into the season. For starters, J.C. Jackson is likely going to be retained for this year after the Pats put a round-two tender on him this offseason. However, that only puts him under contract for this year. Given the Patriots willingness to spend top-dollar to retain their guys in the past, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them allow Jackson to test the market to get as much money as he is worth. In addition, Gilmore is still elite, but he is coming off an injury and is getting older. He said he would be open to a contract extension recently, but I’m not sure much ground has been made on that front yet. There is a realistic possibility that they could go into 2022 without one of Jackson or Gilmore (or both of them), and if they don’t have a contingency plan behind those guys a strength could easily become a weakness on a defense that requires an extreme amount of secondary talent. Would expect them to address the position earlier in the draft as opposed to later. 

Free Safety

Current Depth:

  • FS1: Devin McCourty (Elite)
  • FS2: Kyle Dugger (Average)
  • FS3: Cody Davis (Depth/Specialist)

Need Level: Above Average

  • McCourty is still great, but is on the last legs of his career and could easily retire after this season (if he wanted to). The Pats drafted Dugger last year in the second round, but he played a lot of box safety in 2020 (where I think he is a better fit). He played deep safety in college, but in a heavy two high scheme. The Patriots play a ton of cover-one and cover-three where Dugger would be the lone safety and have to cover a lot of ground. Not saying he can’t do that, but they might be better off drafting a true rangey free safety with good ball skills to be McCourty’s long term replacement for after he hangs it up. Not a top-heavy safety group in this draft, but there are definitely some projects in the later rounds that the Patriots could be eyeing.

Strong Safety

Current Depth: 

  • SS1: Adrian Phillips (Average)
  • SS2: Jalen Mills (Average)
  • SS3: Justin Bethel (Depth/Specialist)

Need Level: Minimal

  • Phillips and Mills are solid starters and spending a pick on a guy to put behind them seems like a waste of resources. If these guys were both to be gone one to two years down the road, I think that Dugger could slot in and play the Patriots “Big Nickel” or hybrid LB/S role just as well as these two guys. 

Inside Linebacker

Current Depth: 

  • ILB1: Dont’a Hightower (Above Average)
  • ILB2: Ja’Whaun Bentley (Depth)
  • ILB3: Raekwon McMillan (Depth)
  • ILB4: Terez Hall (Depth)
  • ILB5: Brandon King (Depth/Specialist)

Need Level: Above Average

  • The Patriots need to get faster at the ILB position as they were shredded time and time again last season by smart offensive coaches. Hightower is very good, but he plays mostly on the line as an OLB at this point in his career. Having him play solely as an inside linebacker is wasting his skillset. The only reason the need level isn’t “High” is because the Patriots can probably get away with it this season, having players like Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings who are more OLBs, potentially play off the line as ILBs depending on personnel groupings. Definitely could use an every-down ILB who can play sideline to sideline, however. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Patriots address the position at some point on day two.

Outside Linebacker (3-4 scheme)

Current Depth: 

  • ROLB1: Matthew Judon (Above Average)
  • ROLB2: Chase Winovich (Average)
  • ROLB3: Tashawn Bower (Depth)
  • ROLB4: LaRoy Reynolds (Depth/Specialist)
  • LOLB1: Kyle Van Noy (Above Average)
  • LOLB2: Josh Uche (Average)
  • LOLB3: Anfernee Jennings (Depth)

Need Level: Minimal

  • Not only have the Patriots been drafting at this position heavily for the past two years, they just shelled out big money to Van Noy and Uche to play ahead of the guys they drafted. I would say they have four-five players that they can start at these positions and feel comfortable about it. Not a need.

Defensive End (3-4 scheme)

Current Depth: 

  • RE1: Lawrence Guy (Average)
  • RE2: Byron Cowart (Depth)
  • RE3: Michael Barnett (Depth)
  • LE1: Henry Anderson (Average)
  • LE2: Deatrich Wise (Average)
  • LE3: Montravious Adams (Depth)
  • LE4: Nick Thurman (Depth)

Need Level: Average

  • While they have a solid end rotation as it stands, they don’t really have anyone that is a HUGE difference maker (besides maybe Lawrence Guy). The current guys aren’t going to be rostered forever, it wouldn’t hurt to start adding some developmental pieces behind them. Given their spending this offseason at the position, I would be surprised if they used anything earlier than a late day-two pick at defensive end unless the right guy falls in their lap.

Nose Tackle (3-4 scheme)

Current Depth:

  • NT1: Davon Godchaux (Average)
  • NT2: Akeem Spence (Depth)
  • NT3: Carl Davis (Depth)
  • NT4: Bill Murray (Depth)

Need Level: Above Average

  • While Godchaux is severely underrated and is a solid starter, he isn’t the long term answer. After losing Adam Butler this offseason, the Patriots would be doing themselves a disservice to not look to address this position in some capacity through the draft. Godchaux can play early downs, but isn’t going to bring you much juice rushing the passer. If the Patriots can find a guy that is a good pass rusher and develop them into an every down NT, that would be huge for this defense. At the very least, Godchaux needs some more talent behind him. Carl Davis flashed at times last season, but I don’t think he is a long term answer at the position.