Over the past two weeks, the AFC has added Russell Wilson, Davante Adams, Amari Cooper, Chandler Jones, and Khalil Mack. Starpower has moved all across the league while the New England Patriots have lost their most talented players and experienced coaches. Arguably three AFC teams that missed the playoffs in 2021 are a good bet to get in this season, and where do the Patriots go from here?
Which Teams Are Above the Patriots?
The Broncos, Chargers, and Browns have all significantly upgraded their rosters, pushing for a horse in the AFC race. Not to mention the new additions to the Raiders and the Dolphins. Ever since New England stood tall at 9-4 in December of 2021, it feels like the team has done nothing but fall backward.
The offensive coaching staff has gone through massive changes, J.C. Jackson and Shaq Mason are repping new teams while the Patriots have spent minimally.
As of now, the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, Broncos, Titans, Browns, and Chargers are most likely the favorites to make the playoffs. That leaves the Patriots out of the hunt, fighting with the Colts, Ravens, Raiders, and Dolphins. While it wasn’t expected of the Patriots to spend big two years in a row, it hurts to have some of the NFL’s best load up in the AFC. Where are the positives? How can the Patriots save their offseason?
1. Patriots should punt on the cornerback position
It sounds counterintuitive for the Patriots to abandon their secondary. It may sound foolish to do so while losing Jackson as teams add the likes of Adams, Cooper, and Tyreek Hill, but the Patriots can’t fix all of their holes this offseason. The Patriots need to get more explosive at receiver, linebacker, and on the edge. Positions that are very deep in this year’s draft.
It’s a low percentage shot expecting the Patriots to draft a starting corner inside the first two rounds. Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, and Patrick Chung are the only defensive backs that have panned out well for Bill Belichick in the first two days of the draft, but they all play safety. The rest of the list? It’s not pretty:
- DBs taken in rounds 1-2 since 2010: Kyle Dugger, Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson Cyrus Jones, Jordan Richards, Tavon Wilson, Ras-I Dowling
2023 Free Agent Splash?
The Patriots are likely keeping their wallets pocketed due to next year’s projected salary cap. As of now, the Patriots are expected to have over $100 million in cap space, plenty of room to acquire stars.
Bill Belichick is not shy to pay proven cornerback’s in their prime and next year’s free-agent class features Jaire Alexander, Bryan Murphy, Denzel Ward, James Bradberry, and Marcus Peters.
2. Patriots Should Draft Receivers and the Front-Seven
2021-22 Georgia as 2010 Florida
- Front Seven defenders taken in rounds 1-2 since 2010: Christian Barmore, Josh Uche, Malcolm Brown, Domonique Easley, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones
The Patriots draft history reveals that Bill Belichick is far more likely to succeed drafting in front seven in rounds one or two. Back in 2010, the Patriots doubled up at linebacker in the second round with Florida’s Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes.
This year’s Georgia defense includes some monstrous athletes. New England can’t go wrong with this strategy in Georgia’s Quay Walker and Channing Tindall.
The Case for a Rookie Receiver (or two)
While the Patriots receive a fair amount of criticism for struggling to draft receivers, the Patriots have only taken a wideout inside the first two rounds five times in Bill Belichick’s tenure.
Might as well keep throwing darts at the board, maybe even from bigger programs. If Bill Belichick wishes to raise his chances of getting an elite receiver from the draft, Alabama’s Jameson Williams and John Metchie III are too talented to pass up.
3. Leaps from Last Year’s Rookies, Free Agents, and Redshirt Players
The Patriots crafted an entirely new offense in 2021, a complete overhaul at every position in the passing game. New England will need legitimate improvement from Mac Jones, Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Nelson Agholor in order to compete with offenses around the league. On the defensive side, players like Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins, Raekwon McMillan, and Cameron McGrone will need to step up. .
The Patriots best hope for 2022 is essentially to be the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals. A team with a below-average secondary, disruptive pass rush, second-year QB, and potential high-end rookie receivers that come alive in the second half of the season. Corners that can stall with strong edge rushers and top-of-the-league safeties with an offense that can keep pace in high-scoring games.
Follow us on Twitter here to receive more Patriots coverage